Slowing down diabetic retinopathy

June 30, 2010 by  

Diabetes comes with a lot of complications and one of them is vision loss due to retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy is a condition wherein the blood vessels supplying the retina, the light-sensitive area of the eye gets damaged by diabetes. This damage leads to leaks, swelling, and development of abnormal blood vessels. This eye disease is the leading cause of vision loss among Americans of working age.

Based on recent results, the Action to Control Cardiovascular Risk in Diabetes (ACCORD) Eye Study funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports about therapies that slow down the progression of this diabetes-related eye disease.

The ACCORD clinical trial included 10,251 patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus and had high risk for heart attack, stroke or death due to cardiovascular events. The trial evaluated the efficacy and safety of 3 intensive treatments strategies and compared them to standard treatments. A subset of this consisting of 2,856 patients was used to evaluate the effects of cardiovascular treatments strategies on the blood vessels of the eye. Two strategies are especially promising, namely:

Intensive control of blood sugar levels

The glycemic target of standard diabetes management strategies is 7.5% haemoglobin A1c. The intensive control strategy has a much lower blood sugar target – 6.5%. Those who achieved this target also experienced a slowing down in the progression of diabetic retinopathy – from 10.4 to 7.3% over 4 years.

According to Dr. Paul A. Sieving, director of the National Eye Institute

“Previous clinical trials have shown the beneficial effects of intensive blood sugar control on slowing the progression of diabetic retinopathy in people with type 1 diabetes or newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes. The ACCORD Eye Study expands these findings to a larger population of adults who had type 2 diabetes for an average of 10 years, and demonstrates that the eye benefits from the reduction of glucose below previously established levels.”

This strategy, however, comes with some risks, especially hypoglycemia, i.e. blood sugar levels which are too low.

Combination lipid therapy with fenofibrate plus simvastatin

Combining fenofibrate with the cholesterol-lowering drug simvastatin also showed a reduction in the progression of retinopathy in diabetes patients. Disease progression was reduced from 10.2 to 6.5% over five years.

According to Dr. Emily Chew, M.D., chairperson of the Eye Study

“The ACCORD Eye Study clearly indicates that intensive glycemic control and fibrate treatment added to statin therapy separately reduce the progression of diabetic retinopathy. The main ACCORD findings showed that fibrate treatment added to statin therapy is safe for patients like those involved in the study. However, intensive blood sugar control to near normal glucose levels increased the risk of death and severe low blood sugar, so patients and their doctors must take these potential risks into account when implementing a diabetes treatment plan.”

Life in a clinic

June 30, 2010 by  

Yesterday, I was visiting a friend of mine who was admitted to a rehabilitation clinic following cancer treatment. She was looking good and upbeat and I was glad to catch up with her after all these months. In course of our talk, I learned so many things about how being in a clinic can affect one’s life, not only as a patient, but also as family and friends of the patient.

The patient

A patient is caught between uncertainty and hope. My friend was in a beautiful private clinic with lovely gardens and friendly staff and even a pool. There is no canteen but a restaurant where patients and their guests can dine on good food chosen from 3 different menus. Yet my friend is longing to go back home where she has to do all the housework plus the cooking.

A patient feels like a patient even in such luxurious amiable surroundings. There is no place like home and for many patients, the prospect of not being able to go home again is difficult to accept. Yet he or she must prepare herself/himself for this eventuality.

One thing that makes life for a patient even more difficult is strained personal relationship that somehow gets even worse under such circumstances.

The family

The family has to learn to cope without the patient while he or she is undergoing treatment or convalescing. If it is the wife/mother who is the patient, then the husband and children have to pitch in and take care of the household temporarily. If it is the husband/father, the mother has to perform all parental duties alone for a while. If the patient is the sole breadwinner of the family, then the healthy partner/spouse has to take over the financial responsibilities for a while. In this case, sometimes the role reversal opens a spouse’s/partner’s/child’s eyes to the important role of the patient in their lives. My friend’s husband finally realized how difficult it had been all these years for her to do the laundry without a tumble dryer. Another friend whose husband is undergoing chemotherapy was called for a meeting to her son’s kindergarten. The boy has been telling the whole class that he and his mom might have to live on the streets if his dad doesn’t recover.

But it is not only about the housework or the finances. My friend’s 12-year old son is sad to come home to a cold empty house and badly misses his mom’s presence. Let this be a lesson to all of us. We seldom appreciate how important our mom, our dad, our wife, our husband, our partner, our child, our sister, our brother, our friend to us until he or she is not around, whether temporarily or permanently.

Show your appreciation – now!

Closer than we think: artificial liver transplant

June 29, 2010 by  
Filed under HEALTHCARE

There are already several artificial hearts and “bridging” devices for heart failure patients waiting for a heart transplant. Dialysis keeps those with kidney failure going while waiting for a matching kidney donor. But for those with liver failure, the only currently available treatment is liver transplant. There aren’t enough donors available and there aren’t any devices available to keep the patients alive long enough to find the right donor. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH):

“Your liver’s job is to help fight infections and clean your blood. It also helps digest food and stores energy for when you need it. People needing a liver transplant are placed on a national waiting list kept at the United Network for Organ Sharing. Their blood type, body size and severity of sickness all play a role in when they’ll receive a liver. Whole livers can come only from people who have just died. Currently, there’s an estimated shortfall of about 4,000 livers per year.”

For years, researchers have been trying to find an alternative to liver transplant. A recent report in the NIH Research Matters gives us hope that an artificial liver transplant may just be around the corner.

The researchers used the process of decellularization, which is “removing cells from a structure but leaving a scaffold with the architecture [including the microvascular network] of the original tissue.” The researchers used a gentle detergent to decellularize a rat’s liver, a process that took three days and left a liver-shaped structure held together by a matrix of proteins and a microvascular network. They then introduced functional hepatocytes (liver cells) into the structure and successfully “recellularize” the matrix into an organ with comparable functions to a normal liver. The artificial liver was successfully grafted into rats.

Although this method of creating an artificial liver is still at a very early experimental stage, it gives doctors hope that this process could be also be performed in humans someday and thus resolve the issue of shortage of liver for transplantation.

According to study leader Dr. Korkut Uygun of the  Massachusetts General Hospital:

“As far as we know, a transplantable liver graft has never been constructed in a laboratory setting before. Even though this is very exciting and promising, it is a proof-of-concept study only. Much more work will be required to make long-term functional liver grafts that can actually be transplanted into humans.”

250 Tips for Making Life With Arthritis Easier

June 29, 2010 by  
Filed under HEALTHCARE

For all those whose everyday activities are limited by arthritis, this self-help book highlights 250 tips that save time, money, and energy.

iPhone Apps for those with diabetes

June 29, 2010 by  
Filed under DIABETES

Monitoring blood sugar and insulin levels as well as keeping in mind the kind of food that helps you keep your glycemic targets are hard. Add to that the complexity of insulin types, the glucose periods (fasting, before and after eating) and you get lots of data on your hand. I had to monitor my blood glucose when I was pregnant and had gestational diabetes. That was just for a few months. I can imagine how tedious this recordkeeping can be if it is for life. Which is why it is so great that there is technology nowadays to help people with diabetes. As part of our series of health and medical phone apps, we are bringing you a couple of useful apps for those with diabetes.

Glucose Buddy was supposedly ranked as the number 1 iPhone diabetes application by Manny Hernandez, Founder of It allows users to enter data on glucose levels, carbohydrate consumption, and insulin dosages. It is fully compatible and syncs easily with the Internet application at It costs nothing to download.

Diabetes Log is simple and straightforward, yet useful app to record glucose levels and food intake. The newer versions allow you to mail your data directly to your doctor with the Touch Mail application. It is for free.

DiaMedic also helps you record your glucose and insulin values as well as exercise but in a highly compressed way that allows you to fit more info. “Diamedic © Diabetes Logbook offers a unique solution for the diabetic to easily record every glucose reading, insulin injection, lab result, carb intake, weight, medication and exercise workout. Log sugar levels on the go, then monitor readings with instant graphs to help you maintain tight control.”

Glucose-Charter™ is another app that enables to your to record blood glucose and insulin levels that you can send to your doctor at the touch of a button. In addition, it gives access to a database of diabetes-friendly food. There is a Lite version and Pro version. Unfortunately, I can’t find any info about the price but the lite version should be cheaper or even for free.

Diabetic Meal Planner helps you calculate your glycemic index (GI) and glycemic load (GL) for a meal or for a day. It gives info about common food items to help you in planning your meals taking into account the carbs, fats and proteins. There is a free and a full version ($13.99). The former gives info on 38 food items, the latter on 975.

Type2Friendly is actually useful for those with Type 1 or type 2 diabetes. It gives info on diabetes-friendly restaurants, their menus, maps and directions, websites and contact numbers. Makes going out for diabetics easier.

Photo credit: screen shot from diabetes log

3 cigarettes = 1 mutation

June 28, 2010 by  
Filed under CANCER

We’ve always wondered. How do carcinogens in cigarettes cause cancer? The answer is genetic mutations. And not just one. Or two. Or ten. Or a even hundred. We are talking thousands of mutations – tens of thousands, in fact.

This is according to researchers at Genentech, the biotech daughter company of Roche in California. The researchers compared the genetic status of healthy tissue and a piece of lung tumor from 51-year old male patient who smoked on average 25 sticks of cigarettes per day for 15 years before tumor removal. Using state-of-the art genetic technology that looks at whole genomes rather than a few genes, the researchers were able to find mutations fast. They detected as many 50,000 mutations in the tumor cells.

According to study author Zemin Zhang of Genentech:

Fifty thousand is a huge number. No one has ever reported such a high number… This is likely associated with the smoking history of the patient. It is very alarming.”

Doing some calculations based on the number of genetic mutations and the number of cigarettes smoked over the last 15 years, the researchers estimated one genetic mutation for every 3 sticks of cigarettes smoked. The smoking rate of 25 sticks per day results in about 8 genetic mutations occurring daily.

However, the calculations are actually an oversimplification because they did not take into consideration the defence mechanisms of the body that helps repair damaged DNA. Thus, there could actually be more mutations occurring each day but are rapidly repaired. However, over time, the DNA repair mechanisms become overused and less efficient and can no longer provide ample protection against the damage of smoking. This is when tumors develop.

The patient whose lung tumor was analyzed was a typical lung cancer patient with no unusual characteristics and can therefore represent the average smoker patient diagnosed with cancer of the lung.

“If you imagine over a lifetime you are going to develop this many mutations in the genome, some people may think twice about it.”

The next step is to find out which of these mutations are linked to smoking-related cancer. In the meantime, next time you smoke a cigarette, think of the cells in your lungs and what cigarette smoking is doing to them. Think of those mutations happening each day. Maybe then you’ll be motivated to stop.

Your height and your heart

June 28, 2010 by  

What does your height have to do with your heart? Well, it seems that shorter people have higher risk for getting heart disease than tall people, according to a meta-analysis by Finnish researchers.

In a world wherein height is a well-prized attribute (think about fashion models and professional athletes), this is another additional blow to short people’s ego. Tell me about it, I’m a small girl living in a continent of giant Europeans.

But we cannot close our eyes to the scientific evidence in front of us. So let’s take a look.

The researchers at the University of Tampere in Finland conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of 52 studies which involved more than 3 million people. The shortest group were under 160.5 cm and the tallest were more than 173.9. Genderwise, short women are under 153 cm and tall women above 166.4 whereas short and tall men are below 165.4 cm and 177.5 cm, respectively.

The analysis showed that those in the short group have almost 1.5 times higher likelihood of suffering and dying from cardiovascular or heart disease than the tall people. Again, according to gender, short men have 37% and short women 55% higher likelihood of mortality due to cardiovascular disease than their taller counterparts. However, the authors are quick to point out that they cannot give a “critical absolute height that demarcates between “short” and “tall.”

“Due to the heterogeneity of studies, we cannot reliably answer the question on the critical absolute height. The height cut-off points did not only differ between the articles but also between men and women and between ethnic groups. This is why we used the shortest-vs.-tallest group setting.”

One can only speculate the reasons why short people have this health disadvantage compared to tall people. Here are some ideas.

  • Short people may be easily affected by weight gain. Height is used to calculate body mass index (BMI), which is a widely used to quantify risk of coronary heart disease.
  • Shorter people may have smaller coronary arteries that can get occluded earlier.
  • Poor growth rate during childhood that leads to short height in adulthood has been associated with poor socioeconomic situation, poor nutrition, and more infections.
  • Genetic factors also play an important role in having short height, thus be further investigated.

The authors are quick to reassure us small people not to get too worried.

“Height is only one factor that may contribute to heart disease risk, and whereas people have no control over their height, they can control their weight, lifestyle habits such as smoking, drinking and exercise and all of these together affect their heart disease risk. In addition, because the average height of populations is constantly increasing, this may have beneficial effect of deaths and illness from cardiovascular disease.”

So do not take your rather short height to heart. Rather, let’s do something about it.

Infertility: Finding God’s Peace in the Journey

June 26, 2010 by  
Filed under HEALTHCARE

Infertility: Finding God’s Peace in the Journey

Heart(y) news, June 25

June 25, 2010 by  

EMEA to review ARBs and cancer, infuriating experts, who point to missing data and adverse consequences
A few days ago, I posted a piece on blood pressure pills angiotensin-receptor blockers (ARBs) being associated to increased risk of getting cancer based on a paper recently published in Lancet Oncology. The European regulatory body European Medicines Agency (EMEA) just announced today that it plans to conduct a review of the safety of ARBs as a response to the said report. However, not all health experts are convinced about the data presented in the paper, even some declaring the paper to be “deeply flawed.” However, there are also those who believe the authors have the right to publish their data and that the risks should be investigated further. So far, EMEA is the first regulatory agency to react to the paper and the authors are also asking the FDA to respond.

“The bottom line is that our data are solid, and we are calling for a review by the FDA because there is so much at stake here. The FDA has to look into this, they have the ball now.”

Uninsured Americans have 50 percent higher odds of dying in hospital from heart attack or stroke
Another report points out the health disparities and thus highlights the importance of the much-needed health care reform in the US. The paper looked at more than 150,000 patients discharged from hospitals and came to the conclusion that there are disparities in terms of hospital mortality, length of hospital stay and costs which can be attributed to differences in health insurance coverage. The uninsured are more likely to die from acute myocardial infarction and stroke than those who are privately insured. Patients on Medicaid are more likely to stay longer at the hospital with higher hospital costs for stroke and pneumonia. According to lead author Dr. Omar Hasan of Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston:

“The new healthcare bill will bring vast changes to the insurance status of millions of Americans, and we hope that our work will provoke policymakers, healthcare administrators, and practicing physicians to consider devising policies to address potential insurance related gaps in the quality of inpatient care.”

Cholesterol Recommendations: US/International Guidelines at Odds
Guidelines are meant to help standardize healthcare. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always work, especially at the international level. The Life Science Research Organization, Inc. (LSRO) recently published a review paper that shows that the US daily dietary recommendations for cholesterol are not consistent with current international guidelines. International guidelines recommend “reducing total fat intake and shifting to unsaturated fats from saturated and trans fats.” The US recommendations focus more on cholesterol intake (<300 mg/d for the general population and <200 mg/d for those with elevated LDL) as a risk factor for coronary heart disease. Although both sets of guidelines do not necessarily contradict each other, the paper points out that dietary recommendations stated in technical language are confusing, and that “numerical recommendations can cause undue focus on one food or nutrient over another with potentially adverse, unintended consequences.”

Cancer in the headlines, June 25: old, new and potential cancer drugs

June 25, 2010 by  
Filed under CANCER


FDA: Pfizer Voluntarily Withdraws Cancer Treatment Mylotarg from U.S. Market
The cancer drug Mylotarg (gemtuzumab ozogamicin) was voluntarily withdrawn from the US market by its manufacturer Pfizer earlier this week, the US FDA reports. The drug is indicated for the treatment of acute myeloid leukemia (AML), a type of bone marrow cancer. Mylotarg was approved for this indication way back in May 2000 under the US FDA accelerated approval program. The program allows fast approval of drugs for serious and life-threatening diseases with the requirement of performance of additional clinical trials to demonstrate the drug’s efficacy and safety. Data from postapproval trials of Mylotarg as add-on to chemotherapy failed to show additional clinical benefit and indicated increased mortality compared to chemotherapy alone. These disappointing results led to the withdrawal. According to Dr. Richard Pazdur, director of FDA’s Office of Oncology Drug Products:

“Mylotarg was granted an accelerated approval to allow patient access to what was believed to be a promising new treatment for a devastating form of cancer. However, a confirmatory clinical trial and years of postmarketing experience with the product have not shown evidence of clinical benefit in patients with AML.”


Potential cancer drug derived from Australian rainforest
The Queensland-based biotech firm QBiotics Ltd reports a promising drug cancer candidate that is now ready for human testing. The drug EBC-46 is made from seed extracts of a shrub native to the Australian rainforest. The drug has been tested on more than 150 dogs with different types of tumors, with very promising results. The QBiotics researchers believe that the drug can potentially treat skin cancers, head and neck cancer, breast cancer and prostate cancer. A company spokesman stated:

“The world’s rainforests are an amazing biological resource which we need to conserve and cherish. Not only may they hold the secret to many new drugs, they are the home of more than half of all other species with which we share the planet.”


Turning a painkiller into a cancer killer
The non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are popular remedies for pain and fever available over-the-counter. Examples of OTC NSAIDs are aspirin and ibuprofen. There have been reports that people who take NSAIDs regularly have a lower risk for getting certain types of cancer but data have been limited and the mechanisms involved poorly understood. Researchers Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute recently published a paper in the journal Cancer Cell which showed how the NSAID Sulindac inhibits tumor growth. The researchers explain:

“…Sulindac shuts down cancer cell growth and initiates cell death by binding to nuclear receptor RXRα, a protein that receives a signal and carries it into the nucleus to turn genes on or off.”

To screen or not to screen: ADHD drugs’ effect on the heart

June 24, 2010 by  

In recent years, the number of children diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder or ADHD has increased. A recent report estimates ADHD prevalence among children and adolescence at 8%.

Pharmacological treatment is most commonly prescribed for ADHD, particularly stimulant medications such as methylphenidate (MPH) and mixed-amphetamine-salt (MAS) formulations. However, there have been concerns on the side effects of these drugs, particularly adverse effects on the heart. However, health experts could not agree about the cardiotoxicity risks involved. As early as 2008, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends screening pediatric patients for heart problems before starting ADHD treatments. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics was not convinced of the risks and rejected the AHA guidelines.

According to Dr. Raul Silva the New York University Langone Medical Center:

“There has been a big brouhaha about the safety, particularly the cardiovascular safety, of stimulant medications for ADHD in kids, and at one point, the cardiac folks put a very big scare into people.”

This motivated him and his team of researchers to conduct a comprehensive review of data available from clinical trials conducted during the last 10 years on the safety of MPH and MAS.

Their results presented at the National Institute of Mental Health and American Society of Clinical Psychopharmacology New Clinical Drug Evaluation Unit (NCDEU) 2010 Annual Meeting clarified some questions but also brought some reassurances. The findings basically show that ADHD medications, MPH as well as MAS, can increase heart rate, blood pressure, both systolic and diastolic and QT interval of children and adolescents. These increases however are mild to moderate and may not be clinically relevant to ADHD patients without initial cardiovascular problems. However, for those with underlying heart conditions that may not have diagnosed, these side effects can be dangerous. There were no deaths due to cardiovascular problems reported in the studies analyzed. The authors support the recommendations of the AHA to screen patients for heart abnormalities before starting them on these medications – but only if screening is possible. Withholding ADHD treatment from patients without access to an ECG is not warranted, according to the authors.

Dr. Silva believes in erring on the side of caution and performs cardiac screening for all his pediatric patients:

“The parents appreciate my doing this, and I have found some very interesting things, such as arrhythmias. When I go back to the pediatric cardiologist, they often tell me that it’s nothing to worry about. So the take-home message here is monitor when you can, ask baseline questions, but also be reassured, because the data really don’t show a heck of a lot of problems with cardiovascular side effects.”

Many drugs previously thought to be safe turned out to have adverse effects on heart health – rofecixib and rosiglitazone, to name a few. No wonder AHA is being cautious.

Good dental hygiene slows down aging

June 24, 2010 by  
Filed under AGING

There is a better and cheaper alternative to botox or plastic surgery in trying to keep the years away. It’s good dental hygiene, according to some experts. Simply speaking, “gum disease makes you look ‘long in the tooth’”, according to an msnbc article.

Here is how poor dental hygiene ages your looks:

  • Yellowing and staining between and around the teeth occurs.
  • Gum tissue bleeds, becomes inflamed, leading to gum disease
  • Gum disease can lead to gum recession that creates gaps, spaces and uneven gum tissue makes you look older.
  • Gum disease leads to bone loss and bone loss can lead to changes in facial structures.

Gum diseases, also known as periodontitis range from “simple gum inflammation [gingivitis] to serious disease that results in major damage to the soft tissue and bone that support the teeth. In the worst cases, teeth are lost.”

According to Dr. Donald S. Clem, president-elect of the American Academy of Periodontology Foundation

“When gum disease begins to eat away at the bone, there are changes in facial appearance. Once a tooth is lost the bone has no reason to be there. In later stages of periodontal disease we would see disfigurement in terms of caving in of the lips and cheek and wrinkles around the lips and cheeks.”

What can be done?

Plastic surgery may be an option but it is a procedure that only works on the skin. Recent studies have shown that aging is more than just skin deep – the bones and the muscles also play a very important role in facial looks (see previous post). Bone loss is not as easy to fix as wrinkles.

Tooth implants or replacements would all depend on how far bone loss has progressed and whether there is still space for implants to attach in “the most aesthetically desirable place.”

Unfortunately, many people do not put too much worth on their teeth as well as they would, for example, their skin, their hair and especially in women, their nails. However, beauty is not just about flawless smooth skin or perfect hairstyle.

Dental hygienists recommends regular flossing – everyday, in fact. A large part of our teeth’s surfaces may not be accessible by a toothbrush. Flossing cleans the food, sticky plaques and bacteria between the teeth. Visiting a dental hygienist every 6 months is also recommended.

Aside from making you look old, poor dental hygiene has also been linked to other health problems – including heart disease and atherosclerosis.

Le Jeu De La Sphinge: Sade, Et La Philosophie Des Lumieres (the Age Of

June 24, 2010 by  
Filed under HEALTHCARE

Le Jeu De La Sphinge: Sade, Et La Philosophie Des Lumieres (the Age Of

Does your blood pressure pill increase your cancer risk?

June 23, 2010 by  

If you have to choose between stroke and cancer, which would it be? Touch choice, eh?

Unfortunately, health professionals as well as patients might be forced to make the choice. A recent meta- analysis of studies on popular drugs used against hypertension brings some worrying news. These blood pressure pills actually increase the risk of developing cancer.

The five randomized controlled trials analyzed contained data of more than 60,000 patients who were taking the drugs called angiotensin-receptor blockers (ARBs) for hypertension, heart disease, and chronic kidney disease. The results of the analysis showed that patients on ARBs have about 1% higher risk for developing different types of cancers than those who are not taking the drugs. The cancers associated with this increased risk are prostate, breast and lung cancers.

Now, we may think that 1% is not much. But if we consider the number of people worldwide taking ARBs – estimated to be up to millions – then we can see how this 1% can actually translate to a large number of people who will be getting cancer.

According to study author Ilke Sipahi, associate director of heart failure and transplantation at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland:

“The risk for the individual patient is modest. However, when you look at it from the population level, millions and millions of people are on these drugs and it can cause a lot of excess cancer worldwide.”

The authors estimate that for every 105 patients who take ARB for 4 years, one extra case of cancer will be diagnosed. However, the author cannot tell whether this increased risk is reversible after cessation. Also, there is no significant difference between cancer mortality between people on ARB and people who are not.

The bestselling drug in this class is telmisartan (Micardis), which was taken by about 85.7% of the patients in the studies. It is no wonder that its manufacturer Boehringer Ingelheim Corp is not too happy about the report which was published in Lancet Oncology.

Why do ARBs increase cancer risk? The experts do not know exactly why but it might have something to do with the drugs’ ability to enhance growth of new blood, the same enhancement that can promote tumor growth.

So what now?

Well, the study authors are cautious enough to tell patients on ARB not to stop their medications. In most cases, “their chances of dying from heart failure outweighed their chances of getting cancer”

The study conclusions are:

This meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials suggests that ARBs are associated with a modestly increased risk of new cancer diagnosis. Given the limited data, it is not possible to draw conclusions about the exact risk of cancer associated with each particular drug. These findings warrant further investigation.

Their ultimate advice: if in doubt, talk to your doctor about it.

Lose Weight with These Fat Burning Foods

June 23, 2010 by  
Filed under OBESITY

Many Americans are waging a personal war against obesity which continues as a leading threat to the overall health and well being of millions. Obesity contributes to a twofold increase in the risk of heart attack, diabetes and certain cancers by increasing inflammation in the body.

Due largely to an exceedingly high sugar and refined carbohydrate diet, many people store fat in the belly. This is known as visceral fat which releases chemical messengers throughout the body when in excess. In an attempt to gain control, the body fights back by mounting an inflammatory response, increasing disease risk as a consequence.

The best way to lose weight is through a calorie-reduced, healthful diet, stress management and adequate physical activity. Fortunately there are a number of foods which help by increasing metabolism and stimulating the release of stored fat. These are essential ingredients for weight loss by targeting belly fat.

Eat Green to Lose Weight Naturally

Eat Leafy Green Vegetables and Drop Weight Fast

Eat Leafy Green Vegetables and Drop Weight Fast

The most important category of food for those looking to drop weight quickly is raw, dark green and leafy vegetables. They are extremely low in calories and fill you up quickly. The best part is that they release sugar into the bloodstream very slowly, so excess glucose does not convert to triglycerides and on to fat storage. The core of any weight loss diet should include large helpings of vegetables such as spinach, spring mix, cucumbers, onions, broccoli and cauliflower. Limit tomatoes and fruits as they are high in sugar and can impede the fat release process.

Choose Lean Meats and Unprocessed Fats

Choose Lean Meats and Unprocessed Fats to Boost Metabolism

Choose Lean Meats and Unprocessed Fats to Boost Metabolism

Lean meat protein sources such as turkey and chicken require additional energy to be metabolized by the body. When eaten in moderation, they will trigger the full signal meaning you stop eating sooner. For best weight loss results, limit calories from meat sources to no more than 10% of the daily total. Many people consume excessive amounts of protein which can lead to digestive problems and metabolic disorders in later life.

Raw, unprocessed fats are necessary for proper absorption of nutrients and actually can aid in the weight loss process. Fats from avocado, coconut, walnut and extra virgin olive oil slow the digestive process, as well as the rapid release of sugar from carbohydrates. You’ll naturally stop eating sooner and receive maximum benefit from the vitamins and minerals in your food. As fats are high in calories, be careful to keep total calories to less than 15%, and achieve the maximum weight loss boost.

Go Nuts to Lose Weight

Nuts are Nature's 'Perfect Food' Source

Nuts are Nature's 'Perfect Food' Source

Nuts are typically viewed as high in calories and fat, but should be considered as nature’s perfect food source. They provide a perfect balance of complete protein and monounsaturated fats while being very low in carbohydrates. Nuts eaten in moderation (about a handful a day) have been shown to boost metabolism and decrease fat mediated markers in the body. By replacing unhealthy processed fats with those from nuts, studies show that blood lipids are improved and heart healthy markers for systemic inflammation are brought in check.

Poor food choices are the main reason so many people are overweight and obese. Making the correct food selections and combined with a regular exercise program, many people can achieve permanent weight loss. This requires a stringent change to diet and lifestyle. Eat unlimited quantities of raw vegetables and limit certain fruits and all sweets and refined carbohydrates. Incorporate lean protein and unprocessed fats and nuts to create a well balanced and healthy diet which will lead to natural and sustainable weight loss for life.

About the author:

John Phillip is a Health, Diet and Nutrition Researcher and Author of the popular Optimal Health Resource Blog who regularly reports on the alternative cutting edge use of supplements and lifestyle modifications to enhance and improve the length and quality of life. Health problems can be avoided and overcome with a sensible approach to monitoring key health factors such as weight, blood glucose, blood pressure and body temperature. His mission is to discuss the relevant findings on nutritional factors as they become available, and how you can incorporate this latest information to better your lifestyle. Read John’s latest healthy articles, updated regularly at his Optimal Health Resource Blog.

US companies pay employees incentives for losing weight

June 23, 2010 by  
Filed under OBESITY

The anti-obesity campaign in the US is gaining momentum. One reason is the strong involvement of First Lady Michelle Obama. Another is the fact that many employers  have realized that a fit workforce saves a lot of money in the long run. That is why many companies have invested in wellness in the workplace programs.

According to a report in Health Affairs by Harvard researchers:

“Amid soaring health spending, there is growing interest in workplace disease prevention and wellness programs to improve health and lower costs. In a critical meta-analysis of the literature on costs and savings associated with such programs, we found that medical costs fall by about $3.27 for every dollar spent on wellness programs and that absenteeism costs fall by about $2.73 for every dollar spent. Although further exploration of the mechanisms at work and broader applicability of the findings is needed, this return on investment suggests that the wider adoption of such programs could prove beneficial for budgets and productivity as well as health outcomes.”

The most recent trend is companies offering their employees incentives to lose weight. Incentives can be in terms of real cash, extra days off, paid vacations, and lower insurance premiums. A recent report estimates that at least a third of US companies have some form of incentive program.

According to Dr. Kevin Volpp, director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Health Incentives:

“There’s been an explosion of interest in this.”

Here are some examples of successful programs:

  • The hospital chain OhioHealth pays their employees for walking. Fitted with a pedometer, employees can earn up to $500 a year for moving around.
  • IBM has reported a model wellness program wherein half of the staff participate in a 12-month web-based fitness program and earn some extra bucks, too.

The programs vary a lot depending on the company

Although there are a few success stories, many experts are skeptical whether the “dieting for dollars” programs are really making much of a difference. Currently, there is very little scientific data to support that these programs really work. Many studies have been conducted with inconclusive results. One of the biggest studies so far was done by researchers at Cornell University. Their results are rather disappointing. Of the 7 wellness programs evaluated, the average weight loss was about a pound or more.

Many people believe that the “dieting for dollars” program alone cannot stop obesity. Other factors should be taken into consideration as well. One IBM employee cites the workplace culture.  In New York, the culture is to ask “What restaurant can we go to, or what bar can we go to?” In California, the questions are  “What activity can you do, and what can you go see, and how can we figure out a way to not take a car there?”

It is quite clear in which culture is losing weight easiest.

US cigarettes top in carcinogen content

June 22, 2010 by  
Filed under CANCER

What’s so different about American cigarettes compared to say, European cigarettes? Is it the price, the taste, the packaging? No! It is the amount of carcinogens. Yes, Americans are actually getting more of the bad stuff for their money. American cigarettes reportedly have more cancer-causing compounds than cigarettes manufactured and sold in the UK, Canada and Australia.

This is according to a study by researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The results were published in the June issue of Cancer Epidemiology.

The ingredients and the manufacturing process of cigarettes vary from one manufacturer to another and from one country to another. Just how varied these can be was investigated by this study. The researchers wrote:

“Seventeen eligible cigarette brands (between 3 and 5 brands from each country) were selected on the basis of national sales and nicotine yield to identify popular brands with a range of ventilation … [how much air is mixed in with the smoke from the cigarette as it is inhaled].”

The researchers looked at 126 smokers and performed in-depth analysis of their urine and saliva as well as their cigarette butts. Nicotine, tobacco-specific nitrosamines or TSNAs (4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanone (NNK) and NNAL which is the breakdown product of NNK in the body were analyzed. According to Dr. Jim Pirkle who heads the CDC lab which measures levels of chemicals in people’s bodies using a mass spectrometer:

“All of these cigarettes contain harmful levels of carcinogens, but these findings show that amounts of tobacco-specific nitrosamines differ from country to country, and U.S. brands are the highest in the study.”

The study results showed:

  • NNAL levels in the urine of American smokers are much higher than levels of smoker from Canada or Australia.
  • The “American blend” tobacco in US cigarettes contains more TSNAs than tobacco used in the comparator countries.
  • Australian and Canadian smokers get more nicotine from their cigarettes than UK and US smokers. However, they still get lower TSNAs than the Americans.


Some the brands tested are:

Now, before you head for the Canadian border to shop for “less dangerous” smokes there, make sure you check what the Customs requirements are.  The easiest solution, of course, is quitting.

Vitamin D and rheumatoid arthritis

June 22, 2010 by  
Filed under ARTHRITIS

Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to a wide range on health conditions, including rheumatic diseases. Three European studies looked into the relationship between rheumatism and vitamin D levels as well as the effect of vitamin D supplementation.

Study  1:

An Italian study followed up 1191 patients with rheumatoid arthritis. The results showed that vitamin D levels in the blood were lower in these patients compared to the normal levels of at least 50 nmol/L . Furthermore,  supplementation does not always help. Only 40% of these patients who are take vitamin D daily supplementation of 800IU or more reach the normal values. The vitamin D levels in the blood in 60% of patients are still below normal. Measures of disease activity using questionnaires show that low vitamin D levels are correlated to increased disability, decreased  mobility, and more swollen joints.

According to  Dr. L. Idolazzi of the Rheumatology Unit, University of Verona, Italy:

“We have seen in studies that vitamin D deficiency is common in patients with a range of rheumatic diseases, and our results have confirmed this using several clinically accepted measures of disease activity. What we need to see now is a range of long term studies, which examine the clinical response of patients to vitamin D supplementation.”

Study 2:

In another Italian study, the effect of vitamin D supplementation on inflammatory autoimmune diseases was investigated. In this group of 43 patients, only 29% achieved normal vitamin D levels following supplementation.

Study 3:

A third study conducted in the UK involved 90 patients with rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis or unexplained muscle pain. These patients, too, had below than normal levels of vitamin D.

About vitamin D:

Vitamin D is also called the sunshine vitamin as it can only be synthesized by the body when exposed to sunlight. Unfortunately, vitamin D is not available in sufficient amounts in the food that we eat. Although vitamin D is available through sun exposure, the risk for skin cancer than the sun rays bring has led many health experts to discourage this practice.

In recent years, there has been a big debate about the necessity of vitamin D supplementation. In many countries, including the US, milk is supplemented with vitamin D. In addition, doctors often recommend vitamin D supplementation to their patients, especially little babies who are being breastfed. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends routine vitamin D supplementation for children and updated its guidelines on Vitamin D intake last 2008. The new guidelines increased the recommended dose from 200 IU to 400 IU per day.

Still smoking after a heart attack?

June 21, 2010 by  

Smoking is a risk factor for heart disease. That we know. But the how cigarette smoking actually affects survival and longevity of those who already have heart disease hasn’t been fully explored. This recent study by researchers at Tel Aviv University tells us some encouraging news:

Smoking cessation after a heart attack is just as effective as medications in preventing a second one.

Taking a first heart attack as a serious warning, quitting smoking brings significant health benefits to heart attack patients, benefits which may be comparable to those of statins or even more invasive procedures. The researchers looked at 1500 heart attack patients with the following smoking habits:

  • More than 50% are smokers.
  • 20% are former smokers.
  • 27% are lifetime non-smokers.

After the heart attack, 35% of smokers were able to quit, with very strong benefits: People who quit after their heart attack lowered that rate by 37% compared with those who continued to smoke. People who quit before the first heart attack had a 50% lower mortality rate.

According to Dr. Yariv Gerber of TAU’s Sackler School of Medicine:

“It’s really the most broad and eye-opening study of its kind. Smoking really decreases your life expectancy after a heart attack. Those who have never smoked have a 43% lower risk of succumbing after a heart attack, compared to the persistent smoker…We found that people who quit smoking after their first heart attack had a 37% lower risk of dying from another, compared to those who continued to smoke.”

Smoking reduction after heart attack can have significant benefits.

OK, so quitting smoking is not an easy thing to do for some people. Ask US President Barack Obama. So if cessation is not possible, one can try reduction of the number of cigarettes smoked per day. The TAU study showed that even a reduction is better than going on as before. By reducing smoking after heart attack, the likelihood of dying from another heart attack within the next 13 years is also reduced by 18%.

Dr. Gerber continues

“The novel aspect in our study is that it is the first to show the benefit of a reduction in smoking. This is information that some smokers could live with ― literally. We would like people to consider cutting down as an initial step before complete cessation, especially those who find it impossible to quit right away.”

However, smoking, no matter how little, can cause other diseases such as cancer. Thus, though smoking reduction translates to reduction in mortality risk due to a cardiac event, it may still have an effect on overall mortality.

Unfilled Sandbag for Yoga and Pilates

June 21, 2010 by  
Filed under HEALTHCARE

Sandbags are often used in both yoga and pilates to deepen stretches by placing the sandbag on your knees during seated poses, on your thigh in a kneeling pose, or to stretch your arms behind your back. Why pay the high costs of shipping 10 pounds of sand, and then be stuck with a 10 pound bag that may not be the correct weight for you? Our bags contain a unique, double-zippered, leak-proof system so that you can easily fill the sandbags with any dry item such as sand, beans, wheat, corn, or rice. You can then adjust to your desired weight. Having both a zippered inner liner and a zippered outer liner prevents leakage. The outer liner can easily be removed and washed. The beautiful colors, exceptional high quality, and unique design all combine to make this an exceptional product! These bags are great for studios and health clubs! The sandbags come in many different colors, which many customers have used to differentiate varying weights. The dimensions of the unfilled sandbag are 7.5″ wide by 17″ long.

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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.