Why You’re An STD Risk [Infographic]

November 17, 2011 by  
Filed under HEALTHCARE

If any of these risk factors apply to you, please recognize the importance of health and STD testing and be responsible!

In this infographic you will find:

* the top risk factors for acquiring an STD
* what you can get if your partner is infected
* most common STDs in men
* most common STDs in women
* most common STDs transmitted through non-sexual contact
* age-standardized disability-adjusted life year (daly) rates from STDs by country
* top 5 countries with the highest STD estimated total daly (2004), and
* additional interesting/intriguing facts about STDs

Via: Health Testing Centers


INTERSTROKE study identifies 10 stroke risk factors that we can do something about

July 15, 2010 by  

The majority of studies on stroke have been conducted in westernized or developed countries. Yet, recent surveys show that the disease burden of stroke is concentrate in low- and middle income countries, where 85% of deaths due to stroke occur.

The INTERSTROKE study might be able to rectify this knowledge gap. The study looked at 3000 first time acute stroke cases from 22 countries and compared these with 3000 controls. In the study, low income and developing countries are well-represented, with only 14% of the participants coming from high-incomes countries whereas 81% come from Southeast Asia, India or Africa.

The results indicate that 90% of stroke risk can be explained by 10 risk factors, all of them modifiable.

As expected, hypertension occupied the top position, accounting for 34.6% of population attributable global risk of stroke. But other risk factors were also identified that can highly contribute to the risk.

The factors identified by the INTERSTROKE study are:

  • Hypertension – 34.6%
  • Regular physical activity – 28.5%
  • Waist-to-hip ratio (abdominal obesity) – 26.5%
  • Ratio of apolipoproteins (cholesterol, triglycerides)- 24.9%
  • Cigarette smoking – 18.9%
  • Dietary risk score – 18.8%
  • Cardiac causes (atrial fibrillation, flutter, valve disease, history of heart attack) – 6.7%
  • Psychological factors
    • Stress – 4.6%
    • Depression – 5.2%
  • Diabetes – 5%
  • Alcohol intake – 3.8%

The same risk factors were identified for different stroke subtypes, especially the tow most common. Ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke.

“Along with hypertension, current smoking, abdominal obesity, diet, and physical activity accounted for 80% of the global risk of stroke, explaining 80% of the risk of ischemic stroke and 90% of the risk of hemorrhagic strokes.”

The INTERSTROKE results showed that the risk factors for stroke and heart disease are more or less the same but the importance of each factor may vary. In the case of heart disease (as shown by the INTERHAERT study), 50% of the risks are attributed to lipids. In stroke, high blood pressure is the most important factors.

According to an editorial by Dr Jack Tu

“This finding is particularly relevant, because it highlights the need for health authorities in these regions to screen the general population for high blood pressure and, if necessary, offer affordable treatment to reduce the burden of stroke.”

It is good to know that all the risk factors are modifiable, e.g. lifestyle factors. There is something we can do about them. And we should start now.

Breastfeeding prevents metabolic syndrome

June 2, 2010 by  
Filed under Featured, HEART AND STROKE

Metabolic syndrome is condition characterized by the presence of multiple risk factors in 1 patient, making that patient highly predisposed to cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Metabolic risk factors according to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute are: a large waistline, indicating abdominal obesity, high triglyceride levels, low HDL cholesterol levels, hypertension, and high fasting blood sugar level. A patient is diagnosed with metabolic syndrome if he or she has at least 3 of these risk factors.

In a recent report, researchers at Kaiser Permanente stated that one way of lowering the risk for metabolic syndrome for women is breastfeeding.

Previous studies have shown that women with gestational diabetes have a much higher likelihood of developing metabolic syndrome. The protective effects of breastfeeding against metabolic syndrome were especially evident in women who suffered from gestational diabetes during pregnancy. The researchers looked at 704 women aged between 18 to 30 years at the start of the study and did not have metabolic syndrome. Over the 20-year follow-up, 120 cases of metabolic syndrome occurred after delivery. The researchers reported that breastfeeding among these women decreased metabolic risk syndrome by 39 to 56% in women who did not have gestation diabetes but it went as high as 44 to 86% among those who had gestational diabetes Furthermore, the protection seems to be correlated to the duration of the breastfeeding.

According to study author Dr. Erica Gunderson

The findings indicate that breastfeeding a child may have lasting favorable effects on a woman’s risk factors for later developing diabetes or heart disease.  “

In the study, he benefits of breastfeeding were not associated with weight gain and physical activity and even lifestyle but linked to less abdominal fat and high levels of HDL (good) cholesterol.

Breast milk is considered to be the best food for babies. Only recently was it observed that the benefits of breastfeeding actually both ways. The child receives the best food nature can provide and the mother lower her risks for a wide range of diseases, from breast cancer to heart disease – and now metabolic syndrome.

Dr. Gunderson explains further:

“The Metabolic Syndrome is a clustering of risk factors related to obesity and metabolism that strongly predicts future diabetes and possibly, coronary heart disease during midlife and early death for women…Because the Metabolic Syndrome affects about 18 to 37 percent of U.S. women between ages 20-59, the childbearing years may be a vulnerable period for its development. Postpartum screening of risk factors for diabetes and heart disease may offer an important opportunity for primary prevention.”

Diabetes updates: what ups or lowers your risk

December 3, 2009 by  
Filed under DIABETES

blood_glucose_measure_diabetes_check2Today, I am bring some diabetes updates on what increases or decreases our chances to develop diabetes.

Heading off diabetes
Researcher David Nathan of Massachusetts General Hospital Believes people can prevent getting diabetes even if they are at high risk. And he has 10 years’ worth of data to prove it at the Diabetes Prevention Program Outcomes Study. Here are Dr. Nathan’s trips to head off diabetes:

  • A brisk 30-minute walk once a day or equivalent
  • Proper eating,
  • Kept off a crucial 5 pounds over those 10 years

The results: lower your risk by a third!

“We can actually push back, delay or prevent the development of diabetes in a substantial fraction of people over a long period of time. That means almost certainly that they will be healthier”, say Dr. Nathan.

Statin Drugs Might Slightly Boost Diabetes Risk
Statins do not lower diabetes risk. In fact, it can actually elevate the risks, albeit modestly. This is the result of a latest study by researchers at the Einstein College of Medicine, New York. Statins are cholesterol-lowering drugs that are commonly used in patients with cardiovascular conditions. However, its role in diabetes prevention has always been an issue of controversy. According to lead study investigator Dr. Swapnil

“Contrary to our expectation, we did not find any benefit of statins on diabetes risk. In fact, there is a suggestion that statins may be associated with increased risk — which needs to be explored further.”

Fish vs Shell fish in diabetes risk study
There is fish and there is fish. Some types can lower your risk for type 2 diabetes; some have the opposite effect. A British study reports that incorporating more white and oily fish in the diet lowers type 2 diabetes risk by 25%. However, one should take care about eating shellfish – e.g. mussels, oysters, crabs, and prawn. These seafoods actually elevate your diabetes risk by a whopping 36%! But is it really the shellfish? The researchers do not rule out that cooking and preparation methods can play a role in making these seafoods unhealthy. In the UK, for example, shellfish is usually fried in oil and served with sauces which are high in cholesterol. Fish that is good for the health should be eaten steamed, baked, of broiled with low fat sauces. Example of these fishes are:

  • White fish: cod, haddock, sole, and halibut
  • Oily fish: mackerel, kippers, tuna, and salmon,

October 29 is World Stroke Day

October 28, 2009 by  

World stroke day“Stroke, what can I do?“ is this year’s World Stroke Day theme. Started in Capetown in October 2006, WSD has become a global initiative. This year, World Stroke day falls on October 29.

According to the American Stroke Association, stroke killed 143,579 people in 2005. 60.6% of stroke fatalities were women. Aside from being a leading cause of death, stroke also causes long-term disability.

Some facts about stroke:

Here’s what you can do in your own small way in observing this day and helping fight stroke:

Michael Jackson’s death: Why it couldn’t have been a heart attack

October 5, 2009 by  

Michael_Jackson_1984When Michael Jackson suffered from cardiac arrest on June 25 this year, there were speculations that led to erroneous reports that Jackson suffered from a heart attack. It wasn’t clear whether the heart attack theories were based on medical evidence or the common mistake of equating cardiac arrest to heart attack. Once again, I have to put emphasis that heart attack (myocardial infarction in doctor speak) is not synonymous to (although it can cause) cardiac arrest, which is the sudden stopping of the heart.

Heart expert Dr. Melissa Walton-Shirley of Theheart.org wrote her blog heartfelt the many reasons why she is convinced that „Michael Jackson’s heart had nothing to do with his death [and] …was merely an innocent bystander.“ Dr. Walton-Shirley based her opinion on her analysis of Jackson’s risk factor profile which does not fit that of a young heart attack victim. These factors are listed and discussed below:

  • Family history. Heart disease seems to be not a part of the Jackson family medical history. Jackson’s parents are elderly (his mom is 79, his dad is 80) but are still fit. There has been no report of cardiovascular disease among his siblings.
  • Weight. Excess weight is a major risk factor for heart attack. Jackson was not overweight. On the contrary, he was underweight, looking „thin from the other side of the television screen but not emaciated.“ Excess weight is a strong indication of blocked arteries that lead to heart attack
  • Non-smoking. Smoking is another risk factor to consider and Jackson was a non-smoker.  
  • Diet. Jackson was rumored to be a vegetarian. Whether true or not, there is a strong indication due to his weight that he is not fond of animal fat.
  • Physical activity. The King of Pop can dance for extended periods, a feat that people with heart normally can do. Dr. Walton-Shirley, however, warns: Caution here on the exercise-tolerance issue, as 30% of all heart attacks may be asymptomatic.

In summary, Jackson did not have the most common risk factors that made him a likely victim of a heart attack.

Cardiac arrest, however, can be caused many things (including heart attack) and anybody can suffer from cardiac death that may or may not have to do with heart disease.

The latest autopsy reports reveal

Jackson was a fairly healthy 50-year-old before he died of an overdose. His 136 pounds were in the acceptable range for a 5-foot-9 man. His heart was strong with no sign of plaque build-up. And his kidneys and most other major organs were normal.

As to the real of cause of Jackson’s death, investigations are still ongoing. However, Dr. Walton-Shirley writes:

„His heart was merely an innocent bystander, a victim of the pop icon’s addiction and poor judgment, allegedly damned by a cardiologist’s stupidity, greed, and criminal negligence.“

Photo credit: wikicommons

Live long or die young: it’s all about cardiovascular risk factors

September 21, 2009 by  

hourglassMany people would give anything to live longer. However, what many of us are not aware of is that certain lifestyle factors can actually either add to or shave 10 years off our lifespan. Ten years – that’s a decade! Or even more.

This study by UK researchers at Oxford looked at 18,863 men who were part of the British Whitehall study. The participants were aged 40 to 69 who were working as civil servants in London. They were followed up, filled out questionnaires on medical history, smoking habits, employment grades, and marital status and underwent a medical exam that measured blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose concentrations, and height and weight. The study started between 1967 and 1970, and followed up the participants for 38 years.

The results of the study showed that three cardiovascular risk factors in middle age – smoking, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol levels – are increase the likelihood of vascular mortality by 3-fold. In addition, non-vascular death is also two times higher among those with these risk factors, and their life expectancy is shortened by 10 years. When looking at more extreme categorization of risk factors, the researchers found that factors like body-mass index (BMI), diabetes mellitus/glucose intolerance, and employment grade can even shorten lifespan by up to 15 years.

According to the researchers

“Continued public-health strategies to lower mean levels of the three main cardiovascular risk factors, together with more intensive medical treatment for ‘high-risk’ subgroups, including use of medication to lower blood pressure and cholesterol concentration, which have proven efficacy, could result in further improvements in life expectancy.”

The findings of the UK study agree with another study conducted in the US, viewed from another perspective.  The study, which was part of the Physician’s Health Study, reported that the absence of the same risk factors listed above leads to exceptional longevity and better health status and quality of life at old age. The study concluded that

Modifiable healthy behaviors during early elderly years, including smoking abstinence, weight management, blood pressure control, and regular exercise, are associated not only with enhanced life span in men but also with good health and function during older age.

So you decide: what is it going to be: live longer or die younger. It is your choice.

Photo credit: stock.xchng

Resource post for May: Stroke awareness revisited

May 5, 2009 by  

brainMay is American Stroke Month

It is the month when we should examine what we know about stroke, its symptoms, the risk factors, how it can be managed, and how it can be prevented. At the forefront of this month-long awareness campaign are the American Heart Association (AHA) and the American Stroke Association (ASA).

Stroke: facts and figures

According to the AHA:

Stroke is the third highest cause of mortality after heart disease and cancer.

Stroke: symptoms

Many people do not recognize the signs when they are having a stroke, according to research studies. This causes delay in treatment of a condition that is time-sensitive. The warning signs of stroke according to the AHA and ASA are (check also the video clip):

Stroke: reducing your risks

The best strategy of preventing stroke is reducing the risks that can be reduced. But first we need to know the risk factors.

The risks that you cannot change are

  • Age. The likelihood of having a stroke increases with age. Previous studies suggest that stroke risk doubles starting age at the age of 55. Finnish researchers report that stroke risk increases dramatically in men starting at age 44.
  • Genetics. Family history and ethnicity predisposes a person to stroke. African American have higher predisposition to stroke than any other ethnic group in the US. The genetic disease sickle cell anemia which is very common among African-American and Hispanic children is a major risk factor for stroke.
  • Gender. Men seem to be more susceptible to stroke than women but women suffer higher mortality rates from stroke.

But here are the risks that you can do something about:

  • High blood pressure. Hypertension is the most important controllable risk factor for stroke. Many people believe the effective treatment of blood-pressurehigh blood pressure is a key reason for the accelerated decline in the death rates for stroke.
  • Cigarette smoking. Although cigarette smoking is usually associated with lung cancer, it is actually an important risk factor for stroke. And the damage is not only restricted to the smoker. Second hand or passive smoking has also been linked to cardiovascular damage that can lead to stroke.
  • Obesity/excess weight. Obesity is another major controllable factor for stroke.
  • High cholesterol levels. People with high blood cholesterol have an increased risk for stroke. High levels of LDL “bad” cholesterol and low levels of HDL “good” cholesterol are risk factors.
  • Birth control pills. The use of oral contraceptives by women has been linked to cardiovascular damage. When this factor is combined with smoking, the risk for having a stroke increases drastically.
  • Diabetes. Diabetes is an independent risk factor for stroke. However, it is also associated with other risk factors such high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol levels and obesity.
  • Poor nutrition. Diet is a major but easily controllable risk factor for stroke and other related cardiovascular disease. “Diets rich in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol can raise blood cholesterol levels. Diets high in sodium (salt) can contribute to increased blood pressure. Diets with excess calories can contribute to obesity.” On the other hand, a daily diet containing five or more servings of fruits and vegetables – the so-called DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet may reduce the risk of stroke.
  • Physical inactivity. A sedentary lifestyle is not only a risk factor for stroke, it is a risk factor for other related problems, e.g. hypertension, high blood cholesterol, diabetes, and heart disease. The AHA and ASA recommend a minimum of least 30 minutes of physical activity each day. The more, the better.dry-fruits
  • Other underlying conditions such as arterial diseases (e.g. carotid artery disease, peripheral artery disease) and heart disorders (e.g. coronary heart disease, atrial fibrillation, cardiomyopathy, congenital heart defects) also increase the risks of having a stroke.
  • Geographic location. States in the southeastern United States have higher incidences of stroke than the rest of the country, earning the title the “stroke belt.” However, this is a risk factor that is neither well-understood nor well-documented.
  • Socioeconomic factors. Studies suggest that stroke incidence is higher among low-income people than among more affluent people.
  • Alcohol consumption. Although alcohol is said to have some cardiovascular benefits, excessive alcohol consumption has been associated to health problems including stroke and hypertension. Women also especially more susceptible to the adverse effects of alcohol than men.
  • Illegal drugs. Illegal drugs such as cocaine, amphetamines and heroin, have been associated with an increased risk of stroke.

Stroke: treatment and management

Some of the treatment options for ischemic stroke are:

  • Thrombolytic (clot-busting) drugs. The most commonly used drug in the emergency treatment of stroke is an intravenous injection of blood-cellstissue plasminogen activator (tPA). tPA, however, is a time-sensitive medication that needs to be administered within 3 hours of symptom onset.
  • Anti-coagulants or blood thinners. These drugs are prescribed after a stroke to reduce the chances of new blood clots forming.
  • Anti-platelet drugs. These drugs are also used to prevent blood clots and can be used in stroke prevention strategy.
  • Surgery and stents. Several surgical interventions can be done to prevent and manage stroke. A blocked or narrowed carotid artery can be opened by surgery to remove plaques. Stents can be inserted into the blood vessels to keep them open.
  • Experimental treatments. New stroke treatments are currently being tested, including stem cell therapy and experimental neuroprotective medications.

Stroke resources:

 Photo credit: stock xchng

Video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=zjPPm_M_nPg

Stroke begins at 44 and beyond

March 26, 2009 by  

birthday_cakeThe 40s. It’s when life is really supposed to start. It’s also when people get into the so-called midlife crisis.

A recent Finnish study also suggests that the 40s is the age when we have to take care of our cardiovascular health because the rates of ischemic stroke increase dramatically beyond our 44th year of life. And most especially if you are male. The Finnish study looked at 1,008 ischemic stroke patients aged 15 to 49 years old. Here are some of the figures the researchers found:

The researchers looked at stroke incidence in different age groups and found that stroke under the age of 30 occurs more often in women. The incidence of stroke increases with age and by the age of 44, the incidence is almost equal between men and women. After this point, a sharp increase in first stroke incidence in males was observed.

Most of the risk factors observed were lifestyle related and modifiable, and the most frequent are:

  • dyslipidemia (60%)
  • smoking (44%)
  • hypertension (39%)

In addition, less frequent risk factors but nevertheless potentially dangerous were observed such as heavy alcohol consumption, which is common among men, migraine among women, use of illicit drugs among younger patients.

What surprised the researchers are the high number of silent as well as multiple ischemic strokes occurring, sometimes with the patient being aware of them.

Other key findings are:

As I approach that stage called midlife, I am very aware of the health problems that come with it and stroke is just one of them. The American Stroke Association gives a comprehensive patient-friendly overview of stroke and how we can prevent it.

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

March 16, 2009 by  
Filed under CANCER

March is the month to step up on awareness of colorectal cancer, the third leading cause of cancer mortality in the US, according to the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA). Approximately 149,000 new cases of colorectal cancer have been predicted for 2008. Abointestineut 50,000 Americans die this disease every year

The good news is that colorectal cancer is preventable and treatable when detected at an early stage. And early detection is possible through screening.

The bad news is that, “even in the best economic environment, only half of the people who need colorectal cancer screening receive the life-saving test.” The low screening rate maybe due to a lot of causes. Screening is mainly done by colonoscopy, which involves gently inserting an intrument called colonoscope into the rectum and large intestine. The instrument enables the doctor examine the walls of the lower gastrointestinal tract. Unfortunately, many people find this screening method embarrassing and invasive. With the economic recession, it is expected that even more people will forego screening for colorectal cancer due to loss of health insurance and financial difficulties. In addition, there seem to be cultural and ethnic barriers that are also related to health insurance coverage. According to AGA, African Americans and Hispanics are less likely to be screened and are therefore more likely to die from colorectal cancer than other ethnic groups.

A study by the Lewin Group made public early this year predicts that there will be a shortage of actively practicing gastroenterologists in the US in the next ten years. This shortage will further lead to low screening rates.

Hopefully, legislation will help solve the issue. Texas Rep. Kay Granger reintroduced the Colorectal Cancer Early Detection, Prevention and Treatment Act in the US Congress in February, a bill whose aim is

to amend the Public Health Service Act to establish a national screening program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and to amend title XIX of the Social Security Act to provide States the option to provide medical assistance for men and women screened and found to have colorectal cancer or colorectal polyps.”

The bill can hopefully establish a life-saving program similar to the Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening Program. Screening for colorectal cancer is recommended for people between 50 and 64 years old but also those younger than 50 but have high risks profiles. The bill will also facilitate screening, follow-up, and treatment of those who do not have insurance coverage.

Risk factors for colorectal cancer (source: American Cancer Society) are:

  • Age older than 50 years old
  • Previous history of polyps and inflammatory bowel disease
  • Family history of colorectal cancer
  • Other hereditary diseases (Peutz-Jeghers syndrome, familial adenomatous polyposis, and Lynch syndrome).
  • Racial and ethnic background
  • Lifestyle-related factors including smoking, diet, lack of exercise, obesity, heavy alcohol consumption, and type 2 diabetes.

Photo credit: stock.xchng

Risk factors for hypertension: men vs women

September 16, 2008 by  

The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute and MayoClinic list the following as the most common risk factors for hypertension:

  • Older age
  • Race or ethnicity
  • Overweight or obesity
  • Gender
  • Stress
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Use of tobacco
  • Family history of hypertension
  • High alcohol consumption
  • High sodium in the diet
  • Low vitamin D levels
  • Low potassium in the diet

This latest study by Chinese researchers reports that risk factors can contribute differentially to the developing hypertension depending on individual’s gender. The researchers studied 834 men and 835 women aged 15 to 84 years old in an ethnically isolated group and assessed their risk factors by collecting data on lifestyle, diet, and demographics as well as performing blood tests, genotyping, and blood pressure measurements.

The differences they observed were as follows:

Prevalence of hypertension

lower in women


lower in women


lower in women

Mean blood pressure

lower in women (116/72 vs 119/75)

Lifestyle risk factors

As expected, age is a common risk factor both gender that cannot be altered. However, several lifestyle risk factors seem to be strongly linked to males.

Lifestyle risk factors which are specific for males are:

  • Physical activity
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Body weight and body mass index (BMI)
  • Waist circumference

A lifestyle risk factor which is specific for females is calcium intake in the diet.

Other lifestyle risk factors common to both males and females are:

  • education level
  • plasma lipid profile (e.g. cholesterols and triglycerides)
  • dietary intakes of energy, fat, sodium, and potassium

Genetic risk factors

Gene markers also varied between males and females. Genetic polymorphisms affecting the following genes encoding:

  • calpastatin
  • lipoprotein lipase
  • thyrotropin-releasing hormone receptor
  • Willebrand factor

are specific for women.

Conversely, polymorphisms in the genes encoding the following:

  • angiotensin-converting enzyme
  • aldehyde dehydrogenase
  • hepatic lipase

 are specific for men.

Since this study was conducted on an ethnically isolated group of people and it is not clear how the results can be extrapolated to the general population. The researchers themselves are a bit cautious with the interpretation of the data and conclude that

Sex differences in the prevalence of hypertension in the Hei Yi Zhuang population may be mainly attributed to the differences in dietary habits, lifestyle choices, sodium and potassium intakes, physical activity level, and some genetic polymorphisms.”

Whatever future studies will show, they wouldn’t change the fact that an unhealthy lifestyle is a strong factor in getting hypertension – whether you are male or female!

Photo credit: gender symbols by kikoashi at stock.xchng

Remembering Tim Russert

July 1, 2008 by  

Instead of featuring a heart(y) celebrity this month, I would like to pay my respects to Tim Russert of NBC.

I was travelling around Western Europe when I heard of his unexpected death. Even here in the old continent, his name and face was known, especially among the English-speaking community. Russert was a respected political journalist whose opinion carried a lot of weight in the political scene.

There was a lot of speculation in the media about his untimely death and whether his death could have been prevented. These led a lot of contradicting reports about Russert’s case.

Heartwire discussed the Russert’s case with 3 cardiovascular experts. On the downside, Russert’s condition can be summarized as follows:

  • He had an asymptomatic coronary artery disease.
  • He had hypertension and high cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
  • Ten years ago, he had a calcium CT scan score of 210, indicating moderate to high risk for a heart attack.
  • He was overweight.
  • He was in considerable stress
  • He was sleep-deprived, probably as part of his job in following the US presidential preliminaries.

On the upside:

  • As a seasoned journalist, Tim Russert was surely aware of his risks and was doing a lot to manage his risks.
  • His sugar levels were slightly elevated but without indications of diabetes.
  • He seemed to have his cholesterol levels and blood pressure under control with medications.
  • He regularly did physical exercise.

The downside may indeed have won over the upside. Tim Russert had a heart attack and collapsed in his work place at NBC on Friday, 13 June. Russert was defibrillated three times, presumably with an automatic external defibrillator (AED) on site before his delivery at Sibley Memorial Hospital.

Autopsy after his death showed an enlarged left ventricle. The immediate cause of death was identified as “ventricular fibrillation following plaque rupture in his left anterior descending artery.”

Could Tim Russert’s death have been prevented with newer tests and treatments?

One expert interviewed by heartwire, Dr. Dr Eric Topol of Scripps Translational Science Institute commented that monitoring Russert’s C-reactive protein (CRP) levels could have given more information about his risk for a heart attack. CRP is a major biomarker of inflammation.

According to the American Heart Association

“While many heart attacks can be prevented before they occur, or treated while in progress to halt or lessen the damage, not all can; coronary heart disease is still the number one killer of men, accounting for more than half of all deaths among men. More than 50 percent of all men who die of coronary heart disease have no previous symptoms.”

Truly “in the midst of life,” the monsters heart disease and stroke are waiting for their next victim.


Photo credit

Does your bank account predict your risk for early stroke?

May 30, 2008 by  

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

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

So how can socioeconomic status affect your stroke risk?

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

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

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

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

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

According to the Centers for Disease and Prevention (CDC)

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

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


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

Pancreatic Cancer

May 27, 2008 by  
Filed under CANCER

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Risk Factors for Exocrine (Pancreatic) Cancers:

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

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


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

Other diagnostic tests:

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

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

Basic staging per the Mayo Clinic:

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

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

Current Treatment for Exocrine (Pancreatic) Cancer:

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

Battling Books:

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

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

Pancreatic Cancer in the News:

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


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

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

The National Pancreas Foundation. Support, Education and Research.

Liver Cancer Facts

April 28, 2008 by  
Filed under CANCER

liver.jpgThe liver is the largest internal human organ. If the liver completely shut down, we would die within 24 hours. This is because the liver has so many vital functions in human life.

Functions of the liver:

  • Convert, store and release glucose as needed
  • Breakdown fat and produce cholesterol
  • Remove ammonia from your body
  • Produce blood proteins, including clotting factors
  • Detoxify drugs and alcohol
  • Produce bile (the role of bile is to break down fat)
  • Cleanse the body of cell debris and damaged red blood cells

The National Cancer Institute defines liver cancer as: “Primary liver cancer is cancer that forms in the tissues of the liver. Secondary liver cancer is cancer that spreads to the liver from another part of the body. ” The NCI estimates there will be 21,370 cases and 18,410 deaths from liver cancer and intrahepatic bile duct cancer in the U.S. this year.

Types of Primary Tumors of the Liver:

Hepatocellular : The most common type of liver cancer in adults. Three out of four diagnoses of liver cancer will be hepatocellular. This cancer may present as spots on the liver, a single tumor or various patterns.

Cholangiocarcinoma: This type of liver cancer starts in the bile duct and often has the same treatment plan as hepatocellular liver cancer.

Fibrolamellar carcinoma:A subtype of hepatocellular cancer, this is a rare form with a better prognosis than other types of liver cancer.

Hepatoblastoma:A very rare liver cancer found in children younger than 4, with a good prognosis if diagnosed early.

Angiosarcoma and Hemangiosarcoma: These rare forms of liver cancer begin in the blood vessels, grow quickly and have a very poor prognosis.

Symptoms of liver cancer may include:

  • Lack of appetite and weight loss
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • General weakness and fatigue
  • An enlarged and tender liver
  • Swollen abdomen
  • Jaundice of the skin and eyes

Some of the Risk Factors Associated with Liver Cancer:

  • Liver infections such as hepatitis
  • Diabetes
  • Cirrhosis of the liver
  • Sex-Males are twice as likely to develop the disease
  • Age-In the U.S and Europe the average age is 60
  • Smoking tobacco
  • Obesity
  • Bile duct disease
  • Consumption of foods contaminated with aflatoxins (a mold). This is a problem in Asia and Africa.

Diagnosis and Treatment:

  • Diagnosis may include a physical exam, blood tests for liver function, CT, ultrasound, angiogram, MRI and biopsy.
  • Note that people at risk may be checked routinely for early tumor development using an AFP (alpha-fetoprotein) blood test which detects a protein present in many liver cancers.
  • Staging-see the Mayo Clinic site for information on staging types.
  • Treatment depends on staging and the individual diagnosis and may include surgery, chemotherapy and or radiation. Ablation is a treatment used to treat tumors that cannot be removed by surgery locally. Embolization is a treatment used to cut off blood supply to the tumor. See the American Cancer Society site for detailed information on treatment options including complementary and alternative treatment.

Resources and News:

American Liver Foundation

M.D. Anderson, Adult Liver Cancer Support, includes networks, support groups and message boards.

DG Dispatch, March 12, 2008. Guidelines Support Ablation Techniques for Unresectable Liver Cancer: Presented at NCCN “Tumour ablation techniques should play a major role in treating tumours of the liver that are not suitable for resection, according to updated treatment guidelines for hepatocellular carcinoma …”

Battling Books:

100 Q&A About Liver Cancer by Ghassan K. Abou-Alfa (2005)

The Liver Book: A Comprehensive Guide to Diagnosis, Treatment and Recovery by Sanjiv Chopra ( 2001)

The Big FIVE-O

March 24, 2008 by  
Filed under CANCER

Time to start screening for colon/colorectal cancer. NOW!


The Facts:

March is National Colon/Colorectal Awareness Month.

The lifetime risk for being diagnosed with colorectal cancer is 1 in 19.

90% of all colon cancer diagnoses are in people age 50 or older.

It is the third leading cancer diagnosis in men and the fourth in women.

The disease strikes about 150, 000 people and causes approximately 50,000 deaths per year.

African-American’s are the highest racial or ethnic group at risk in the U.S.

The disease usually starts with a polyp.

The 5 year survival rate for those diagnosed early is 90%

Only 39% of those diagnosed are diagnosed early.

Read more

Who is Prostate Cancer?

March 18, 2008 by  
Filed under CANCER

He can be any man.

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men after lung cancer, affecting one in six men in the U.S.

He is rarely under the age of 40, usually over 50 and in fact two-thirds of all cases are diagnosed in men over 65.

60 to 61% of the time he is an African American male.

He is twice as likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer if he has/had a father or brother with the disease. There is also an inherited gene for prostate cancer, affecting 5 to 10 % of all diagnosed cases. While research into genetic testing is promising, it is not yet available.

For more information on who is prostate cancer see the Prostate Cancer Foundation site.

The Prostate Cancer Research Foundation of Canada offers a risk assessment quiz on their website.

Read more

Genetic Risk Factors for Diabetes

January 9, 2008 by  
Filed under DIABETES

The causes of diabetes are complex and only partly understood. Complicating the picture even further is the fact that there are multiple types, each with its own risk factors. Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are the most common, encompassing about 97% or more of cases in the U.S. Each results from a combination of environmental and genetic influences.

Of those, Type 2 is far and away the most common, about 90% of cases.

Obesity is thought to be a major contributor to Type 2 diabetes. Being overweight is a good prototype for a cause since it is itself a combination of genetic background and lifestyle choices. Though the diet opted for and the amount of exercise one chooses to undertake are lifestyle choices, it’s still true that some individuals gain or shed weight more easily than others.

But there are many other factors, as well.

A history of diabetes during pregnancy contributes to part of the total risk. Just shy of 40% of women who develop diabetes during pregnancy (a type known as gestational diabetes) will later develop Type 2 diabetes. That typically occurs within 5-10 years after giving birth. Those who give birth to larger babies have a greater risk.

Glucose intolerance is another genetically influenced factor. Since Type 2 diabetes results not from underproduction of insulin (as in Type 1) but from inadequate use of it, it shouldn’t be surprising that glucose intolerance is a contributing circumstance. That glucose intolerance should exist is puzzling enough, since it’s a major source of the body’s energy. But genetic anomalies produce some unusual situations.

Ethnicity plays a role in whether or not an individual will develop Type 2 diabetes, though the reasons are not fully understood. Even after adjusting for lifestyle, Aboriginals, Africans, Latin Americans and some Asian groups are at higher risk. The profile varies between 1.5-2 times the incidence among Caucasians, according to one broad Canadian study. Oddly, though, the risk of Type 1 diabetes is much higher among Caucasians than any other race.

Having high blood pressure raises the odds, too. That again is partly a lifestyle (chiefly, diet and exercise) choice but it has a strong genetic aspect as well. There’s a strong correlation between those with high blood pressure and those who will develop diabetes. Similarly, high cholesterol levels increase the risk. Over 40% of those with diabetes have higher than average levels of cholesterol in the blood.

But simple family medical circumstance is probably the largest genetic risk factor.

An individual with a parent or sibling who has Type 1 diabetes has him or herself a risk 10-20 times higher than average. For a newborn baby with a parent who has Type 1 diabetes the odds are 1 in 25, or 4% if the mother gives birth before age 25. Over age 25, the risk is 1%, about the same as the general population. The odds rise again to about 10% if either parent contracted diabetes before age 11.

The genetic risk factors of contracting diabetes are still an active area of research. Fortunately, while in generations past there was nothing one could do to influence them, modern genetic treatments hold out promise of altering even these odds.

DNA Clue to Rheumatoid Arthritis, Discovered

November 7, 2007 by  
Filed under ARTHRITIS

A genetic link to rheumatoid arthritis has been uncovered by University of Manchester researchers led by Prof Jane Worthington and her team at the Arthritis Research Campaign’s Epidemiology Unit.

A variant in the DNA which raises risk of disease has been identified, thereby leading to a greater understanding of the disease’s cause which hopefully will lead to more effective treatments for rheumatoid arthritis.

The team used blood samples from more than 5000 patients to test nine DNA regions thought to raise susceptibility to rheumatoid arthritis, identified as part of a Wellcome Trust funded £9 million effort to scan the genetics of common diseases.

Now one of them, located on one of the bundles of DNA in cells (chromosome 6), has been confirmed as raising the risk of the inflammation that causes the disease.

Findings have been reported recently at the journal Nature Genetics.

There has only been two other genes known that can explain about half of the inherited susceptibility of rheumatoid arthritis. Researchers are now working to understand how this newly found DNA variant influences the development of the disease, the course of the disease, and the response to treatment.

According to Prof Jane Worthington:

“This is a very exciting result; the validation of this association takes us one step closer to understanding the genetic risk factors behind what is a debilitating disease for sufferers and an expensive disease for the NHS.

Although this variant is not located in a gene, that it may influence the behaviour of a nearby gene: tumour necrosis factor induced protein (TNFAIP3) as this is a gene that is known to be involved in inflammation.”

Affecting up to one per cent of the adult population (in the UK alone, there are 387, 000 patients) – rheumatoid arthritis – is a chronic inflammatory disease that can affect nearly all joints in the body (particularly the hands and feet) in which complications such as lung disease can occur.

According to Dr Anne Barton, a clinician on the Manchester team:

“Rheutmatoid arthritis is a complex, heterogeneous disease with some people suffering inflammation of the hands and feet which comes and goes while others develop a progressive form which can quite rapidly result in marked disability.

We believe the genetic marker we have found may determine who develops rheumatoid arthritis or how severe the disease becomes.”

Well, this is one step among the many yet to taken. Who knows, one day we may not worry anymore about arthritis or rheumatoid arthritis.

Meanwhile, we can only prevent or alleviate the symptoms.

Source: UK Telegraph

6 Risk Factors for Multiple Sclerosis

October 25, 2007 by  

By Robert Groth

There are several recognized risk factors in Multiple Sclerosis, although there is not a definite known cause. These risk factors do not guarantee that you will be diagnosed with the disease, but they do increase your chances.

Heredity is the first of the known risk factors for Multiple Sclerosis. If no one has Multiple Sclerosis in your family, then your chances of having MS are only 1 in 750. Having a parent or sibling with MS increases the odds to 1 in 100. If you have an identical twin with MS, your chances are 1 in 4, although both twins do not always have MS. For this reason, many researchers believe that Multiple Sclerosis is not just a genetic disease, although heredity does affect the chances you will have it.

Environmental factors are the second risk factor for Multiple Sclerosis. Research shows that bacteria and viruses, especially at certain ages, can increase your chances of having MS. Alone these infections should not cause MS, but when combined with other risk factors for Multiple Sclerosis, especially heredity, they can greatly increase the odds of having it. The infections that could be related to MS are measles, herpes, chickenpox, rubella, mononucleosis, chlamydia, and some types of flu. These may have the most risk when they are contracted as a teenager.

Geography is the third risk factor in Multiple Sclerosis. For some unknown reason, MS is more common in temperate climates such as Europe, southern Canada, northern United States, and southeastern Australia. This geographical factor seems to be most important during puberty.

Gender is the fourth risk factor for Multiple Sclerosis. Women are 2 to 3 times more likely than men to have MS. This is believed to be due to hormonal differences. Men who smoke are twice as likely as men who do not smoke to be diagnosed with MS.

Age is the fifth risk factor for Multiple Sclerosis. Usually MS is diagnosed to people between 20 and 50. It is possible to be diagnosed during childhood or after the age of 50, but this age range seems to be the most critical.

The sixth risk factor in Multiple Sclerosis is giving cow’s milk to babies. This is a newly discovered risk, and the reasons are not yet known. It may be proven in the future to be in no way linked to MS. Pediatrician’s advise against cow milk for infants under one year of age, anyway, so it would be best to be careful. Breast milk is believed to be the best food for infants because it helps the brain develop faster and more fully. This may be the link between cow’s milk and MS, since the brain would not be as developed.

Heredity is probably the only risk factor for Multiple Sclerosis that may cause the disease on its own, but combining several of these factors together may greatly increase your odds. Since many of these things are beyond your control, if you meet several of these risk factors for Multiple Sclerosis, you may want to consult a doctor. At the least watch for any symptoms related to the disease. Anything you can due to reduce your chances or your loved one’s chances of meeting these risk factors for Multiple Sclerosis would be worth the effort.

© CG Groth 2007

Robert Groth, author and speaker was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1990. Receive more information and a free inspirational daily email on how you can beat multiple sclerosis at www.beatmultiplesclerosis.com

Article Source: EzineArticles.com/?expert=Robert_Groth

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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.