January 14, 2012 by  
Filed under CANCER, VIDEO

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10 Health Tips for Women Age 65 and Older

I just found this health related video on YouTube … and thought you might enjoy it!


This video provides 10 health tips for women age 65 and older. These recommendations are based on expert clinical opinion presented in UpToDate online version 18.3. This video was produced by Dr. Nicholas Cohen, MD. The content of this video is not intended nor recommended as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your own physician or other qualified health care professional regarding any medical questions or conditions.

Tell us what you think about this video in the comments below, or in the Battling For Health Community Forum!

Dr. Jud Fisher of Healthcare Partners of Nevada Discusses Men’s Health

June 17, 2011 by  
Filed under VIDEO

I just found this health related video on YouTube … and thought you might enjoy it!


Dr. Jud Fisher, a renown family practitioner, talks with the Las Vegas Morning Blend channel 13 about men’s health during Men’s Health Week.

Tell us what you think about this video in the comments below, or in the Battling For Health Community Forum!

Is this your year to quit?

February 3, 2011 by  

So what if it’s already February. That doesn’t mean that I can’t start my New Year’s resolutions now. Or you for that matter. Especially when the resolution is for our health. Besides, the Lunar Year of the Rabbit is just starting.

If your NY’s resolution is to quit smoking, then you are looking at the right direction because quitting as soon as possible will drastically decrease your risk for cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Here are some tips from the MD Anderson Cancer Center:

Set a date

“Picking a quit date, particularly at a time when you know your motivation is high and there will be less stress or distraction, is generally a good idea ,” according to Paul M. Cinciripini, director of MD Anderson’s Tobacco Treatment Program and professor in the Department of Behavioral Science.

Get help and support

Get all the help you can get! Free counseling is available at these “Quit Lines”:

  • Centers for Disease Control Office of Smoking and Health: 1-800-QUIT NOW
  • National Cancer Institute: 1-877-44U-QUIT

Swap habits

Identify the stimuli that trigger smoking, then replacing the smoking habit for less harmful one once the urge arises. As an example, stress is a common smoking trigger. Chewing gum or exercising that help against the stress without the smoke. But remember, do not replace one bad habit for another. “This is one of the areas where a behavioral counselor can really help,” according to Vance Rabius, another expert at MD Anderson’s Department of Behavioral Science.

Find some distraction

Find some distractions to get your mind off from smoking- a book, a video game, a stroll in the park. A friend of mine took up pottery and each time she got the urge, she went to her potter’s wheel. At the end of the year, she was smoke-free and had enough vases for Christmas presents.

Take it one day at a time

Concentrate on the short-term and just get through each day. One successful “quitter” shared her experience:

I told myself every day that I could smoke tomorrow if I wanted to, but today I wasn’t smoking. The idea that I just had to last through the day was really helpful.”

Reward yourself

Now, this is great tip. Treat yourself to something nice for every milestone, a play, a massage, a piece of jewelry, a weekend trip or even little things like going out for dinner or a film. The important thing is – pick a reward/activity that will not trigger the smoking urge.

Check out other quitting resources:


Smoking and rheumatoid arthritis

January 27, 2011 by  
Filed under ARTHRITIS

That arthritis pain is killing you? Well, it might be the pack you smoked today that caused it.

Recent research evidence indicates that smoking cigarettes can increase your chances of getting rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune form of the disease that has nothing to do with age. The study looked at 860 people and 605 of these had rheumatoid arthritis and 255 didn’t. Analysis of the data showed that heavy long-term smokers (e.g. those who smoke a apack a day for 10 years) are the most likely to develop the disease. According to study author Ted Mikuls of the University of Nebraska Medical Center:

“This is yet another thing for people to think about when they are picking up their cigarettes – they may be increasing their risk for arthritis.”

Smoking cigarettes is linked to many chronic diseases, including cancer, heart disease and stroke. Now we can add rheumatoid arthritis to this list.

So next time you feel that pain on your joints, check your lifestyle and check your health habits. What have you done today?

About rheumatoid arthritis:

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a form of arthritis that causes pain, swelling, stiffness and loss of function in your joints. It can affect any joint but is common in the wrist and fingers. More women than men get rheumatoid arthritis. It often starts between ages 25 and 55. You might have the disease for only a short time, or symptoms might come and go. The severe form can last a lifetime.

Rheumatoid arthritis is different from osteoarthritis, the common arthritis that often comes with older age. RA can affect body parts besides joints, such as your eyes, mouth and lungs. RA is an autoimmune disease, which means the arthritis results from your immune system attacking your body’s own tissues.

No one knows what causes rheumatoid arthritis. Genes, environment and hormones might contribute. Treatments include medicine, lifestyle changes and surgery. These can slow or stop joint damage and reduce pain and swelling.

Cigarette is out, marijuana is in

January 14, 2011 by  
Filed under ADDICTION

Cigarette smoking is declining.  Isn’t that great?  After decades of campaigning against smoking, statistics show that smoking rates have shrunk in the U.S. in the last decades. The MTF (Monitoring the Future) 2010 survey released a similar finding at a National Press Club news conference in December:  there is a decrease in cigarette smoking among teens.  Not only that.  Binge  drinking has also decreased by 2% among senior high school students in the past year.  The bad news, however, is that more teens are smoking marijuana.  This is not all of it. More teens are into illicit drugs such as Ecstasy.

 The MTF survey was performed on 12th, 10th and 8th graders by researchers from the Univesity of Michigan in Ann Arbor.   More than 300 privat and public schools participated with more than 14000 students answering the questionnaires.   The results are summarized as follows:

 Marijuana use rates in 2010 among 12th, 10th and 8th graders were 6.1%, 3.3%, and 1.2%, respectively.  In 2009, these rates were 5.2 %, 2.8%, and 1.0 %, respectively.

 There is an increase in the use of Ecstasy, from 1.3 to 2.4 % among 8th graders and from 3.7 to 4.7% among 10th graders in the past year.

 The use of Vicodin, another illicit drug, among 12th graders has decreased from 9.7 to 8% this year but the use of other drugs such as Oxycodin, an opiate, remains high at 5%.  Teens obtain other illicit drugs through friends or family members or steal them.

 As MTF also monitored teens’ attitudes on drugs and alcohol, the survey also showed that there has been a decrease in teens’ perception on the harmfulness of marijuana smoking; down from 59.5% in 2009 to 57.2 % in 2010 among 10th graders and from 52.4% to 46.8% among 12th graders.  No wonder the proportional increase in marijuana’s abuse.

 The rising use of marijuana and other drugs is, of course, disappointing.  These have known negative effects on the brains and the learning process.  Success of teens’ performance in school has also been reported.  Research has also shown that these can be addictive.  It’s perhaps time to seriously reflect whether legalization of drugs or marijuana was a good thing, the authors noted.

Good education does not always translate into a healthy lifestyle

September 15, 2010 by  
Filed under CANCER

Educational level counts when it comes to heart health, according to previous studies. Research have shown that men with more educational tend to have lower cardiovascular risk and suffer from fewer cardiovascular events such as stroke and heart attack. However, this seems to be true only in developed countries but not in countries which are less developed and with less resources, the so-called low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). This is according to the results from a new and still ongoing research study called Reduction of Atherothrombosis for Continued Health (REACH).

REACH is studying more than 60,000 people in 44 countries. The subjects were classified into 4 groups based on their educational attainment: zero to eight years, nine to 12 years, trade or technical school, and university.

The results of REACH showed that educational level is correlated with many cardiovascular risk factors such as age, diabetes mellitus, and cholesterol levels. High educational attainment even provides some sort of cardiovascular protection with regards to the risk factors obesity, smoking, hypertension, and baseline vascular disease burden. However, this relationship is only true for subjects in high-income countries, strongest in men and more modest but still significant in women of these countries.

Looking at subjects from LMICs gives a completely different picture. The protective effect of education is much less among men and completely absent among women in these countries.

According to REACH researcher Dr. Abhinav Goyal of the Emory School of Medicine in Atlanta, GA:

“Most of the studies that have been conducted in the past 20 years have been conducted in the developed world and Western countries. We got good information from those studies, indicating that higher education protects against cardiovascular events [in the developed world], but the scope of cardiovascular disease on a global scale has shifted such that over 80% of the burden in the world from cardiovascular disease is happening in developing economies or low- and middle-income countries.”

So why is education less protective in women than in men?

The answer is in gender-specific smoking habits. Whereas more educated men are less likely to smoke, more educated women are more likely to smoke.

And why is education less protective in LMICs? The researchers explain:

“…wealthy countries, higher education generally leads to better incomes, a better standard of living, and a higher likelihood that the individual will follow through on healthy behaviors, such as not smoking, nutrition, and exercises. Also, better-educated people in highly developed countries are more likely than less educated people to know how to navigate the healthcare system and follow through on their healthcare providers’ recommendations. But in low- to middle-income countries, especially for women, higher education frequently does not lead to higher income or an ability to easily access healthcare…”

Doctors are advised not to make assumptions about educated people, especially in less developed countries. Being educated does not mean being well-informed about healthy lifestyle behaviors.

Coming soon: personalized smoking cessation strategies

July 6, 2010 by  
Filed under ADDICTION

Which smoking cessation strategy works best? There is no single answer, according the researchers. The effectiveness of a strategy depends on the smoker’s genetic make up and his or her smoking habits. This is probably the reason why kicking the habit is so difficult. Recent estimates show that 46 million people in the US are smokers and although 70% of these are trying or have tried to quit, their smoking cessation strategy just didn’t work.

But it is not as hopeless as you might think. Researchers at Duke University Medical Center and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) report that by combining the information on a smoker’s genetics and smoking habits, a personalized approach to smoking cessation can be developed. And they predict that this strategy is just 3 to 5 years away.

According to Dr. Jed Rose, director of Duke’s Center for Nicotine and Smoking Cessation Research:

“Within three to five years, it’s conceivable we’ll have a practical test that could take the guesswork out of choosing a smoking-cessation therapy. It could be used by clinicians to guide the selection of treatment and appropriate dose for each smoker, and hopefully increase cessation success rates.”

Genomic studies scanned more than 520,000 genetic markers and identified a few which seem to be responsible for individual response to specific smoking cessation treatments. Researchers are looking into combining the information of individual genetic markers into a single “quit success score”, which, together with info on smoking habits and degree of nicotine dependence, can predict the likelihood of successfully quitting and the dose of nicotine patch necessary.

The study looked at 479 cigarette smokers who want to quit. The participants underwent genetic testing and answered questionnaire about their smoking habits. Two doses of nicotine patches, the standard 21 mg and the double strength 42 mg were tested and compared. Results showed that smokers with low quit success score based on genetics and high nicotine dependence can have better success with the high dose nicotine patch whereas those with better scores and less dependence would only require the standard patch.

Other cessation therapies using verenicline or bupropion hydrochloride are also being investigated.  Rose continues to explain:

“Right now there is no treatment algorithm that tells a clinician or smoker which treatment is likely to work for them. That’s what we are trying to do. We want to tailor and give informative guidance to clinicians in terms of what should be tried first to maximize smoking cessation success.”

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.

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.

Quitting for a good reason, quitting for family

March 11, 2010 by  
Filed under ADDICTION

There are those who managed to quit and there are those who can’t just leave it alone. The US President Obama is rumoured to still succumb to the nicotine urge every now and then. However, there are some success stories among celebrities. Let us take a look at what inspired them to quit and stay away from cigarettes, as least for the time being.

Gwyneth Paltrow

In an interview with Elle magazine last year, the actress Gwyneth Paltrow revealed her love for smoking, even though she hasn’t smoked in ages.

Man, I wish smoking didn’t kill you, I’d be smoking right now. I miss it. The last cigarette I smoked was the day I found out I was pregnant with Apple. I had to sit down and smoke one final cigarette. It’s such a beautiful thing. I’m so pissed off it gives you cancer.”

Apple is Paltrow’s eldest child, a daughter who will soon turn 6. She has a younger son Moses who is almost 4.

So why did she give up something she really enjoyed?

But then, once you have children, if you’ve witnessed a death like I did with my father, you just can’t. I’d never want to put them through what I went through. So I don’t do it. But I’ve decided that when I’m about 70 I’m going to start smoking again. Why not? I can’t wait!

Kate Hudson

The actress Kate Hudson reported gave up smoking late last year. Her reason – the smell.

“It was starting to drive me crazy! I didn’t like the way the car smelt, or my hair and clothes.”

In addition, there is a family side to her decision.

“It takes you away from the family and the things you’re doing. You don’t realize it at the time. Then when you’re done, you go, ‘Wow, I do so much more in a day – including eat.’”

Hudson has a 6-year old son Ryder, with ex-husband Chris Robinson.

The smell, by the way, is due to third-hand smoke that persists and causes damage for a long time.

Robbie Williams

British pop star Robbie Williams is said to be cutting down on cigarettes as an investment for the future generation. 36-year old Williams is engaged to actress Ayda Field who wants to start a family soon. However, there is mounting evidence that smoking can have some detrimental effects on sperm quality, which lower the chances of pregnancy and increases the chances of health problems for the child. Field has reported forbidden Williams to smoke inside their home. Williams is supposedly down from 60 to 10 sticks a day and is doing his best to kick the habit soon. This, from a star who was known in the past for his excessive consuming of, in addition to cigarettes, alcohol and drugs.

When cigarette smoke gets in your eyes…

March 4, 2010 by  
Filed under VISION

There is truth to what the old song says “[cigarette] smoke gets in your eyes” …and it can make you blind. This is the message coming from an accumulating amount of scientific evidence. Yes, there is such as a thing as tobacco-induced blindness.

Macular degeneration also known as age-related macular degeneration (AMD) “is a disease that destroys your sharp, central vision. You need central vision to see objects clearly and to do tasks such as reading and driving. AMD affects the macula, the part of the eye that allows you to see fine detail. It does not hurt, but it causes cells in the macula to die. In some cases, AMD advances so slowly that people notice little change in their vision. In others, the disease progresses faster and may lead to a loss of vision in both eyes. Regular comprehensive eye exams can detect macular degeneration before the disease causes vision loss. Treatment can slow vision loss. It does not restore vision.”

AMD comes with age and it comes faster in smokers than in non-smokers. It is the leading cause of visual impairment in the elderly. There are many risk factors involved in the onset of AMD. One main factor is genetics. Another one is cigarette smoking.

Dr. Johanna M. Seddon, director of the Epidemiology Unit, Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, USA and her team looked at data from twin studies. A total of 681 male twins participated in the study by completing questionnaires, answering questions, and eye examination. The research findings are:

However, the link between smoking and AMD is not unique in the male gender. A research study by scientist at the University of California in LA (UCLA) revealed that women who are smokers are also at risk for early onset of AMD. Study leader Dr. Anne Coleman looked at data on 1958 women age 78 and older, of whom 245 were black and 1713 were white. She found that smokers are more likely to have visual impairment due to AMD than nonsmokers. The researchers recommend that people should quit smoking even at a late age to slow down the onset of blindness.

According to Dr. Seddon:

Smoking increases the risk of age-related macular degeneration. This study of twins provides further evidence that cigarette smoking increases risk, while fish consumption and omega-3 fatty acid intake reduce risk of age-related macular degeneration… Clearly, there is a genetic predisposition to age-related macular degeneration, but that does not necessarily mean you are destined to get the disease.”

Indeed, do not all your cards on your genes. You’d be surprised at how much can lifestyle influence your predisposition to a disease.

Pregnant and smoking? Read this!

February 25, 2010 by  

Pregnant, yet still smoking? Well, this latest report from the experts might motivate you to quit.

Swedish researchers compared the blood pressure of babies of moms show smoked during pregnancy, and babies of moms who did not. The results are really bad news for smoking moms and even worse news for their babies. Why bad news? Because these babies tend to suffer from a so-called circulatory dysfunction which results in abnormal control of the blood pressure during repositioning.

When we stand up, the heart rate normally increases, blood vessels constrict to keep the blood supply to the organs of the upper part of the body especially the brain and the heart, the blood pressure increases slightly.

In the first few months of their lives, babies are not able to change positions or sit/stand upright and have to be lifted for repositioning. During repositioning, the baby’s body, too, has to cope with the change in position with change in blood pressure.

The study involved 19 babies of non-smoking couples and 17 babies of moms who smoked 15 sticks of cigarettes per day on average. Both groups of babies were of normal weight at birth and were breastfed. A test for blood pressure control is by tilting the babies upright during sleep.

In this research, the babies were tilted up to an angle of 60 degrees and then returned to their lying position again. Blood pressure and heart rates were then measured during sleeping, during tilting, and after returning to the original lying position. The tilting test and the measurements were performed when the babies were aged 1 week, 3 months, and 1 year. The results of the study show:

  • Babies at age one week who were not exposed experience a 2% increase in blood pressure when tilted. At age one year, this increase in blood pressure is up to 10%, a normal increase correlated to the increase in size and mobility of the baby.
  • Babies who were exposed to tobacco in utero exhibit the opposite trend in blood pressure during tilting. A 10% increase was observed during the first week, which decreases down to 4% at age 12 months.
  • The researchers also observed that the heart rates of the exposed babies were abnormal and highly exaggerated in response to tilting at ages 3 months and one year.
  • When sleeping undisturbed, diastolic blood pressures of exposed babies were higher at 3 months, and the heart rates were 20% slower at 1 year compared to non-exposed babies.
  • When upright babies were returned abruptly to their lying position, blood pressure in non-exposed babies goes back to normal; blood pressure of tobacco-exposed babies goes up.

According to lead author Dr. Gary Cohen, senior research scientist in the Department of Women and Child Health at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden:

“Tobacco-exposed infants have a different profile. It’s surprising how early in life these functional abnormalities can be detected in the babies of smokers. The re-programming of the cardiovascular function is present at birth and is still present and even more dramatic at one year.”

In other words, the circulatory system of tobacco-exposed babies is not functioning properly and is hyperreactive in the first days of life, but becomes underreactive and less effective with time. The circulatory dysfunction and poor blood pressure control have some consequences later in life, including susceptibility to hypertension and other cardiovascular problems.

Third hand smoke sticks, stays, – and kills

February 16, 2010 by  
Filed under ADDICTION, Featured

While most countries in the developed world are smoke-free, Switzerland, the country that is super-clean, super-efficient and super-healthy is still struggling with its anti-smoking legislations. The last time we went to a restaurant, we asked upon reservation by phone if they have a ”non-smoking section” and the answer was “yes.” When we got there, we go a table for 6 at one end of the room, the so-called non-smoking half. The other half was reserved for the smokers. There was no physical barrier whatever between the two halves. We all ended up “smoked” anyway, including my 2 little kids.

So you may ask, what’s the big deal? As long as nobody’s blowing cigarette smoke right in front of your face, it’s OK, right?

No, it’s not.

First of all, second-hand smoke spreads fast in an enclosed room. You can catch it even if you are meters away. Then there’s third hand smoke – residual tobacco smoke contamination that remains after the cigarette is extinguished”.

Have you ever wondered why the smell of cigarette smoking lingers long, long after (days!) the smoker has left the premises? Well, it’s the residues which remain on the furniture, the curtains, the carpet, the upholstery. It even remains on your clothes and your hair – and even on your skin. Third hand smoke sticks and stays. And it is deadly.

It is not nicotine that presents the most threat in third hand smoke. At least 69 carcinogens have been identified in cigarette smoke. Some of these are the so-called nitrosamines or TSNAs. TSNAs are not present in freshly produced cigarette smoke. However, the smoke residue reacts with nitrous acid, a common indoor air pollutant, to produce the deadly TSNAs.

According to researchers from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab).

“The burning of tobacco releases nicotine in the form of a vapor that adsorbs strongly onto indoor surfaces, such as walls, floors, carpeting, drapes and furniture. Nicotine can persist on those materials for days, weeks and even months. Our study shows that when this residual nicotine reacts with ambient nitrous acid it forms carcinogenic tobacco-specific nitrosamines or TSNAs. TSNAs are among the most broadly acting and potent carcinogens present in unburned tobacco and tobacco smoke.”

Nitrous acid is emitted by unvented gas appliances and vehicle engines. The researchers tested for TSNA before and after exposure to cigarette smoke. In one tests, they detected TSNA concentrations which were 10 times higher after exposure. In another test, they detected substantial amounts of TSNAs in a truck of a heavy smoker driver. There are several types of TSNAs. During the test, the researchers found three TSNAs, the NNA, the NNN, and the NNK, which are all potent carcinogens.

“Breathing air in a room today where people smoked yesterday can harm the health of infants and children.”

According to lead author Mohamad Sleiman

Time-course measurements revealed fast TSNA formation, up to 0.4 percent conversion of nicotine within the first hour… Given the rapid sorption and persistence of high levels of nicotine on indoor surfaces, including clothing and human skin, our findings indicate that third-hand smoke represents an unappreciated health hazard through dermal exposure, dust inhalation and ingestion.”

What about smoking outdoors? Most restaurants here in Switzerland simply declare the terrace or the patio as their smoking lounge. Does not help? Well, the researchers say it does, but not much. The residues will still stick to your clothes and your body anyway and you will carry them with you when you go inside.

What about ventilators and windows? They also help only minimally. The residues will still stick and stay, no matter what.

What about e-cigs? The researchers believe that they too are not completely harmless. They also produce residues that can be hazardous.

Those of you smokers who have kids, can you imagine the danger you are putting your children in, each time you hold them in your arms? The carcinogens are in your clothes, on your very skin! According to one of the authors:

“Those residues follow a smoker back inside and get spread everywhere. The biggest risk is to young children. Dermal uptake of the nicotine through a child’s skin is likely to occur when the smoker returns and if nitrous acid is in the air, which it usually is, then TSNAs will be formed.”

A 2009 study revealed that people are not really convinced that third-hand smoke is dangerous. In a survey about the statement:

“Breathing air in a room today where people smoked yesterday can harm the health of infants and children.”

…only 65% of non-smokers and 43% of smokers agree.

COPD Awareness Check

November 23, 2009 by  
Filed under CANCER, Featured

lungsNovember is COPD Awareness Month. In addition, World Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Day was observed last November 18.

COPD stands for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Doesn’t ring a bell? What about “chronic bronchitis” or “smoker’s cough”?

About 210 million people worldwide suffer from COPD. It is a leading cause of death worldwide and is expected to rank as the 3rd leading mortality cause by 20230. COPD is not a cancer per se but it increases the risk for lung cancer as well as other chronic diseases.


Let’s take a look at what the experts say about COPD. According to the World health Organization (WHO):

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a lung disease characterized by chronic obstruction of lung airflow that interferes with normal breathing and is not fully reversible. The more familiar terms ‘chronic bronchitis’ and ‘emphysema’ are no longer used, but are now included within the COPD diagnosis. COPD is not simply a “smoker’s cough” but an under-diagnosed, life-threatening lung disease.

According the Mayo Clinic staff:

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) refers to a group of lung diseases that block airflow and make it increasingly difficult for you to breathe. Emphysema and chronic bronchitis are the two main conditions that make up COPD, but COPD can also refer to damage caused by chronic asthmatic bronchitis. In all cases, damage to your airways eventually interferes with the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide in your lungs.


Most cases of COPD are caused by long-term smoking. It can also be caused by long-term exposure to secondhand smoke or environmental pollutants such as toxic fumes, dust, and chemicals. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can also worsen COPD. A rare genetic disorder that results in low levels of a protein called alpha-1-antitrypsin can also cause COPD.

Signs and symptoms

Emphysema symptoms will include

Chronic bronchitis symptoms are

  • A chronic cough that produces excessive amounts of sputum, usually yellowish in color
  • Frequent respiratory infection
  • Tendency to clear throat in the mornings
  • Breathlessness or shortness of breath
  • Asthma or bronchospasm in case of chronic asthmatic bronchitis


Don’t start smoking. If you are a smoker, quit as soon as possible. Avoid exposure to secondhand smoke and other environmental pollutants.


COPD can lead to the following conditions:

  • Respiratory infections, including pneumonia
  • Lung cancer
  • Hypertension
  • Heart problems
  • Depression

Resources for COPD

The Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD)

WHO COPD Fact Sheet

US COPD Coalition

FDA warning: e-cigs contain carcinogens

August 24, 2009 by  
Filed under CANCER

e-cigFinally, the US FDA spoke up and issued a warning about electronic cigarettes last month. Lab analysis by the Center for Drug Evaluation, Division of Pharmaceutical Analysis (DPA) showed that the so-called “e-cigs” contain carcinogens and other toxic substances.

Electronic cigarettes, also called “e-cigarettes,” are battery-operated devices that generally contain cartridges filled with nicotine, flavor and other chemicals. The electronic cigarette turns nicotine…and other chemicals into a vapor that is inhaled by the user.

Last March, I wrote a post on e-cigs, purported to be healthy alternative to cigarette smoking. Here are some of the e-cig manufacturers’ health claims:

■E-cig has no fire, no tar, no carbon monoxide, no ash, no stub. The CEO of Smoking Everywhere tells CNN that e-cig does not contain any of the substances that cause cancer.

■It lets you enjoy those tactile taste sensations without the risks associated with smoking and tobacco.

■You can smoke e-cig without polluting the environment or passing on second hand smoke, thus circumventing the anti-smoking bans in bars and restaurants.

■”It can help you to quit nicotine without giving up the smoking habits.” It supposedly works just like a nicotine patch does but with the satisfaction of the oral fixation.

■E-cig even comes in different colors and different flavours.

Here are some concerns expressed the the US FDA and health experts regarding the potential dangers of e-cigs:

  • E-cigs tested contain detectatble amounts carcinogenic (e.g. nitrosamines) and toxic substances (e.g. diethylene glycol, an ingredient used in antifreeze). See analysis report here.
  • E-cigs contain high amounts of nicotiine which ius highly addictive.
  • E-cig labels and packaging do not contain any health warnings comparable to FDA-approved nicotine replacement products or conventional cigarettes.
  • E-cigs haven’t been submitted to the FDA for evaluation or approval.
  • FDA analysis suggest that the quality control during the manufacture of these products are either inconsistent or practically non-existent.

Currently, the jurisdiction of the US FDA over e-cigs, a relative new product  is being contested in court. The regulatory body states that e-cigs so far examine “meet the definition of a combination drug-device product under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.”

What the health experts have to say (FDA media transcripts):

Dr. Jonathan Samet, Director for the Institute for Global Health at the University of Southern California:

“…we know very little about these devices and what they deliver to people. Consequently any claims as to possible benefits to health or utility in cessation just cannot be supported … Again it speaks to the needs of the public to understand that in using a product that is poorly characterized, inhaling a vapor, a heated vapor into their body’s that has had very little characterization is assuming potentially some unknown risks.”

Dr. Jonathan Winickoff, a practicing Pediatrician and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and the Chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Tobacco Consortium:

“…electronic cigarettes are available on the market in a variety of flavors such as bubblegum, chocolate and mint. Past experience suggests that these products may be particularly appealing to young people… Flavored regular cigarettes promote youth initiation and help young occasional smokers to become daily smokers. Similarly e-cigarettes might encourage children, teens and young adults to take their first step toward smoking cigarettes. Young people may be attracted to these products due to their novelty, safety claims and the av- availability of the products in a variety of fruit, candy, cola and chocolate flavors. In addition these products are easily accessed online, in stores and at mall kiosks where young people often hang out… Once you’ve smoked the e-cigarette and are nicotine dependent the leap to a regular cigarette may not seem as great. Between 1/3 and 1/2 of all youth who try a regular cigarette will become daily smokers because of the highly addictive nature of nicotine. It is therefore vital to decrease exposure to products that would lead to experimentation with nicotine. It is not a safe drug to try.”

Photo credit: US FDA

Unhealthy behavior + genes = hypertension

August 6, 2009 by  

blood-pressureIt all adds up – unhealthy behaviour and genes – to pave the way towards hypertension and cardiovascular disease.

We all know that certain lifestyle factors, e.g. cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption and lack pf physical exercise lead to high blood pressure. However, for the first time, researchers found that there are specific genes which interact with these behaviours and result in increased hypertension risk.

According to lead author Dr. Nora Franceschini, assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill

“The three lifestyle characteristics are well-known risk factors for high blood pressure. What’s new is that we are showing that these behaviors interact with your genes to influence blood pressure levels.”

This means that your genes aren’t the only ones that determine your risk. You may be predisposed to hypertension based on your family history but by modifying your lifestyle, you can actually minimize your chances of being hypertensive.

“The most interesting study finding is that a susceptibility to hypertension in your genetic background doesn’t mean that your lifestyle exposures do not matter, they do. Drinking, smoking and exercise habits can be modified, which would, in turn, influence the risk of developing hypertension, even in people who are predisposed to the condition.”

The researchers looked at the medical and genetic history of 3,665 participants as part of the ongoing Strong Heart Family Study which is a large epidemiologic study of American Indians. The participants were aged 14 to 93 years of age and were part of large families of several generations. The goal of the study was to see how inherited genetic patterns vary among those with different lifestyles and educational levels. The results showed that lifestyle factors interact with genes/ethnicity and lead to hypertension. Educational level also seems to play a role but at a very minor level.

Photo credit:

The promises and threats of e-cigarettes

March 18, 2009 by  
Filed under ADDICTION

Can cigarettes ever be healthy? The manufacturers and distributors of e-cigarettes claim that this latest import from China called “e-cig” is the healthiest alternative to real cigarettes that you can ever have. It is said to have the following advantages (Source: The official site of electronic cigarette smoking):

  • E-cig has no fire, no tar, no carbon monoxide, no ash, no stub. The CEO of Smoking Everywhere tells CNN that e-cig does not contain any of the substances that cause cancer.
  • It lets you enjoy those tactile taste sensations without the risks associated with smoking and tobacco.
  • You can smoke e-cig without polluting the environment or passing on second hand smoke, thus circumventing the anti-smoking bans in bars and restaurants.
  • It can help you to quit nicotine without giving up the smoking habits.” It supposedly works just like a nicotine patch does but with the satisfaction of the oral fixation.
  • E-cig even comes in different colors and different flavours.

Many people however are wary and sceptical about the product for the following reasons:

  • E-cig hasn’t been tested on humans and no safety data, short-term as well as long-term are available. The claims of manufacturers of e-cig being safe and healthy are actually not supported by scientific evidence.
  • E-cigs come in no less than 30 different flavours ranging from strawberry to chocolate to peppermint. The candy-like falors can be confusing for children especially those that do not resemble cigarettes and can prove lethal when ingested. It can also send the wrong message to adolescents, luring them to try “healthy smoking.”
  • It puts to test current smoking legislations in place, from anti-smoking bans to minimum age limit or purchase and possession of cigarettes.
  • Its claims of helping people to quit smoking are suspect. In fact, it can actually worsen the nicotine habit.

How does an e-cig work?

Basically an e-cig consists of 3 parts: an atomization chamber, a nicotine cartridge (the mouthpiece), and a lithium battery. When it is turned on, the tip of e-cig glows, the liquid nicotine is vaporized with propylene glycol and the vapour is released at the other end into the smoker’s mouth.

What do the health authorities have to say?

In September last year, the World Health Organization (WHO) ordered that unproven therapy claims of e-cigs should be stopped. “The electronic cigarette is not a proven nicotine replacement therapy.” Some countries have declared e-cigs as illegal.

Currently, the US FDA is “hazy” about e-cigs, according to CNN. The regulatory body is not sure how to classify e-cig – as a device or as a drug. “The FDA is trying to halt importation of e-cigs, but isn’t seizing products already being sold in the United States“, says CNN.

Video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=QTrO-doyQBQ

Smoking ads then and now

March 12, 2009 by  
Filed under ADDICTION

It was about 13 years ago when I and my then fiance (now husband) flew to Japan to attend a friend’s wedding. Although I am Asia, this was my first trip to Japan and my first close contact with Japanese people. Our flight was co-chaired by Air France and Japan Airlines. I was so surprised but also annoyed that on the plane, the demarcation between smoking and no-smoking areas were not respected by the passengers. I have been on many intercontinental flights before but this was the worse when it came to cigarette smoking. I was to learn that many Japanese, despite their well-known discipline in work, cleanliness among others, were practically helpless against nicotine addiction.

In the same way, it was very surprising for everybody that the supposedly less disciplined Southern Europeans (Italy, Spain; and France) managed to get their anti-smoking regulations in place 4 to 5 years ago while there supposedly more disciplined northern neighbors are still playing catch up. Germany only implemented the law last year. In Switzerland, the law is in place in some areas but in others and Austria still has to decide which way to go.

In this post, I give you a couple of YouTube videos to look at to see how times have changed (definitely for the better) in terms of cigarette smoking. It also gives us an idea of how little did we (we being everybody including doctors) know about the serious health effects of cigarette smoke.

1949: More Doctors Smoke Camels Than Any Other Cigarette


Steve McQueen cigarette commercial



Smoking On Airplanes – What were we thinking?



“What Were We Thinking?” — Doctor’s Office

The carcinogens in third hand smoke

February 3, 2009 by  
Filed under CANCER

It is an undeniable fact based on irrevocable evidence. Cigarette smoke is bad for our health and can cause cancer. Cigarette smoke contains more than 4000 chemicals, and 250 of these are poisonous gases and other toxic chemicals, according to this New York Times article. According to Cancer Research UK, cigarette smoke contains at least 69 carcinogens. Some of these are listed below.

Remember Polonium 210? It was the radioactive material used in the well-publicized 2006 murder of the Russian ex-spy Alexander V. Litvinenko.

Now, we know the hazards of first and second hand smoking. But here’s something newly recognized – and just as dangerous – third hand smoke.

So what’ third hand smoke?

According to this study recently published in the journal Pediatrics, “third hand smoke is residual tobacco smoke contamination that remains after the cigarette is extinguished.

It seems that long after smoking is finished, long after the cigarette butt has been thrown away, the toxic substances in the cigarette smoke persist and stay, sticking to your clothes, hair, the furniture, the curtains, the carpet, the car upholstery. This means that by simply taking away the smokers and opening the windows does not make a room “smoke-free.”

In these days where smoke-free legislations have become widespread in developed countries, there are concerns about the possible increase of smoking in the privacy of the home, thus creating an environment full of second and third hand smoke. Unfortunately, the people most highly susceptible to toxic substances in the cigarette smoke are children. A little baby in its smoker mother’s arms, the little one crawling on the carpet, the toddler hiding behind the curtain or the school-aged child in the back seat of the car. They are exposed to the abovelisted carcinogens even if Mom or Dad never smokes in their presence through third hand smoke. This is why there is now a discussion going on about banning smoking at home.

This survey polled people’s opinion on third hand smoke and home smoking bans. A large majority of people, non-smokers as well as smokers are well aware of the hazards of third hand smoke. However, as expected, it is easy for the non-smokers to say “yes” to home-smoking ban than the smokers.

Nicotine addiction is a very hard habit to kick and I’m sure many smoking parents are doing their best to protect their children from the hazards of cigarette smoke. Unfortunately, short of quitting, they can’t really get rid of the threat of cigarette smoke.

I am all for home-smoking ban but this should be coupled with educational drives and smoking cessation help and support. In marginalizing smoking parents, we are also marginalizing their children.

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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.