Saturday, October 28, 2006

I hate lung cancer. It's usually caught too late so it's too often fatal. My mom survived lung cancer 15 years ago because a totally unrelated problem brought her to medical attention long before the cancer would have reared its nasty head.

Good news then in a recent New England Journal of Medicine that screening CT scans in high risk persons can markedly improved the outlook in lung cancer survival. More soon.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

5,976 minutes...

To a sneeze-free you. Seattle investigators set out to see if regular exercise reduced not only the waistline, but also the risk of upper respiratory infections.

They invited 115 overweight old gals down to the gym to participate in a year's worth of supervised fitness activities. Half of this postmenopausal bunch were assigned to regular aerobic classes while the other half stretched and chatted.

At the end of nine months, the aerobic group had not met their goal of 45 minutes of hot sweaty work-outs at least five days per week. They had, however, managed to dance to the oldies for an average of 166 minutes throughout the time period.

So, 36 weeks X 166 minutes = 5,976 minutes of activity (I did NOT do that in my head, but neither did I use a calculator). In the final 3 months, some 6,000 minutes into this exercise adventure, the fitter group got 1/3 as many colds compared to the stretchy group.

I am here to tell you, the sniffly parade I saw today in the office apparently had not yet read this study.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

High old rats...

completed their maze tests better than the ones who didn't inhale. Does this bode well for boomers who indulged? Check out the next issue of Femailhealthnews.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Chemo Brain Study in Denver

No news to those who've been through cancer treatments that chemotherapy is a mixed bag. Unexpected perhaps, and devastating, are the residual effects on brain function, leaving susceptible patients muddle-headed and forgetful.

An interesting new study confirms that chemo can cause long-lasting changes in brain metabolism and blood flow. More on that in the upcoming edition of femailhealthnews.

Meanwhile, University of Colorado Health Science Center investigators are seeking women 45 years of age and older, newly diagnosed with breast cancer, to participate in a study of chemo brain. Subjects will be enrolled prior to the start of their chemo treatments.

If you'd like more information on the study, contact, or call 303-724-2536.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Dr. Martin Blaser, an infectious disease specialist at New York University, notes that C. difficile infections* require "changes in the intestinal micro-ecology." The most common culprit in such changes is a course of antibiotics, even a brief course.

"Even a few doses have been shown to have effects on intestinal flora that can last for years," according to Dr. Blaser. He adds:

Most physicians think that prescribing antibiotics is relatively low-cost. But cost always depends on context and in the context of an epidemic (of C. difficile), the costs are going up.
*See previous post

Monday, October 16, 2006

Another reason to avoid antibiotics

Cold season is here, another season of inconvenient illnesses interfering with trips, holidays, presentations, and birthday parties. Before you wish you could take antibiotics 'just in case' it might cut the illness short, be careful what you wish for.

A small series of patients from Philadelphia, including six young and previously healthy women, contracted serious intestinal infections caused by Clostridia dificile,. These bad boys are bacteria that overgrow after good bacteria are bumped off during antibiotic therapy. Three of these women received just one or two doses of antibiotics, three were pregnant, one had just had a caesarean delivery, and one of them died.

Check out sobering words from an infectious disease specialist tomorrow.
A word on coenzyme Q-10

This is the perfect supplement to a statin prescription.

Statins such as Lipitor and Zocor (now generic simvastatin) are known to decrease the risk of heart attack and stroke in at risk persons such as diabetics or those with elevated cholesterol. They interfere, however, with energy production in muscle cells because they decrease the production of ubiquinone, aka coenzyme Q-10. CoQ10 is a key player in the process through which our cells make ATP, the high energy molecule that powers all our body machinery.

Statin takers can develop muscle pain similar to that which develops after vigorous exercise or with the flu. NYU investigators found that achey patients had a significant decrease in discomfort when they downed 100 mg of CoQ10 each day along with their statin pill compared to a group who took vitamin E instead.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Baked Brie with Nut Crust*


1/3 cup pecans
1/3 cup almonds
1/3 cup walnuts
1 egg
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1 wheel (8 ounces) Brie cheese
2 tablespoons raspberry jam

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Place nuts in food processor fitted with steel blade; pulse to finely chop. Do not overprocess. Transfer chopped nuts to shallow dish or pie plate.
2. Combine egg and cream in another shallow dish; whisk until well blended.
3. Dip Brie (rind on) into egg mixture; then into nut mixture, turning to coat. Press nuts to adhere.
4. Transfer Brie to baking sheet; spread jam over top. Bake 15 minutes or until cheese is warm and soft.

Fat city!

Scientifically-sanctioned heaven here since the Spanish study (sponsored by the California Walnut Board) came out with evidence that walnuts can specifically counteract the adverse effects of high fat meals on blood vessels.

These Barcelona researchers are hot on walnuts. Their first study (see Nuts to blood vessels showed that a month of daily walnut consumption can improve blood vessel function.

This newest study found that a single walnutty but fatty meal can bring as much joy to your endothelial cells as it does to your soul. Sounds like Baked Brie with Nut Crust to me!

Friday, October 13, 2006

Dr. Ivan Schwab as a Dryocopus pileatus

Ever wonder why woodpeckers don't get headaches?

The pileated woodpecker, aka Dryocopus pileatus, strikes its feathered noggin against trees at a rate up to 20 times per second as many as 12,000 times per day. Dr. Schwab, who's studied such stuff, estimates this rap star generates forces equivalent to banging human heads face first against a wall at 16 mph!

So how does the noble woodpecker avoid brain damage and subdural hematomas with all this head-banging behavior? Dr. Schwab wrote a scholarly article on that very subject for the British Journal of Ophthalmology, citing among other protective mechanisms the woodpecker's spongy skull which cushions the blows. And its brain, which is tightly packed into the space, has little room to slosh around against the bony walls.

Contrast that with the shrinking brains of aging humans. These little old control centers float unsteadily in thinned-out skulls, swaying dangerously as frail feet stumble. If head meets bathroom wall after toe catches in bathroom rug, untethered blood vessels around the brain easily break and spill blood into the space between gray matter and bone.

Dr. Schwab concludes "So, when you complain about your headache, think of the industrious woodpecker." He received an IgNobel prize in biology for his work and attended the awards ceremony dressed as his feathered subject.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Cure for a Headache

Sometimes it seems that you are simply banging your head against a brick wall, as the frustrations of contemporary life seem to conspire against you. For us, life’s headaches are common enough, but what if you spent your life battering your head against a wall—intentionally? How would you avoid headaches, concussions, "shaken baby" syndrome, or even retinal detachments?

Intriguing words from Ivan Schwab of the University of California, Davis, Department of Ophthalmology. More tomorrow.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Bulking up at home

This is not an exercise tip but rather a remedy for constipation.

Doctors often recommend psyllium, a non-absorbable plant fiber that adds a gelatinous sort of backbone to your stools to keep them moving towards the exit sign. Psyllium, however, can be expensive and a little creepy to use. So researchers at the University of Texas SouthwestenMedical Center in Dallas have found an easier solution.

Their urogynecology clinic schedule was backed up with constipated patients, so they invited 82 of them to participate in this little trial. Half were randomized to take 1 teaspoon of psyllium in 8 oz. of liquid each day for 6 weeks while the other half lucked out and received the tasty concoction noted below. All subjects kept bowel diaries.

[Dear Diary,
I hate to dump on you again, but I can't take any more of this gritty crap they are serving us each day in juice.

Both groups enjoyed a decrease in constipation scores, and the researchers declared the recipe "an effective and economical stool-bulking agent for the treatment of constipation.

Pantry Remedy for Constipation

1 cup applesauce
1 cup coarse, unprocessed wheat bran
1/4 cup prune juice

Cost over 6 weeks: $8.65
Cost for psyllium over 6 weeks: $16.72

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Anti-Hiccup Kit

As noted in a previous post, the long-anticipated IgNobel awards were announced last week. The prize for medicine went to an emergency room physician for a technique he pioneered 18 years ago to stop intractable hiccups.

Hiccups are generated by spasms of the diaphragm, and various techniques that stimulate the vagus nerve--such as breath-holding--may quiet its twitches. Apparently, Dr. Frances Fesmire discovered that digital rectal massage was an ultra-effective method for hiccups that just wouldn't quit.

He distributed the above kits to attendees at the awards ceremony.
The Mosquito ultrasonic teenage deterrent

I kid you not; this device is billed as "the solution to the eternal problem of unwanted gatherings of youths and teenagers in shopping malls, around shops and anywhere else they are causing problems."

The owner of the Spar shop in Barry, South Wales commented "Either someone has come along and wiped them off the face of the earth, or it's working" aftter the Mosquito drove away the anti social youths that congregated near his store, repelling the legitimate customers.

The device was awarded the Peace Prize at the annual IgNobel Prize award ceremony this past week.

Do you want one? Of course you do. Check out: Teenage control products.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Best of Denver 'There when you need 'em' Awards

I spent the entire afternoon on the phone today, calling patients or making calls on a patient's behalf. Gad it's hard to get service out of a specialist on a Friday afternoon; I sometimes think that Adele and I are the only ones holding office hours by week's end.

A special thanks then to Jody at Dr. Tom Reed's office who offered a prompt appointment to 'run both ends' (down the esophagus and up the opposite side) for my patient whose food was hanging up on the way down and on the way out. Also to Dr. Alan Synn who got a patient in without delay yesterday late p.m. for evaluation of a blood clot in her leg, then called me today with an update and an apology for not calling sooner! And to Dr. Friednash, the new lady dermatologist in with Dr. Meg Lemon who gave me phone advice on treating another patient's neck infection to get him comfortably through the weekend ("Just have him call me this weekend if he's having trouble."). And to Dr. Claudia Panzer, a delightful endocrinologist, who will actually see a patient within two weeks of their call.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Mercury mangles S mutans

I've spent the morning chauffeuring my aging mother to her dentist for two root canals. If we, as my hygienist told me, tend to outlive our teeth, here's a bit of good news about those supposedly toxic mercury fillings that abound in aging mouths such as mine.

German researchers counted the cavity-causing Streptococcus mutans clinging to various surfaces artificially inserted in mouths. There are far fewer bacteria carrying on their daily lives on the old black fillings then on the attractive teeth-colored composite ones. As metallic ions in such stuff as mercury amalgam or gold are toxic to these bacterial bad boys, old fillings are a less congenial climate for creeping decay.

The German dentists did note that:

1. This does not "dilute the controversy" over mercury toxicity.
2. Frequently brushing one's teeth still remains the most important preventive measure in dental health.
3. Mercury-laden amalgam remains a viable option for restorative work.
Hotels host viruses too

I've just returned from an eating tour of Philadelphia. Well nominally it was billed as a visit with my daughter, but we ate our way through the best of Philly, including too-die-for cupcakes from a hole in the wall cafe.

The only meal that fell far short of satisfactory was the room service breakfast at the Hilton. Rubbery omelettes arriving way late with a side of soggy toast. And now late breaking news from the Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy suggests that these unappetizing memories may not be all I take from this hotel.

Researchers from Virginia checked out residual rhinoviruses left by volunteers with colds after they sniffled their way through a free night in a hotel. The investigators found that telephones, TV remotes, light switches, and other objects tested positive for cold viruses as much as a day after the infectious subjects left the room.

Dr. Owen Hendley remarked "They left a very interesting room for whoever came after them." Remember, however, contaminated fingertips are only the first step to getting a cold. The next step, fingers to nose or to eyes, is your choice. Keep your hands off your face in hotel rooms, even if the food makes you weep.