Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Garlic redeemed

All right, I pulled it out of the trash and put it back on my shelf. Aged garlic extract may not lower my cholesterol, but fortunately, that is not one of my problems. Just a moment's research was all it took, however, to discover I've got a superoxide problem, and AGE may be a part of the answer.

Superoxide is an oxygen molecule in search of an electron, willing to rip apart any nearby compound to achieve atomic neutrality. That's a good thing when the body sends this bad boy out in search of invading microorganisms, but a bad thing if it's liberating iron into cells, thus rusting the fats in your brain and your bloodstream.

Enter superoxide dismutase, or SOD for short, an efficient enzyme that neutralizes superoxide in short order. And what increases SOD in the bod? AGE of course. The same stuff that caused halitosis, B.O., and flatuence in the clinical trial I mentioned in a previous post.

Hmm, rigorous physical exercise and melatonin also increase SOD. Maybe I'll do those things instead.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Garlic does nada for cholesterol

Speaking of flatluence, that's about all volunteers assigned to garlic treatment got after six months of daily garlic sandwiches. That and bad breath plus bad body odor. What they did not get was any change in their cholesterol levels compared to the control group who ate the garlic-free sandwiches.

Thank heavens, I can't bear my garlic supplements. I accidentally ordered garlic on my last mail order vitamin load, and worse yet, it was a buy two get three free deal. Unbearably odiferous burps--and the cat bit into one that rolled onto the floor, adding garlic to old fish fumes on her breath. I'm just going to jettison the entire lot.
Got gas?

Many of my patients do. More than half of us lose our ability to digest milk sugar (lactose) because we no longer produce the needed enzyme to do so (lactase) after we are weaned. If you've got gas, consider losing all dairy in your diet for 2 weeks. In your dietary search for better bowel behavior, you may want to eliminate fruit as well; fructase, the enzyme that breaks down fruit sugar or fructose, was found lacking in up to 1/3 of persons with irritable bowel syndrome.

And if your elimination diet trials are fruitless, check out the web-site of Flat-D Innovations, Inc. (Charcoal Underpants?) Their line of activated charcoal underwear is medically proven to eliminate the odor of unwanted gas.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Indoor air pollution

The other day, I was out chopping ice off my sidewalk in visible air, that sort of pollution that filters the sunlight and hangs palpably about the head. I read recently that every 10 extra micrograms of particulate matter per cubic meter of air increases the chances by 24% that an aging woman such as myself will keel over with a heart attack.

The next morning's paper noted that the level of crap in Denver's air that day was 74 mcg, making me nearly twice as likely to pitch over dead than my menopausal colleagues in pristine air. Good thing that on average ladies my age don't generally fall out with heart attacks. But now I discover that air in my home can be up to 100 times more polluted than that outdoors, in which case it's amazing I survived my trip back inside for coffee and cake.

Just how bad is your indoor air? Check out to order a most reasonably priced evaluation of the air in your home and office.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

The new miracle drug?

If you want to stay healthy, vitamin D is one way to help at least diminish your chances of getting a lot of bad diseases...if you correct hypovitaminosis D, then you're going to decrease prostate cancer, colon cancer--actually up to 17 different cancers, breast cancer included.

--Bruce R. Troen, MD, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine

Friday, February 23, 2007

Still another D vitamin study

I'm not sure when my mom last got out in the sun. She, like other housebound seniors, is at high risk for D vitamin deficiency. A Harvard study recently published in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society confirms that extra D--800 or more units/day--can significantly prevent the elderly from going to ground.
The investigators randomized a group of old old folks (average age 89) to various levels of D supplementation. Defining a fall as "a sudden, unintentional change in position causing a resident to fall to the ground," they checked out which doddery test subject experienced such sudden changes as a function of their D intake.

While daily D doses of 400 units or less didn't make a bit of D-ference with respect to unintentional position changes, those residents assigned to the 800 unit group were 72% less likely to end up on the ground over 5 months compared to their colleagues.

While D alone will not necessarily keep the old perpendicular to the floor, the vitamin does promote muscle strength as well as bone strength and should be considered an important nutrtional supplement for the elderly.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Doc of Ages at is up and running again. Be sure to check it out on occasion for up-to-date health news about women of age.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Quadriceps and independence in aging

No kneed to fear old age

Our independence is dependent on the simple ability to get out of a chair. And that, in turn, depends on our knee joints' ability to lever us off the chair (or the toilet seat for that matter) with the help of our quadriceps muscles.

I watch my mom struggle to accomplish this task, and imagine a spring-loaded chair that would catapult her to her feet while not pitching her forward face-first to the floor. An engineer acquaintance, however, is working on a better idea, one that will hopefully reach the doddering old baby boomer market in time for me.

This knee brace, slim and easy to use in a neoprene sleeve sort of way, will have a sensing device waiting for a muscular clue that it's time to rise from a sit to a stand. At that time, a teensy little motor will provide from 25-75% assist to creaky old knees to accomplish the task.

Add this to the padded hip protectors that cushion lateral falls so that crumbly hips don't break, and we're talking bionic old broads, living on their own!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

My brother has discovered an amusing way to keep your sinuses unplugged. Check out this little kitty humidifier at your local Target store.
Greeks snooze and grow strong,

23,000 Greeks, some of them rested and some of them not, proved what toddlers and mothers have known for years--napping is good for your health. Mediterranean men and women who snoozed through the mid-day heat, enjoyed better cardiac health than those who napped not. And those dubbed 'systematic nappers,' drooling on desks or drooping in doorways for at least 30 minutes three afternoons per week, were 37% less likely to die of cardiac causes during a decade of follow-up.

So throw up your cubi-door on your cubicle and snap on the eye-shades. I'll write you a doctor's excuse.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Insurance aggravation

What a surprise, United Healthcare messed up. Contrary to their letter generated out of who knows where, I am not dropping out of their network!

In other news that does not endear UHC to the hearts of participating docs, the insuror declared that they will now fine physicians $50 when their patients go to the wrong lab for blood work.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

So little time, so many supplements. I read about something new every day to save the brain, protect the breasts, prolong the life. Unfortunately, I'm not finding much to hold up the joints but, as you know, I've finally figured out how to hold onto the hair.

Latest supplemental news--selenium (thank heavens, already take it)is good for brain health, and resveratrol adds extra years--or rather weeks--to the lives of mice who overeat. Scientists studied a group of middle-aged mice fully into the mature years at the ripe old age of one. All were put on a high-calorie diet, and half were supplemented with resveratrol, an anti-oxidant compound found in red grapes.

By the doddering old fool stage of 114 weeks, 58% of the group on lots of food alone were paws up in their cages compared with 42% of the supplemented group.

Lead author Dr. David Sinclair of Harvard is already taking resveratrol. But Dr. Rafael de Cabo of the National Institute of Aging (and Run-on Sentences) had this to say:

What we have shown in mice is very exciting, but it is too soon to rush out and start consuming large quantities of this compound, as there is no evidence that it works in humans as yet and very little is known about possible side effects.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

A 'Reservoir of Resistance'

That's me, or more specifically, my mouth.

I recently took a round of Biaxin when the migrating virus from hell invited bacteria into my sinuses. As a result, Scottish investigators discovered, my residential bacteria may have developed resistance factors to this antibiotic that can persist for more than six months!

If these ungrateful bacteria who enjoy daily life in my respiratory passages share their resistance genes with any visiting bacteria, the invaders can shrug off Biaxin and set up camp in my airways.

Drug companies are responding with redoubled efforts to develop new antibiotics. This from chief executive Jean-Pierre Garnier of GlaxoSmithKline:

Society needs more antibiotics. By the time we get through, we think there will be a story on the front pages of the newspapers about healthy people dying from resistant bugs and hospitals having to shut down their burns units and the like.

I'm unaware of burn units shutting down due to antibiotic resistance, but the part about healthy people dying from resistant drugs is already here.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Got foot pain?

Then first of all, check out your shoes! Put your bare feet next to the shoes you wear most often. Does the contour of your foot match the contour of the shoe? My experience at the office checking feet to shoes in footsore customers suggests that this is often not the case.

Does the shoe taper at the toe whereas your feet do not? Check out some of the 'new age' old lady shoe brands such as Merrell and Clarks. I actually had to spell Birkenstocks for one patient today; don't know what time warp she's been stuck in.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

D-stressing news

Another D study confirming that this is D vitamin to take if you're only going to pop one supplement. From researchers at the University of California at San Diego: A daily dose of D in the neighborhood of 2,000 units (that's one multi-vitamin plus four more 400 unit capsules) reduces the relative risk of breast and colon cancer by at least 50%. They are basing this estimate on meta-analysis which is a study of studies, pooling results from several research data bases to maximize the number of patients considered.

When they looked at cancer outcomes by D levels--assigning the group with the lowest D levels a cancer risk of 1, the group with the highest blood levels of D had a relative cancer risk of .46 for colon cancer and .50 for breast.

The authors concluded that "a combination of diet, supplements, and 10 to 15 minutes per day in the sun" was the recipe for D-creasing cancer risk.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The reasoning for the seasoning

I tried rosemary oil on my hairbrush to save my hair. Other than making me smell like a roasted chicken, it had no other effect. I bought tincture of rosemary from my herbalist, then left it in the bag so long I forgot why I bought it.

Ah yes...suppression of the nuclear factor-kappaB activation pathway, that's why. I hate that stupid nuclear factor-kappa B, all linked to inflammatory diseases from heart attacks to arthritis to asthma and beyond. Oddly enough, the label on the bottle says 'Breathworks,' so at least I'll have the breath of a roasted chicken whether or not it works on my knees.
Bad News Bearer

I had the unpleasant experience yesterday, once again, of delivering the bad news that slams a person prematurely into fate. Coincidentally, the morning paper ran an article on singer/songwriter Marc Cohen who is doing a show in Denver where he also ran into his fate last year as a victim of a drive-by shooting. Here's an excerpt from his song Live Out This Dream inspired by his near-death experience:

Now that a meteorite has fallen
In the chair you just got out of to answer the phone
Will you live every moment like it just might be the last?
Or will you just bitch and moan?
Fate is kind, fate is cruel
Fate is terminally cool
It's a random interruption
In the middle of your groove.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Asymmetric cleavage and cancer risk

One of my favorite Christmas cards shows a cartoon drawing of a topless old lady with wildly asymmetrical breasts. "Breasts are like snowflakes," notes the card. "No two are alike."

The problem, however, with unique breasts on the same women is that scientists in the UK have found that such inequality increases the risk of breast cancer. They studied 504 women for a total of 1008 breasts; half the subjects had breast cancer and the controls did not.

For every 100 ml. of difference between one breast and the other, cancer risk rose by 1.5. I'm not sure just what 100 ml. of breast tissue looks like. But if you've got a couple of snowflakes on your chest, it's just one more thing to worry about.

Friday, February 02, 2007

The new stop-smoking drug Chantix is causing heated debate on a medical forum:

Dr. C: Spoiled North Americans would manage with a lot less pills if they gave up their addictions to tobacco and refined food (among many other expensive addictions), luxuries many of our brothers cannot afford.

Dr. M: We could manage with a lot less pills if we gave up our addictions (duh, we all agree), but the word "addiction" would have never been added to the English language if a habit were easily "given up". Thus the word addiction. What we are looking for is something to help the addict who has not found it within himself to overcome the habit. If it takes cross addiction to a less offensive entity [referring to a possible addiction to Chantix] so be it.

Dr. C: If we are agreed that the expensive addictions of developed societies are the main cause of most of their mortality and morbidity, then it is the first job of the doctor to deal with those addictions before prescribing panaceas that could do harm by encouraging those addictions. What often happens after tobacco addiction has been beaten is a transfer of the addiction to food. It seems the same pleasure center is stimulated by all addictions and it is insatiable. So, the likes of Chantix do not solve the fundamental problem.

Dr. M: Not an MI, CABG, stroke, amputation, nor the threat of impotence stops a Kentucky smoker from smoking. It's their right to die from tobacco use here, and they will defend it to the death,,,,,.......often do. If Chantix can work in this population, it can work anywhere.

And, courtesy of a philosopher/physician Dr. C, Aristotle gets his say :

I count him braver who overcomes his desires than him who conquers his enemies; for the hardest victory is over self.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

I think I've whined sufficiently about my recent illness. Did I mention how I got it? The day before I succumbed, a patient came into my little exam room and ordered me to 'Listen to this cough.' She then proceeded to cough with gusto straight into the air, no attempt whatsoever to cover her mouth. She did this four or five times; I knew I was doomed.

So I ask all of you to watch this amusing little video: Why don't we do it in our sleeve?. And then do it in your sleeve!