Friday, February 27, 2015

Hot Flashes, It Seems Like, Forever

Menopause-related hot flashes and night sweats aren’t a short-term problem. More than half of women experience these unpleasant change-of-life symptoms for seven years or more, a new study finds.

“Women should not be surprised if their hot flashes last a number of years,” said lead researcher Nancy Avis, a professor of social sciences and health policy at Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Four out of five women experience hot flashes and night sweats in the years before their periods cease, leaving some with almost 12 years of unpleasant symptoms, the study found. And women who could pinpoint their final period reported symptoms persisted for an average 4.5 years afterward.

The findings, published February 16 in JAMA Internal Medicine, suggest a need for “more research on safe and effective ways to relieve these symptoms,” Avis said. Menopausal symptoms affect quality of live, disrupt sleep and result in worse physical health, she and her colleagues noted.

Menopause – which is confirmed when a women’s periods have ceased for 12 consecutive months – occurs most often between ages 45 and 55, according to the North American Menopause Society. The symptoms women experience are related to lower levels of estrogen and other hormone. Common among these symptoms are hot flashes.

One option – hormone replacement therapy – is avoided by many women because it has been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer, Avis said. “Also, women who have had breast cancer cannot take hormone replacement therapy,” she noted.

Last week, researchers reported in The Lancet that taking hormone replacement therapy for even less than five years after menopause increased a women’s risk of ovarian cancer by about 40%.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Wisdom Wednesday: Cycling

Riding a bicycle can be an excellent form of exercise. It doesn’t have the high caloric burn of running but can be sustained easily for long periods of time to consume calories.

Proper equipment is vital to safe, effective riding. I recommend a hybrid bike for beginning riders. Hybrids have upright handlebars, relatively thin tires, and as many gears as you would ever need. The gear ratio is lower than road bikes to make hill climbing easier. You can purchase a good hybrid bike for $600. It will give you a comfortable ride and is very versatile. My hybrid had 21 gears and the pedals were duel purpose – one side accepted a riding clip while the opposite side used a standard shoe. My wife and I rode our hybrids for a couple of years and put several thousand miles on them before moving up to carbon fiber road bikes.

Start out slow and keep the riding distances short. We would ride up to coast about 13 miles early on a Sunday morning, have breakfast and ride home. That 26 mile trek was our long ride for the week. Try to add two shorter rides during the week, just like pattern used in running.

You can increase your long ride by 5 miles per week, for 3 weeks in a row, and then return to your previous long ride the next week for a brief recovery. Again, this pattern is very similar to that used to increase running distance.

It really helps to have a goal. I recommend you register for a charity ride. Pick a distance, and then set up a training schedule to prepare for the ride. You can find organized bike rides on the internet for your area. Distances vary from just a few miles to rides of 100 miles or more.

Safety is the number one concern. Always wear a good quality helmet. If you fall and strike your helmet, replace it. Replace it every couple of years regardless of damage as the UV light breaks down the plastic, rendering it less effective.

Monday, February 23, 2015

U.S Advisers Rethink Cholesterol Risk From Foods

Decades-old advice to Americans against eating foods high in cholesterol likely will not appear in the next update of the nation’s Dietary Guidelines, according to published reports. Art via clipartist

The U.S. Department of Agriculture panel assigned the task of revamping the guidelines every five years has indicated that it will bow to new research that has undermined the role that dietary cholesterol plays in a person’s heart heath, the Washington Post reported Tuesday.

The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee plans to no longer warn people to avoid eggs, shellfish and other cholesterol-laden foods, the newspaper reported.

“It’s the right decision,” Dr. Steven Nissen, chairman of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic told USA Today. For years, “we got the dietary guidelines wrong. They’ve been wrong for decades.”

“I have long recommended to my clients that the type of fat they eat is a much bigger issue to their blood cholesterol level that the amount of cholesterol they consume,” said registered dietitian Connie Diekman, director of university nutrition at Washington University in St. Louis.

That means that, while a person might be able to eat more eggs, shrimp and lobster under the new guidelines, they would still need to limit foods heavy in saturated fat like prime rib, bacon, cheese and butter, she said.

The federal panel discussed its cholesterol decision in December, the Post reported. The group’s final report is due within weeks.

High levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol in a person’s blood have long been linked to the formation of arterial plaque that can impede the flow of blood and contribute to heart attacks or strokes, according to the American Heart Association (AHA).

Friday, February 20, 2015

Change in Gut Bacteria May Precede Type 1 Diabetes in Kids

In some young children who develop type 1 diabetes, a change in normal stomach bacteria can precede the disease by a year, a small study has found.

The findings, published February 5 in the journal Cell, Host & Microbe, are based on just 33 children at increased genetic risk of type 1 diabetes. And experts stress that it’s too early to tell what it all could mean.

But one hope is that the results will lead to an early diagnostic test for type 1 diabetes, said researcher Aleksandar Kostic, a postdoctoral fellow at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard.

There is also the possibility of developing new therapies for type 1 that would target the “ecosystem” of the gut, he said.

But that would be a long way off, Kostic stressed. “These findings open up a promising new avenue for more research,” he said. “But that’s all we can say for now.”

Type 1 diabetes differs from the much more common type 2 diabetes, which is often linked to older age and obesity. In type 1, the immune system mistakenly kills off pancreatic cells that make the blood-sugar-regulating hormone insulin. To survive, people with type 1 have to take frequent injections of insulin, or use an insulin pump, for the rest of their lives.

As many as 3 million Americans have type 1 diabetes, according to the JDRF (formerly Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation), a New York-based organization that funds research into the disease. Often, the disease arises in childhood, but there are adult-onset cases, too.

Scientists do not know exactly what causes the abnormal immune reaction. But people who carry certain gene variants related immune system function have a higher-than-normal risk of developing type 1 diabetes.

The new study followed 33 babies from Finland and Estonia who carried some of those gene variants. Kostic and his colleagues analyzed stool samples from the children to chart changes in the trillions of bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms that dwell in the gut – what scientists call the “microbiome.”

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Wisdom Wednesday: Cold and Flu Season

So it dawns upon you upon awakening one morning that you might be “coming down” with something. Your first response is “it’s just allergies” – big mistake. The sooner you attack this infection, the quicker you will recover.

My first recommendation is colloidal silver. Please read one of my early blogs “The Blue Man Group” posted October 18, 2013. I keep colloidal silver in the bathroom medicine cabinet. If I wake up in the middle of the night with a sore throat, I gargle with colloidal silver for 30 seconds and then swallow it. By morning the sore throat is gone. However, if I have forgotten about that sore throat and don’t follow up with a few more doses of colloidal silver, the infection may rise again.

My second recommendation is the herb andrographis. It has excellent infection fighting benefits. I used it with good success against the H1N1 virus a couple of years ago when the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) had physicians confirming suspected cases of H1N1.

I am also a big fan of the Netti pot for irrigating the sinuses. You can purchase a Netti pot at any drug store. I prefer to use a little colloidal silver in lieu of the kosher salt. You must use distilled water with this device. Tap water contains nematodes that can breed in your sinus cavities then migrate into the brain causing death. (I keep telling you not to drink that tap water)

Winter colds and flues peak in my office about this time every year. The event is not as pronounced in South Florida with its warmer climate, but the snowbirds bring us our share of infections. Please review my blog “The Flu Can Infect many Without Causing Symptoms” posted on March 31, 2014.

The best preventative is echinacea. Although it is the most popular herb in America, it is seldom used properly. Many people start taking echinacea at the first sign of a cold. That’s really too late. Echinacea takes two weeks of daily supplementation to reach peak levels in your body. I recommend taking a daily dose all through the flu season as a preventative.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Mercury Air Pollution Reflected in Ocean Fish

Rising mercury levels in the air are likely to blame for increasing amounts of mercury in Hawaiian yellowfin tuna, researchers say.

Mercury concentrations in the fish are rising by 3.8% or more a year, they found after analyzing data from 1971, 1998 and 2008.

“The take-home message is that mercury in tuna appears to be increasing in lockstep with data and model predictions for mercury concentrations in water in the North Pacific,” said Paul Drevnick, an assistant research scientist at the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment.

“The study confirms that mercury levels in open ocean fish are responsive to mercury emissions,” Drevnick added in a university news release.

Yellowfin tuna, sold as ahi, is widely used in raw fish dishes – especially sashimi – and for grilling. This type of tuna is listed as a “high mercury” species by the U.S. Natural Resources Defense council.

Mercury is a potent toxin, and high concentrations in fish pose a health risk to people who eat them.
The main source of mercury in the open ocean is fallout from air pollution, especially from coal-fired power plants and artisanal gold mining, according to the authors of the study presented February 3rd in the journal Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry.

“Mercury levels are increasing globally in ocean water, and our study is the first to show a consequent increase in mercury in an open-water fish,” Drevnick said. “More stringent policies are needed to reduce releases of mercury into the atmosphere. If current deposition rates are maintained, North Pacific waters will double in mercury by 2050.”

Friday, February 13, 2015

Certain Infections Linked to Reduced Risk of Rheumatoid Arthritis

People with recent gut, urinary tract, or genital infections may be less likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis, new research says.

The findings are “particularity interesting” in light of recent research suggesting that digestive system bacteria may play a role in the development of rheumatoid arthritis, researchers from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, said.

The study included almost 6,500 people from Sweden. Their average age was 52. About 70% were women. More than 2,800 people in the group were diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis between 1996 and 2009.

According to the study, having a gut infection within the preceding two years was associated with a lower risk of rheumatoid arthritis by 29%. A urinary tract infection was associated with a 22% lower risk, while a genital infection was associated with a 20% lower risk.

People who had all three types of infections in the preceding two years were 50% less likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis, according to the researchers.

Gut, urinary tract or genital infections within the past year did not affect rheumatoid arthritis risk, nor did recent respiratory infections.

Researchers only found an association between previous infections and the risk of rheumatoid arthritis, not a cause-and-effect link.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Wisdom Wednesday: The Basics of Running

Running is the most effective exercise for losing weight and improving physical fitness. It requires very little equipment, all you need is a decent pair of running shoes, and it can be performed almost anywhere. When I travel my favorite way to learn my way around a new setting is to go for a run.

For those just starting out or returning to running after a long hiatus, I recommend the Galloway Method. Jeff Galloway was a long distance runner that wrote several books on the subject. He advocated running a mile, then walking a minute, then repeat for as many miles as you plan to run. Many runners have used his method to complete marathons.

If that seems too difficult there is an app called “couch to 5K” that takes you through the beginning stages of running, gradually building to run a 3.1 mile race. Many communities offer couch to 5K classes through their recreation departments for a nominal fee.

Most injuries in running are related to the “3 Ss” – shoe, surface, and speed.

Start by spending some money on a decent pair of running shoes. Running shoes can often exceed $100 but you can save some money by purchasing last year’s model. Nike, Asics, Puma and others are constantly updating their running shoes. All running shoes are rated on 3 factors – cushioning, stability, and durability. I recommend a shoe with high cushioning with neutral stability. Stability shoes reduce supination or pronation (a foot that falls outward or inward excessively). However, mild pronation of foot is a normal action that acts to absorb some of the shock of running. If you reduce pronation, the shock is transferred to the knee, often with disastrous results.

Your local often determines the surface. Short mowed grass (like the edge of the fairway at the local golf course) is the best. My recovery run takes me from home to a nearby park where I run around the football field. It’s a little boring, but easy on the legs.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Pesticides, Plastics Chemical Tied to Earlier Menopause in Women

Extensive exposure to common chemicals appears to be linked to an earlier start of menopause, a new study suggests.

Researchers found that menopause typically begins 2-4 years earlier in women whose bodies have high levels of certain chemicals found in household items, personal care products, plastics and the environment compared to women with lower levels of the chemicals.

The investigators identified 15 chemicals – 9 (now banned) PCBs, 3 pesticides, 2 forms of plastics called phthalates, and the toxin furan – that were significantly associated with an earlier start of menopause and that may have harmful effects of ovarian function.

“Early menopause can alter the quality of a woman’s life and has profound implications for fertility, health and our society,” senior study author Dr. Amber Cooper, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, said in a university news release.

“Understanding how the environment affects health is complex,” she added. “This study doesn’t prove causation, but the associations raise a red flag and support the need for future research.”

In the study, published January 28 in the journal PLoS One, Cooper’s team analyzed blood and urine samples from more than 1,400 menopausal women, averaging 61 years of age, to determine their exposure to 111 mostly man-made chemicals.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) have been banned in the United States since 1979, but can be found in items made before that time. Furans are by-products of industrial combustion, and phthalates are found in plastics, many household items, drugs and personal care products such as lotions, perfumes, makeup, nail polish, liquid soap and hair spray.

Along with reducing fertility, a decline in ovarian function can lead to earlier development of heart disease, osteoporosis and other health problems, the researchers said. Prior research has also linked the chemicals with some cancers, early puberty and metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome refers to a group of health conditions occurring together that increase the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Certain Allergy and Depression Meds Tied to Dementia

Long-term and/or high-dose use of a class of medications used for hay fever, depression and other ills has been linked in a new study to a higher risk of dementia.

The drugs – called anticholinergics – include nonprescription diphenhydramine (Benadryl) and tricyclic antidepressants like doxepin (Sinequan). This class of medications also includes older antihistamines like chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimeton) and “antimuscarinic” drugs for bladder control, such as oxbutynin (Ditropan).

However, the study could only point to an association between the use of these drugs and a higher risk of dementia, it could not prove cause-and-effect. Also the relationship “did not occur at the lowest dosage range but did occur at higher dosages used long-term,” said Dr. Alan Manevitz, a clinical psychiatrist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

The new study was led by Shelly Gray of the Group Health Research Institute-University of Washington. Her team explained that the anticholinergic class of medications work by blocking a neurochemical called acetylcholine in both the brain and body.

Manevitz noted that people “suffering from Alzheimer’s disease typically show a marked shortage of acetylcholine.”

The new study tracked outcome for more than 3,500 seniors who were followed for more than seven years. Gray’s group found that people who took at least 10 mg per day of Sinequan, 4 mg per day of Benadryl, or 5 mg per day of Ditropan for more than three years were at greater risk for developing dementia.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Wisdom Wednesday: Thyroid Disease

The American College of Endocrinology (ACE) is the educational and scientific arm of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE). ACE has begun an awareness program designed to increase dialogue between patients, their physicians, and pharmacists. This program is available to the public at If you want more information after reading this blog, please visit their web site.

AACE president Dr. R. Mack Harrell, who is a thyroid specialist, stated “Thyroid hormone is the leading prescription drug in our country, and there are a lot of misconceptions about what thyroid disease is and what the thyroid does.”

The thyroid manufactures thyroid hormone from cholesterol and four molecules of iodine. This product is called T4. T4 is then released into the blood stream where it does nothing. T4 is the stable form of thyroid hormone. When your metabolism needs a boost, one of the iodine molecules is stripped from T4 creating T3. This is the active form of the hormone and stimulates general metabolism. Your ability to get out of bed in the morning and start your day is dependent on T3.

Eighty percent of T3 is created in the liver; the remaining twenty percent is formed in the kidneys. However, T4 to T3 conversion is under the control of the adrenals. Healthy thyroid hormone levels are dependent on the thyroid, liver, kidneys and adrenals. The function of all these glands and organs is controlled by the pituitary gland.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Too Much Sitting Can Be Deadly – Even if You Exercise

Regular exercise doesn’t erase the higher risk of serious illness or premature death that comes from sitting too much each day, a new review reveals.

Combing through 47 prior studies, Canadian researchers found that prolonged daily sitting was linked to significantly higher odds of heart disease, diabetes, cancer and dying.

Even if the study participants exercised regularly, the accumulated evidence still showed worse health outcomes for those who sat for long periods, the researchers said. However, those who did little or no exercise faced even higher health risks.

“We found the association relatively consistent across all diseases. A pretty strong case can be made that sedentary behavior and sitting is probably linked with these diseases,” said study author Aviroop Biswas, a PhD candidate at Toronto Rehabilitation Institute-University health Network.

“When we’re standing, certain muscles in our body are working very heard to keep us upright,” added Biswas, offering one theory about why sitting is detrimental. “Once we sit for a long time…our metabolism is not as functional, and the inactivity is associated with a lot of negative effects.”

The research was published January 19, in the online issue of Annals of Internal Medicine.

About 3.2 million people die each year because they are not active enough, according to the World Health Organization, making physical inactivity the fourth leading risk factor for mortality worldwide.

Among the studies reviewed by Biswas and his team, the definition of prolonged sitting ranged from 8 to 12 hours per day or more. Sitting, or sedentary activities ubiquitous with sitting such as driving, using the computer or watching TV, shouldn’t comprise more than 4-5 hours of a person’s day, Biswas said, citing guidelines issued by the Public Health Agency of Canada.