Monday, February 29, 2016

Winter Skin-Care Tips from a Pro

Winter can be hard on your skin, but there are several ways to deal with those challenges, a dermatologist says.

If you skin gets drier in the winter, use oil-based ointments and creams that tend to be more moisturizing and less irritating that water-based lotions, suggested Dr. Nicole Burkemper, an associate professor of dermatology at Saint Louis University.

People with dry skin on the face should avoid harsh peels, masks, alcohol-based toners or astringents that can strip oil from the skin, Burkemper said in a university news release. Products with alpha-hydroxy and retinoid can also worsen dry facial skin, she added.

For dry lips, plain petroleum jelly is an effective and cheap way to prevent chapping, Burkemper said.

When having a bath or shower, she recommends closing the bathroom door to trap humidity, and limiting baths or showers to 5 to 10 minutes. Use warm, rather than hot water and a gentle, fragrance-free cleanser. And blot your skin dry with a towel, and apply moisturizer immediately after you dry your skin.

When outside, protect exposed skin with sunscreen, Burkemper said. “Gloves are important, and leather gloves hold in warmth better than cloth or woven gloves,” Burkemper added. “You should also remove wet gloves and socks as soon as possible since the moisture can actually worsen dry, irritated skin.”

If you have dry skin on your hands, apply moisturizing cream after washing your hands, she said.
“If dry, itchy skin does not respond to the above recommendations, see a dermatologist,” Burkemper said. “Severe dry skin may need a prescription ointment or cream, and dry skin may be a sign of a skin condition that needs medical treatment.”

Friday, February 26, 2016

Cholesterol in Eggs May Not Hurt Heart Health

Finnish researchers say that even carriers of a gene – called APOE4 – that increases sensitivity to dietary cholesterol don’t seem to have anything to fear when it comes to the impact of eggs, or any other dietary cholesterol on heart health.

The finding followed the 20-year plus tracking of dietary habits among more than 1,000 middle-aged Finnish men. All were heart healthy at the study’s start, and about a third carried the APOE4 gene, the researchers said.

“It is quite well known that dietary cholesterol intake has quite a modest impact on blood cholesterol levels, and cholesterol or egg intakes have not been associated with a higher risk of heart disease in most studies,” said study author Jyrki Virtanen. He is an adjunct professor in nutritional epidemiology with the University of Eastern Finland Institute of Public Health and Clinical Nutrition in Kuopio Finland.

“However, dietary cholesterol intake has a greater impact on blood cholesterol levels among those with [APOE4],” Virtanen added. “So it was assumed that cholesterol intake might have a stronger impact on heart disease risk among those people. However, our study did not find an increased risk even among those carrying [APOE4].”

Virtanen and his colleagues report their findings in the Feb. 10 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The University of eastern Finland provided funding for the study, and Virtanen added that there was no funding from egg industry sources.

At the end of the 21-year tracking period, 230 of the men had experienced a heart attack. But, the study authors determined that neither egg habits, nor overall cholesterol consumption had any bearing on heart attack risk or the risk for hardening of the arterial walls.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Wisdom Wednesday: Reliable Weight-Loss Programs May Be Hard to Find

For people who need to lose a lot of weight, it might be tough to find a program in their community that meets nationally recommended guidelines for shedding pounds, researchers suggest.

In a new study, almost 200 weight-loss programs were evaluated on whether they included five key standards: high-intensity intervention of at least 14 sessions in six months; an evidence-based diet; physical activity guidelines; self-monitoring tools such as food tracking, and a recommendation against the use of nutritional supplements, said study author Dr. Kimberly Gudzune. She is a weight-loss specialist at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, in Baltimore.

Those standards are agreed upon by the American Heart Association, the American College of Cardiology and the Obesity Society, Gudzune said.

But very few programs in the study met the standards, the researchers found.

“There is very little oversight [of weight-loss programs], and it’s hard for consumers and medical professionals alike to tell what is effective, reliable and meets guidelines’ standards,” Gudzune said in a statement.

“Only 1% of the programs even mentioned all those [five] criteria on their website,” Gudzune said. And only 9% actually adhered in some way to the guidelines, she said.

The findings, published Feb. 10 in the journal Obesity, indicate that more oversight is needed for weight-loss programs around the country, Gudzune said.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Prenatal Acetaminophen Use Tied to Higher Asthma Risk in Kids

Pregnant women who take the pain killer acetaminophen – best known under the bran name Tylenol – may be more likely to have a child with asthma, new research suggests.

However, the study authors and a U.S. expert agreed that the effect seen in the study doesn’t yet warrant any change in guidelines regarding pain relief during pregnancy.

In the study, Norwegian researchers tracked data from a large database – the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study.

The investigators focused on conditions during pregnancy for which some expectant mothers took acetaminophen, and compared that data against rates of asthma among 114,500 children as they reached the ages of 3 and 7.

Overall, 5.7% of the children were diagnosed with asthma by age 3, while 5.1% had developed the condition by the age of, according to the team led by Maria Magnus, of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health in Oslo.

Her group found a consistent link between asthma among the 3-year-olds and exposure to acetaminophen before they were born. This link was strongest among children whose mother used the drug for more than one health complaint, the study authors said.

Friday, February 19, 2016

U.S. Dementia Rates Seem to Be Falling

More than 5,000 people followed for almost 40 years starting in the mid-1970s experienced an average 20% reduction in their risk of developing dementia, a new study suggests.

At the same time, the average age at which the participants fell prey to dementia rose, from about 80 in the late 1970s to age 85 in more recent years, added study author Dr. Sudha Seshadri. She is a professor of neurology at Boston University’s Alzheimer’s Disease Center.

Despite these findings, the United States still faces a dementia crisis with the aging of the baby boom generation, Seshadri noted.

As many as 5.2 million Americans 65 and older are estimated to have Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia. And these numbers are expected to rise with the aging population, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

Seshadri said that even though the average age of dementia shifted upward during the course of the study, there are more people over the age of 85 now than there were people older than 80 decades ago.

“People are going to live to be older and be at greater risk of developing dementia,” Seshadri said. “It’s not that the burden of disease is going to decrease but it may not be exploding quite as rapidly as we feared.”

However, the study offered some important clues about ways to prevent or delay dementia, she said.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Wisdom Wednesday: What Do I Do After Taking Antibiotics?

This is a reader request for someone who’s health declined dramatically after taking an antibiotic.

Let’s assume that you need the antibiotic. You have a bacterial infection (not viral) that is not responding to natural alternatives. Your physician has laboratory testing to document this need. If possible, the doctor has ordered a culture to determine what the infection is and what antibiotics will be most effective against the infection. In the meantime, a broad spectrum antibiotic is prescribed.

Hopefully, the antibiotic will kill the offending infection. However, it will undoubtedly kill some of the healthy bacteria in the gut as well. This disturbance of the microbiome can have far reaching consequences. C. difficile is the most serious aftermath. This commensal bacteria normally found in the gut can grow in the void created by the antibiotic. It creates a diarrhea that can be fatal. Most often C. difficile occurs in hospitalized patients given antibiotics. However, in children is generally occurs within three months of antibiotic use for a URI (upper respiratory infection). Ninety percent of URI are viral and will not respond to antibiotics anyway.

So you start taking the antibiotic and develop some diarrhea. Don’t wait, start taking a probiotic three hours after each antibiotic dose. Most of the probiotic will not survive, but some will and that should be enough to stop the diarrhea. If not, consult with your physician immediately.

If you do not develop diarrhea, there is little value in taking a probiotic with the antibiotic. However, a prebiotic is recommended. Slippery Elm Bark is my favorite. It contains the soluble fiber that feed healthy bacteria and reduces inflammation in the gut. Make sure the fiber is soluble not insoluble fiber like psyllium husk.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Why Americans Have Shorter Lifespans

Car crashes, shootings and drug overdoses, which cause more than 100,000 deaths a year in the United States, may explain why Americans’ life expectancy is lower than in similar countries, a new study suggests.

Americans’ life expectancy is about two years shorter than residents of Austria, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom. For U.S. men, that difference translates into 76.4 years versus 78.6 years, while it means 81.2 years versus 83.4 years for women, the researchers reported.

“About 50% of the gap for men and about 20% for women is due just to those three causes of injury,” said lead researcher Andrew Fenelon. He is a senior service fellow at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics.

Although shootings, car crashes and drug overdoses account for only about 4% of U.S. deaths overall, they area large part of why American life expectancy is lower than in similar countries, especially among younger people, he said.

“When young people die, they lose many more years of life than older people, so the things that kill younger people may be more important for life expectancy,” Fenelon said. “If we reduced deaths from these causes, we would gain back about a year of life expectancy,” he added. “I don’t know how to do it.”

The report was published Feb. 9 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Breast Cancer Survivors Vulnerable for Thyroid Tumors, & Vice Versa

University of Chicago researchers who reviewed 37 published studies found breast cancer survivors were 1.55 times more likely to develop thyroid cancer than women who hadn’t had breast cancer. And, female thyroid cancer survivors were 1.18 times more likely to get breast cancer than women who hadn’t had thyroid cancer, researchers said.

“This is a real risk,” said study lead author Dr. Raymon Grogan, director of the university’s endocrine surgery research program.

Thyroid cancer cases have nearly tripled in the United States over the past 30 years, and breast cancer is the most common cancer among women, according to background notes with the study. Thanks to medical advances, more women are surviving each cancer, Grogan said.

The report was published Feb. 5 in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention.

Nineteen of the studies analyzed breast cancer patients and their risk of thyroid cancer. Another 18 looked at thyroid cancer cases and their incidence of breast cancer. The researchers then combined the data and calculated the odds of a women having thyroid cancer after breast cancer and vice versa.

In addition, the researchers combed through the studies to find reasons why these cancers seemed related. One explanation was that women who survive either cancer were more likely to be screened and examined so that other cancers were found early.

Another possible connection was that breast cancer and thyroid cancers share hormonal risk factors. There is some evidence that exposure to estrogens and to thyroid-stimulating hormones may contribute to both cancers, Grogan said.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Wisdom Wednesday: Hormesis

Hormesis is a term used by toxicologists for a process in which exposure to a low dose of a chemical agent or environmental factor that is damaging at higher doses induces an adaptive beneficial effect on the cell or organism. In the fields of biology and medicine hormesis is defined as an adaptive response of cells and organisms to a moderate (usually intermittent) stress. Examples include ischemic preconditioning, exercise, dietary energy restriction and exposures to low doses of certain phytochemicals.

In laymen’s terms it is the phenomena where by the body adapts to a stressor and improves its’ ability to resist that stressor in the future.

I recently referred to the term hormesis in my blog on the Ayurvedic herb Schisandra posted on Jan. 20.

Physical exercise is probably the best example. As I have mentioned in several of my blogs, I am a cyclist. For the most part cycling is an endurance sport where you maintain a moderate pace for long periods of time. I use spinning classes to create hormesis. They are of shorter duration, but much higher intensity. Spinning creates stress on my cardiovascular and musculoskeletal systems forcing them to adapt and become stronger. This improves my cycling endurance and also benefits my general health. However, if I exceed my Vmax (maximum heart rate) or stay above my aerobic zone for more than 10 minutes at a time I can damage my body.

Toxins can have the same effect. Snake handlers routinely are bitten by venomous snakes. As long as the amount of venom is limited to non-lethal doses, their bodies adapt and they acquire an immunity to the specific toxins.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Anxiety Meds Like Valium, Xanax Won’t Raise Seniors’ Dementia Risk

Taking one of a class of anti-anxiety pills that includes Ativan, Valium or Xanax does not increase older adults’ risk of dementia, a new study finds.

However, experts note that these drugs – collectively called benzodiazepines – can have other side effects and should still be used with caution.

As the study authors explained, some prior research has suggested that use of the medicines may be associated with increased risk of dementia. However, other findings have contradicted that finding.

To look further into the issue, a team led by Shelly Gray, a professor of pharmacy at the University of Washington in Seattle, studied more than 3,400 people aged 65 and older. All did not have dementia at the beginning of the study.

The benzodiazepine use of each patient was assessed, and each was then followed for an average of seven years. During that time, 23% of the patients developed Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia, Gray’s group reported in the Feb. 2 issue of the BMJ.

Those with the highest level of benzodiazepine use had no higher risk of dementia or mental decline than other patients, the study found.

“Overall, our results do not support a causal association between benzodiazepine use and dementia,” Gray and her colleagues wrote.

But one expert believes this latest study still doesn’t close the file on this issue.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Study Links Diabetes, Obesity in Moms-to-Be to Higher Autism Risk

The two conditions [diabetes & obesity] in combination nearly quadrupled the risk that a child would receive an autism diagnosis, said researchers who looked at more than 2,700 mother-child pairs.

Individually, maternal obesity or diabetes was linked to twice the odds of giving birth to a child with autism compared to mothers of normal weight without diabetes, the study found.

“The finding is not a total surprise,” said study author Dr. Xiaobin Wang, director of the Center on Early Life Origins of Disease at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. “Many studies have shown that maternal obesity and diabetes have an adverse impact on developing fetuses and their long-term metabolic health.”

“Now we have further evidence that maternal obesity and diabetes also impact the long-term neural development of their children,” added Wang.

In the United States, more than one-third of women of reproductive age are obese, while almost 10% struggle with diabetes, the study authors said in background notes.

Prevalence of autism – now affecting 1 in 68 U.S. kids – has skyrocketed since the 1960’s, alongside the incidence of obesity and diabetes in women of reproductive age, the authors pointed out.

Their study, published online Jan. 29 in the journal Pediatrics, involved children born at Boston Medical Center between 1998 and 2014.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Wisdom Wednesday: 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans

These guidelines were released in January, 2016 and have significant updates for the consumer based on good science. However, there are some areas where the good science didn’t translate to the updates. I’ve read the guidelines and a couple of reviews, including one by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in collaboration with Metagenics and the Joslin Diabetes Center.

Here is a summary of some of the areas that fell short:
  • Healthy Fats – The Dietary Guidelines recommend reducing fat consumption by consuming fat-free and low-fat dairy products and limiting saturated and trans fats. They also indicated that healthy diets include oils. Including healthy vegetable oils, like olive oil and flax seed oil, is a step in the right direction. These are rich sources of essential fatty acids that are lacking in the American diet. Other oils like sesame seed oil have anti-inflammatory properties and coconut oil is well tolerated by most of the public. Although they do not contain any of the omega fatty acids, they are easily digested and utilized by the body. Trans fats have no redeeming value but research has demonstrated that saturated fat is not necessarily unhealthy. The recommendations should provide information on the proper use of healthy fats, like in cooking. The guidelines should differentiate between a diet that is low in total fat intake versus taking a whole food and reducing its fat content. It is no longer a whole food and should be avoided. Besides, low-fat diets are no more effective for weight loss or maintaining health than any other diet.
  • Added sugar – The Dietary Guidelines recommend limiting added sugar to no more than 10% of total calories. Even if a person is not overweight, obese, or suffering from chronic diseases like diabetes, long-term intake of added sugars, like high fructose corn syrup, lead to the development of metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes I am pleased that sugar has been identified as a major factor in chronic disease and that the USDA recommends reducing added sugar. However, in future guidelines they need to go further and recommend diets with no added sugar, limiting sugar consumption to 5% of total caloric intake.
  • Grains and Carbohydrates – The Dietary Guidelines recommend that 50% of grains consumed be whole grains. While whole grains can be an important component of a healthy diet, these recommendations remain too supportive of grains and carbohydrates. The nutritional valve of grains beyond empty calories is very limited. It is further reduced by refining these starchy products. Wheat, rice and potatoes have a high glycemic index and should represent less than 25% of caloric intake, even in their whole state.

The Bottom Line - Maintain a healthy weight
Almost 70% of American adults are overweight or obese. The 2015 Dietary Guidelines represent progress toward healthier eating in America. Many nutritionists, myself included, believe that the epidemic status of obesity in the United States warrants increased attention to achieving and maintaining healthy weight.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Sleepless Nights Might Raise Women’s Type 2 Diabetes Risk

Women who have chronic sleep problems may have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, Harvard researchers report.

Problems such as trouble falling or staying asleep, getting less than six hours of sleep, frequent snoring, sleep apnea or rotating shift work appear to increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, the researchers said. They found that women who reported trouble falling asleep all or most of the time had 45% greater odds of developing type 2 diabetes.

“Women with sleeping difficulty, especially when also having other conditions, should be aware of potential higher risk of diabetes,” said lead researcher Dr. Yanping Li, a research scientist at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston. “Doctors should pay more attention to the potential diabetes risk of women who have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep,” she said.

“Not sleeping well affects the circadian rhythm regulated by hormones that are so important for metabolism and involved in control of blood sugar. Thus, it is not surprising that sleep disorders are associated with obesity and diabetes,” said Dr. Joel Zonszein, director of the Clinical Diabetes Center at Monteflore Medical Center in New York City. He was not associated with the study.

The report was published Jan. 28 in the journal Diabetologia.