Friday, September 26, 2008

Human Breast Milk Cheese Made in France

Website in French:

Le Petit Singly is a farm that specializes in making cheese from women’s breast milk. Are you imagining the milking process? Admittedly, that imagery makes me come to the conclusion that it’s an absolutely bizarre and crazy world of cheesemaking in little ole Singly, France. But, no. I think the “donors” bring their milk to the farm, or something like that.

The cheese is produced exactly like it would be for cow’s milk and apparently tastes like it has hints of hazelnut. I still have my doubts about its existence, though. The farm says the cheese is rich in vitamins and nutrients but I don’t think these survive after being ultra-pasteurized. Also, they have an “AB” label, which is the official label for organic products. Does that mean that the women all grazed on organic?

Anyway, you can order breast milk cheese online from le Petit Singly, if you’re interested. Will this be the next trend in the foodie world? You know, something on the menu at Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry (or Per Se), El Bulli or your un-run-of-the-mill experimental haute cuisine. I can hear the waiter now, “Your next course, course 5 out of 13 courses, is a palette cleanser consisting of deep fried fois gras marbles coated in a crispy fig and pine nut crumble. The fois gras marbles are fried in extra virgin Argan oil that was infused with 6 very rare and different herbs found only around the area surrounding Mount Kilamanjaro. The fois gras marbles sit proudly on their foundation of 5 paper-thin slices of exclusive fromage duh Fwahnce (”cheese” is too ordinary) made from FRENCH mother’s milk. (”breast milk” sounds too scary and thus, not very posh.) In between each slice of fromage is a succulent layer of organic creme fraiche, Beluga caviar, French capers and candied pecans - and the whole ensemble is lightly splashed with aged, vintage balsamic vinegar.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Diabetes drug Byetta and weight lose

Although taken by injection, exenatide (Byetta) is not insulin. Byetta improves blood sugar control by mimicking the action of the hormone incretin. Among other things, Byetta allows insulin to work more effectively in the body.

In studies, Byetta not only improved blood sugar control but also led to weight loss. It's unclear exactly how Byetta causes weight loss, but one effect of the drug is that it delays the movement of food from the stomach into the small intestine. As a result, people taking Byetta may feel "full" faster and longer, so they eat less. The most common side effect of Byetta is mild to moderate nausea, which improves with time in most people. Rarely, Byetta may cause harmful inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis).

Byetta is designed for people who have diabetes and has not been studied as a weight-loss aid in people who have normal blood sugar. If you have diabetes and wonder if Byetta may be helpful, talk to your doctor.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Alcohol use

Moderate alcohol use seems to offer some health benefits, particularly for the heart. But too much alcohol raises the stakes, putting you at risk of adverse health consequences. Whether you drink is up to you and your doctor. But here are some points on alcohol consumption to consider.

Moderate drinking is defined as two drinks a day if you're a male 65 and younger, or one drink a day if you're a female or a male 66 and older. A drink is defined as 12 ounces (355 milliliters) of beer, 5 ounces (148 milliliters) of wine or 1.5 ounces (44 milliliters) of 80-proof distilled spirits.

Moderate alcohol consumption may provide some health benefits. It may:

  • Reduce your risk of developing heart disease, peripheral vascular disease and intermittent claudication
  • Reduce your risk of dying of a heart attack
  • Possibly reduce your risk of strokes, particularly ischemic strokes
  • Lower your risk of gallstones
  • Possibly reduce your risk of diabetes

Though moderate alcohol use seems to have some health benefits, anything more than moderate drinking can negate any potential benefits. Be cautious because excessive alcohol consumption can lead to serious health problems, including:

  • Cancer of the pancreas, mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus and liver, as well as breast cancer
  • Pancreatitis, especially in people with high levels of triglycerides in their blood
  • Sudden death in people with cardiovascular disease
  • Heart muscle damage (alcoholic cardiomyopathy) leading to heart failure
  • Stroke
  • High blood pressure
  • Cirrhosis of the liver
  • Miscarriage
  • Fetal alcohol syndrome in an unborn child, including impaired growth and nervous system development
  • Injuries due to impaired motor skills
  • Suicide

People with certain health conditions shouldn't drink any alcohol, as even small amounts could cause problems. Don't drink alcohol if you have:

  • A history of hemorrhagic stroke
  • Liver disease
  • Pancreatic disease
  • Evidence of precancerous changes in the esophagus, larynx, pharynx or mouth

If you have a family history of alcoholism, be particularly cautious when it comes to drinking, as you're at higher risk of alcoholism. And if you're pregnant, avoid alcohol entirely because of the health risks for your unborn baby.

Also, alcohol interacts with many common prescription and over-the-counter medications. Check with your doctor if you take:

  • Antibiotics
  • Anticoagulants
  • Antidepressants
  • Diabetes medications
  • Antihistamines
  • Anti-seizure medications
  • Beta blockers
  • Pain relievers
  • Sleeping pills

If you combine alcohol with aspirin, you face an increased risk of gastrointestinal bleeding. And if you use alcohol and acetaminophen, you increase your risk of liver damage. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration requires all over-the-counter pain relievers and fever reducers to carry a warning label advising those who consume three or more drinks a day to consult with their doctors before using the drug.

Above all, don't feel pressured to drink. Few medical experts, if any, advise nondrinkers to start drinking. But if you do drink and you're healthy, there's no need to stop as long as you drink responsibly and in moderation.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Most effective sunburn treatment

Unfortunately, there's no fast-fix sunburn treatment. Once you have sunburn, the damage is done — although it may take 12 to 24 hours after sun exposure to know the full extent and severity of sunburn, and several days or more for your skin to begin to heal.

In the meantime, the most effective sunburn treatment simply helps ease your discomfort:

  • Keep it cool. Apply cold compresses — such as a towel dampened with cool water — to the affected skin. Or take a cool bath.
  • Keep it moist. Apply aloe, moisturizing cream or over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream to the affected skin. Beware of sunburn treatment products containing anesthetics, such as benzocaine. There's little evidence that these products are effective. In some cases, they may even irritate the skin.
  • Leave blisters intact. If blisters form, don't break them. You'll only slow the healing process and increase the risk of infection. If needed, lightly cover blisters with gauze.
  • Take an over-the-counter pain reliever. If needed, take anti-inflammatory medication — such as aspirin or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others) — according to the label instructions until redness and soreness subside. Don't give children or teenagers aspirin. It may cause Reye's syndrome, a rare but potentially fatal disease.
  • Treat peeling skin gently. Within a few days, the affected area may begin to peel. This is simply your body's way of getting rid of the top layer of damaged skin. While your skin is peeling, continue to use moisturizing cream.

Consult a doctor for sunburn treatment if:

  • Severe sunburn covers a large portion of your body with blisters
  • Sunburn is accompanied by a high fever or severe pain
  • Severe sunburn doesn't begin to improve within a few days

To prevent future episodes of sunburn, use sunscreen frequently and liberally. Common sense counts, too. Cover up while you're outdoors, and stay in the shade as much as possible.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Myths about childhood vaccines

Childhood vaccines protect children from a range of serious diseases. Yet you may wonder about the benefits and risks of childhood vaccines. Consider common myths about childhood vaccines в and the facts behind the myths.

  • Vaccines aren't necessary
  • Vaccine side effects are dangerous
  • Vaccines cause autism
  • Vaccines are given too early
  • It's OK to skip certain vaccines if you have safety concerns
Childhood vaccines offer protection from a variety of serious or potentially fatal diseases, including diphtheria, measles, meningitis, polio, tetanus and whooping cough. If these diseases seem uncommon в or even unheard of в it simply means that vaccines are doing their job. If immunization rates drop, vaccine-preventable diseases may once again become common threats.

Any vaccine can cause side effects. Usually, these side effects are minor в low-grade fever, and soreness, redness or swelling at the injection site. Some vaccines cause temporary headache, dizziness, fatigue or loss of appetite. Rarely, a child may experience a severe allergic reaction or a neurological side effect, such as a seizure. Although these rare side effects are a concern, vaccines are much safer than the diseases they prevent.

Of course, vaccines aren't given to children who have known allergies to specific vaccine components. Likewise, if your child develops a life-threatening reaction to a particular vaccine, further doses of that vaccine won't be given.

Despite much controversy on the topic, researchers haven't found a clear connection between autism and childhood vaccines. Although signs of autism may appear at about the same time children receive certain vaccines в such as the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine в this appears to be simply a coincidence.

Childhood vaccines offer protection from a variety of serious or potentially fatal diseases. Early vaccination в sometimes beginning shortly after birth в is essential because these diseases are most likely to occur when a child is very young and the risk of complications is greatest. If you postpone vaccines until a child is older, it may be too late.

In general, skipping vaccines isn't a good idea. This can leave your child vulnerable to potentially serious diseases that could otherwise be avoided. And consider this: For some children в including those who can't receive certain vaccines for medical reasons or those who don't seem to respond to certain vaccines в the only protection from vaccine-preventable diseases is the immunity of the people around them.

If you have reservations about particular vaccines, discuss your concerns with your child's doctor. If your child falls behind the standard vaccines schedule, catch-up vaccinations are typically available. It usually isn't necessary to repeat earlier doses of a particular vaccine.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Is it safe to take allergy medications during pregnancy?

The allergy medication loratadine (Claritin, others) is currently considered a category B drug. This indicates that animal studies haven't shown any risks to a fetus whose mother takes the drug, and there have been no reports of human reproductive problems associated with the drug. Although category B drugs appear to be safe, they haven't been adequately tested during human pregnancy to offer any guarantees.

In fact, few drugs have actually been proved safe during pregnancy. Drugs typically aren't studied in pregnant women because of the possible effects on the fetus. Until more is known, doctors must make judgments using the best available scientific evidence. It's best to exercise caution before taking allergy medications or any other drugs during pregnancy. Work with your doctor to weigh the severity of your allergy symptoms against the possible risks to your baby from taking allergy medications.

If possible, limit your exposure to anything that triggers your allergy symptoms. This may decrease your need for allergy medications. Also, keep in mind that nasal congestion often gets worse during pregnancy due to hormone changes. This occurs even in women who don't have allergies.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Testosterone therapy in women

Testosterone is one of the hormones that contribute to healthy sexual function in women. Typically, however, testosterone therapy isn't recommended to improve low sex drive. For women, other factors are generally more important in determining sex drive — and much remains unknown about the effects of testosterone therapy in women.

Various factors associated with menopause and aging may contribute to changes in a woman's sexual desire and function. These include decreased estrogen levels, vaginal dryness, medication side effects, chronic health conditions, or the loss of a spouse or partner.

A woman's testosterone level gradually declines with age. Although natural menopause doesn't lead to an abrupt change in testosterone level, surgical menopause — which occurs after removal of the ovaries — can have this effect.

If a woman experiences reduced sex drive, depression and fatigue after removal of the ovaries, estrogen therapy may be recommended. If estrogen therapy isn't effective, low-dose testosterone therapy may be another option. Testosterone therapy may also be considered for postmenopausal women taking estrogen who have a decreased sex drive with no other identifiable causes.

In general, testosterone therapy is prescribed only for women who have sufficient estrogen levels. Typically, testosterone therapy isn't recommended for women who are postmenopausal and can't or choose not to take estrogen. Testosterone therapy isn't appropriate for postmenopausal women who have a history of breast or uterine cancer or those who have cardiovascular or liver disease.

For women, testosterone therapy can be given in the form of a cream or gel, and sometimes it's prescribed as a pill or injection. There have been no long-term studies of the risks and benefits of testosterone therapy in women. The most common side effects of testosterone therapy include acne and excess facial hair. Less common side effects include lowering of the voice, enlargement of the clitoris, liver problems, and mood or personality changes.

If you choose to try testosterone therapy, it's important to carefully monitor your symptoms and any side effects.

Friday, July 18, 2008

How to strengthen pelvic floor muscles - Kegel exercises

Kegel exercises

Kegel exercises strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, which support the uterus, bladder and bowel. If you do Kegel exercises regularly and keep your pelvic floor muscles toned, you may reduce your risk of incontinence and similar problems as you get older. Kegel exercises can also help you control urinary incontinence.

Learning how to perform Kegel exercises properly can be tricky. How do you know whether you're working the correct muscles? Here's a guide to perfecting Kegel exercises.

Kegel exercises: Who can benefit

Many conditions put stress on your pelvic floor muscles:
  • Pregnancy
  • Childbirth
  • Being overweight
  • Aging
  • A chronic cough
  • A genetic predisposition to weak connective tissue

When your pelvic floor muscles weaken, your pelvic organs descend and bulge into your vagina, a condition known as pelvic organ prolapse. The effects of pelvic organ prolapse range from uncomfortable pelvic pressure to leakage of urine or feces. Fortunately, Kegel exercises can strengthen pelvic muscles and delay or maybe even prevent pelvic organ prolapse.

Kegel exercises are recommended especially during pregnancy. Well-toned pelvic floor muscles may make you more comfortable as your due date approaches. You may be less likely to develop urine leakage — common near the end of pregnancy and prone to persist after you've given birth.

Finally, Kegel exercises — along with counseling and sex therapy — may be helpful to women who have persistent problems reaching orgasm.

How to do Kegel exercises

It takes diligence to identify your pelvic floor muscles and learn how to contract and relax them. Here are some pointers:

Find the right muscles
To make sure you know how to contract your pelvic floor muscles, try to stop the flow of urine while you're going to the bathroom. If you succeed, you've got the basic move. Or try another technique: Insert a finger inside your vagina and try to squeeze the surrounding muscles. You should be able to feel your vagina tighten and your pelvic floor move upward. Then relax your muscles and feel your pelvic floor move down to the starting position. As your muscles become stronger — and you become more experienced with the exercises — this movement will be more pronounced.

But don't make a habit of starting and stopping your urine stream. Doing Kegel exercises with a full bladder or while emptying your bladder can actually weaken the muscles. It can also lead to incomplete emptying of the bladder, which increases your risk of a urinary tract infection.

If you're having trouble finding the right muscles, don't be embarrassed to ask for help. Your doctor or other health care provider can give you important feedback so that you learn to isolate and exercise the correct muscles.

Perfect your technique
Once you've identified your pelvic floor muscles, empty your bladder and sit or lie down. Then:

  • Contract your pelvic floor muscles.
  • Hold the contraction for three seconds then relax for three seconds.
  • Repeat 10 times.
  • Once you've perfected three-second muscle contractions, try it for four seconds at a time, alternating muscle contractions with a four-second rest period.
  • Work up to keeping the muscles contracted for 10 seconds at a time, relaxing for 10 seconds between contractions.

To get the maximum benefit, focus on tightening only your pelvic floor muscles or isolating your pelvic floor muscles. Be careful not to flex the muscles in your abdomen, thighs or buttocks. Also, try not to hold your breath. Just relax, breathe freely and focus on tightening the muscles around your vagina and rectum.

Repeat three times a day
Perform a set of 10 Kegel exercises three times a day. The exercises will get easier the more often you do them. You might make a practice of fitting in a set every time you do a routine task, such as checking e-mail or commuting to work.

Vary your technique with one of these methods:

  • Try sets of mini-Kegels. Count quickly to 10 or 20, contracting and relaxing your pelvic floor muscles each time you say a number.
  • Visualize an elevator. Slow down the exercises, gradually contracting and releasing your pelvic floor muscles one at a time. As you contract, visualize an elevator traveling up four floors. At each floor, contract your muscles a little more until you reach maximum contraction at the fourth floor. Hold the contraction and then slowly release the tension as you visualize the elevator returning to the ground floor. Repeat 10 times.

Biofeedback training

If you have trouble doing Kegel exercises, biofeedback training may help. In a biofeedback session, a nurse, therapist or technician will either insert a small monitoring probe into your vagina or place adhesive electrodes on the skin outside your vagina or rectal area. When you contract your pelvic floor muscles, you'll see a measurement on a monitor that lets you know whether you've successfully contracted the right muscles. You'll also be able to see how long you hold the contraction.

Another technique uses electrical stimulation to help you feel the muscles contract. The procedure is painless, although you'll experience a buzzing feeling as a small electrical current is applied to your pelvic floor muscles, making them contract. Once you feel this sensation a few times, you'll probably be able to duplicate the exercise on your own. Because simpler methods work for most women, this technique is rarely used.

When to expect results

If you do your Kegel exercises faithfully, you can expect to see some results, such as less frequent urine leakage, within about eight to 12 weeks. Your improvement may be dramatic — or, at the very least, you may keep your problems from worsening. As with other forms of physical activity, you need to make Kegel exercises a lifelong practice to reap lifelong rewards.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Child abuse

Child abuse takes many forms:

  • Physical abuse. Physical child abuse occurs when a child is purposefully injured. Physical abuse can be an act of direct physical harm or an act of omission that leads to injury.
  • Sexual abuse. Sexual child abuse is any sexual activity with a child, including fondling, oral-genital contact, intercourse and exposure to child pornography.
  • Emotional abuse. Emotional child abuse includes verbal and emotional assault — such as continually belittling or berating a child — as well as isolating, ignoring or rejecting a child.
  • Neglect. Child neglect is failure to provide a child adequate food, shelter, affection, supervision or medical care.

Most child abuse is inflicted by someone the child knows and trusts, often a parent or other relative. If you suspect child abuse, either in your own child or a close contact, report the abuse to the proper authorities. Your concern may provide an opportunity for healing.

A child who's being abused may feel guilty, ashamed or confused. He or she may be afraid to tell anyone about the abuse, especially if the abuser is a parent or other loved one. That's why it's vital to watch for red flags, such as:

  • Sudden changes in behavior or school performance
  • Untreated medical or dental problems
  • Unexplained bruises, cuts, burns or other injuries
  • Blood in the child's underwear
  • Inappropriate sexual behavior for the child's age
  • Behavior extremes, from overly aggressive to unusually passive
  • Nightmares or unusual fears
  • Withdrawal from friends or usual activities
  • Low self-esteem
  • Poor hygiene
  • Frequent absences from school

Sometimes a parent's demeanor or behavior also sends red flags about child abuse. Warning signs include a parent who:

  • Shows little concern for the child
  • Denies the existence of problems at home or school, or blames the child for the problems
  • Refuses offers of help to resolve problems at school
  • Consistently blames, belittles or berates the child
  • Describes the child with negative terms
  • Uses harsh physical discipline or asks teachers to do so
  • Demands an inappropriate level of physical or academic performance
  • Severely limits the child's contact with other children
  • Offers conflicting or unconvincing explanations for a child's injuries, or no explanation at all

Keep in mind that warning signs are just that — warning signs. The presence of warning signs doesn't necessarily mean that a child is being abused.

When to see a doctor
If you're concerned that your child or another child has been abused, seek help immediately. Contact the child's doctor, a local child protective agency or the local police department. Keep in mind that health care professionals are legally required to report all suspected cases of child abuse to state authorities.

Child abuse occurs across all socioeconomic levels and ethnic groups. For parents and other caregivers, factors that may increase the risk of becoming abusive include:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Poor impulse control
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Marital conflict
  • Domestic violence
  • Financial stress
  • Social isolation
  • Alcoholism or other forms of substance abuse
  • A history of mistreatment as a child

Some children overcome the physical and psychological effects of child abuse, particularly those who have high self-esteem, an optimistic attitude and strong social support. For others, however, child abuse has lifelong consequences. For example, child abuse may lead to:

  • Physical disabilities
  • Learning disabilities
  • Low self-esteem
  • Depression
  • Difficulty establishing or maintaining relationships
  • Challenges with intimacy and trust
  • An unhealthy view of parenthood
  • Anxiety
  • Substance abuse
  • Eating disorders
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Personality disorders
  • Delinquent or violent behavior

You can take simple steps to protect your child from exploitation and child abuse, as well as prevent child abuse in your neighborhood or community. For example:

  • Offer your child love and attention. If you feel overwhelmed or out of control, take a break. Don't take out your anger on your child.
  • Think supervision. Don't leave young children home alone. In public, keep a close eye on your child. Don't allow your child to go anywhere or accept anything without your permission. When your child is old enough to leave home without parental supervision, encourage your child to hang out with friends rather than alone — and to tell you where he or she is at all times.
  • Know your child's caregivers. Check references for baby sitters and other caregivers. Make unannounced visits to observe what's happening.
  • Emphasize the importance of saying no. Make sure your child understands that he or she doesn't have to do anything that seems scary or uncomfortable. Encourage your child to leave a threatening or frightening situation immediately and seek help from a trusted adult. If something does happen, encourage your child to talk to you or another trusted adult about the episode. Assure your child that it's OK to talk, and that he or she won't get in trouble.
  • Teach your child how to stay safe online. The Internet is a tremendous tool, but it's important to use it safely. Cover ground rules such as not sharing personal information and not responding to inappropriate, hurtful or frightening messages. Don't allow your child to share photos or videos online or arrange to meet an online contact in person without your permission. Consider it a red flag if your child is secretive about his or her online activities.
  • Reach out. Meet the families in your neighborhood, including both parents and children. If a friend or neighbor seems to be struggling, offer to baby-sit or help in another way.

If you're concerned that you might abuse your child, seek help immediately. Start with your family doctor. He or she may offer a referral to a parent education class, counseling or a support group for parents. If you're abusing alcohol or drugs, ask your doctor about treatment options. Remember, child abuse is preventable — and often a symptom of a problem that may be treatable. Ask for help today.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Prescription drug abuse

Prescription drug abuse is the use of prescription drugs — most commonly painkillers, sedatives and stimulants — in ways not intended by the prescribing doctor. The definition for prescription drug abuse includes everything from taking a friend's prescription painkiller for your backache to snorting ground-up pills to get high.

According to a 2007 survey conducted for the National Institute on Drug Abuse, prescription drug abuse occurs in more than 15 percent of U.S. high school seniors. The types of drugs most popular for prescription drug abuse are codeine-based painkillers such as oxycodone (OxyContin) and those containing hydrocodone (Vicodin).

Prescription drug abuse rarely happens in people who need commonly abused painkillers, sedatives or stimulants to treat a medical condition. But it can be difficult for a doctor to distinguish between a person who needs a larger dose to control his or her pain and a person who's abusing prescription painkillers.

In general, the following behaviors are warning signs of prescription drug abuse:

  • Continually "losing" prescriptions, so more prescriptions must be written
  • Seeking prescriptions from more than one doctor
  • Taking higher doses despite warnings
  • Stealing, forging or selling prescriptions
  • Excessive mood swings

Symptoms by type of drug
The most commonly abused prescription drugs are:

  • Opioid painkillers, such as oxycodone (OxyContin) and those containing hydrocodone (Vicodin)
  • Sedatives and tranquilizers, such as diazepam (Valium) and lorazepam (Ativan)
  • Stimulants, such as methylphenidate (Ritalin) — commonly used to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

Each category has its own specific symptoms of use or abuse.

Opioid painkillers

  • Constipation
  • Depression
  • Low blood pressure
  • Decreased respiration rate
  • Confusion

Sedatives and tranquilizers

  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Unsteady gait
  • Impaired judgment
  • Involuntary and rapid movement of the eyeball


When to see a doctor
Talk to your doctor if you think anyone in your family, including yourself, may be abusing prescription drugs.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, prescription drug abuse has increased as the drugs have become easier to obtain.

For example, U.S. prescriptions for stimulants — including those taken for ADHD — increased from around 5 million in 1991 to almost 35 million in 2007. Prescriptions for opioid painkillers such as oxycodone (OxyContin) and hydrocodone (Vicodin) increased from 40 million in 1991 to 180 million in 2007.

Most prescriptions are written for people who have a true medical need for these drugs. But many households have a drawer filled with old prescription bottles containing leftover drugs. Because prescription drugs have medical uses, teens often believe they are a safe alternative to street drugs.

In some cases, a doctor's prescription isn't even needed. Some countries don't require prescriptions for opioid painkillers or other commonly abused drugs, so they can be obtained from some Web sites without a prescription.

Because the medications associated with prescription drug abuse activate the brain's reward center, it's easy to become addicted to them. Addicts continue to use their drug of choice even when this use makes their lives worse — just like nicotine addicts continue smoking cigarettes even when it harms their health and they want to quit.

In addition to the risk of addiction, other complications of prescription drug abuse may vary, depending on the drug category.

Opioid painkillers

  • Increased risk of choking
  • Loss of menstrual periods and fertility
  • Slowed breathing rate, potential for breathing to stop

Sedatives and tranquilizers

  • Memory problems
  • Abnormal temperature regulation
  • Overdose can cause coma or death


  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures or tremors
  • Increased risk of stroke

Combining alcohol with prescription drugs, particularly sedatives and tranquilizers, is even more dangerous.

If it were easy to stop abusing prescription drugs, no one would become addicted to them. So don't hesitate to get help in conquering your abuse or addiction. Your doctor may suggest that you be admitted to a residential facility that can provide specialized treatment for your specific problem.


  • Opioid withdrawal. Buprenorphine and methadone may be used to ease the symptoms of withdrawal from opioid painkillers. However, the use of these agents to ease withdrawal from opioid addiction in the absence of pain problems is tightly regulated and subject to very strict guidelines and at times special licensure. Other drugs — including clonidine (Catapres), a medicine primarily used for high blood pressure — can be used to help manage opioid withdrawal symptoms.
  • Sedative withdrawal. In general, tapering sedatives can be medically complicated and should be done only after a consultation with a doctor comfortable with assessing and managing these issues. If you've used prescription sedatives for a long time, it may take weeks or even months to slowly taper off them. Mood-stabilizing drugs at critical points in the withdrawal process may help. Symptoms of withdrawal can mimic rebound anxiety, so your choice of doctor is critical in withdrawal from this class of drugs.
  • Stimulant withdrawal. There are no approved drugs used for the management of stimulant withdrawal. Treatment typically focuses on relieving withdrawal symptoms — such as sleep, appetite and mood disturbances.

Counseling — whether it be individual, group or family counseling — is often useful. In addition to helping determine what factors may have led to the prescription drug abuse, counseling can also help people learn the skills needed to help prevent its recurrence.

To reduce the availability of potentially addictive prescription drugs to teens, adults should secure such medications in a locked cabinet, and dispose of any unused pills properly. The federal government recommends flushing opioid painkillers down the toilet. Other unused medications can be taken out of their original containers, mixed with coffee grounds or with used kitty litter and then disposed of in the trash.

Doctors can reduce the likelihood of prescription drug abuse by taking thorough histories and providing careful follow-up for the people they've prescribed opioid painkillers, sedatives, tranquilizers or stimulants.

Drug manufacturers also are investigating ways in which commonly abused drugs can be made less addictive. The approaches being studied include:

  • Controlled-release drugs. Slowing the speed at which drugs enter the brain appears to reduce the effect that the drugs have on the brain's reward center.
  • Aversive ingredients. Adding secondary ingredients to drug formulations can provoke unpleasant side effects if the dose is too high, or if the pills are ground up and snorted or injected — a delivery system much more likely to result in addiction.
  • Digestive enzymes. Some drugs may eventually require exposure to digestive enzymes to be activated. This would greatly reduce the chances of these pills being taken in any way other than by mouth.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

A new drug treatment for Crohn's disease called Cimzia

Certolizumab pegol (Cimzia) was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of Crohn's disease. Crohn's disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) in which the lining of your digestive tract becomes inflamed, causing severe diarrhea and abdominal pain. Cimzia is prescribed for people with moderate to severe Crohn's who haven't been helped by other treatments.

Like the Crohn's medications infliximab and adalumimab, Cimzia works by inhibiting a protein produced by your immune system known as tumor necrosis factor (TNF). TNF plays an important role in causing inflammation and complications of Crohn's disease.

When you first start taking Cimzia, you get one injection every two weeks. After three injections — if your doctor determines it's working for you — you receive just one injection a month.

Cimzia is effective in reducing the signs and symptoms of Crohn's, but it also carries risks. The most common side effects when taking Cimzia are headaches, upper respiratory infections, abdominal pain, injection site reactions and nausea. Like other medications that inhibit TNF, Cimzia affects your immune system and puts you at increased risk of becoming seriously ill with certain infections, such as tuberculosis. If you get an infection due to Cimzia, you'll have to stop taking the drug right away.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Infidelity: When an affair is discovered

When an affair is first discovered, both partners feel as if the world has collapsed — you're left wondering whether your marriage can survive.

Few marital problems cause as much heartache and devastation as infidelity. Money worries, disagreements about children or a serious illness can strain a relationship. But because of the deep sense of betrayal, infidelity undermines the foundation of marriage itself.

Divorce doesn't have to be the inevitable resolution to infidelity. With counseling, time to heal and the mutual goal of rebuilding the relationship, some couples emerge from infidelity with a stronger and more honest relationship than before.

When an affair is discovered

The initial discovery of an extramarital affair can trigger a range of powerful emotions for both partners — shock, rage, shame, depression, guilt, remorse. Both members of the couple may cycle through all of these emotions many times in a single day — one minute vowing to end the marriage and the next wanting desperately to save it. At this point, it's important to take one step at a time:

  • Get support. For your own well-being, seek support from family, friends, a pastor or counselor — people you trust and feel comfortable with. Talking about your feelings with those you love can help you cope with the intensity of the situation. Objective support can help you clarify what you're feeling and put the affair into perspective. However, avoid confiding in people who you know will take sides — this tends to increase the emotional intensity of the situation.
  • Give each other some space. Both partners need a break from the emotional stress generated by the discovery of an affair. Although difficult, experts advise taking a "timeout" when emotions are running high.
  • Take time. Avoid delving into the intimate details of the affair with your partner at first. Postpone such discussions until you can talk without being overly accusatory or destructive. Take time to absorb the situation. You may need to air out your feelings with someone who is a good listener before you can have a constructive conversation with your spouse.

What is infidelity to you?

Infidelity isn't a single, clearly defined situation. There are different kinds of situations that some may consider infidelity. What's considered infidelity varies among couples and even between partners in a relationship. What may be acceptable for some couples may be unacceptable for others. Similarly, what is tolerable for one partner in a relationship may be intolerable for the other partner. For instance, is it infidelity if your partner is attracted to someone outside the marriage — but never acts on it? Is an emotional connection without physical intimacy infidelity? What about online relationships? If your partner is regularly chatting intimately with another person online, is that infidelity?

As a general rule, a person who is having an affair:

  • Feels a strong sexual attraction to someone other than his or her partner
  • Feels the need to keep the relationship a secret, and uses lies and deception to do so
  • Feels emotionally closer to this person than to his or her partner

Marital recovery

Recovering from an affair is a difficult and ongoing process. But it's possible to survive an affair. Marriage counseling can help you put the affair into perspective, explore underlying marital problems, learn how to rebuild and strengthen your relationship, and avoid divorce — if that's the mutual goal.

Understanding why an affair happened is crucial to recovering your marriage. Affairs can happen in happy relationships as well as troubled ones. The reasons vary:

  • The involved partner not getting enough from the marriage relationship or, conversely, not contributing enough to it
  • Low self-esteem
  • An addiction to sex, love or romance
  • Fear of intimacy
  • Immaturity
  • A life transition, such as the birth of a child or an empty nest
  • Acting on impulse while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs
  • Retaliation
  • A means of ending an unhappy marriage

Moving on: Steps to help recover your marriage

Although every relationship is different, often these steps are necessary to help mend a broken marriage:

  • End the affair. First, the affair must end. This includes any and all interaction and communication with the lover. True reinvestment in your marriage can't happen without this.
  • Be accountable. If you've had an affair, take responsibility for your actions. If you were cheated on, consider the role you may have played in your spouse's unhappiness and reasons for straying.
  • Determine your shared goal. Be sure you both agree that you want to mend your marriage — but don't make this decision in the heat of powerful emotions. It may take some time to sort out what's happened and to see if your relationship can heal. If you both arrive at the goal of reconciliation, it's important to realize that recovering the marriage will take time, energy and commitment.
  • See a marriage counselor. Find a marriage counselor who will help you restore your marriage if that is the mutual goal. Seek help from a licensed counselor who's trained in marital therapy and experienced in dealing with infidelity. Avoid therapists who see an affair as the end of marriage.
  • Identify the issues. Infidelity often points to underlying problems in your marriage. Examine your relationship to understand what has contributed to the affair, and what you need to do to prevent it from happening again.
  • Restore the trust. Make a serious commitment to rebuilding your marriage. Go to counseling together to help visibly confirm the commitment and to prevent secrecy from continuing to erode your relationship.
  • Talk about it. Once the initial shock is over, discuss what happened openly and honestly — no matter how difficult talking or hearing about this may be. Know that you might need the help of a marital therapist to be able to talk constructively about it.
  • Give it time. If you were the one cheated on, you can set the timetable for recovery. Often the person who's been unfaithful is anxious to "put all of this behind us" to help cope with his or her guilt. Allow each other enough time to understand and heal.
  • Forgive. For many people, this is the hardest part of recovering from an affair. Forgiveness isn't likely to come quickly or easily — it may be a lifelong process. Talk to a counselor or spiritual advisor about what forgiveness really means. Don't use forgiveness to cover uncomfortable issues that you think are too hard to face. If you're committed to your partner and your marriage, forgiveness tends to become easier over time.
  • Recommit to your future. What you're going through is emotionally devastating. But times like this can make people and marriages stronger than ever before.

The end — or not

Not every marriage touched by infidelity can or should be saved. Sometimes too much damage has been done, or both partners aren't committed. Painful as it is, it's important to acknowledge when this is the case. But if both of you are committed to rebuilding your relationship and you have the strength and determination for the task, the rewards can be great — a partnership that grows in depth, honesty and intimacy.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Ways to control high blood pressure

If you've been diagnosed with high blood pressure (a systolic pressure of 140 or above or a diastolic pressure of 90 or above) or with prehypertension (a systolic pressure between 120 and 139 or a diastolic pressure between 80 and 89), you might be worried about taking medication to bring your numbers down.

Don't assume medications are the key to controlling your high blood pressure (hypertension). Lifestyle plays an important role in treating your high blood pressure. If you successfully control your blood pressure with a healthy lifestyle, you may avoid, delay or reduce the need for medication.

Here are 10 lifestyle changes you can make to lower your blood pressure and keep it down

1. Lose those extra pounds and watch your waistline

Blood pressure often increases as weight increases. Losing just 10 pounds can help reduce your blood pressure significantly. In general, the more weight you lose, the lower your blood pressure. Losing weight also makes any blood pressure medications you're taking more effective.

Besides shedding pounds, you should also keep an eye on your waistline. Carrying too much weight around your waist can put you at greater risk of high blood pressure. In general, men are considered at risk if their waist measurement is greater than 40 inches (102 centimeters, or cm). And women, in general, are at risk if their waist measurement is greater than 35 inches (88 cm). However, for people of Asian descent, men are considered at risk if their waist measurement is greater than 36 inches (90 cm), and women are at risk if their waist measurement is greater than 32 inches (80 cm).

You and your doctor can determine your target weight and the best way to achieve it Your doctor might recommend that you eat healthier foods, exercise and change self-defeating behaviors, such as late-night snacking or big servings at meals.

2. Exercise regularly

Regular physical activity — at least 30 to 60 minutes most days of the week — can lower your blood pressure by 4 to 9 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). And it doesn't take long to see a difference. If you've been sedentary, increasing your activity can lower your blood pressure within just a few weeks.

If you have prehypertension, exercise can help you avoid developing full-blown hypertension. If you already have hypertension, regular physical activity can bring your blood pressure down to safer levels.

Talk to your doctor about developing an exercise program tailored to your needs and medical conditions. Your doctor can help determine whether you need any exercise restrictions. Even moderate activity for 10 minutes at a time, such as walking and light strength training, can help.

But avoid being a "weekend warrior" Trying to squeeze all your exercise in on the weekends to make up for weekday inactivity isn't a good strategy. If you have uncontrolled hypertension or heart problems, those sudden bursts of activity could actually be risky.

3. Eat a healthy diet

Eating a diet that is rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products and skimps on saturated fat and cholesterol can lower your blood pressure by up to 14 mm Hg. This eating plan is known as the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet.

It isn't easy to change your eating habits, but with these tips, you can adopt a healthy diet:

  • Evaluate your eating style. Keep a food diary, even for just a week, to assess your eating patterns and habits. Monitor what you eat, how much, when and why. This can shed surprising light on your true eating habits.
  • Consider boosting potassium. While most Americans get too much sodium, which increases their blood pressure, they often get too little potassium. Potassium can lessen the effects of sodium on blood pressure. The best source of potassium is food, such as fruits and vegetables, rather than supplements. Some packaged food products list potassium on the labels. Talk to your doctor about the potassium level that's best for you.
  • Be a smart consumer. Make a shopping list before heading to the supermarket to avoid picking up junk food. Read food labels when you shop, and stick to your healthy-eating plan when you're dining out, too.
  • Cut yourself some slack. Although the DASH diet is a lifelong eating guide, it doesn't mean you have to cut out all of the foods you love. It's OK to treat yourself occasionally to foods you wouldn't find on a DASH diet menu, like a candy bar or mashed potatoes with gravy.

    If you're craving something sweet, reaching for dark chocolate may be a good way to indulge without risk of raising your blood pressure Research suggests that flavonol, a substance found in cocoa beans and dark chocolate, may improve blood flow and lower your blood pressure. But, even the healthiest chocolate adds calories to your diet, so treat yourself sparingly.

4. Reduce sodium in your diet

Even a modest reduction in the sodium in your diet can reduce blood pressure by 2 to 8 mm Hg. And bigger cutbacks mean greater reductions in blood pressure. To decrease sodium in your diet, consider these tips:

  • Calculate your sodium consumption. Keep a food diary to estimate how much sodium you consume each day. You may be surprised at how much you're taking in. Most healthy adults need only between 1,500 and 2,400 milligrams (mg) of sodium a day. But if you have high blood pressure, are older than 50, are black, or have such chronic conditions as heart disease, kidney disease or diabetes, you may be more sensitive to sodium. In that case, aim for less than 1,500 mg of sodium a day.
  • Read food labels. Look at the sodium content before you buy. If possible, choose low-sodium alternatives. Even some foods you think are healthy, such as some vegetable juices, may contain surprisingly high amounts of sodium.
  • Eat fewer processed foods. Potato chips, frozen dinners and cured meats, such as bacon and processed lunch meats, are high in sodium.
  • Don't add salt. Just 1 level teaspoon of salt has 2,300 mg of sodium. Use herbs or spices, rather than salt, to add more flavor to your foods.
  • Ease into it. If you don't feel like you can drastically reduce your sodium consumption suddenly, cut back gradually. Your palate will adjust over time.
  • Eat more fresh foods. Fruits, vegetables and unprocessed grains contain little sodium.
  • Check your water softener. Water softeners are sometimes a hidden source of sodium in your water at home — although cold water to the kitchen often isn't softened If your water softener adds a lot of sodium to the water you drink, you might want to consider switching to a different water-purification system or buying demineralized water for drinking and cooking.

5. Limit alcohol consumption

Alcohol can be both good and bad for your health. In small amounts, it can help prevent heart attacks and coronary artery disease and potentially lower your blood pressure by 2.5 to 4 mm Hg. But that protective effect is lost if you drink too much alcohol — generally more than one drink a day for women and more than two a day for men.

If you drink more than moderate amounts of it, alcohol can actually raise blood pressure by several points. It can also reduce the effectiveness of high blood pressure medications.

  • Track your drinking patterns. Along with your food diary, keep an alcohol diary to track your true drinking patterns. One drink equals one 12-ounce (355 milliliters or mL) beer, one 5-ounce glass of wine (148 mL) or one 1.5-ounce of 80-proof distilled spirits (30 mL). If you're drinking more than the suggested amounts, cut back.
  • Consider tapering off. If you're a heavy drinker, suddenly eliminating all alcohol can actually trigger severe hypertension for several days. So when you stop drinking, do it with the supervision of your doctor or taper off slowly, over one to two weeks.
  • Don't binge. Binge drinking — having four or more drinks in a row — can cause large and sudden increases in blood pressure, in addition to other health problems Don't abstain during the week and make up for it on the weekend.

6. Avoid tobacco products and secondhand smoke

On top of all the other dangers of smoking, the nicotine in tobacco products can raise your blood pressure by 10 mm Hg or more for up to an hour after you smoke. Smoking throughout the day means your blood pressure may remain constantly high. In addition, chemicals in tobacco can damage your arteries and cause fluid retention, both of which can raise your blood pressure. And like alcohol, tobacco products can interfere with the effectiveness of your blood pressure medications.

Also, avoid secondhand smoke Inhaling smoke from others also puts you at risk of health problems, including high blood pressure and heart disease.

7. Cut back on caffeine

The role caffeine plays in blood pressure is still debatable. Drinking caffeinated beverages can temporarily cause a spike in your blood pressure. And some studies show that people who drink caffeine regularly have a higher average blood pressure, suggesting that caffeine might have a long-term impact. But other studies show you can develop a tolerance to caffeine so that it doesn't affect your blood pressure.

To see if caffeine raises your blood pressure, check your pressure within 30 minutes of drinking a cup of coffee or another caffeinated beverage you regularly drink. If your blood pressure increases by five to 10 points, you may be sensitive to the blood pressure raising effects of caffeine.

Regardless of your sensitivity to caffeine's effects, doctors recommend you drink no more than 200 milligrams a day — about the amount in two cups of coffee.

8. Reduce your stress

As with caffeine, the influence of stress on blood pressure isn't settled. Stress or anxiety can temporarily increase blood pressure.

You need to know what stresses you before you can try to reduce your stress. Take some time to think about what causes you to feel stressed, such as work, family, finances or illness. Once you know what's causing your stress, consider how you can eliminate or reduce stress.

If you can't eliminate all of your stressors, you can at least cope with them in a healthier way Take breaks for deep-breathing exercises. Get a massage or take up yoga or meditation. If self-help doesn't work, seek out a professional for counseling. Try meditation or ask your doctor about purchasing a machine that helps teach slow deep breathing.

9. Get regular health care

If you have high blood pressure, you may need to monitor your blood pressure at home. Learning to self-monitor your blood pressure with an upper arm monitor can help motivate you. Talk to your doctor about home monitoring. Make sure you ask about what size arm cuff you should use and what time of day you should measure your blood pressure. Also, a record of your blood pressure readings helps your doctor know if your medications are working or if they need to be adjusted.

Regular visits to your doctor are also likely to become a part of your normal routine. These visits will help keep tabs on your blood pressure - and ensure that you don't neglect other health concerns.

  • Have a primary care doctor. People who don't have a primary care doctor find it harder to control their blood pressure. If you can, visit the same health care facility or professional for all of your health care needs.
  • Visit your doctor regularly. If your blood pressure isn't well controlled, or if you have other medical problems, you might need to visit your doctor every month to review your treatment and make adjustments If your blood pressure is under control, you might need to visit your doctor only every six to 12 months, depending on other conditions you might have. People who have frequent blood pressure checks at their doctor's office are more likely to control their blood pressure than are those who go a year or more between visits.

10. Get a support system

Supportive family and friends can help improve your health. They may encourage you to take care of yourself, drive you to the doctor's office or embark on an exercise program with you to keep your blood pressure low.

Talk to your family and friends about the dangers of high blood pressure. If they understand the potential complications of uncontrolled high blood pressure, they're more likely to support your efforts to change unhealthy lifestyle habits.

If you find you need support beyond your family and friends, consider joining a support group This may put you in touch with people who can give you an emotional or morale boost, and who can offer practical tips to cope with your condition.

The payoff: Healthier living

For most people, these are not drastic changes in daily life, but they offer significant rewards. When your blood pressure is under control, your risk of life-threatening complications, such as heart attack and stroke, decreases and you may live a longer and happier life.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Disordered Eating, Survey Suggests

Sixty-five percent of American women between the ages of 25 and 45 report having disordered eating behaviors, according to the results of a new survey by Self Magazine in partnership with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

An additional 10 percent of women report symptoms consistent with eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder, meaning that a total of 75 percent of American women surveyed endorse some unhealthy thoughts, feelings or behaviors related to food or their bodies.

Survey found that these behaviors cut across racial and ethnic lines and are not limited to any one group . Women who identified their ethnic backgrounds as Hispanic or Latina, white, black or African American and Asian were all represented among the women who reported unhealthy eating behaviors.”

Most surprising was the unexpectedly high number of women who engage in unhealthy purging activities. More than 31 percent of women in the survey reported that in an attempt to lose weight they had induced vomiting or had taken laxatives, diuretics or diet pills at some point in their life. Among these women, more than 50 percent engaged in purging activities at least a few times a week and many did so every day.

Although the type of disordered eating behaviors the survey uncovered don’t necessarily have potentially lethal consequences like anorexia or bulimia nervosa, women report they are associated with emotional and physical distress. And despite the stereotype that eating issues affect mostly young women, the survey found that those in their 30s and 40s report disordered eating at virtually the same rates. Findings show that:

  • 75 percent of women report disordered eating behaviors or symptoms consistent with eating disorders; so three out of four have an unhealthy relationship with food or their bodies
  • 67 percent of women (excluding those with actual eating disorders) are trying to lose weight
  • 53 percent of dieters are already at a healthy weight and are still trying to lose weight
  • 39 percent of women say concerns about what they eat or weigh interfere with their happiness
  • 37 percent regularly skip meals to try to lose weight
  • 27 percent would be “extremely upset” if they gained just five pounds
  • 26 percent cut out entire food groups
  • 16 percent have dieted on 1,000 calories a day or fewer
  • 13 percent smoke to lose weight
  • 12 percent often eat when they’re not hungry; 49 percent sometimes do

Eating habits that women think are normal – such as banishing carbohydrates, skipping meals and in some cases extreme dieting – may actually be symptoms of disordered eating.

The online survey garnered responses from 4,023 women who answered detailed questions about their eating habits. Results and analysis appear in Self’s May 2008 issue.

Bulik and study co-author Lauren Reba-Harrelson, a third year clinical psychology graduate student in UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences, will give a presentation about the survey and their collaboration with Self on May 17 at the Academy for Eating Disorders’ 2008 International Conference on Eating Disorders in Seattle.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Dangers of Excessive Body Fat

The common reason why people reduce weight is not only to look good but also to avoid the dangers of excessive body fat and being obese. Weight loss helps to be fit and healthy and also increases resistance power. Obesity is a health disorder and may cause heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Obese people’s cholesterol level tends to shoot up. It occurs when the accumulation of body fat exceeds a limit of 25% in men and over 32% in women. One out of three Americans possess extra body fat and study shows that almost 20% of them suffer from obesity.

If you have obese disorder you will notice breathing becomes a difficulty. The heart finds the process of pumping blood strenuous. Blood pressure increases and also the heart become larger. When the cholesterol levels shoots up, it causes depositing of plaque narrowing the arteries and increases the blood pressure even more. This is a risking factor that can lead to heart attacks. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, body fat reduction is more effective than any drug therapy as cardiac structure modulator.

Nearly 25% of problems related to the heart and the related vessels are caused due to obesity. Clinically it is proven that cancer and body fat are inter-related. Fat are considered as the storage areas of carcinogens which are the cancer causing chemicals. This may occur in women as well as men. Obesity disturbs the hormonal balance and messes up production of insulin and absorption of blood sugar. The excess amount of sugar present in the blood is transformed into fat globules. All this leads to diabetes and diseases related to the gall bladder, intestines, osteoarthritis, and stroke. On an average, people tend to gain one pound each year after 25 years of age. By the age of 50 you would have gained 25 pounds. This slows down metabolic rate and causes fatigue. At the same time, if you don’t exercise you will gain more weight which is risky. These are the major ill effects caused by obesity, apart from fatigue and low stamina and incompetence in physical activities.

A sedentary lifestyle contributes too in a negative way. Thus in order to avoid all this it is better to lead a healthy lifestyle. Less use of oil and dairy products, low fat meals and intake of water keeps the metabolism in a good condition. A good and an effective exercise regime and periodic review of the health condition helps you to assess the body condition better and adjust your eating and exercising patterns accordingly. This can be easily achieved with the help of a fitness trainer or through experienced guidance. So follow a weight reduction program and go on a diet to avoid fattening food, this itself will contribute in a major way to a reduce obesity. Believe in natural weight reduction and don’t force your body to achieve it. Eventually things will fall in place and you will feel fresh and healthy.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Caffeine, green tea and tart cherries may guard against multiple sclerosis, cancer and cardiovascular troubles

Caffeine, green tea and tart cherries may guard against multiple sclerosis, cancer and cardiovascular troubles, respectively, new research suggests.

All three findings, which confirm the healthy properties of these foods, were presented this week at the Experimental Biology 2008 meeting in San Diego.

Caffeine appears to help ward off multiple sclerosis, at least in a preliminary animal study. Mice given caffeine were 75 percent less likely to develop the animal model of MS than those not given it, said study senior author Dr. Margaret Bynoe, an assistant professor of microbiology and immunology at Cornell University School of Veterinary Medicine, in Ithaca, N.Y.

MS is a debilitating autoimmune disease, and about 400,000 Americans are affected, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. In MS, the immune system attacks the myelin, the fatty sheath that protects the nerve fibers in the central nervous system.

The myelin, as it is damaged, forms scar tissue that prevents or hinders nerve impulses from getting through, leading to a variety of symptoms such as numbness in the limbs or loss of vision. Treatments include medications, physical therapy and the use of assistive devices.

Why does caffeine help?

Caffeine is known to block a compound called adenosine. "Inhibiting adenosine prevents the infiltration of lymphocytes [a type of white blood cell involved in immune system response] into the central nervous system," Bynoe explained. "If the lymphocytes cannot get in, you cannot get the inflammation characteristic of MS. The inflammatory response is what causes the damage to the myelin covering the nerve cells."

Bynoe believes her team is the first to demonstrate this mechanism.

In the animals given caffeine, the equivalent of 6 to 8 cups of coffee a day for humans, "there was a reduction in the inflammation, the pathology, a reduction in the brain pathology," Bynoe said.

Adenosine plays a crucial role in many body processes, including energy transfer, the promotion of sleep and the suppression of arousal. On the cellular level, caffeine can bind to the same receptors as adenosine, preventing the adenosine from attaching to cells in the central nervous system.

The new finding is "certainly deserving of further study," said Dr. John Richert, executive vice president of research and clinical programs for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

But he had a caveat: "It's important to note that EAE [the animal model of MS] is not MS, and many potential treatments that have worked on EAE have not worked on MS."

In a second study, green tea extracts, already known for their antioxidant properties that help protect against cancer, had anticancer effects on cancer cell lines in the laboratory.

Scientists wanted to find out whether undigested extracts of black and green tea cancer-fighting compounds, known as catechins, would have more anticancer activity against the cancer cells than digested extracts, said study author Joshua Bomser, an associate professor of nutrition at Ohio State University.

"We set out to look at the effect of digestion, subjecting tea extracts to simulated digestion in the lab setting and looking for changes in biological activity between digested and undigested samples exposed to cancer cell lines," Bomser said.

In the laboratory study, they found that whether the extracts were digested or not and the type of tea affected the anticancer activity, as did the type of cancer cell.

"For the black tea, digestion didn't have much of an impact on colon cancer activity," he said. However, the anticancer effect of the green tea on the colon cancer cells was about 50 percent less when the extracts were digested. And the gastric cancer cells, overall, were less sensitive to the anticancer effects than were the colon cancer cells.

More study is needed, Bomser said, but, "If catechins [such as EGCG] are in fact the primary compounds responsible for anticancer activity rather than the breakdown products, you want to maintain and absorb as many catechins [as possible]," he said.

In a previous study, one researcher on the current team found that one way to protect the catechins from breaking down was to add lemon or vitamin C to tea.

The tea research is interesting, and the results not unexpected, said Tom Gasiewicz, chairman of the department of environmental medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center, who has studied tea's health benefits extensively.

"To me, it's not unexpected that digestion would be accompanied by loss of [anticancer] activity," he said. "The bottom line is, we still don't know what concentrations are effective and have anticancer activity in other organs besides the GI tract."

Yet another team of researchers found in animal studies that tart cherries help reduce inflammation, in turn potentially reducing the risk of getting heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Inflammation is a normal process that fights infection or injury, but when it's chronic, it increases the risk for heart problems and diabetes.

The cherries contain antioxidants called anthocyanins, believed to give them their anti-inflammatory powers. The cherry study was funded by the Cherry Marketing Institute, but the institute had no other role in the study, conducted at the University of Michigan.

Compounds in the cherries, said Gasiewicz, may work in similar ways as the tea extracts.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Can beta blockers, such as atenolol, cause weight gain?

Weight gain can occur as a side effect of some beta blockers, especially the older ones, such as atenolol (Tenormin) and metoprolol (Lopressor, Toprol-XL). The average weight gain is between 2 and 4 pounds (0.9 and 1.8 kilograms). Newer beta blockers, such as carvedilol (Coreg) and nebivolol (Bystolic), are not associated with weight gain.

Beta blockers are used to treat a variety of conditions, including high blood pressure and migraines. The exact cause of weight gain associated with some beta blockers isn't clearly understood. But it may be due to a lower metabolic rate and reduced physical activity. In addition, if you switch from a diuretic to a beta blocker, you may gain a few pounds of weight that the diuretic kept off.

It is important to note that weight gain may also be due to fluid retention, which may indicate worsening heart failure. Talk to your doctor if you experience unexplained weight gain soon after starting a beta blocker — especially if you gain more than 3 to 4 pounds (1.3 to 1.8 kilograms). If you have sudden weight gain — a weight gain of 3 to 4 pounds in 24 to 48 hours — consult your doctor promptly.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

What to do when someone is suicidal

Certainly, not everyone who has thoughts of suicide or talks about suicide actually attempts it. But most people who take their own life have expressed their intention at some time. That's why it's important to take any talk or threat of suicide seriously, especially when someone has depression or another mental disorder, is intoxicated, or is behaving impulsively or recklessly.

While it may not be possible to prevent all suicides, your active involvement may make a difference in saving a life. Learn effective, compassionate ways to intervene and guide someone toward professional help when he or she may be considering suicide.

Know who's at risk of suicide

Understanding who's at a higher risk of suicide can help prevent a tragedy. While you don't necessarily need to constantly monitor someone who's at higher risk, you may be more alert for possible problems. Factors that may increase someone's risk of suicide include:

  • Previous suicide attempts
  • Having a psychiatric disorder, such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or personality disorders
  • Alcohol or substance abuse
  • A family history of mental disorders or substance abuse
  • A family history of suicide
  • Family violence, including physical or sexual abuse
  • Firearms in the home
  • A significant medical illness, such as cancer or chronic pain

You can't always tell when a loved one or friend is considering suicide. But here are some typical warning signs:

  • Talking about suicide, including making such statements as "I'm going to kill myself," "I wish I were dead" or "I wish I hadn't been born"
  • Securing the means to commit suicide, such as getting a gun or stockpiling pills
  • Withdrawing from social contact and wanting to be left alone
  • Dramatic mood swings, such as being emotionally high one day and deeply discouraged the next
  • Being preoccupied with death, dying or violence
  • Feeling trapped or hopeless about a situation
  • Increased use of alcohol or drugs
  • Changing normal routine, including eating or sleeping patterns
  • Engaging in risky or self-destructive behavior, such as using drugs or driving recklessly
  • Giving away belongings or getting affairs in order
  • Saying goodbye to people as if they won't be seen again
  • Developing personality changes, such as becoming very outgoing after being shy
Also, don't always expect to see warning signs of suicide. Some people keep their thoughts of suicide secret or deny having suicidal intentions even when directly asked. And many who consider or attempt suicide do so when you thought they should be feeling better — during what may seem like a recovery from depression, for instance. That's because they may finally muster the emotional energy to take action on their suicidal thoughts.

The best way to find out if someone is considering suicide is to directly but gently ask. Asking them won't give them the idea or push them into doing something self-destructive. To the contrary, your willingness to ask can decrease the risk of suicide by giving them an opportunity to talk about their feelings. If someone denies having suicidal intentions but you're still worried, continue to gently raise the issue.

You can ask open-ended questions about their feelings or specific questions about suicide. Here are examples of questions you can ask someone you're concerned about:

  • Are you thinking about dying?
  • Are you thinking about hurting yourself?
  • Are you thinking about suicide?
  • Have you thought about how you would do it?
  • Do you know when you would do it?
  • Do you have the means to do it?
  • How are you coping with what's been happening in your life?
  • Do you ever feel like just giving up?

If a friend or loved one is considering suicide, he or she needs professional help. Remember, it's not your job to become a substitute for a mental health provider. Also, don't tell him or her that you promise not to tell anyone. The safety of your friend or loved one is of the utmost importance. Don't worry about losing a friendship when someone's life is at stake. Besides, carrying a secret like this is a big burden for you emotionally.

If you believe someone is at imminent risk of suicide or harming himself or herself or has made a suicide attempt, don't leave the person alone. Call 911 or your local emergency services provider right away. If necessary, take the person to a hospital emergency department yourself.

If possible, find out if he or she is under the influence of alcohol or drugs or may have taken an overdose. You may have to remove items that could become weapons of self-destruction, such as guns, knives or pills. But don't put yourself in harm's way by doing so.

If the danger of suicide or self-harm isn't imminent, offer to work together to find appropriate help, and then follow through on your promise. Someone who is suicidal or has severe depression may not have the energy or motivation to find help on their own.

Ways you can help include:

  • Finding a qualified doctor or mental health provider
  • Taking him or her to appointments
  • Sorting through health insurance policies or benefit information

Many types of help and support are available to people considering suicide. If your friend or loved one doesn't want to consult a doctor or mental health provider, suggest finding help from a support group, crisis center, faith community, teacher or other trusted confidante.

There's no way to predict with certainty who will attempt suicide. And although you're not responsible for preventing someone from taking his or her own life, your intervention may help him or her see that other options are available to stay safe and get treatment.

Be supportive and empathetic, not judgmental. Listen to his or her concerns without interruption. Reassure him or her that help is available and that with appropriate treatment he or she can feel better about life again. Don't be patronizing by telling someone that "everything will be OK," that "things could be worse" or that "you have everything to live for."

Direct questioning, supportive listening and gentle but persistent guidance can help you bring hope and appropriate treatment to someone who believes suicide will offer the only relief.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

What are the health risks associated with HPV in men?

In fact, most sexually active adults — both men and women — will acquire HPV at some time in their lives.

Men with healthy immune systems rarely develop HPV-related health problems. However, genital HPV infection is one cause of penis (penile) cancer. It's also associated with cancer of the anus and other genital cancers. These cancers are most common in males with HIV infection. In addition, HPV has been linked to oropharyngeal cancer. The oropharynx is the part of the throat just behind the mouth.

Genital HPV spreads through sexual contact. Both men and women can pass it to their partners. Certain types of HPV cause genital warts, but the virus usually causes no signs or symptoms. One way to prevent HPV infection is to avoid direct contact with the virus. Using a condom every time you have sex can significantly reduce your risk of contracting HPV.

The Food and Drug Administration has approved a vaccine that offers protection from the most dangerous types of HPV, but it's currently available only to girls and women. Studies are under way to test if the HPV vaccine is also safe for men, and whether it is effective at protecting against genital warts and certain penile and anal cancers.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Happily married people have Happy Heart

Happily married people have lower blood pressure than unhappy married people or singles, a Brigham Young University study says.

On the other hand, even having a supportive social network did not translate into a blood pressure benefit for singles or unhappy married people, according to the study.

"There seem to be some unique health benefits from marriage. It's not just being married that benefits health -- what's really the most protective of health is having a happy marriage," study author Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a psychologist who specializes in relationships and health, said in a prepared statement.

The study included 204 married and 99 single adults who wore portable blood-pressure monitors for 24 hours. The monitors recorded blood pressure at random intervals and provided a total of about 72 readings.

"We wanted to capture participants' blood pressure doing whatever they normally do in everyday life. Getting one or two readings in a clinic is not really representative of the fluctuations that occur throughout the day," Holt-Lunstad said.

Overall, happily married people scored four points lower on the blood pressure readings than single adults. The study also found that blood pressure among married people -- especially those in happy marriages -- dipped more during sleep than in single people.

"Research has shown that people whose blood pressure remains high throughout the night are at much greater risk of cardiovascular problems than people whose blood pressure dips," Holt-Lunstad said.

The study was published in the March 20 issue of the journal Annals of Behavioral Medicine.

The study also found that unhappily married adults have higher blood pressure than both happily married and single adults.

Holt-Lunstad noted that spouses can encourage healthy habits in one another, such as eating a healthy diet and having regular doctor visits. People in happy marriages also have a source of emotional support, she said.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Testicular cancer gauge often not used

A standard part of testicular cancer care isn’t used in more than half of all patients who have the condition, researchers at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center have found.

Serum-based tumor markers, which are one indicator of the presence of cancer cells, are helpful in several aspects of the care of patients with testis cancer, including diagnosis, prognostication and surveillance for disease recurrence following treatment. Doctors typically rely on a series of three tumor markers with this type of cancer.

In a review of more than 4,700 testicular cancer cases, a combination of two of these tumor markers were used less than half of the time, while all three tumor markers were measured in just 16 percent of the cases.

The authors of the study found that only about 45 percent of cases used the tumor markers AFP (alpha fetoprotein) and HCG (human chorionic gonadotrophin). Those two were used in conjunction with a third tumor marker, LDH or lactate dehydrogenase, 16 percent of the time. The results are reported in Urologic Oncology, Seminars and Original Investigations.

“Tumor markers play a central role in showing physicians how a patient is responding to treatment and whether the disease has recurred,” says lead author Scott M. Gilbert, M.D., clinical lecturer in the U-M Department of Urology. “We were extremely surprised by the low rates of usage.”

He notes that information obtained from the use of tumor markers impacts the treatment and potentially the outcome in patients with testicular cancer. If markers remain elevated after therapy, it indicates the cancer remains, or if they begin to rise during the surveillance period following successful treatment, the cancer has returned. Gilbert says he and his colleagues regularly check all three tumor markers in their patients.

A majority of the sites in the study failed to show improvement during the study interval, and one – Detroit – experienced a decrease in the use of tumor markers by the end of the study.

The authors point out that the low rates of usage don’t necessarily indicate that the tumor markers were being used as infrequently as the numbers would suggest. One explanation could be that the documentation in medical records was poor, and incidents of tumor marker use were not always recorded, says senior author Brent K. Hollenbeck, M.D., M.S., assistant professor in the U-M Department of Urology.

“Even if it isn’t a problem related to the care of the patients, it is a quality problem at the medical centers that are not recording the data properly. Either way, major improvements need to occur,” he says.

But other data in the study suggest that the reporting of tumor marker use may not be the problem. Using the data from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) program, the researchers found substantially more documentation of PSA use in prostate cancer patients compared to the testicular cancer tumor markers. That information supports the notion that recording may not be the problem, but that the use of testicular cancer markers is in fact very low.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Testosterone levels and risk of depression

Low testosterone levels in older men are associated with an increased risk of depression.

Between 2001 and 2004, researchers at the University of Western Australia in Perth studied 3,987 males aged 71 to 89. The men provided demographic and health information and were tested for depression and cognitive difficulties. The researchers also checked the men's testosterone levels.

The 203 men who met the criteria for depression had significantly lower total and free (not bound to proteins) testosterone levels than those who weren't depressed. After controlling for other factors, such as cognitive scores, education level and body-mass index, the researchers concluded that men in the lowest quintile (20 percent) of free testosterone were three times more likely to have depression compared to those in the highest quintile.

While more research is needed to determine how low hormone levels may be linked to depression risk, the study authors believe it may be caused by changes in the levels of neurotransmitters or hormones in the brain.

"A randomized controlled trial is required to determine whether reducing prolonged exposure to low free testosterone is associated with a reduction in prevalence of depression in elderly men," the researchers wrote. "If so, older men with depression may benefit from systematic screening of free testosterone concentration, and testosterone supplementation may contribute to the successful treatment of hypogonadal (with low hormone levels) older men with depression."

Between 2 percent and 5 percent of people are affected by depression at any given time, according to background information in the study. Women are more likely than men to be depressed, but that difference disappears at about age 65. A number of previous studies have suggested that sex hormones may be a factor.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Breastfeeding mums can drink moderately

Breastfeeding women can drink moderate amounts of alcohol without endangering their baby, Sweden's National Food Administration said Tuesday, changing its previous recommendation to abstain entirely.

"There is no medical reason to abstain completely from alcohol while breastfeeding," Annica Sohlstroem, head of the agency's nutrition department, said in a statement.

"The amount of alcohol that the child can ingest through the breastmilk is small if you drink one or two glasses of wine" per week, she said.

The new advice is an about-face for the agency, which has for the past decade or so advised women to avoid alcohol while breastfeeding, and is based on current medical research.

The recommendation is however still a proposal and will be sent to other government agencies for consideration.

The agency, which aims to monitor food quality sold and produced in Sweden, stressed its intention was not to encourage women to drink while breastfeeding and strongly advised women to continue to abstain from alcohol while pregnant.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Baby face sparks a response in the adult brain

Scientists report that sophisticated imaging showed that seeing a baby's face lit up a specific region of the adult brain associated with reward circuitry. This "Christmas tree" effect didn't occur when adults looked at another adult face, suggesting there's a neural basis for protective, nurturing feelings triggered by babies.

And the findings could also shed some light on postnatal depression, which affects some 13 percent of new mothers, the study authors said.

Using an imaging technique called magnetoencephalography, scientists led by researchers at the University of Oxford in England scanned the faces of 12 adults as they looked at images of 13 infant and 13 adult faces. The study participants had never seen the images before. The faces were matched for emotional content, attractiveness and other features.

Brain activity started in the medial orbitofrontal cortex region of the brain within one-seventh of a second after seeing infant faces, but not adult faces. The responses were considered too rapid to be consciously controlled.

This region of the brain has been implicated in reward behavior; it also appears to be involved in visual object recognition. And depression has been linked to another region of the brain -- the subgenual cingulate cortex -- that is connected to the medial orbitofrontal cortex.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Married people are no more happier than singles

Attention all victims of nagging mothers: getting married is not necessarily the key to achieving eternal bliss. Most people were no more satisfied with life after marriage than they were prior to marriage in a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

The study, which measured life satisfaction levels of more than 24,000 individuals living in Germany, looked at how people adapt to both positive and negative life events, according to author Ed Diener, a psychology professor at the University of Illinois. Results conclusively showed that though people react strongly to events such as marriage, they return to their personal "set point of happiness" after a certain period of time.

Some people are happier than others, that's clear. And there are things you can do to make yourself happier, but something external like getting married isn't a royal road to changing your set point

The study's authors call this process of returning to one's set point "hedonic leveling" because of its equalizing effect on people's overall happiness levels. "If you become super happy, there are forces that will bring you back to a more average level [of happiness]" . "People tend to be slightly to very happy, but not ecstatic all the time"

Study results, for example, showed, spikes in respondents' happiness levels both before and after marriage, but the increase was minimal—approximately one-tenth of one point on an 11-point scale—and was followed by a return to prior levels of happiness.

On a positive note when something bad happens, humans react negatively, but bounce back over time, says Diener. The study found that after about five years, even widows and widowers returned to the levels of happiness they had before their spouses' passing.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Smokers might benefit from earlier colon cancer screening

New evidence suggests screening for colorectal cancer, which is now recommended to begin at age 50 for most people, should start five to 10 years earlier for individuals with a significant lifetime exposure to tobacco smoke.
An examination of 3,450 cases found that current smokers were diagnosed with colon cancer approximately seven years earlier than people who never smoked. The study is also one of the first to link exposure to second-hand smoke, especially early in life, with a younger age for colon cancer onset.
Over the 40-year period smoking habits changed, with a decrease in the percentage of current or active smokers and an increase in the percentage of former smokers. Still, the age at colon cancer diagnosis was 6.8 years younger among current smokers and 4.3 years younger for former smokers who quit less than five years ago, the results showed. People who quit more than five years ago had no significant increased risk.

However, people who reported they began smoking as young teens (before age 17) or who smoked heavily (1 pack a day or more) were the most likely to be diagnosed with cancer much younger than their never-smoking counterparts. Past exposure to second-hand-smoke was an additional, significant risk factor, compared to never smoking. In fact, when active smokers and passive smoking were combined into one subgroup, the age at cancer diagnosis was nearly 10 years earlier.

Although smoking is a well-known risk factor for many cancers, only recent studies have suggested that cigarettes may cause colon cancer.

The biological reasons for the cigarette smoke-colon cancer risk are unclear. However, researchers believe that cigarette smoke reduces the body’s resistance to malignancies, just as smoking can depress immune function in general, impairing the ability to fight off infections and viruses. Carcinogens from smoke reach the bowel through direct circulation or by swallowing smoke and passing it through the intestines.

Colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer among men and women. Genetics account for about 10 percent of new cases, the study said, while more than 75 percent of the cases arise from sporadic mutations and/or environmental and lifestyle factors such as smoking, a poor diet, alcohol use, lack of exercise and obesity.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Older women more susceptible to depression

Older women appear more susceptible to depression and more likely to stay depressed but less likely to die while depressed than older men, factors that contribute to the higher burden of depression among older women.
Major depression affects approximately 1 percent to 2 percent of older adults living in the community, but as many as 20 percent experience symptoms of depression, according to background information in the article. These symptoms are more likely to affect older women than older men for reasons that are unclear.
The findings were consistent over the four time intervals, providing strong evidence that depression is more persistent in older women than older men, the authors note. This is surprising, because women are more likely to receive medications or other treatment for depression

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Hormones raise breast cancer risk

Hormone replacement therapy can raise the risk of an uncommon type of breast cancer fourfold after just three years, U.S. researchers reported on Monday.
They found women who took combined estrogen/progestin hormone-replacement therapy for three years or more had four times the usual risk of lobular breast cancer.

For many years, doctors had thought hormone therapy could protect women from chronic diseases, especially heart disease.

But use of HRT plunged after the 2002 Women's Health Initiative study found that HRT could raise the risk not only of breast and ovarian cancer, but of strokes and other serious conditions.

Research since then shows the incidence of breast cancer dropped by 8.6 percent between 2001 and 2004 in the United States -- along with the decline in HRT use.

Doctors stress that younger women who need the drugs to relieve serious symptoms of menopause should still consider taking them because new, lower-dose formulations are available and doctors now know to prescribe them for short periods of time.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Women heart Health

While it is true that men generally suffer from heart disease at an earlier age, it was not recognized until recently that women suffer from heart disease in greater numbers than men later in life.

There are several controllable risk factors that women can monitor to take charge of their heart health:

- Cholesterol
According to a recent survey by the Society for Women's Health Research, less than one-third of women know their cholesterol number. A person’s total cholesterol is made up of low density lipoproteins (LDL), high density lipoproteins (HDL), and triglycerides, another fatty substance found in the blood. A desirable level of total cholesterol is less than 200. Some research indicates that low levels of HDL cholesterol and high triglyceride levels are a stronger risk factor for women than they are for men.

- Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart attack and the most important risk factor for stroke. It is particularly important for African American women, who are more likely to have hypertension than are Caucasian women

- Sedentary Lifestyle
Quite simply, the absence of physical activity can be damaging to your heart. Some studies show that heart disease is almost twice as likely to develop in sedentary people as it is in those who are more active.

- Diabetes
Women with diabetes have between two to six times the risk of developing heart disease and are at much greater risk of having a stroke than women without diabetes.

- Obesity
Being overweight can lead to high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, and diabetes. It is also a risk factor by itself for heart disease.

The good news is that there are ways to combat these risks. Exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy weight are extremely important. Eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables and low in saturated fats is also important. Quitting smoking and not using tobacco products can also help to prevent heart disease.

The Society reminds you to speak with your health care provider about monitoring your cholesterol and blood pressure levels to check for any changes. The American Heart Association recommends that everyone 20 and older should have their cholesterol measured at least once every five years.

Taking charge of these risk factors early in life can make a big difference to your heart health as you age.