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Friday
Apr022010

8 Signs of Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer remains the second most common cause of cancer deaths among men. According to the American Cancer Society, when final figures are tallied, about 192,000 new cases will have been diagnosed in the year 2009. The risk of developing prostate cancer increases significantly after the age of 65.

Many cases of prostate cancer are discovered during routine blood work that reveals an elevated prostate-specific antigen (PSA) level - a possible indicator of prostate cancer. If you have any of the following symptoms, contact your physician:

  1. Frequent urges to urinate, especially at night.
  2. Difficulty starting urination or holding it back.
  3. Weak or interrupted urinary flow.
  4. Painful or burning urination.
  5. Erectile dysfunction.
  6. Painful ejaculation.
  7. Blood in urine or semen.
  8. Recurrent, persistent pain or stiffness in the lower back, hips, or upper thighs.

Find more information on prostate cancer - and the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine offers a one hour, online course for everyone on prostate cancer. Learn more.

Thursday
Apr012010

HRT and Heart Disease: The Risk is Real

Hormone replacement therapy doesn't help protect post-menopausal women from heart disease, as once thought, and new evidence suggests that in some cases, it can actually increase the risk. A study published in the Feb. 15, 2010, issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine found a possible elevated risk of coronary heart disease among women who started taking the combination of estrogen plus progestin within 10 years after menopause. The additional risk was seen in the first two years on HRT and persisted for up to six years after HRT use. The researchers found that overall, for the first two years on HRT, women had more than double the normal risk for heart attack and other coronary problems. Among those who took HRT for eight years, the increased risk was 69 percent. Today, HRT is recommended only for the relief of severe hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms and should be taken at the lowest effective dose for the shortest possible time.

My take? Heart problems aren't the only risks associated with HRT. In 2002, the National Institutes of Health shut down an arm of its huge study of HRT's risks and benefits after investigators saw increased risks of breast cancer, strokes, heart attack and blood clots. I've never believed that all women need HRT for protection against osteoporosis and relief of menopausal symptoms. Weight-bearing exercise, strength training, and taking up to 1,200 mg of calcium plus 2,000 IU of vitamin D daily, can help protect bones. Black cohosh (Cimifiuga racemosa) can help alleviate hot flashes and other menopausal discomforts in some women.

Thursday
Apr012010

Grazing for Energy

A large meal can trigger your body to release more insulin, causing blood sugar (glucose) levels to drop and leaving you in a fatigue-inducing slump. Skipping meals only deprives your body of needed calories, and sets you up for energy-draining overeating at your next meal. Instead, eat smaller meals or healthy snacks throughout the day, which will help keep blood sugar levels steady.

Wednesday
Mar312010

Green Tea May Prevent Eye Diseases

Catechins, a group of powerful antioxidants in green tea, may be good for the eyes - and actually ward off some eye diseases - if findings from an animal study in Hong Kong hold up. Investigators there gave lab rats green tea to drink and then tested their eyes to see if the tea's catechins had any beneficial effect. They found that the antioxidants reduced oxidative stress in the animals' eyes for up to 20 hours. Based on these findings, the Chinese researchers suggested that catechins are absorbed by the lens, retina and other parts of the eyes, although they don't yet know how the antioxidants get to the eyes from the gastrointestinal system. Based on their findings, the investigators said that catechins might protect the eyes from oxidative stress and, in humans, might help prevent such common eye diseases as glaucoma. The researchers noted that other antioxidants capable of protecting the eyes include vitamin C, vitamin E, lutein and zeanxanthin. The green tea study was published in the February 10, 2009, issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Tuesday
Mar302010

Bitter Melon for Breast Cancer

And more news on breast cancer...

Bitter melon extract (Momordica charantia) may help prevent breast cancer if new findings from St. Louis University are confirmed in future studies. So far, the evidence has been seen only in the lab:  when bitter melon was pitted against breast cancer cells in test tubes, it slowed cell growth and division and induced the death of the cancer cells. To determine whether bitter melon extract also works to prevent breast cancer in women, more studies must establish how it works, and if it has the same anti-cancer effects in women as it has in the lab. Bitter melon is also being studied as a treatment for diabetes, AIDS and some other types of cancer, although so far there have been no human studies. It has been observed to lower blood sugar, but no studies have established a safe and effective dose. The breast cancer findings were published online on February 23, 2010, in Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association of Cancer Research.

Monday
Mar292010

Aspirin May Cut Breast Cancer Death Risk

In this study, the women, all participants in the long-running Nurses' Health Study, had been taking aspirin regularly, usually to protect against heart disease. But researchers who followed 4,164 of the nurses who had been diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer found that the cancer was 50 percent less likely to spread and that the nurses with breast cancer were 50 percent less likely to die from the disease if they were taking aspirin. It's too soon to say that all women with breast cancer should take a daily dose of aspirin. The only way to confirm this study's findings is with a randomized controlled trial in which half of participating breast cancer patients take aspirin daily and the other half doesn't. One possible explanation for the effects seen: aspirin reduces inflammation and therefore might reduce breast cancer risk. And research has shown that women who regularly took ibuprofen or other anti-inflammatories also had a 50 percent lower risk of death from breast cancer. The study was published online in the February 16, 2010 issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

More information on breast cancer.

Sunday
Mar282010

How Omega-3 Helps the Heart

We've known for years that omega-3 fatty acids are good for the heart. These healthy fats down-regulate inflammation, and may help reduce the risk and symptoms of disorders influenced by inflammation, including heart attack, stroke and several forms of cancer. Now researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, have found another action of omega-3s that may help explain why they offer benefits for the heart. The investigators found that the more omega-3 consumed by patients with coronary heart disease, the slower the structures called telomeres at the ends of chromosomes shrank. (Telomeres have been likened to the caps on the ends of shoelaces that prevent the laces from unraveling. In cells, telomeres prevent chromosomes from fusing with one another or rearranging - undesirable changes that could lead to serious diseases.) The more times a cell divides, the shorter telomeres become, a change that makes them a marker of biological age. The California investigators followed about 600 patients with coronary artery disease and measured their blood levels of omega-3s and telomere length at the beginning of the study and again five years later. They found that the higher the blood levels of omega-3s, the slower telomeres shortened, suggesting that the rate of biological aging - as mirrored by telomeres - decreased.

My take? This is a fascinating area of research and may give us new insight into how omega-3 fatty acids benefit health. It only reinforces the need to get plenty of omega-3s through your diet or supplements. My longstanding recommendation has been to consume two to three servings of fish per week or to take a fish oil supplement if you don't like fish. I eat fish often and also take 2-3 grams of supplemental fish oil a day.

Saturday
Mar272010

Braised Red Cabbage

Red cabbage is just like green cabbage in taste and texture, but with the added benefit of powerful antioxidants called anthocyanins that give the redhead of the vegetable world its distinctive color. Red cabbage is also one of the cruciferous family of vegetables; all are rich in fiber, vitamins (most notably vitamin C), minerals like potassium and calcium, and cancer-fighting compounds called indoles. (Other cruciferous vegetables include Brussels sprouts, broccoli, kale, and chard; all are delicious.) Be prepared when cooking red cabbage for the color to "bleed" into the other ingredients. The acidic vinegar and wine in this dish keep the cabbage a beautiful purple color. Without the acid, the cabbage will turn blue. This dish is a taste sensation and makes a great side dish with salmon or as a warm appetizer salad. And considering the very affordable price of cabbage, it can't be beat.

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and sliced
1 large head red cabbage, cored and sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 large green apple, peeled, cored, and diced
3 large cloves garlic, pressed
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/2 cups dry red wine
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons light-brown sugar
1 cup peeled chestnuts (optional)
Salt to taste

Instructions:

1. In a large pot, heat the olive oil. Add the onion and carrots and sauté over medium heat until onion is translucent.

2. Add the cabbage and apple and mix well, then add salt to taste, the garlic, the bay leaf, cloves, wine, vinegar and sugar.

3. Bring to a low boil, cover, and cook for about 1 hour.

4. Remove bay leaf and correct seasoning to taste. You may also add the peeled chestnuts to cook in the braising liquid.

Food as Medicine: Cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage may offer additional cancer protection as compared with other classes of vegetables. A Netherlands study of 100,000 people found that those eating the most vegetables had a 25 percent lower risk of colorectal cancer, but those eating the most cruciferous vegetables did nearly twice as well - they had a 49 percent drop in colorectal cancer risk.