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Tuesday
Nov262013

How to Prevent a Common Cancer

Healthy diet, keeping weight down and regular exercise can protect women from endometrial cancer.A healthy diet (that includes a daily cup of coffee), keeping weight down and regular exercise can protect women from endometrial cancer, the most common malignancy affecting the female reproductive organs (the endometrium is the lining of the uterus). A new study from the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) and World Cancer Research Fund International found that keeping weight down via diet and exercise could prevent almost 60 percent of the 49,600 new cases of endometrial cancer that occur annually in the United States. The antioxidants in coffee (both regular and decaf) can cut the risk by seven percent, possibly by preventing DNA damage, improving insulin sensitivity and inhibiting glucose absorption in the intestine. Avoiding high glycemic index foods is also key. The study found that for every 50 units of glycemic load that a woman averages in her daily diet, the risk of endometrial cancer bumps up 15 percent. And they noted that foods high on the glycemic index affect production of estrogen and insulin, the hormones thought to underlie endometrial cancer. Bottom line: obesity is likely the primary driver of endometrial cancer, as body fat produces estrogen, which stimulates the uterine lining.

Source:
“New Report: In the U.S., 3 out of 5 Cases of Endometrial Cancers are Preventable,” American Institute for Cancer Research and World Cancer Research Fund International, accessed September 13, 2013, http://www.aicr.org/press/press-releases/3-out-of-5-cases-of-endometrial-cancer-are-preventable.html

Monday
Nov252013

Stay Positive for Heart Health

Maintaining a positive attitude seemed to help prevent death from any cause over five years among heart disease patientsSimply maintaining a positive attitude seemed to help prevent death from any cause over five years among heart disease patients, and also made it more likely that they would exercise, a new European study concludes. What’s more, the heart patients who did exercise were 50 percent less likely to die during the five-year study than those who didn’t work out. The participants were mostly men who had ischemic heart disease, a condition in which blood flow to the heart is reduced and may cause chest pain (angina). The researchers noted that patients with this form of heart disease often suffer from depression, anxiety and other negative emotions, all of which are linked to several major heart problems and death. The contribution of these negative influences seems to remain despite advances in treatment that have reduced deaths from ischemic heart disease.

Overall, the study showed that a positive outlook was more common in men who had higher education, were employed and had a lower likelihood of diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease than others in the study. They were also were less likely to have a prescription for a diuretic, use medications for depression, anxiety or other mental disorders, and less likely to be hospitalized (as were those who exercised).

My take? This study fits right in with prior findings that positive thinking can enhance health. Pessimism has been linked to a higher risk of dying before age 65, while optimism – and positive emotions in general - are associated with lowered production of the stress hormone cortisol, better immune function, and reduced risk of chronic diseases. Earlier studies have found that among patients recovering from coronary artery bypass graft surgery, those with a positive outlook recovered faster and were less likely to be re-hospitalized for post-surgical complications or other heart problems. None of this seems to bode well for pessimists, but some research has shown that optimism is at least partially learned, and that even the most negative personalities can be improved. I suggest reading a classic book on the subject, Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind & Your Life, by famed psychologist Martin Seligman, Ph.D.

Friday
Nov222013

What's Your Favorite Protein Source? (Poll)

A recent Q&A discussed the question of adding whey protein into your diet if you are vegetarian: Whey Better Protein? Check out the article and let us know what your favorite protein source.

Thursday
Nov212013

What’s Wrong With Sitting?

Sitting can lead to depression in mid-life womenIf you followed medical news over the past year you've likely heard that sitting too much can lead to heart disease and diabetes. The latest study on the perils of sitting suggests that it can lead to depression in mid-life women. In 2001, a research team in Australia surveyed nearly 9,000 women age 50-55 about their physical activity, time spent sitting and their feelings. The participants were surveyed again in 2004, 2007 and 2010. A comprehensive review of the data showed that women who sat for more than seven hours a day had a risk of experiencing depressive symptoms that was 47 percent higher than women who sat for four hours a day or less. The investigation also showed that those women who did not exercise were at 99 percent higher risk of depression than women who met the Australian government’s recommendation to devote 30 minutes a day to physical activity. In fact, women who sat for multiple hours and did not exercise were overall three times more likely to report depressive symptoms than women who spent less time sitting and more time exercising. The researchers concluded that simply getting up and exercising for 30 minutes a day may help relieve current depression and ward off future bouts.

Source:
Jannique E.Z. van Uffelen et al, “Sitting-Time, Physical Activity, and Depressive Symptoms in Mid-Aged Women,” American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Volume 45, Issue 3 , Pages 276-281, September 2013

Wednesday
Nov202013

The Advantages of Integrative Medicine (Video)

Integrative medicine focuses on optimizing the body's natural healing capacity. It aims to enhance healing in body, mind and spirit by using an intelligent combination of conventional and alternative therapies for which there is strong evidence of safety and effectiveness.

Watch as Dr. Weil discusses the evidence for integrative vs. strictly conventional medicine, and explains why integrative medicine offers the best hope for more effective, less costly health care.

Tuesday
Nov192013

Big News About Smoking and Heart Attacks

Rates of heart attack (fatal or not) for smokers who quit are about the same as those for people who never smokedFormer smokers may have no more reason to fear heart attacks than people who have never smoked, but the habit is likely to have a lasting effect on heart health. That surprising conclusion comes from a study that used medical imaging to evaluate the coronary arteries of smokers and former smokers. The researchers, from New York-Presbyterian Hospital and the Weill Cornell Medical College, reported that after two years of follow up, the rates of heart attack (fatal or not) for smokers who quit are about the same as those for people who never smoked. This seemed to hold true even when former smokers exhibited as much disease in their coronary arteries as current smokers. However, the study also found that giving up smoking doesn’t change the amount of disease smoking causes in the coronary arteries. The research team reported the findings at the European Society of Cardiology meeting in Amsterdam early this month. The investigators examined 13,372 patients from six countries in Europe, North America, and East Asia. Of those patients, 2,853 were active smokers, 3,174 were former smokers and 7,344 never smoked. The investigators found blockages of 50 percent or more in one or two major coronary arteries among the smokers and former smokers. These individuals also had twice the probability of developing severe blockages in all three major coronary arteries.

Source:
James Min et al "Coronary atherosclerosis and major adverse cardiovascular risk among never, past and current smokers undergoing coronary CT angiography: Results from 13,372 patients from the CONFIRM registry" European Society of Cardiology, 2013

Monday
Nov182013

Why Sanitation May Lead to Alzheimer’s Disease

New research from Britain’s University of Cambridge suggests that the higher rates of Alzheimer’s disease observed in industrialized countries may be due to those populations living in biologically clean environments, with reduced contact with bacteria, viruses and other microorganisms. Previous research, conducted over the past several years, has examined the association between the immune system and Alzheimer's. This new study looks at exposure to environmental challenges, which might strengthen the immune system and reduce the risk of dementia. If true, this would place Alzheimer’s disease alongside allergies and asthma on the list of diseases that might be encompassed by the hygiene hypothesis, a proposed explanation for why allergies and asthma are now epidemic, especially in developed countries. The Cambridge researchers looked at whether “pathogen prevalence” underlies levels of variation in Alzheimer’s rates across 192 countries. They found that countries with higher levels of sanitation had higher rates of Alzheimer’s, noting that countries such as the U.K. and France, where everyone has access to clean drinking water, have nine percent higher Alzheimer rates than Kenya, Cambodia and other countries where less than half the population has access to clean drinking water. The researchers found that differences in levels of sanitation, infectious disease and urbanization accounted respectively for 33 percent, 36 percent and 28 percent of the discrepancy in Alzheimer’s rates between countries. Noting that “exposure to microorganisms is critical for the regulation of the immune system,” the investigators wrote that “the populations of many of the world’s wealthier nations have increasingly very little exposure to the so-called ‘friendly’ microbes which ‘stimulate’ the immune system - due to diminishing contact with animals, feces and soil.” The study was published online in the journal Evolution, Medicine and Public Health on August 11, 2013.

My take? The hygiene hypothesis holds that children who grow up in crowded and dirtier environments are less likely to develop allergies and asthma than youngsters raised in cleaner, more protected environments. The idea is that the developing immune systems of less privileged kids are exposed to lots of germs from an early age and as a result become stronger, better attuned to the world around them, and more protective of health. If a link between immunity and dementia is confirmed, this new research would make an intriguing case for including Alzheimer’s disease under the umbrella of the hygiene hypothesis. However, it is important to remember that the hygiene hypothesis remains a theory. We will need a lot more evidence from human studies before we could consider it valid.

Source:
Molly Fox et al, “Hygiene and the world distribution of Alzheimer's Disease,” Evolution, Medicine and Public Health, doi: 10.1093/emph/eot015

Friday
Nov152013

How Would You Handle a Poisoning Emergency? (Poll)

A recent Q&A discussed using activated charcoal as a way of removing toxins from the body: Activated Charcoal for a Cleaner You? Check out the article and let us know what you would do in the event of an accidental poisoning.