Medical Notes 19-16

Medical notes this week…

A new study concludes that the number one public health threat to our lives isn’t smoking…. It’s a poor diet. The study in the journal The Lancet finds that 11 million people worldwide die every year because they’re eating too much of some things, and not enough of others. Too much salt and too few whole grains, fruits, and vegetables are the biggest offenders. Countries where people eat a so-called Mediterranean diet, including Israel, France, and Spain, have the fewest diet-related deaths, while the United States comes in 43rd.

If someone has what’s called rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder, odds are very high that they’ll develop Parkinson’s disease. But it may take years. A study in the journal Brain tracked people with REM sleep disorder and found that nearly three-quarters of them developed Parkinson’s within 12 years. REM sleep disorder causes violent acting out of dreams as the normal paralysis people experience in sleep is lost.

A rare form of cancer called anaplastic large cell lymphoma has been linked in the past to textured breast implants. Now, for the first time, a woman who had received textured buttock implants has also been diagnosed with the cancer. The report in the Aesthetic Surgery Journal emphasizes that the case shows only an “association” between the implants and cancer, not that they were the cause.

And finally, heart failure may be diagnosed soon using smart toilet seats. Scientists at the Rochester Institute of Technology have outfitted toilet seats with sensors that can detect heart failure through contact with the skin before any symptoms show up. The special toilet seats are intended for people who’ve already suffered a bout with heart failure and could be in serious trouble should it return.

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Medical Notes 19-15


Medical Notes this week…

Millions of Americans take a low-dose aspirin every day in hopes of preventing a heart attack or stroke. But now the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association say to stop taking it if you have no history of heart attack or stroke. The new recommendation comes in the wake of a major study showing that a daily aspirin does nothing to prolong life and increases the risk of gastrointestinal bleeding. Experts say doctors should limit aspirin to people at high heart risk who also have a low risk of bleeding.

We’ve told you about the stroke risk connected to drinking lots of diet soda among post-menopausal women, now there’s another study showing that soda with sugar is also connected to heart death. The study in the journal Circulation finds that the risk of premature death goes up by 63 percent in women who drink more than two sodas per day and 29 percent among men. Sugary sodas increase cancer risk by 18 percent.

Nobody likes to get caught in traffic caused by road repairs but a new study in the International Journal of Sustainable Transportation finds that preventive road maintenance saves a lot of money, time, and pollution. Researchers say performing maintenance when a road is in its early failure stage ends up saving 10 to 30 percent in cost and saves drivers two to five percent in fuel consumption, tire wear, and vehicle repairs. Keeping roads in good shape also cuts greenhouse gases by as much as two percent.

And finally, you have to be nuts to maintain your brain function as you age or, more correctly, you have to eat nuts. A study in the Journal of Nutrition, Health, and Aging shows that eating at least two teaspoons of nuts each day can boost brain function by 60 percent, equivalent to putting off two years of brain aging.

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Medical Notes 19-14


Medical Notes this week…

The average American eats three or four eggs a week, and that’s enough to raise your risk for heart attack and death by six to eight percent. Cholesterol is the reason according to a large new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. It shows that each additional 300 milligrams of cholesterol in your daily diet raises the risk of both heart disease and premature death by about 17 percent. One large egg has about 185 milligrams of cholesterol. However, since eggs have lots of other nutrients, researchers say not to cut them out of the diet, just eat them in moderation.

Common heartburn medications are being linked to kidney failure and chronic kidney disease. The medications are called proton pump inhibitors and are sold under brand names like Prevacid, Prilosec, and Protonix. A study in the journal Pharmacotherapy finds that PPIs increase the risk of chronic kidney disease by as much as 20 percent and quadruple the risk of kidney failure. People over 65 are at highest risk.

And finally, a large new study shows that your Apple watch might be able to detect an irregular heartbeat. The study presented to the American College of Cardiology shows that the watch can flag apparently healthy people who may have atrial fibrillation. Doctors say about a third of the people the watch indicated were in danger actually did have AFib when they later received EKG monitoring. Researchers admit using the watch of an AFib diagnosis is far from perfect.

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Medical Notes 19-13


Medical Notes this week…

About a third of people with major depression aren’t helped by the usual treatments. But they have some hope now that the FDA has approved the first completely new kind of drug for depression in years. The drug is a nasal spray called esketamine and it works in hours rather than weeks. Psychiatrists say it’s a major advance, but it’ll have to be used with caution. The drug is derived from an old anesthetic that was known as the party drug “special k,” and comes with a black box safety warning.

Having a teenage child can be frustrating, but scientists think they’ve discovered the one parental skill that can help navigate conflict with teens. It’s the ability to regulate anger. A study in the journal Development and Psychopathology finds that parents who can’t diminish anger are more likely to resort to the use of harsh, punitive discipline, creating hostile conflict. Researchers say dads are worse than moms at regulating anger and are more likely to conclude their teen is intentionally being difficult. So they dish out harsher punishment.

And finally, fast food now accounts for 11 percent of the energy intake in the United States and a new study shows, to no one’s surprise, that fast food meals are getting bigger and saltier. The study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics finds that the average fast food entrée has grown by 100 calories since 1986, and the average fast food dessert by 200 calories. On any given day, more than a third of American adults eat fast food.

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Medical Notes 19-12


Medical Notes this week…

In the first two months of this year, the United States has had more cases of measles than we had in all of 2017. Experts say it’s because some parents still believe the disproven claim that the measles vaccine causes autism, so they don’t have their kids vaccinated. But how much evidence will it take to convince them? Yet another study, this one on more than a half-million people and published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, finds there is absolutely no link between the MMR vaccine and autism.

If you don’t get enough sleep during the week, your body can’t catch up over the weekend. A new study in the journal Current Biology shows that even when people sleep in as long as they want on Saturday and Sunday, chronic sleep deprivation during the week causes metabolic changes leading to weight gain and a higher risk for diabetes. Researchers suggest the long-term effects of chronic sleep loss are severe enough that people need to start prioritizing sleep.

And finally, might it be possible that the secret to a long life is coffee and alcohol? It sure sounds that way, according to the results of the ’90+ study’ at the University of California-Irvine. Researchers say one of their main findings is that people who drink alcohol and coffee live longer than those who don’t. People who made it to at least 90 years old also tended to be overweight in their 70s, while those who died sooner were normal weight or underweight.

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Medical Notes 19-11

19-11 notes

Medical Notes this week…

Does the world’s most widely used broad-spectrum weed killer cause cancer? A number of studies have come to different conclusions. But now a comprehensive new analysis in the journal Mutation Research – Reviews in Mutation Research has looked at all the evidence, including a test of more than 50,000 licensed pesticide applicators. The study concludes that yes, the chemical glyphosphate raises the risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma by as much as 41 percent. Glyphosphate is the primary ingredient in the weed killer Roundup.

If you’re a middle-aged man and can do 40 pushups without stopping, you’re at a 96 percent lower risk of heart disease than those who can do only 10. A study in the journal JAMA Network Open finds that the pushup test may be the most reliable and inexpensive way to judge a man’s heart health over his next 10 years, even more reliable than treadmill tests. But if you can’t do 40 pushups, don’t despair. Heart disease risk is lower to some degree as long as you can do 11 or more.

And finally… gardeners will tell you that playing in the dirt makes them happy, and the reason? There’s a natural antidepressant in soil that acts much the same way as Prozac, but without side effects. A study in the journal Neuroscience shows that gardeners inhale a soil microbe called Mycobacterium, which acts to raise serotonin in the brain, increasing feelings of relaxation and happiness for as long as three weeks.

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Medical Notes 19-10

19-10 notes

Medical Notes this week…

Antibacterial soaps are common today, as are antibacterial toothpaste, mouthwash, cosmetics, and even clothing and baby toys. But a new study finds that the active ingredient in most of those things could actually be making bacteria more able to withstand medications. The study in the journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy shows that the chemical triclosan (trick-lo-san) does kill some microbes, but those that are left are substantially more resistant to antibiotics.

Men who have enlarged prostates may worry about prostate cancer, too. But a new study suggests that enlarged prostates actually protect against prostate cancer. The key is that the prostate sits in a confined space. Scientists believe that as the prostate becomes enlarged, it’s squeezed tightly, impeding the growth of cancer cells inside. The study appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

And finally… over the last decade, many laws have locked up most of your sensitive medical data. But a new study shows that “shadow” health records generated just by living your life can tip off a lot about your health, and those records are wide open. The study in the journal Science Translational Medicine finds that using a fitness tracker, smartphone health app, or DNA ancestry test leave a health information trail. Shopping for a health-related item online or even searching the internet for health information leaves clues for savvy data gatherers.

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