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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19-06 Segment 2: What Determines Our Food Preferences

RHJ 19-06b wordpress

Scientists are discovering that our food preferences are much more than a matter of taste, and that taste itself is more complicated than we thought. Psychology also plays a role. An expert discusses what determines preferences, such as why some people like jalapeno peppers & black coffee, and some don’t.


  • Dr. Rachel Herz, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior, Brown University, and author, Why You Eat What You Eat: The Science Behind Our Relationship With Food

Links for more information:

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Medical Notes 19-05

Medical Notes this week…

Cancer deaths are continuing to decline. In fact, a report from the American Cancer Society trumpets a major milestone—cancer death rates have dropped every year for the last 25 years. Overall, they’ve dropped 27 percent since 1991… but some cancers are even more striking. For example, lung cancer death rates are down by 48 percent among men. Breast cancer death rates are down by 40 percent, and prostate cancer death rates have dropped by 51 percent.

Parents of teenagers are remarkably pessimistic that schools are keeping their kids safe. A study in the Journal of Community Health shows that 36 percent of parents believe their local high school is “highly likely” to have a shooter incident in the next three years. The study finds that the majority of parents are dissatisfied with the systems schools have in place to counteract gun violence.

Two drugs commonly prescribed for type two diabetes may significantly raise the risk for heart attacks. The drugs, sulfonylureas (sul-fon-eye-loor-ee-ahs) and basal insulin, are often prescribed when metformin doesn’t work. But a study in the journal JAMA Network Open shows that patients who take basil insulin are twice as likely to experience cardiovascular harm, and those taking sulfonylureas are 36 percent more likely to be harmed than patients taking newer second-line drugs. Experts say the results should prompt large scale changes in how type two diabetes is treated.

And finally… more than half of people who take medical marijuana for chronic pain admit they’ve driven while under the influence… and one in five users say they’ve driven while they were “very high” in the last six months. The study in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence surveyed medical marijuana users in Michigan… where recreational marijuana is also legal. Researchers say they’re troubled that users don’t think there’s much risk to driving under the influence of pot… but they admit they’re not sure how marijuana affects driving for people who use it every day.

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Medical Notes 19-04

Medical Notes this week…

A drinkable cocktail of designer molecules is showing promise in stopping the development of dementia. A study in the journal Cell Reports finds that a cocktail based on an old antibiotic can keep amyloid beta peptides from binding to prion proteins—one of the first steps in Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers say the cocktail has also repaired synapses in the brains of rats… restoring memories. Scientists will now start testing the cocktail for toxicity.

If you’re using sugar substitutes as part of a weight loss resolution, a new study says “don’t bother.” In fact, the study in the journal BMJ finds there’s no compelling evidence that sugar substitutes help regulate any important health variable. Blood sugar levels and the risk of heart disease or cancer did not benefit from the use of saccharin, aspartame, or other artificial sweeteners. People who used plain old sugar ended up pretty much in the same place health-wise.

And finally… shaming people for what they do isn’t right… even though new research suggests that it can get people who engage in dangerous activities to quit. A study in the Journal of Consumer Affairs shows that smokers are more likely to quit if they’re told that their peers disapprove of smoking. However, experts warn that shaming people leads others to think that the bad effects of a bad habit are all their fault… and they deserve what they get.

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Medical Notes 18-52

Medical Notes this week…

Death rates for most major health conditions have been in decline, but chronic kidney disease is a big exception, according to a study in the journal JAMA Open. Researchers say that deaths due to chronic kidney disease have increased overall by 58 percent over the last 15 years… and among people under 55, who previously suffered little chronic kidney disease, death rates are sharply up as well. Scientists blame high-sugar, high-salt foods and the increase in health problems such as high blood pressure and type two diabetes… which can trigger kidney disease.

Some people say having a tough childhood makes kids grow up fast. But a new study in the journal Biological Psychiatry finds that it also ages children prematurely. Researchers analyzed DNA of children age eight to 16 who had been exposed to violence, neglect, or emotional abuse… and found that on a cellular level, they were older than similar children living in a more stable environment. Those changes are reflected in the average age of puberty… which is lower among children growing up in a tough environment.

And finally… if you’re a night owl, your health may suffer for it. Previous studies have linked being a night owl to high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease… and now a study in the journal Chronobiology International has added up the effect—night owls may have a 10 percent higher risk of early death. Researchers admit they don’t know why a person’s chronotype has such an effect.

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