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Nurse Bridgid

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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Do fat substitutes make you GAIN weight?

For years people have lived under the impression that if they substituted fake fat for real fat, i.e. using Olean (AKA Olestra), they would lose weight, but a Study from Purdue University may have proved the exact opposite!  I have never eaten something that says it can cause anal leakage on the label, but I know that some people swear by eating "fatty" foods made with fat supplements to get a snack without all the extra fat.

What is Olean?
It is a fat substitute that adds no fat, calories, or cholesterol to foods.  It came out in the late 90's, gained a lot of popularity, then lost its luster a bit because people starting falling prey to the horrible side effects because they weren't reading the label!  So, the label stated that the product may cause abdominal cramping and loose stools, along with the loss of fat soluble vitamins A,D,E,&K.  Because Olean is a "fat" made from sucrose and the molecules can bind with many different fatty acids, it becomes too large for our digestive tracks to absorb, so we don't absorb it, and it comes out....and boy does it!  Apparently it was created to taste/feel the exact same as regular fat in our mouthes, i.e. WOW potato chips (made with olean) taste the same as regular. Hmmm....

So why might you GAIN weight?
Well, I have discussed in pervious blogs about sugar substitutes, and these substitutes work the same way; our bodies are really smart, and when we put food in our mouths, it gears up for digestion based on taste. How amazing, right?  We put something super fatty in our mouths, start chewing, and based on taste and feel of the food, the digestive system gets ready by stimulating our metabolism and hormonal reactions to break down the fats, calories, and absorb all nutrients.  So, when you try to "trick" your body by eating fake fat, it gets revved up to burn lots of calories and fat....but then it's left unable to burn anything because no calories or fat are absorbed. So, it begins to learn that when you eat stuff that tastes and feels like fat, it doesn't need to work or kick into high gear as it perviously would.  Now, most people think "no big deal" but it is a big deal because we NEED fat to live, there are fat absorbed vitamins, and they are needed for energy to stimulate your cells/muscles/etc.  SO when we eat fats in meat, avocados, milk, etc. our body doesn't efficiently break them down or stimulate our digestive systems as much, because we were like the boy who cried wolf with fats previously and tricked it into getting ready to break down fat and nothing was there, so why would it work efficiently when we really do eat fat?  The problem is, it won't react the same way if you use those supplements.

There is no such thing as a free meal!  You may feel like you are getting a freebie of eating a "high fat" snack without the fat and calories, but it will catch up with you in the long run, and your body will hold onto the real fat that you eat and try to store it in case you don't eat lots of fat again; the body is always looking out to protect itself, wether you want it to, or not!   Plus, the study from Purdue found that rats that ate a "high fat" diet with fat substitutes ate much more food and gained more weight than those that ate a high fat diet with regular fats. Fats (real ones) slow the digestive system, so you fill fuller faster, and it is a longer period before your body feels hungry again, but this doesn't appear to happen with the fat substitutes.

What should I do?
You should eat a  healthy diet, and when you do feel like a fatty snack, eat a fatty snack, just don't make it a habit!  If you deprive yourself of something, you are going to crave it and eventually cave in and basically binge on it.  So, allow yourself a treat every now and again, and remember that if you are truly craving something, your body is usually telling you that you are missing something in your diet.  So eat real fats, in small portions, and ditch the substitutes!

I have a personal mantra: If I can't pronounce it, I don't eat it!  Maybe more people should adopt that and we wouldn't be faked out by new products....if you want to lose weight, don't eat and excess of fatty foods, do eat fakey foods!

Yours in Good Health

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Need better ways of dealing with pain?

So many people live their lives daily with some sort of pain.  Some people have chronic pain from a past injury, either from work, car accidents, or chronic medical conditions (arthritis, tendonitis, etc) and others have acute pain from being post-operative (having surgery), a new injury, or because they just slammed their finger in a door! No matter what the reason is, people are living with some form of chronic pain, and how they choose to treat it, can have huge effects on their lives.

How do we treat pain?
Pain is all very subjective to the person who has it; I mean, I might think that stubbing my toe hurts very much, but someone might obtain the exact same injury and be yelping out in pain, because it hurts them more- they actually feel more pain.  I have one friend that takes a percocet before she gets a bikini wax, really?!?!? So, how one treats their pain can be very different, but I want people to think how their choices can effect them:
OTC (Over-the-counter) medications: there are NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or Acetaminophen (Tylenol) that are taken orally 4-6 times a day.
Prescription Medications: Opioids (i.e. oxycontin, percocet, hydromorphone/dialudid) which act centrally to decrease pain and are also to be taken orally usually 4 times daily.
Alternative therapies: heat and cold, deep breathing exercises, and distraction techniques.

What are the side effects?
The problem with always taking pharmaceuticals is that there are side effects to each medications that we take, no matter what it is.
OTC Medications:
Ibuprofen: can cause nausea/vomiting/stomach pain, bleeding ulcers, may impair blood flow to kidneys, leading to fluid retention.
Acetaminophen: low fever, stomach pain, nausea, dark urine, liver failure leading to jaundice (a yellowing of skin and eyes).
Prescription Medications:
Opioids: Nausea, vomiting, drowsiness, constipation, delirium, and compromise of the immune system.
*As with any medication, you may also experience a form of an allergic reaction which can be in the form of hives, difficulty breathing, or anaphylaxis.

Do Alternative Therapies work?
Many people skip alternative therapies and head right for medications to treat their discomfort, always forgetting about the fact that there are other things we can do to help with our discomfort. In the case of chronic pain, there are options of using heat and/or cold therapy for muscle and joint pain, Physical Therapy for long standing injuries or arthritis, or learning to live with the discomfort and how to deal with your pain.  And in the case of acute pain, heat and/or cold can also be used, distraction techniques, and deep breathing exercises can assist with pain.  A recent study in Pain Management in Nursing looked at non-drug therapies for older adults in rural areas, that usually reach for pharmaceutical treatments for their pain, found that these older adults that don't usually start with alternative therapies, reported a significant decrease in pain/discomfort with the use of heat/cold and breathing techniques that were taught to them.  These adults had never been shown or educated in regards to the use of heat and cold with pain tolerance and found it to be extremely helpful, many stopped using daily medication therapy.  They reported significant decrease in pain, just by making a few simple changes, that anyone can do!

Now, I realize that there are some pains that putting a heat pack on is not going to fix (i.e. a broken arm) but it can help with chronic back pains, arthritis, etc.  I am not saying that people shouldn't ever take pain medication, that is ridiculous, but the more we take medications to mask our pain, we become dependent upon them; it can become a habit to take medications, and your pain might not even be tat bad on a certain day, and long term effects of pain meds can be detrimental to your overall physical and mental health. But heat and cold can help and taking deep breaths in to relax your mind, and breathing the pain out with each breath can relax you and help to diminish some pain because your muscles are also relaxing.  Anxiety makes pain worse, and being worried about pain is not a good way to go through life; try to use some of these alternative therapies before reaching for your usual pain medication next time, your body will thank you and you will feel more empowered that YOU have the control, not your pain!

Yours in Good Health

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Pretty and heathy too?

Hypertension (high blood pressure) is a health problem that affects millions of people worldwide, and drug therapy can be helpful and really work, but many people are borderline and drug therapy is rather aggressive, so we need to look towards alternative therapies.  For some, merely increasing the amount of exercise you get, cutting the amount of fats in your diet, and losing some weight can have huge effects....but what if you've done that and still have hypertension? It might be genetic, but maybe we need to look to certain fruits to help lower blood pressure...

What should your blood pressure be?
Any blood pressure readings less than 120/80 are usually considered "normal" and above 120/80 but less than 139/89 are considered borderline or "prehypertension" and above 140/90 is considered hypertension.  When you are in the borderline state, your HCP usually gives you the suggestions to make some lifestyle changes to try and lower your blood pressure, and even one blood pressure above 140/90 doesn't mean that you are always hypertensive, but you need to start making a change because a couple of elevated readings, and your HCP will put you on medications.

What is this about berries?
A recent study from Nurses from the UK found that the anthocyanins (the water soluble pigments that are found in plants/fruits tat create a blue/purple coloring) in blueberries, strawberries, and blood oranges help to lower blood pressure.  anthocyanins are a flavonoid, just like those found in tea, red wine, and dark chocolate, which have all been shown to help protect our hearts.  They found an average 10% decrease in blood pressure by increasing the intake of anthocyanins to one full serving a week of fruits wit these flavonoids; they looked at blueberries, strawberries, and blood oranges but stated that only because they were easiest to add to the diets of their approx. 150,000 people studied.  The researchers said that any fruits and veg high in anthocyanins like black currants, raspberries, and eggplant can also help with the decrease in blood pressure.

What does this mean?
Well, a couple of things, really!  This means that eating a colorful plate of food really is healthy for you, and increasing the purple and blues on your plate can help to reduce your blood pressure.  If you are someone that is borderline and making changes to help reduce your blood pressure without having to take a pill daily,. give it a try and see where it takes you.  Also, I urge you to check your blood pressure at home, in the morning and at night.  You can get a cheap blood pressure cuff that is automatic, and know where you stand between HCP visits, and that way you aren't nervous, and you can show your HCP the trend in your blood pressure...and see the effects that your changes in health and diet are making!  Some people get nervous when HCP's check their blood pressure...take the stress off and do it yourself....and eat your blues!!!

Yours in Good Health

Friday, June 24, 2011

uh-oh, we need to focus on teens...

I hear so much education for adults on health, nutrition, and exercise.  And there are targeted programs for young children as well to learn about healthy eating and proper food choices.  But what about the teenager population?

A few days ago the CDC produced the results of a survey that they sent nationwide (within the US) to high school students, in which they got just over 114k results, and the results were rather shocking, I must say.   It showed that only 8% of high school girls get the recommended 60 minutes of aerobic exercise whereas 22% of boys hit the mark.  Not doing enough physical activity when you are younger can shape your attitude towards physical activity, and can lead to an adult that doesn't work out.  Plus, it can lead to heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes later on.

Other shocking results were related to nutrition, and honestly it made me a little sad.  63% of respondents said that they drink at least one soda a day (that was full calorie soda, but as we know diet soda is no better for you in the case of Type II diabetes) and 33% report drinking two or more sodas a day.  There are tons of choices of water, milk, and juice in schools, which the teens are also drinking, but then they tend to reach for the sodas!  This also becomes a lifestyle choice, just like lack of exercise, and can be a really hard habit to break.

These choices come from home, peer influence, and from education.  I think that we are not doing a good enough job educating children and teens on nutrition in schools, and reinforcing that information or helping to shape the education at home either.  If we all cooked healthy foods and stocked out homes with fruits and veggies and organic meats, taught our kids about a healthy diet and fed it to them, they would learn at home, and it would become how they eat.  BUT I totally get that I am thinking in an ideal world where money grows on trees, people don't have to work, and we have time to cook three healthy meals a day!!

I understand in the real world, where money can be an influence, that unhealthy food tends to be cheaper, but if the choice comes down to buying your family a fast food meal, or buying a loaf of whole wheat bread organic peanut butter and some preserves?  The PB&J is healthier, cheaper, and will feed your family for you can spend time together making your "meal" which includes whole grains, proteins, and fruit.  That is something that you can teach your kids!  Also, fruits and veg are really cheap at local farms, and even if you live in the city, look for farmers markets; it's the time when farmers are bringing their goods closer to you!!

I also want to encourage you to walk to the markets or ride bikes...WITH YOUR KIDS!  Exercising together can encourage them to make healthier choices on their own; we really need to lead by example with our children, especially with things that will allow them to be healthier and prevent disease later in life.  Tat is part of having a cild; keeping them healthy and safe, and teaching them how to be an adult.  So, while schools might be missing the mark on educating them, and their friends parents might not be doing their part, YOU can do yours, and bring up the healthiest child you can!

Start at home....and maybe there will be a new teen exercise program in the Boston area soon (email me and let me know your thoughts)!

Yours in Good Health

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Do you warm up?

I have never been a big huge fan of "warming up" and I usually get chastised by the people I work out with and by my clients that I work out; they always want a "warm up" period and I just jump in and go.  Honestly, I am usually going for a run with my dogs before work, or have some sort of time constraint, so I just hop to it.  I never felt there was an issue with it, but other people made me feel super guilty about it.  The theory is that heated (or warmed) muscles are more flexible and ready to adapt to the work out and allow you to perform better...but that theory may have been blown to bits! But, I feel that I am now supported in skipping the warm ups!  A recent study from the Journal of Applied Physiology, showed that warm ups are really not helpful and actually prevent you from getting a hard workout.

Why are your workouts thwarted?
Well, highly trained male cyclists volunteered to be studied and they either performed their normal warm up or a much shorter version followed by their regular workouts. It turns out that the cyclists warm ups were 20 minutes in length and they got to around 95% of their maximal heart rate.  Their muscles were electrically stimulated before (cold) and after their warm ups; it was found that the muscles contracted much more forcefully when the muscles were cold.  The muscles were over exerted and tired when the athletes finished their warm ups.

The same findings were present in Olympic skaters when training before the 2010 Olympics.  In trying to warm up their muscles, these athletes were actually truly fatiguing them, thus the athletes could not optimally perform.

If the athletes warmed up for 15 minutes reaching only 65% of their maximal heart rate, their muscles contracted still forcefully and didn't seem over-fatigued. The problem is that most people think they are warming up, and really they are overexerting themselves, and then push themselves further, which allows for a risk of injury.  Ironic right? People think they are preventing injury by warming up, but really they are stressing their muscles by pushing themselves too much.

The scientists were unable to draw a conclusion wether warm ups were really even necessary, but they couldn't find anything that swayed them either way.  The lead researcher didn't see a need, but had no solid proof for or against that statement. So, since there is no data showing me I have to warm up, I am going to keep on keeping on and you all can warm up if you want, but I am just going to hop  right into my runs and let my muscles fatigue at their own will.

If you have any injuries related to running, you may want to keep with a short, easy warm up and then assess for discomfort or anything that doesn't feel right, and stop if need be!  For those of us who run/workout because we love it and not because we are training for the Olympics, I think this is all cause for personal choice, but if you are new to working out, you may want a warm up to get your heart and lungs ready.  As well, if you have any illnesses and you are new to working out, you should get approval from your HCP before starting any new regimen.  But if you are healthy and feel up to it, hop right in and get the workout you need!

Yours in Good Health

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

What to know when heading to the ER...

There are so many people that come to the hospital daily for emergency treatment,  without insurance for primary care treatment, or just without a primary HCP, so they go to the Emergency Room for treatment.  Now, I am not going to hop on a soapbox about getting treatment in the ER versus primary treatment; I want to give you information regarding what you should know and think about before you go to a hospital, or bring a loved one to the hospital for treatment.

Medication Lists:
This is CRUCIAL!  It is so important for you to have written down, or typed out, all of the medications that you take. Now, on this list, you need to have medications, doses, frequency with which you take them, and when you normally take them.  That helps us in two major ways: knowing what you have last taken (maybe you are having a reaction) and it gives us insight into what we should treat you with and when you require your next dose.  It also might help us figure out what NOT to give you.

It is important to remember to add ALL medications, including medications that you may not take every day (like a rescue inhaler, for example), over the counter medications, and herbal supplements/vitamins. Some herbal supplements may cause reactions with prescribed medications, and in the case (which we hope doesn't happen) that you are unable to speak for some reason, we can ascertain some of your past medical history based upon your medical treatments.

Thoughts on Treatment:
We like to know, in the case that someone doesn't have advanced directives or a power of attorney designated, what they would and would NOT like performed when they come into the hospital.  If, again, you become unable to speak, we need to have a way of knowing what you would like us to do (based on religious or personal preferences): insert a breathing tube and place you on a ventilator if you are unable to breathe on your own? Place large IV's in your chest and into your heart?  Chest tubes to drain fluids?  We will perform every available treatment to save your life, should you become increasingly ill, but is that something you want?

It is food for thought, and something that everyone should think about and talk to your family (parents, children, siblings, significant others) so that they know what you want done, should you become very ill. Also, give someone close to you a copy of your medication list, or let them know where it is, in case there is an accident and you are unable to obtain it yourself.

I know it is a bit of a morbid topic, but you really need to think about these things, and taking 10 minutes to write down your medications can save you from a possible serious interaction, and allow us to treat you appropriately. And talk to your family about what you want and need for will help us help YOU!

Yours in Good Health

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Pets and kids: Are they a good combination?

For many years, people have thought that having pets along with children at an early age, is a bad idea for allergy reasons. It is estimated that 40% of American homes have dogs alone, and around 6 million Americans are allergic to cats and less than half of that have dog allergies, are the allergies due to early exposure?  Many HCP's thought that kids who had a bunch of allergies were having the allergic reactions because they were exposed to either cats or dogs at a young age. And all studies prior to now had been basically looking at the rates of children with allergies to pets/pet dander (skin flakes and many times their saliva from "kisses" can cause a reaction to those allergic)and making an educated guess that having the pets caused stress on the immature immune system, and caused an allergy to the animal itself.  A new study is making that a myth of the past!

What is the new study?
A study was performed over 18 years looking at both children in homes with animals as pets and those without, and following up to see how many of them had allergies to pets 18 years later.  They found a minimal relative risk of increased allergies to cats and negligible risk with dogs; also cesarean babies versus vaginal deliveries had no real difference in allergy to pets risk.  This study looked at blood titer levels of reactions to whatever pet they lived with, and if they had an increased level of immune response, they were assumed to be allergic.  This is actually great news for those if us who have furry friends and worry about the risk (allergies) to our pending offspring!

What are signs and symptoms of pet allergies?
Coughing and wheezing
Runny, itchy, stuffy nose
Red, itchy eyes
Hives on the skin where a dog may have licked you (if allergic to saliva)

How do I know if my child is allergic?
Your HCP can perform a RAST (radioallergosorbent test) which is a blood test to find out specifically what a person is allergic to; it is more accurate than the skin reaction tests.  The RAST will allow you to find out specifically what the child is reacting to, and then you can help to change the environment to allow for less allergic reactions.

What can I do if my child is allergic?
You can allow the pet only in certain parts of the home, clean fanatically if the animal goes to other parts of the home, ensure that everyone who plays with or touches the pet washes their hands thoroughly afterwards, or get rid of the pet (which makes me soooo sad!!)
You can try antihistamines (such as Benadryl, Allegra, or Zyrtec) to see if you child has decreased reactions.  Use decongestants such as Sudafed or Allegra-D to allow for less stuffiness in the nose and clear up secretions, or try prescription medications such as Flonase or Nasonex that are steroids that can help prevent allergic reactions.  Hopefully one of those medications can work so that you can keep your child healthy and keep your families pet!!

So, this is all good news, bad news! We can easily test for the allergens, there are treatments for pet allergies, and the allergies are not caused by early exposure to what does cause pet allergies??  I guess until we know further, we have to assume genetics, so if you are allergic to pets, be wary with your children around pets, and have them tested so that they can be around other children/families and their pets if they aren't allergic.  And if you do have a child that is allergic, let them know about their allergy, how to be careful around pets, and to tell their friends if they can't be around a certain type of animal.  Do what is best for your family and your child, and talk to your HCP about your options.

Yours in Good Health

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Drug Recalls: Be aware those allergic to penicillin

I wanted to give a littles heads up about current worldwide drug recalls from the Aidapak Company.  Apparently, there was a massive cross contamination of all drugs created by the company and penicillin's contaminated almost all of their products.

This is a huge deal, many people have penicillin allergies and of that, anaphylaxis can ensure with each additional exposure.  So, even if penicillin or B-lactim exposure usually just causes you some hives or light skin rash, you could be taking a medication that isn't supposed to contain those compounds and go into anaphylaxis (a whole body allergic reaction that can cause death quickly if not treated immediately.)

It is not know exactly how many drugs were cross-contaminated but the company has asked all clinics and hospitals to remove the drugs from use, but there is a list of 300 drugs on the Aidapak website listing all drugs affected.  So if you are taking any drugs made by this company, just double check that your medication hasn't been recalled, especially if you have a penicillin allergy.

Yours in Good Health

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Another reason to set a bed time

I know that some parents set bed times for their children and some don't, I came from a family where my mom set a bed time so early for me that I remember she had blackout curtains because it was still light out when she put me to bed! She did it because with four kids, she needed "me" time every day, but there is an interesting new study from New Zealand looking at the relationship between children, bed times, and obesity!

So what is the study about?
It was called the FLAME (Family,Lifestyle, Activity, Movement, and Eating) Study and 244 children and they were measured by weight and x-ray a couple times a year from ages 3-7 and their family answered a questionnaire regarding eating fruits & vegetables, television viewing, and family factors (Mothers BMI- body mass index, smoking during pregnancy, birth weight, and parents education).  As well, their amount of sleep an physical activity was monitored through an accelerometer (a device that measures weight and acceleration or force), to know how much actual physical activity the child was getting versus what was reported.

What was found?
Well, each additional hour of sleep in children between the ages of 3 and 5 decreases the BMI by 0.48 and children had a 0.39 decreased risk of being overweight.  And they found that the weight was due to an increased amount of fat deposition in the body, which seems like a silly statement, but sometimes weight gain can be from free fats, or increased bloating (fluids), but this is dense fat that is stored in the body.  And their major theory is that prolonged lack of sleep in children will lead to long-term negative health effects in late childhood and into adulthood; they do want to perform more studies over the long-term to prove their theory.

Why is this important?
This is so important to realize why sleep is so important and the health effects that is has on us all; with children who have high metabolisms and are growing at a quick rate, with a healthy diet, there is no reason for them to be overweight...unless, as we have just found out, they aren't getting enough sleep!  So think of the effects of sleep deprivation on adults, where we are at a higher risk for various medical problems and obesity.  Sometimes it takes a study on children to open our eyes of how important the basics are for our health as adults.

So get your sleep, and make sure that your children are getting enough sleep; I know it can be tough with their crazy school and sports schedules, but it is so important to keep them on a sleep schedule and make sure their bodies have time to rest and grow, and their immune system has a time to recharge. And as adults, we need to get adequate sleep too!!

Yours in Good Health


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Are antibiotics safe in early pregnancy?

There has always been back and forth about what is healthy during pregnancy, especially early pregnancy.  And, in the case of antibiotics, there has been some bad press in the past, and directly linked to early pregnancy.  Obviously, if you are sick and need treatment due to a bacterial infection, you need treatment, but the issue is in the choice of drugs.

What are the main culprits?
Well, in 2009 there was some data derived from the National Birth Defects Prevention Study, and the authors spoke out against the use of sulfonamides and nitrofurantoins.  Sulfonamides are also known as sulfa drugs and have good antibacterial effects against a broad spectrum of bacteria; sulfa drugs (i.e. Bactrim or Septra) are commonly used to treat UTI's (urinary tract infections).  Nitrofurantoins, the most commonly used is Macrobid, are antibiotics that are also used to treat UTI's; they are not as common as Sulfa drugs, but have a lower resistance rate (for people who have bacteria resistant UTI's).

What is the current scoop on antibiotics use?
The key is to treat the bacteria present, as accurately as you can.  So, The American College of Gynecology and Obstetrics think that it is safe to use these drugs in the first trimester, as long as they are the most appropriate to treat the bacteria of a UTI or other infection and there aren't alternatives.  And despite publishing the 2009 study, the authors noted that they saw a higher risk in birth defects, but no other studies showed those results, which usually makes me think there is some sort of flaw...I mean, these drugs have been around for ages, and just in 2009 it was found they have serious side effects??  Hmmm....NurseBridgid doesn't think so!

What does this mean?
Well, the risk of NOT treating an infection when you are pregnant is much more detrimental to your unborn baby than taking an antibiotic.  Plus, you should always go and see your HCP or OBGYN to ensure that you do have a bacterial infection that requires treatment with antibiotics.  Your HCP will discuss risks and benefits and most likely take a urine sample or blood samples to be able to prescribe the most appropriate drug for you; so no taking some random antibiotics that you have "left over" (which causes me chest pain, baseline....but definitely not when you are pregnant!)

So stay healthy, eat well, rest, and start learning what to expect when you are expecting!!

Yours in Good Health

Monday, June 13, 2011

Niacin and Cardiovascular Disease

A few years ago it became a hypothesis that taking Niacin, as a dietary supplement, could help to raise your HDL (High Density Lipoprotein- the good cholesterol), essentially boosting your bodies own defenses to protect itself from cardiac damage.   So, a HUGE study from the NIH (National Institute of Health) was actually underway to study the use of extended-release Niacin, but suddenly stopped due to little, if any improvement, and actually some risks...which is pretty shocking news, seeing as many HCP's suggested the Niacin supplement to cardiac patients.

What is Niacin?
Niacin is also known as Vitamin B3, something we ingest probably every day of our lives!  Niacin works by blocking the breakdown of fats in adipose (fatty) tissues,if these fats were to breakdown, VLDLP (VERY low density lipoproteins) are created in the liver, which are BAD.  But blocking this breakdown, we have less free fatty acids flowing in our blood, which leads to less VLDLP created in the liver, and higher amounts of HDL.  Due to this, the hypothesis was that Niacin protected your heart, as HDL levels increase....seems OK, right?

What was the Study?
It was a large study including 3,400 patients with high risk for heart attacks and strokes, that were treated with high dose extended release niacin (AKA Niaspan) to off-set their current higher levels of LDL's and hopefully increase HDL's, thus decreasing their risk of heart attack and stroke.  The problem is that the study had to be stopped due to a found increase of stroke in the study patients; 28 of the patients that got the study drug (of 1,718 patients) had strokes versus 12 of the 1,696 patients that got a placebo.  Due to these findings, the NIH stopped the study 18 months early, despite some of the patients receiving the study drug had some positive responses.

What does this mean to me?
Well, I wouldn't go run out to take Niacin to help with elevated LDL levels BUT if your HCP has put you on Niaspan (or high dose Niacin) I wouldn't encourage you to stop without discussing with them first.  Plenty of new drugs are constantly being created and trialled as heart disease kills over 800,000 Americans each year, and I am sure that there will be a drug soon that can help to increase our HDL levels without creating other risks to our bodies.  But, until that point, eat healthy, get exercise, relax (try T'ai Chi or yoga!), and talk to your HCP about what your options are.

Yours in Good Health

Friday, June 10, 2011

T'ai Chi: Is it for me?

T'ai Chi is an internal Chinese martial art that is usually practiced both for self defense and for its health benefits.  It is a series of slow, controlled movements, all of which started very traditionally and have branched out and now there are many hybrid forms in the modern world, but the practice was started in East as far back as the 1500's and are based in Taoist, Buddhist, and Confucian ideals that health is controlled by two opposing forces: yin and yang.  A new study shows that this can actually help prevent falls in older adults, and give great health benefits.

How does T'ai Chi work?
One form is a slow series of movements that focus on a straight spine, abdominal breathing, and a natural range of motion.  Another form focuses on pushing hands  in a series of movements to be done with a partner for training movement purposes. But, bot forms help to focus the student on their center of gravity, retain their posture, and maintain flexibility in their joints.

How does this prevent falls in the elderly?
In the British Journal of Sports Medicine, a study was performed specifically looking at the benefits in elderly and prevention of falls when practicing T'ai Chi.   It has been hypothesized that T'ai Chi is beneficial for many different conditions, such as osteoarthritis, but it was hard to collect adequate data and the studies always came out inconclusive.  This was a smaller study, but the results were pretty clear that the elderly benefit from T'ai Chi from both a fall prevention perspective and it has improved psychological functioning, along with improved overall general health, even in the presence of other diseases.

This is a pretty important study because falls are a huge problem in the elderly population.  Falls can cause broken bones, bleeding (if on blood thinners), and can lead to early death.  I think this is important for anyone who wants to benefit their health and to work on flexibility and stress relief, but it can be especially important for the older generations, and HCPs should encourage all elderly clients to get involved with T'ai Chi, it can benefit your life in many different facets.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Do you know what big hands are really a sign of?

A new study of over 1000 middle age men has just disproved the old wives tail that big hands meant that you were very endowed... Interestingly they found that men with a large difference in size between their index and ring fingers are at a significant higher risk for knee injuries. Some studies from a few years ago came out with the statement that men with a difference in finger length had more athletic prowess and higher levels of aggression, which still may be true, and also may directly correlate to the increase in knee injuries!

What does the size difference mean?
Women tend to have similar length ring and index fingers, whereas men usually do have a difference in length.  This study found that an person, man or woman, with a larger difference between these finger lengths, are due to a higher amount of testosterone exposure in the womb.

Why is this important?
The cartilage in the knee joints are sensitive to testosterone, and making you more at risk for knee injuries, if you have had testosterone exposure in the womb, so this difference in finger length can be a predisposing sign.  In a study performed in Norway, over 1000 people aged 51-92 were studied in regards to these findings and the participants were interviewed and X-rayed to look for damage.  28% of men reported a previous knee injury as opposed to 23% of women, and of the men that reported injuries 78% of those men had a significant difference in size between their ring and index fingers, which is pretty significant.  There was no significance with women who have difference in finger length; most likely because we have that lovely estrogen surging through our bodies to protect us!

What does that mean for me?
Really, you probably are a better athlete if you are a male with this condition, but it shouldn't change how you live your life or play at all!  It might be more important further down the road, and we may be able to prevent knee injuries, but until then eat healthy, don't over tax your body, stretch, and keep yourself hydrated....and maybe keep the aggression in check ;)

Yours in Good Health

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Cell phones might really cause cancer?!?!

For years there were people who I assumed were conspiracy theorists saying that they wouldn't hold their cell phone near their ears when talking on the phone because they caused brain cancer; I thought it was a bunch of bunk and obviously they were just totally bonkers thinking such a thing.  Well, I guess the tides MAY have turned, and they look like the smarty pants!

The WHO (World Health Organization) just send out a statement saying that they think cell phones really can be carcinogenic (cancer causing) because of the low level of radiation they produce.  Cell phones are considered a Group 2B risk because researchers and scientists have seen and increase in gliomas, a type of brain cancer, associated with cell phone use.  The WHO did also make a statement that further research needs to be done and these were initial studies, and that they feel the use of text and hands-free devices may decrease your risk of exposure.  But this is important because we need to think about the implications this may have on our lives, and what else might be causing this exposure: WiFi? Televisions?

Now, am I going to freak out and toss my phone because there are "associations" wit gliomas and cell phone use?  Not at all.  What I will do is try to limit phone to head time and utilize my handsfree earphones; which honestly I use a ton anyway because I am always multitasking and it allows me to have arm freedom whilst chatting!  I also think that cell phones, when they first came out, were designed to be a phone to use on the run, in an emergency, not these, basically, computers that we hold on our persons 24/7 that we cannot live without, and it starts from such a young age that children are also attached to their phones.  So, this small level of radiation, which may not be a huge amount of exposure, over time, and with the extend that we all seem to use our phones, may give us an increase in risk of certain brain cancers.  It is estimated that 5 Billion people worldwide use cellphones EVERY SINGLE DAY!  That is crazy!

If you have other radiation risks daily, you might want to try to increase texting or handsfree use, and talk to your HCP about your risk.  Unfortunately, mostly the damage is already done (if there is any) but we can look for any changes that you might have (increased headaches, changes in vision, altered mood, changes in taste, muscle weaknesses) and be aware so we can get in for early diagnosis and treatment.

Bottom line?  I wanted you guys to be aware, but this shouldn't have huge implications in our lives, as the WHO changes their risk (if they increase it) I will let you all know and the changes we should make in our lives from there on in.  Until then, keep living the dream ;)

Yours in Good Health