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OnCall Show Notes: HealthNews RoundUp-3rd Week of December, 2018



 I’m Dr. Howard Smith, PENTA Medical Network, reporting from NYC, with health and wellness news for the 3rd week of December, 2018. 


 This is Health News You Should Use, the latest medical discoveries that you can use in a practical way to keep yourself and your family healthy.  


 Let’s run down a list of today’s topics: 

Obesity breeds cancer.

Eye blinks are conversational cues.

Your doctor’s stethoscopes are filthy.

Teen bullying produces brain damage.

Subway travel triggers colds and flu.

Your body weight through life predicts chances of heart failure.

A better way to manage teen stress.

Evening exercise doesn’t harm sleep.

Timely physical therapy prevents need for narcotics.


 In addition: special features: HELP to sharpen your brain activity; FUTURISTIC ways of finding new antibiotics, and a LITTLE KINDNESS in the form of a heart-warming story for this holiday season.


One more thing:  you’ll find all the references to that I discuss as well as a copy of show notes on my website at




Over the past 40 years, the citizens of the world have been getting fatter and fatter.  The spread of  Western lifestyle has brought with it new popularity for America’s trademark high calorie, high fat, nutrient-poor diet. The latest world survey in 2016 certified that some 40% of adults and 18% of children were overweight.  If you aren’t counting, that’s 2 billion adults and 340 million children.  


 A survey by Harvard Medical School, the American Cancer Society, and the Imperial College London reveals that, at last tally in 2012, an average of nearly 4% of world-wide cancers, some half million cases, were directly attributable to obesity.  That percentage varies from less than 1% in countries where food is scarce or where the traditional diet is sensible and people exercise to over 7% in high income, over-fed populations like ours or in parts of the world where people by necessity must eat unhealthy foods as is the case in many poor Middle Eastern and African nations.


 The researchers go on to prescribe a fix, and none of their recommendations should surprise you;  ban trans-fats, tax sugar-containing beverages, subsidize affordability of fruits and vegetables, limit package sizes and meal portions, design cities and towns to encourage exercise by providing sidewalks and bike lanes, and create green spaces within urban settings to encourage outdoor activity and exposure to trees and shrubbery.


You don’t have to wait for government action that may never come.  Take these recommendations and act on them NOW for your own sake, the sake of your kids, and for the sake of generations to come. 




Our eye blinking provides non-verbal cues while we converse, and these signals can speed up a boring exchange.  Studies at Germany’s Max Planck Institute of Psycholinguistics reveal that the duration of our eye blinks as we listen to another provides subtle and subliminal feedback to the speaker.


Subjects conversed with computer generated avatars whose eye blink duration could be precisely controlled.  Longer eye blinks triggered shorter answers from the human subjects even though the changes in blink duration were imperceptible to the human eye.


If you want to speed up a verbal interaction, try to consciously slowing your blinking.  Be careful not to slow it too much, or you will appear to be nodding off and insult your companion.




A study of ICU stethoscopes at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania using a sensitive DNA bacterial assay showed that every stethoscope was significantly contaminated with a cesspool of bacteria.  The germs found included the vicious Staph aureus but also, in smaller quantities, the antibiotic-resistant Pseudomonas.  The results were similar for multi-patient stethoscopes carried by doctors, nurses, and therapists and single patient disposable stethoscope that remained in the patient’s room and were discarded after patient discharge.


 The study also looked at the effectiveness of stethoscope cleaning by clinicians.  

They compared individual favorite cleaning techniques used by the doctors and nurses with a gold standard routine: wiping for a full minute using a hydrogen peroxide wipe.  The clinician’s pet methods, wiping with alcohol swabs or bleach or a brief wipe with the same hydrogen peroxide only cleaned 10% of the stethoscopes compared with 50% for the gold standard.  


More studies are needed to know if the remaining bacteria can actually grow and cause disease, but they likely can.  We do need even better cleaning routines for stethoscopes since the gold standard hydrogen peroxide for a minute has a 50-50 chance of failing.


What can you do in the meantime?  Ask your stethoscope-wielding doctors, nurses, and therapists to wipe their scopes for longer periods of time such as several minutes.



 HELP:  Turbocharge Your Mind and Memory

 Here are 5 ways to put your mind and memory in high gear thanks to the editors of MDLinx.

  1. Exercise.

  2. Get enough quality sleep.  Shoot for 8 hours.

  3. Drink coffee, tea, or other caffeinated drinks.

  4. Try a new adventure or read something new.

  5. Eat mind-igniting foods: fish, whole grains, fruits, veggies, berries, dark chocolate, eggs.




That being bullied as a child and adolescent is associated with psychic trauma and lifelong issues is an established fact.  Now a study from King’s College London appearing the the journal Molecular Psychiatry reveals that older adolescent victims of bullying have permanent changes in their brains.


Thirty-six such teens underwent MRI brain imaging at ages 14 and 19 years and their findings were compared with matched peers who had not been bullied.  The bullied teens showed a significant reduction in brain volume in the putamen and caudate zones.   These regions are critical for emotional sensitivity, attention, motivation, and reward sensitivity.


As many as 30% of all teens are subjected to some form of bullying.  If your child is one of these, don’t ignore it.  Insist that school and law enforcement officials act quickly and decisively to punish those responsible.  You should aggressively provide emotional support and professional psychologic help to your child.




Many suspect that mass transit is a source of colds, but this urban myth has never been proven..... or disproven.  An epidemiological study just published in the journal Environmental Health confirms that the London Underground is a source of infection.


Civil engineers and statisticians at the University of Bristol determined that locales served by transit lines whose patrons spent more time on the trains or in over-crowded stations had significantly higher rates of respiratory illness.  In some cases, the rates of illness were 3 times higher than for those destinations whose residents spent less time in the transit system.


It is almost certain that the experience in the United Kingdom is duplicated worldwide and most certainly in America’s largest cities.  What’s your defense if you ride public transit?  Definitely get the flu vaccine.  Avoid hand to hand to mouth transmission of germs by wearing gloves when you ride.  Wash your hands after you remove the gloves.  Avoid sitting next to a coughing passenger.  If you are ill and must ride, keep your mouth shut or wear a fashionable mask.




American medicine tends to focus on middle aged and older people dutifully recording weight, blood pressure, and tons of other data.  When it comes to predicting if any of us will develop heart failure as we age, clinicians at Johns Hopkins report that knowing your weight at age 20 and your history of weight stability is invaluable.


The study followed nearly 6,500 people in 6 American communities.  Those who were obese at age 20 had more than a three-fold risk of developing heart failure later.  Obesity at age 40 doubled the risk of heart failure.


 Heart failure, sometimes called congestive heart failure, refers to heart muscle weakening, stiffening, and generalized incapacity.  Difficult to treat, it can necessitate a heart transplant or use of an artificial pumping device such as a left ventricular assist.  More than half of those diagnosed with heart failure will die within 5 years.


The study authors recommend that all doctors ask their patients about weight at age 20 and request as much information about weight history as they can provide.  In turn, you should be thinking about this information not only to have it on the tip of your tongue but more importantly assmotivation for you to maintain a healthy weight.



 FUTUREMED: New powerful antibiotics may be found in a wild animal’s mouth

Doctors and nurses are butting their collective heads against ever more powerful bacteria that develop antibiotic resistance.  There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and it appears to be beaming from the mouths of wild bears.  


Microbiologists at Rutgers University find that bears have bacteria in their saliva that protect them from many of the same pathogenic bacteria that infect us and that develop resistance to our current crop of antibiotics.  Testing individual bacteria from the saliva is possible using revolutionary oil-droplet technology that isolates the germs and permits testing individual bacteria for antibacterial powers.  Once these protective bacteria are identified, the antibacterial chemicals they produce can be pinpointed and be incorporated into new drugs.




All of us manage stress in at one of two ways: attempting to suppress and ignore the stress triggers or coping with them in a positive way.  When it comes to teen stress, a study from Penn State shows that attacking stress head on using so-called cognitive reappraisal significantly  benefits adolescent health.


Data from 261 teens between 13 and 16 years reveals that those using cognitive reappraisal had lower blood pressures, healthier body weights, and less internal body inflammation.


Ok, it sounds good.  So just what is cognitive reappraisal?   It is a emotion control strategy that involves interpreting a known stress or trigger in a positive rather than in a negative manner.  It works best if you have thought about that stress before it actually occurs, but it can be effective after the fact.  


For example, your child receives a bad test grade or nasty teacher notes on a term paper.  Cognitive reappraisal turns this bad news into an opportunity to correct gaps in knowledge or writing skills.  Merely feeling bad and forgetting about it internalizes failure and harms the body. 


This skill and how to use it is complicated.  I urge you to read more about it.  It appears to operate more quickly and effectively in men than in women and in younger persons than in older ones.  It operates differently in different cultures.  Bottom line: cognitive reappraisal is yet another example of the power of positive thinking.




Another urban myth, accepted even by sleep specialists, is that exercise in the evening will negatively impact sleep quality.  A meta-analysis, that is a critical review and aggregation of some 23 studies on the subject by the Institute of Human Movement Sciences in Switzerland, disagrees.


Their data revealed that evening exercise, even intense exercise, will not prevent you from falling asleep as long as you complete it one hour before “hitting the sack.”  If your exercise is moderate, you may continue it up until 30 minutes before sleep.  It turn out that evening exercise actually improves the percentage of sleep time spent in deep sleep, the most important sleep phase for brain recovery.


Since there are individual variations in response to exercise, listen to your body.  If you seem too worked up to fall asleep after evening workouts, you may want to set your alarm for an hour earlier in the morning and exercise as the roosters crow.




If you develop pain in your neck, shoulder, low back, or knee, prompt initiation of physical therapy speeds your recovery reducing your chances of needing opioid pain killers.  Researchers at Stanford and Duke sampled nearly 90,000 patients, and looked at the timing of physical therapy and the need for pain medication.


 They found that initiating physical therapy within 3 months of pain onset, reduced the prescription of narcotics for pain.  If such medications did need to be given, they were required for a shorter period of time.


 Opioids are not a long-term solution for musculoskeletal pain.  They are a dangerous band-aid that merely cover over the problem rather than attacking it directly by helping to eliminate the inflammation causing it.  Physical therapy and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory agents such as NSAIDS like Advil, Motrin, or aspirin directly attack the problem in safer and more effective ways.



An ice storm in Alabama gives us the latest heartwarming story from   A school bus driver by the name of Wayne Price had already picked up a group of elementary school students when school officials announced a delay for the beginning of classes eliminating the time allotted for school-provided breakfasts.  Rather than allow the 50 kids on his bus to go hungry until lunch, he stopped at McDonalds and personally purchased breakfasts for every one of the students.  


From comments on social media about Mr. Price, this is not the first time that he has risen to the occasion to go beyond the call of duty.  A hearty round of applause for Mr. Price for his kindness in the spirit of giving.




 That’s the Health News You Should Use for this week.  Until we speak again,  keep your brain active and your body in motion since that is the BEST medicine.  I’m Dr. Howard Smith for the PENTA Medical Network wishing you a very, merry Christmas.  






Hyuna Sung, Rebecca L. Siegel, Lindsey A. Torre, Jonathan Pearson‐Stuttard, Farhad Islami, Stacey A. Fedewa, Ann Goding Sauer, Kerem Shovel, Susan M. Gapstur, Eric J. Jacobs, Edward L. Giovannucci, Ahmedin Jemal. Global patterns in excess body weight and the associated cancer burden. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, 2018; DOI: 10.3322/caac.21499


Paul Hömke, Judith Holler, Stephen C. Levinson. Eye blinks are perceived as communicative signals in human face-to-face interaction. PLOS ONE, 2018; 13 (12): e0208030 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0208030


Vincent R. Knecht, John E. McGinniss, Hari M. Shankar, Erik L. Clarke, Brendan J. Kelly, Ize Imai, Ayannah S. Fitzgerald, Kyle Bittinger, Frederic D. Bushman, Ronald G. Collman. Molecular analysis of bacterial contamination on stethoscopes in an intensive care unit. Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology, 2018; 1 DOI: 10.1017/ice.2018.319


Erin Burke Quinlan, Edward D. Barker, Qiang Luo, Tobias Banaschewski, Arun L. W. Bokde, Uli Bromberg, Christian Büchel, Sylvane Desrivières, Herta Flor, Vincent Frouin, Hugh Garavan, Bader Chaarani, Penny Gowland, Andreas Heinz, Rüdiger Brühl, Jean-Luc Martinot, Marie-Laure Paillère Martinot, Frauke Nees, Dimitri Papadopoulos Orfanos, Tomáš Paus, Luise Poustka, Sarah Hohmann, Michael N. Smolka, Juliane H. Fröhner, Henrik Walter, Robert Whelan, Gunter Schumann. Peer victimization and its impact on adolescent brain development and psychopathology. Molecular Psychiatry, 2018; DOI: 10.1038/s41380-018-0297-9


Lara Goscé, Anders Johansson. Analysing the link between public transport use and airborne transmission: mobility and contagion in the London underground. Environmental Health, 2018; 17 (1) DOI: 10.1186/s12940-018-0427-5


Johns Hopkins Medicine. "Your weight history may predict your heart failure risk: Low-tech reporting on earlier weights may guide clinical care." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 December 2018. <>.


Stanislav S. Terekhov, Ivan V. Smirnov, Maja V. Malakhova, Andrei E. Samoilov, Alexander I. Manolov, Anton S. Nazarov, Dmitry V. Danilov, Svetlana A. Dubiley, Ilya A. Osterman, Maria P. Rubtsova, Elena S. Kostryukova, Rustam H. Ziganshin, Maria A. Kornienko, Anna A. Vanyushkina, Olga N. Bukato, Elena N. Ilina, Valentin V. Vlasov, Konstantin V. Severinov, Alexander G. Gabibov, Sidney Altman. Ultrahigh-throughput functional profiling of microbiota communities. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2018; 201811250 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1811250115


Emily J. Jones, Phoebe H. Lam, Lauren C. Hoffer, Edith Chen, Hannah M.C. Schreier. Chronic Family Stress and Adolescent Health. Psychosomatic Medicine, 2018; 80 (8): 764 DOI: 10.1097/PSY.0000000000000624


Jan Stutz, Remo Eiholzer, Christina M. Spengler. Effects of Evening Exercise on Sleep in Healthy Participants: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sports Medicine, 2018; DOI: 10.1007/s40279-018-1015-0


Stanford Medicine. "Early physical therapy can reduce risk, amount of long-term opioid use, study finds." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 December 2018. <>.

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