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OnCall Show Notes: HealthNews RoundUp-2nd Week of December, 2018



I’m Dr. Howard Smith, PENTA Medical Network, live from NYC, with Health News You Should Use, the latest medical discoveries that you can use in a practical way to keep yourself and your family healthy.  

There is a ton of medical and healthcare news every week.  I distill this down for you to those tidbits that contain actions you and your family can and should actually take. 


Today’s topics include: cosmetics can affect a fetus, pictures of your blood vessels will keep you healthier, dangers of vaping marijuana, team chemistry, value of green spaces, IBD and cancer, the magic of the Mediterranean diet, and a women’s product recall.


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



We’ve heard it before:  what mom’s and dad’s eat, sniff, and do with their bodies will affect their offspring.  The latest shows that the soap, makeup, shampoos, and even the toothpaste a pregnant woman uses can trigger an earlier puberty for her daughter many years later.  Researchers at UC-Berkeley’s School of Public Health studied the blood and urine from pregnant women in California’s Salinas Valley and tested them for common chemicals found in cosmetics including the scented phthalates, the preservative parabenzoic acid, and the antibacterial and antifungal phenol triclosan.  #Then they began studying their daughters and sons beginning at age 9 and continuing through age 13 to track their development of puberty.  The urine sample assays revealed that 90 percent of mothers tested during their pregnancy and children tested at age 9 years did have phthalates and parabens, and 70 percent had the phenols.  Higher levels of these chemicals were associated with earlier puberty in girls only.  If you’re pregnant or considering becoming so, be very careful about using any personal care products.  Check the labels and look for natural alternatives.




From “a picture is worth a thousand words” department, a Swedish study published in the Lancet   demonstrates that ultrasound pictures showing the formation of life-threatening and brain-threatening carotid artery plaques will drive middle-aged people toward healthier eating and more exercise.  Investigators studied more than 3,000 Swedes ages 40 to 60 years. The entire group received motivational health education but half also received ultrasound pictures of their own partially blocked neck arteries as well as data demonstrating that their blood vessels were comparable to those of older and possibly sicker individuals.  One year later, the participants were examined once again. This time, the cardiovascular risk scores as well as the levels of total and LDL cholesterol, the bad cholesterol, were healthier in the group viewing their blood vessels than those who received only health education.  This same effect was seen in study subjects no matter their level of formal education.  Concrete data and even better, pictures, are powerful motivators for us all to live healthier.  Following your blood pressure, your weight, your cholesterol numbers, and your daily calories burned as well as steps taken will go a long way toward lengthening your “HealthSpan,” those years that you are able to lead a happy and productive life.




Vaping marijuana compared with smoking it releases significantly higher doses of the intoxicating tetrahydrocannabinol or THC. A study of seventeen 27 yr old men and women by the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Centers behavioral pharmacology unit showed that vaping a controlled 25 mg sample of THC versus smoking it lead to a 17% greater general drug effect, 7% more anxiety and paranoia, and significantly 60 % higher levels of dry mouth and dry eyes.  Those vaping marijuana compared with smoking it experienced a drop in their ability to accurately complete a computer task by 170%.  If you are going to use marijuana and want to vape it, definitely reduce the amount you are using in the device to account for the more efficient delivery of THC.




How team players work together and their history of shared victories is more important to an athletic team’s success than the cadre of star players who may be recruited to join the team.  That’s the conclusion reached by industrial engineers at Northwestern University after analyzing a mountain of data from professional sports leagues and even organized online gaming.  They published it last week in the journal Nature Human Behavior.  Statistics were drawn from the NBA, Major League Baseball, the English Premier Soccer League, the Indian Premier Cricket League, and the online battle game Defense of the Ancients.  The researchers tabulated individual players skill statistics as well as using linear regression modeling to quantitate the teams’ track records.  The preeminence of team chemistry and cooperative strategies over individual statistics held for all sports and even for the online games.




If you live in or frequently visit places with trees and shrubbery, you’re less likely to fall victim to heart disease.  So says the data gathered in the University of Louisville’s outpatient cardiology clinic.  Over a 5 year study period, more than 400 people with a greater than normal risk of cardiovascular disease underwent blood and urine testing.   At the same time, their homes’ proximities to green spaces were quantitated with a vegetation index based on satellite imagery and their exposure to air pollution was assessed using EPA data.  Those with greener environments demonstrated biomarkers indicating less stress, more beneficial body oxidation, and a higher capacity for blood vessel repair.  The age, gender, ethnicity, smoking status, and proximity to roadways made no difference.  So, if you can, avoid living in a concrete jungle.  If you can’t, visit green spaces such as urban parks, think Central Park you New Yorkers, botanical gardens, zoos, and take trips to the wide open spaces as often as you can.






Many of us are on blood thinners for one reason or another.  A huge group uses low dose aspirin daily to reduce the risk of second heart attacks or stroke.  Problem is that any blood thinning medication, not just aspirin, may lead to gastrointestinal bleeding.  Clinicians at Vanderbilt University studied a huge group of them, some 1.6 million patients, and found that adding treatment with a proton-pump inhibitor, a so-called PPI, reduced the risk of hospitalization for gastrointestinal bleeding by 34%.  These medications include Prilosec, Prevacid, Nexium, and their generic equivalents.  If you are on long-term blood thinners and tend to experience stomaches, ask your doctor about using one of these medications or trying a milder form of antacid therapy such as acid neutralizers like Tums or Alka-Seltzer chewies or H2 blockers such as Axid, Pepcid, Zantac, or Tagamet.  We don’t know if the non-proton pump inhibitors will give the same results, but they may well and they do have a longer-term safety record that the PPIs.



Northwestern University urologists just completed a 20 year study and report that men with inflammatory bowel disease have a significantly higher risk of developing prostate cancer.  Their study reviewed data from nearly 10,000 men, one thousand of whom had IBD.  They found that the IBD-affected men tended to not only have higher levels of circulating PSA, prostate-specific antigen, but also a 4 times higher incidence of frank prostate cancer as the study monitoring continued.  In the past, the prevailing opinion was that men with IBD had high PSAs only  due to their bowel inflammation.  If you or someone you love has IBD, be certain that he receives comprehensive surveillance for prostate cancer until additional research explains the link between these two conditions.  Good prospective management includes periodic PSA testing but also digital prostate exams and ultrasound-guided biopsies when necessary.



The Mediterranean diet consists of plant-based foods such as fruits, veggies, whole grains, and nuts rather than meat as preferred protein sources, healthy fats such as olive oil and canola oil rather than butter as a fat source, and herbs and spices rather than salt for flavoring.  You can have some meat, but red meat should be consumed only several times a month, but fish and chicken can be eaten twice a week.  Harvard Medical School researchers report a 25% reduction in the risk of heart and stroke on this diet.  Their latest study of some 25,000 women and 40 measured biomarkers in these women’s blood explains just how the diet works.  It seems that the Mediterranean diet reduces general inflammation, improves glucose metabolism, normalizes insulin resistance, and reduces body weight.  So go Mediterranean! There’s a veritable explosion of mediterranean cookbooks and restaurants, the food is tasty, and this diet may just save your life.



If you want to remember a new fact, scribbling a representation of it rather than writing a phrase works better.   Neuroscientists at Canada’s University of Waterloo tested groups of university students and senior citizens, and the results showed that drawing was superior for both groups but the differences were particularly dramatic for the older subjects.  It seems that drawing leads to better memory formation since it includes a variety of formats for the core information including visual, spacial, as well as verbal.  So if you want to take effective notes, you may wish to develop your drawing and cartooning skills.




We are all well aware of the current opioid epidemic.  Just released is an app for smartphones of the Apple and Android variety that helps guide those with an opioid use disorder as they work to discontinue these addicting medications.  The app requires a doctors prescription for registration and linkage of the app to an online database.  The app includes a reminder function for medication timing, an educational component, and a compliance reward program.   A study of 170 patients receiving buprenorphine therapy and behavioral therapy with or without the app revealed that app use was associated with greater retention in the treatment program.  



The reports another bit of kindness in the holiday spirit.  Jet Blue is running a “Go Get Gifted” Contest.  Five lucky entrants will be given the opportunity to be flown free of charge to a destination of their choice in order to spend the holiday with their loved ones.  One kooky feature of the program: the winners will each be gift wrapped and “delivered” on Christmas Eve to those they are visiting in a packaging style of their choosing.



#Just before starting this podcast, Kimberley-Clark, the Kleenex people, announced the recall of its U BY KOTEX SLEEK TAMPONS, REGULAR.  It seems that lots of this product sold between October, 2016 and October, 2018 shred, and the absorbent material may be retained inside the vagina requiring professional intervention for removal.  These material deposits may trigger both bacterial and yeast vaginal infections.  For specific information about the affected lots of this product, check out the url at the end of the references for this program on my website at


#That’s the Health News You Should Use for this week.  Until we speak again,  keep your brain active and your body in motion.  I’m Dr. Howard Smith for the PENTA Medical Network wishing you lots of fun with your last minute holiday shopping but more fun taking in the holiday lights and the wonderful spirit of the season. #




Kim G Harley, Kimberly P Berger, Katherine Kogut, Kimberly Parra, Robert H Lustig, Louise C Greenspan, Antonia M Calafat, Xiaoyun Ye, Brenda Eskenazi. Association of phthalates, parabens and phenols found in personal care products with pubertal timing in girls and boys. Human Reproduction, 2018; DOI: 10.1093/humrep/dey337


Ulf Näslund, Nawi Ng, Anna Lundgren, Eva Fhärm, Christer Grönlund, Helene Johansson, Bernt Lindahl, Bertil Lindahl, Kristina Lindvall, Stefan K Nilsson, Maria Nordin, Steven Nordin, Emma Nyman, Joacim Rocklöv, Davide Vanoli, Lars Weinehall, Patrik Wennberg, Per Wester, Margareta Norberg. Visualization of asymptomatic atherosclerotic disease for optimum cardiovascular prevention (VIPVIZA): a pragmatic, open-label, randomised controlled trial. The Lancet, 2018; DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(18)32818-6


Tory R. Spindle, Edward J. Cone, Nicolas J. Schlienz, John M. Mitchell, George E. Bigelow, Ronald Flegel, Eugene Hayes, Ryan Vandrey. Acute Effects of Smoked and Vaporized Cannabis in Healthy Adults Who Infrequently Use Cannabis. JAMA Network Open, 2018; 1 (7): e184841 DOI: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2018.4841


Northwestern University. "In team sports, chemistry matters: Sports analytics analysis reveals that past shared success among team members improves odds of future wins." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 December 2018. <>.


Ray Yeager, Daniel W. Riggs, Natasha DeJarnett, David J. Tollerud, Jeffrey Wilson, Daniel J. Conklin, Timothy E. O'Toole, James McCracken, Pawel Lorkiewicz, Zhengzhi Xie, Nagma Zafar, Sathya S. Krishnasamy, Sanjay Srivastava, Jordan Finch, Rachel J. Keith, Andrew DeFilippis, Shesh N. Rai, Gilbert Liu, Aruni Bhatnagar. Association Between Residential Greenness and Cardiovascular Disease Risk. Journal of the American Heart Association, 2018; 7 (24) DOI: 10.1161/JAHA.118.009117


Ray WA, Chung CP, Murray KT, et al. Association of Oral Anticoagulants and Proton Pump Inhibitor Cotherapy With Hospitalization for Upper Gastrointestinal Tract Bleeding. JAMA. 2018;320(21):2221–2230. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.17242


Jacob A. Burns, Adam B. Weiner, William J. Catalona, Eric V. Li, Edward M. Schaeffer, Stephen B. Hanauer, Scott Strong, James Burns, Maha H.A. Hussain, Shilajit D. Kundu. Inflammatory Bowel Disease and the Risk of Prostate Cancer. European Urology, 2018; DOI: 10.1016/j.eururo.2018.11.039


Shafqat Ahmad, M. Vinayaga Moorthy, Olga V. Demler, Frank B. Hu, Paul M Ridker, Daniel I. Chasman, Samia Mora. Assessment of Risk Factors and Biomarkers Associated With Risk of Cardiovascular Disease Among Women Consuming a Mediterranean Diet. JAMA Network Open, 2018; 1 (8): e185708 DOI: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2018.5708


University of Waterloo. "Drawing is better than writing for memory retention." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 December 2018. <>.

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