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NOTES: HealthNews RoundUp-1st Week of February, 2019


I’m Dr. Howard Smith, PENTA Medical Network,  reporting from NYC with the Health News Roundup for the FIRST week of FEBRUARY, 2019.  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.  


Here are the headlines:

How To Hack Your Brain

How Long Does Weed Show Up On A Drug Test

How Losing Weight In A Group Can Fail

HELPful Hint: Saunas Are Good For All That Ails

Poor Sleep Can Be A Pain The Next Day

Exercise For Better Executive Brain Skills

Vitamin D Prevents Diabetes and More

FUTUREMed: Parfait Male Contraceptive

Skip Mammogram Before Breast Reduction Surgery

Teen Concussion Recovery Faster With Aerobic Exercise

Mindfulness An Antidote for Exhaustion

Pain Relief Triggers Most Medical Marijuana Use

TRY A LITTLE KINDNESS: Grateful Seagull Thanks A Kind Man Every Day




For more information, you’ll find all the references for the stories and a copy of show notes on my website at:



Here is the news:

How To Hack Your Brain



Repetition is the key to controlling your brain, forming positive habits, and erasing self-destructive behaviors.  Psychologists from Britain’s University of Warwick collaborated with colleagues at Princeton and Brown Universities to create and study a digital mouse model that reveals the secrets of our brains’ habitual and goal-directed controllers.


In the experiment, the mice were first taught to trigger their goal-directed controller by pulling one of two levers that gave them a food reward.  When the reward lever was switched after only a few trials, the mice adapted and pulled the new lever in response to the goal-directed controller.  But when the reward lever was switched after many trials, their brain’s habitual controller became dominant and they continued to pull the same lever despite the lack of a reward.


If you want to train your brain with a good habit or if you want to erase a bad habit, repeat the desired action over and over again.  With experience you will learn how often you must repeat an action to permit your habitual controller to achieve permanent dominance.

habits, smoking, drinking, overeating, health tips, health news

#habits #smoking #drinking #overeating #healthtips #health news


University of Warwick. "Train the brain to form good habits through repetition." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 January 2019. <>.




How Long Does Weed Show Up On A Drug Test



If you smoked or ate some weed over the weekend, will you flunk that pop drug test your boss springs on you Monday morning?  The answer depends on how much you consumed and the type of test you must take.  Either way, be forewarned that marijuana’s psychoactive agent, THC, is fat-soluble and definitely hangs around in your body longer than alcohol.


Smoking one isolated marijuana cigarette yields a positive test for 3 days.  If you smoke 3 or 4 times a week, you’ll fail a test up to a week later.  If you smoke everyday for awhile, you will test positive for at least a month after quitting.


The most sensitive marijuana test is hair analysis, and with it THC detection can occur up to 3 months after stopping any use.  Next sensitive is the urine test that detects use 3 to 30 days after cessation.   Saliva tests may be positive for 24 hours.  Blood tests only pick up THC for 3-4 hours after use.


If your job depends on a negative unannounced drug test, you’d better think twice about regular weed use.


marijuana, weed, hash, drug test, saliva test, hair analysis, health news, health tips

#marijuana #weed #hash #drugtest #salivatest #hairanalysis #health news #health tips



Michelle Taylor, 1 , 2 Rosie Lees, 2 Graeme Henderson, 3 Anne Lingford‐Hughes, 4 John Macleod, 2 John Sullivan, 5 and Matthew Hickman 2

Comparison of cannabinoids in hair with self‐reported cannabis consumption in heavy, light and non‐cannabis users.  Drug Alcohol Rev. 2017 Mar; 36(2): 220–226.




How Losing Weight In A Group Can Fail



The time is here when many are toning their bodies looking ahead to those warm summer days on the beach. When you join a group to lose weight, know that the information you receive about how your group is doing can encourage or discourage your efforts.


Yale and McGill University psychologists studied data from an anonymous US-based weight loss company with close to 2 million clients.  I think we can guess which one.  The company’s program is based on a daily calorie budget system.


The researchers conclude that group leaders announcing only the weight lost by top performers inspires others in the group to keep trying harder.  Announcing the average weight lost by the group, definitely a lower number, tends to be discouraging.


If you’re in one of these “buddy” weight loss program, ask your leaders to announce only info from the Biggest Losers.  That way, more of your group will be winners.


Dieting, weight loss, buddy system, biggest loser, health news, health tips

#dieting #weightloss #buddysystem #biggestloser #healthnews #healthtips


Kosuke Uetake, Nathan Yang. Inspiration from the “Biggest Loser”: Social Interactions in a Weight Loss Program. Marketing Science, 2019; DOI: 10.1287/mksc.2018.1116



HELPful Hint: Saunas Are Good For All That Ails



Looking for a little warmth this winter.  Finnish and British scientists urge you to spend some time in the sauna and not only warm up but enjoy substantial health benefits.


Their report in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings demonstrates that regular sauna use reduces your blood pressure and risk of cardiovascular disease, improves lung function, energizes your immune system, helps control skin problems and arthritis, reduces headache, relaxes you, and improves your overall quality of life.


During these dark days of winter, seek out a nice cozy sauna, and visit it often.  A surprisingly large number of health clubs have them.


sauna, warmth, heart disease, high blood pressure, immunity, lung function, arthritis, headache, relaxation, health news, health tips

#sauna #warmth #heartdisease #highbloodpressure #immunity #lungfunction #arthritis #headache #relaxation #healthnews #healthtips



Jari A. Laukkanen, Tanjaniina Laukkanen, Setor K. Kunutsor. Cardiovascular and Other Health Benefits of Sauna Bathing: A Review of the Evidence. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 2018; 93 (8): 1111 DOI: 10.1016/j.mayocp.2018.04.008




Poor Sleep Can Be A Pain The Next Day



If you get a rotten night’s sleep, your brain will be primed for a painful day after.  Neuroscientists from UC-Berkeley now prove this fact with two studies: one in the laboratory with sophisticated studies of the next day’s brain electrical activity and the other via crowdsourcing with subjects reporting their feelings after a restless night.


In the first study, the young adults kept awake in the lab showed greater than normal brainwave activity in the somatosensory pain-sensing part of the brain while experiencing a painful stimulus.  In the second experiment, the online crowdsource participants rated their pain significantly greater after each had a terrible night’s sleep.


Knowing this fact can help you, a work-obsessed student or a young professional swamped with projects, prepare for the day after an all-nighter.  To those of us in the healthcare professions, it’s also a call to keep hospital rooms quiet and to minimize patient’ sleep interruptions.  After all, a good night’s sleep for a patient will mean fewer pain medications the next day.


sleep, pain, hospital noise, pain medication, health news, health tips

#sleep #pain #hospitalnoise #painmedication #healthnews #healthtips


Adam J. Krause, Aric A. Prather, Tor D. Wager, Martin A. Lindquist, Matthew P. Walker. The pain of sleep loss: A brain characterization in humans. The Journal of Neuroscience, 2019; 2408-18 DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2408-18.2018




Exercise For Better Executive Skills



Exercising regularly not only tones your muscles but also the executive control center in your brain.  This is the conclusion of a study by Columbia University neurologists.


They studied 132 couch potatos of all ages and split them into two groups each with an identical age profile, gender distribution, educational background, and test scores on cognitive exams.  One group started regular aerobic exercise while the other group pursued non-strenuous stretching and toning.


The subjects who were aerobically exercising by either treadmill walking, stationery cycling, or using an ellipical machine scored twice as high on problem-solving tests as those only stretching.  Those aerobic exercisers who were middle-aged tested as though they had the executive brain powers of those 10 years younger while elder exercisers performed as though they were a whopping 20 years younger.


Aerobic exercise is good at any age, but it really pays off as you get older.


aerobics, executive function, cognitive improvement, health, health news, health tips

#aerobics #executivefunction #cognitiveimprovement #healthnews #healthtips


Yaakov Stern, Anna MacKay-Brandt, Seonjoo Lee, Paula McKinley, Kathleen McIntyre, Qolamreza Razlighi, Emil Agarunov, Matthew Bartels, Richard P. Sloan. Effect of aerobic exercise on cognition in younger adults A randomized clinical trial. Neurology, 2019 DOI: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000007003



Vitamin D Prevents Diabetes and More



A new Brazilian study shows that Vitamin D is key in promoting insulin sensitivity and lowering blood glucose.  Normal blood sugar levels prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes, the type controllable by diet and medication rather than insulin.


Now here’s the “rest of the story” as the great Paul Harvey once intoned.  Although the US Preventive Services counsels against routine Vitamin D testing, a review from the University of Michigan published this year shows that Vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency are epidemic in the US population.  


The latest estimate reveals that at least 30% of Americans have an outright Vitamin D deficiency while 40% have a vitamin D insufficiency.  Vitamin D deficiency is brought on by: eating few fruits and veggies; bowel diseases including ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, and celiac disease; physical inactivity; excessive alcohol consumption; lack of dairy product ingestion; and, most importantly, by lack of sun exposure.


If you fall into one or more of these categories, ask your doctor to determine your Vitamin D level.  If you are deficient, get into the sun more or consider taking a daily maintenance dose of 2,000 IU using supplements.


Vitamin D, vitamin D deficiency, diabetes, glucose, sugar, obesity, IBD, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s, celiac, health news, health tips

#Vitamin D #vitamin D deficiency #diabetes #glucose #sugar #obesity #IBD #ulcerative colitis #Crohn’s #celiac #health news #health tips



The North American Menopause Society (NAMS). "Vitamin D could lower the risk of developing diabetes: Study demonstrates role of vitamin D in controlling glycemia." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 January 2019. <>.



Liu X, Baylin A, Levy PD. Vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency among US adults: prevalence, predictors and clinical implications.  Br J Nutr. 2018 Apr;119(8):928-936. doi: 10.1017/S0007114518000491.


Vitamin D Supplementation. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. June 17, 2015.



FUTUREMed: Parfait Male Contraceptive



An effective but reversible male contraceptive has been an elusive goal for the past century since Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger coined the term “birth control.”  Chinese bioengineers using the latest nanotechnology report a unique sperm tube blocking parfait that may just do the trick.  They tested the concept in a rat model.


To prevent sperm from traveling down from the testes, the researchers injected four layers into the vas deferens, the sperm tube.  A layer of hydrogel formed a barrier to sperm travel, a layer of gold nanoparticles which heat up and will dissolve the hydrogel when exposed to near infrared light, EDTA, a chemical that helps to break down the hydrogel but also kills sperm, and finally another layer of gold nanoparticles.


This blocking parfait prevented sperm passage for about 2 months, but application of near infrared light can immediately opened the vas deferens tubes to permit sperm flow when desired.  More work will need to be done before this method hits the men’s clinic.   The blockage will need to last longer, and the injected materials must be proven safe for humans.


Parts of this method are not new.  Gel injections to produce vas deferens tube blockage have been proposed before, but a second injection of a flushing chemical was needed to clear the tube.  The gold nanoparticles do the job on command without another needle.


male contraception, spermacide, vas blockage, nanotechnology, nanoparticles, hydrogel, health news, health tips

#malecontraception #spermacide #vasblockage #nanotechnology #nanoparticles #hydrogel #healthnews #healthtips


Weiwei Bao, Lin Xie, Xuhui Zeng, Hang Kang, Shiqi Wen, Ben Cui, Wenting Li, Yisong Qian, Jie Wu, Ting Li, Keyu Deng, Hong-Bo Xin, Xiaolei Wang. A Cocktail-Inspired Male Birth Control Strategy with Physical/Chemical Dual Contraceptive Effects and Remote Self-Cleared Properties. ACS Nano, 2019; DOI: 10.1021/acsnano.8b06683



Skip Mammograms Before Breast Reduction Surgery



Thousands of young women are having unnecessary radiation exposure via mammograms prior to surgery to right-size their breasts.  A just published University of Michigan study of more than 52,000 women candidates for this surgery shows that one-third of them had mammography prior to the procedure.


The American Society of Plastic Surgeons stated 5 years ago that such routine pre-op imaging should be stopped.  Such procedures in women who otherwise have no indications for breast imaging are economically wasteful and unnecessarily expose patients to radiation.


If your surgeon is recommending this preop imaging, pass on the reference I’m providing and challenge the suggestion.  It’s always good to speak up and take a role in planning your healthcare.


breast reduction, mammography, preoperative imaging, health news, health tips

#breast reduction #mammography #preoperative imaging #health news #health tips


Erika D. Sears, Yu-Ting Lu, Peter R. Swiatek, Ting-Ting Chung, Eve A. Kerr, Kevin C. Chung. Use of Preoperative Mammography During Evaluation for Nononcologic Breast Reduction Surgery. JAMA Surgery, 2018; DOI: 10.1001/jamasurg.2018.4875



Teen Concussion Recovery Faster With Aerobic Exercise



Another thumbs up for aerobic exercise comes from the University of Buffalo’s Concussion Management Clinic.  They check in with the first randomized study of recovery from adolescent sport-related concussions comparing carefully calibrated exercise with the usually recommended near total rest or slow stretching.


The investigators studied 103 athletes, 13 to 18 years of age with equal numbers of girls and boys, who were seen within 10 days of their sport-sustained concussions.  Those who followed the supervised aerobic exercise program recovered 4 days faster than controls and more likely to enjoy a full recovery by 4 weeks post-injury.


To determine just the right intensity of exercise, the Buffalo Concussion Treadmill Test pinpointed the level at which post-concussion patients just begin to experience headache.  Over time, the subjects could tolerate more intensity and were allowed to exercise more vigorously.


This method will likely spread to other cities and medical centers.  If your child sustains a concussion, ask the doctor about arranging a supervised exercise program during the recovery phase.


teen, concussion, aerobic exercise, sports injury, health news, health tips

#teen #concussion #aerobic exercise #sports injury #health news #health tips


John J. Leddy, Mohammad N. Haider, Michael J. Ellis, Rebekah Mannix, Scott R. Darling, Michael S. Freitas, Heidi N. Suffoletto, Jeff Leiter, Dean M. Cordingley, Barry Willer. Early Subthreshold Aerobic Exercise for Sport-Related Concussion. JAMA Pediatrics, 2019; DOI: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2018.4397



Laughter Is Great Medicine For Pain



An unexpected observation during a patient’s awake neurosurgery confirms that laughter leads to a sense of calm and happiness.  Surgeons at Emory University in Atlanta relate this fascinating, whimsical tale.


A young patient with difficult to control epilepsy was undergoing awake neurosurgery to pinpoint the seizure focus.  During the surgery, the surgeons inadventantly stimulated  a pathway called the cingulum bundle, and the patient immediately began to smile, laugh, joke, and report an extremely calming and mood elevating experience that seemed to neutralize not only pain but also any scary thoughts.  


The neuroscientists repeated this same cingulum bundle stimulation in two other seizure patients to confirm their initial observation.  They plan to use this stimulation technique in the future to calm nervous surgical patients and possibly to help treat depression.


The good news is that you can trigger laughter and its calming and pain-neutralizing aftermath with a funny book or movie, some standup comedy, and looking for the funny side of life.  Try it and enjoy!


laughter, calm, mood elevation, epilepsy, seizure, awake neurosurgery, health news, health tips

#laughter #calm #mood elevation #epilepsy #seizure #awake neurosurgery #health news #health tips


Kelly R. Bijanki, Joseph R. Manns, Cory S. Inman, Ki Sueng Choi, Sahar Harati, Nigel P. Pedersen, Daniel L. Drane, Allison C. Waters, Rebecca E. Fasano, Helen S. Mayberg, Jon T. Willie. Cingulum stimulation enhances positive affect and anxiolysis to facilitate awake craniotomy. Journal of Clinical Investigation, 2018; DOI: 10.1172/JCI120110




Mindfulness An Antidote for Exhaustion



Driven entrepreneurs and students often steal needed hours of sleep to find extra time.  A collaborative study by business researchers coordinated by Oregon State University shows that, when sleep is limited, mindfulness can come to the rescue and turbocharge your ailing brain.  


Studying more than sleep-deprived 400 entrepreneurs across the US, the researchers report that as little as 10 minutes of mindfulness practice a day on a sustained basis can provide the same mental clarification benefits as an extra 44 minutes of sleep.


If you’re expecting a stretch of intense work, train your body and mind by developing expertise in mindfulness meditation.  Planning ahead to minimize those all-nighters won’t hurt either.


mindfulness, sleep deprivation, entrepreneurs, health news, health tips

#mindfulness #sleepdeprivation #entrepreneurs #healthnews #healthtips



Charles Y. Murnieks, Jonathan D. Arthurs, Melissa S. Cardon, Nusrat Farah, Jason Stornelli, J. Michael Haynie. Close your eyes or open your mind: Effects of sleep and mindfulness exercises on entrepreneurs' exhaustion. Journal of Business Venturing, 2019; DOI: 10.1016/j.jbusvent.2018.12.004




 Pain Relief Triggers Most Medical Marijuana Use



Medical marijuana is now legal in 33 of 50 states, and most users look to weed as medicine in order to relieve chronic pain.  Investigators from the University of Michigan reviewed data from state registries and found that more than 800,000 persons are licensed medical cannabis users.  This number likely underestimates the actual number of users.


Cannabis is accepted therapy for chronic pain, nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy, and Muscular Sclerosis spasticity.  The available data shows, though, that almost two-thirds of those seeking medical marijuana licenses do so for chronic pain.


Due to federal foot-dragging, cannibis remains classified as a Schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substances Act.  It continues to be erroneously labeled as as a drug with no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.  In theory, but usually not in practice, you could be prosecuted for its possession and use.


If you feel that cannabis might help you and you’re in a state where it’s ben legalized, ask your doctor to refer you to a medical marijuana specialist, usually an expert in pain management, for a consultation.


medical marijuana, marijuana, cannabis, pain, chemotherapy, muscular sclerosis, MS, health tips, health news

#medicalmarijuana #marijuana #cannabis #pain #chemotherapy #muscularsclerosis #MS #healthtips #healthnews


Kevin F. Boehnke, Saurav Gangopadhyay, Daniel J. Clauw, Rebecca L. Haffajee. Qualifying Conditions Of Medical Cannabis License Holders In The United States. Health Affairs, 2019; 38 (2): 295 DOI: 10.1377/hlthaff.2018.05266



TRY A LITTLE KINDNESS: Grateful Seagull Thanks A Kind Man Every Day



Good news is good for your soul, and here’s a feel-good saga from my favorite good news website,  


Twelve years ago during cool weather John Sumner, saw a pathetic seagull with an obviously broken leg attempting to land and get food.  He and his dog had come to the beach for a walk, and John offered the seagull some of his pet’s dog biscuits.


When John and his dog returned to the beach for their daily walk, and the seagull that he named Chirpy began to seek them out and continued to enjoy the dog biscuits as his leg healed.


Over the past 12 years, with the onset of cooler weather in September, Chirpy the seagull returns from nesting to visit John on the beach every day.  The bird, thought to be about 20 years old now and easily spotted due to his crooked leg, immediately flies over to John and only to John as soon as the man appears on the beach.  And yes, John continues to feed Chirpy his favorite snack, those dog biscuits.


That’s health news you should use.  Thanks for listening.  Until we next speak, I’m Dr. Howard Smith, PENTA Medical Network, reminding you to keep a smile on your face, your brain active, and your body in motion....these are the best medicines!




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