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OnCall Show Notes:  

HealthNews RoundUp-4th Week of January, 2019


I’m Dr. Howard Smith, PENTA Medical Network,  reporting from NYC with the Health News Roundup for the fourth week of January, 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:

Missed Doctors’ Appointments Can Be Deadly

Social and Sexual Abuse Drive Substantial Health Decline

HELP: 3 Tips Every Infant’s Parent Should Know

Bursts of Any Physical Activity Add Years

First Uses of Marijuana Trigger Permanent Brain Changes

FutureMed: Smart Tattoos

Aromas of Fattening Foods Can Stir or Curb Appetite

Runners’ Wearable Sensors Will Not Prevent Stress Fractures

Acupressure Comforts Breast Cancer Survivors

Zebra Design Repels Biting Insects

TRY A LITTLE KINDNESS: Lyft Driver Help Seizure Sufferer


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



Let’s begin:

Missed Doctors’ Appointments Can Be Deadly

Beware of missing those doctors’ appointments.  Now, I’m not shilling for my colleagues but merely reporting a warning from the latest and largest study of its kind from Britain and Scotland. 


After reviewing the appointment histories of one-half million persons, researchers report that patients with continuing medical issues of all kinds who missed 2 or more appointments in a year had a 3 fold higher risk of dying from any cause compared with those who showed up as scheduled.  The situation was even more dire for those with emotional disorders, and appointment no-shows in that group had a whopping 8 times higher risk of death.


If you tend to miss or repeatedly reschedule doctor’s appointments, don’t be surprised if their offices get on your case.  Look at it as a sign of caring and concern rather than harassment.  You may not be as healthy as you think.


missed doctors appointments, appointment cancellations, appointment postponements, health news, health tips

#misseddoctorsappointments #appointmentcancellations #appointmentpostponements #healthnews #healthtips


Ross McQueenie, David A. Ellis, Alex McConnachie, Philip Wilson, Andrea E. Williamson. Morbidity, mortality and missed appointments in healthcare: a national retrospective data linkage study. BMC Medicine, 2019; 17 (1) DOI: 10.1186/s12916-018-1234-0




Social and Sexual Abuse Drive Substantial Health Decline

Victims of bullying and sexual exploitation are more likely to suffer a lower quality of life than those with current heart disease, diabetes, and mental illnesses.  This is the conclusion of an Australian study of some 3,000 persons of all ages and socioeconomic levels.


The researchers used the presence of multiple self-destructive behaviors including smoking and binge eating as signs of troubled lives.  Those who had been bullied and sexually abused were twice as likely as controls to be problem smokers, 3 times more likely to have an eating disorder, and four times more likely to be depressed.


Bullying, both physical and now electronic, is becoming epidemic, and more sexual abuse is discovered yearly in synch with the #metoo movement.  If these plagues affect you or yours, combat them vigorously knowing the impact they’ll have on health and wellness.


bullying, sexual abuse, metoo, smoking, eating disorder, depression, health news, health tips

#bullying #sexualabuse #metoo #smoking #eatingdisorder #depression #healthnews #healthtips


David Alejandro González-Chica, Julio Licinio, Michael Musker, Mali Wong, Jacqueline Bowden, Phillipa Hay, Catherine Chittleborough, Nigel Stocks. Bullying and sexual abuse and their association with harmful behaviours, antidepressant use and health-related quality of life in adulthood: a population-based study in South Australia. BMC Public Health, 2019; 19 (1) DOI: 10.1186/s12889-018-6367-8



HELP: 3 Tips Every Infant’s Parent Should Know

Newborns and infants have very sensitive developing respiratory and gastrointestinal channels.  When parents have brought them to my pediatric ENT office, I found that their breathing issues were usually due to  airway irritation from refluxed feedings and dryness.  These observation became so common, that I began to offer 3 tips to every parent of a newborn or young infant.


  1. Never Put Your Baby To Bed With A Full Stomach

  2. Wash Your Baby’s Nasal Cavities with Aerosol Saline After Every Meal

  3. Keep Your Child’s Bedroom At A Comfortable Humidity



Never put your baby to bed with a full stomach.  Newborns and infants under a year of age have developing and poorly functional esophageal sphincters or gates.  Any fluids or foods in the stomach and the stomach acids they induce will easily back up, reflux, into the upper esophagus, the throat, the nose, and fall down into the airway.  The fluids, food particles, and acids are all irritating to linings and produce swelling and irritation in the throat, nasal linings, voice box, windpipe, and the lungs.  This leads to nasal congestion, coughing, and poor feeding.


It takes 60 to 80 minutes for the stomach to naturally empty, and gravity helps the rate of emptying but also prevents reflux.  You can put your baby in a swing or a carseat during this emptying period.  If the baby falls asleep, you can transfer the child after the stomach is empty.  If in a carseat, it’s fine for the infant to sleep on.



Clean your baby’s nasal passages with aerosol saline after every meal.  

Just as esophageal valves are incompletely functional, so too are the throat and nasal valves that keep oral and throat material out of the nose.  Since fluids, food particles, salivary enzymes, and stomach acids back up into the rear nasal passages, cleansing the nose with a puff or two of nasal aerosol spray will clean the surfaces on each side of the nose and prevent lining swelling and often severe nasal congestion.  Nasal saline is available over-the-counter as under the brand names Simply Saline and Little Noses.  All nasal saline is normal saline, and it may be used for children and adults of any age.



Keep Your Child’s Bedroom At A Comfortable Humidity.  Room air, particular during the dry winter months or in desert climates, tends to dry out respiratory linings.  Newborns and infants breathe more rapidly than older children and adults and sometimes at twice the rate. This drying prevents their normal function, creates lining swelling, and leads to thick mucus that can harbor growing bacteria.  The ideal relative humidity is between 40 to 50%, and you can check the level with an inexpensive humidity gauge available at the hardware store.  If you have forced hot air heat, you can put a central humidifier on your system, but it must be cleaned regularly to remain safe.  Alternatively, I recommend the use of a warm air humidifier or vaporizer that safely distills the water and creates water vapor or clouds rather than droplets.  Cold mist humidifiers spew the water into the air as droplets that may contain chemicals, bacteria, mold, and any other contaminants found in your humidifier’s reservoir.


Congratulations on the new baby in your family.  Do these 3 things to keep them healthy and happy….. and out of the ear, nose, and throat specialists’ offices.



Bursts of Any Physical Activity Add Years

Standing, walking down the hall or room to room, even going to the kitchen....for water, ANYTHING BUT SITTING, will add years to your healthy life.  This health tip comes from New York’s Columbia College of Physicans and Surgeons as an ongoing study follows nearly 8,000 middle aged men and women using wearable activity monitors.


Swapping just 30 minutes of sitting for even low intensity activity cut the risk of early death by 17%.  A little more activity, say faster walking, going up the stairs, or pushing a cart around, cycling, or running more than doubled the benefit to a early death rate drop of 35%.


Since one-quarter of us spend our entire 8 hour days sitting, use your phone or watch to remind you to get up and do something, ANYTHING, for at least several minutes at least once an hour.


sitting, couch potato, standing, walking, exercise, early death, longer life, health news, health tips

#sitting #couchpotato #standing #walking #exercise #earlydeath #longerlife #healthnews #healthtips


Keith M Diaz, Andrea T Duran, Natalie Colabianchi, Suzanne E Judd, Virginia J Howard, Steven P Hooker. Potential Effects of Replacing Sedentary Time With Short Sedentary Bouts or Physical Activity on Mortality: A National Cohort Study. American Journal of Epidemiology, 2018; DOI: 10.1093/aje/kwy271



First Uses of Marijuana Trigger Permanent Brain Changes

One or two hits of cannabis in any form does permanently affect the brain structure of young people.  New studies by University of Vermont psychiatrists looked at brain imaging for 46 teens experiencing cannabis for the first time and compared their brains with those of with non-users.


The data reveals greater gray matter volumes in cannabis-binding zones of the brains in teens who used marijuana only once or twice by age 14.  The differences occur in the emotion-processing amygdala and in the memory processing hippocampus.


The researchers point out the teens’ brains naturally thin during adolescence in a type of pruning or refinement process.  Even a joint or two of marijuana may prevent this vital process from occurring.


The increasing legalization of marijuana means more of us and our kids will have access to it.  Studies like this should make us pause and ask if that’s a good thing.


cannabis, marijuana, brain change, teen drug use, emotion, memory, health news, health tips

#cannabis #marijuana #brainchange, teendruguse #emotion #memory #healthnews #healthtips


Catherine Orr, Philip Spechler, Hugh Garavan, etal. Grey Matter Volume Differences Associated with Extremely Low Levels of Cannabis Use in Adolescence. The Journal of Neuroscience, 2019; 3375-17 DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3375-17.2018



FutureMed: Smart Tattoos

Someday soon, high-tech tattoos may replace blood testing for continuous monitoring.  Bioengineers at MIT and Harvard Med School as well as at the University of Colorado’s ATLAS Institute are combining nanoparticles with tattoo technology to create color changing indicators deep in the skin.


The Harvard-MIT team developed sensor inks that can signal levels of glucose, body fluid acidity or pH, and sodium levels.  They tattoo the indicator ink directly into the skin and state that the inks would have to be replaced periodically


The Colorado investigators, hoping to create a more permanent solution, are encasing such color-shifting chemicals in porous microcapsules that are then propelled into the skin using tatoo needles.  They are currently experimenting with particles that signal exposure to harmful UV rays but plan to use this same technology to continuously monitor blood sugar and blood alcohol levels.


tattoos, blood chemistry, glucose monitoring, blood alcohol, UV exposure, health news

#tattoos #bloodchemistry #glucosemonitoring #bloodalcohol #UVexposure #healthnews


Aromas of Fattening Foods Can Stir or Curb Appetite

Mmmmm.  Smell that fried dough!  Doesn’t that whiff of pepperoni pizza get your juices flowing?  


Businesses peddling less than healthy treats have been blowing fragrances of warm cinnamon rolls and buttered popcorn in our faces for years knowing that its tough for us to resist.  Marketing gurus from the University of South Florida’s college of business now come to our rescue.


As experimental subjects are presented with the choice of cookies or strawberries,  precisely-controlled scent nebulizers spew out a warm cookie scent.   The data shows that whiffing the cookie scent for 30 seconds or less will drive you to buy the cookie.  Continuing to inhale the cookie fragrance for more than 2 minutes resulted in a preference for the strawberries.  The same phenomenon occurred with a pizza-apple pairing.


So the next time you whiff those fatty and sugary smells, inhale them longer and think skull and cross-bones.  Then reach for that juicy apple.


food fragrances, fat, sugar, health news, health tips

#foodfragrances #fat #sugar #healthnews #healthtips


Dipayan Biswas, Courtney Szocs. The Smell of Healthy Choices: Cross-Modal Sensory Compensation Effects of Ambient Scent on Food Purchases. Journal of Marketing Research, 2019; 002224371882058 DOI: 10.1177/0022243718820585



Runners’ Wearable Sensors Will Not Prevent Stress Fractures

The wearable foot sensors that many serious runners think may prevent devastating stress fractures are measuring the wrong forces.  Engineers and orthopedic specialists at Vanderbilt University now report that muscular forces on the leg bones rather the force of the foot striking the running surface are the principal causes of the incapacitating, tiny cracks in bones.  


Most of the currently marketed wearable sensors only measure forces of the foot impacting the ground.  The Vanderbilt studies utilized high-speed motion capture and biomechanical algorithms to compute the relevant muscular forces in addition to a force-measuring treadmill to estimate the ground-strike force.


Work is now underway to develop a system of wearables that will measure all forces acting on the leg bones.  That task may not be easy or inexpensive.


stress fracture, running, gait analysis, wearable sensors, human kinematics, joint kinetics, health news, health tips

#stress fracture #running #gaitanalysis #wearablesensors #humankinematics #jointkinetics #healthnews #healthtips


Vanderbilt University. "Stress fracture? Your foot hitting pavement wasn't the main problem: Engineer, NFL Players Association adviser find issue with running sensors." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 January 2019.



Acupressure Comforts Breast Cancer Survivors

Acupressure can give breast cancer survivors significant relief from pain, anxiety, depressive symptoms, fatigue and sleep problems.  A continuing study at the University of Michigan reports a news analysis of 288 patients.


Two different type of Eastern medical acupuncture, relaxing acupuncture and stimulating acupuncture, were compared with standard relaxation and sleep management techniques.  Both acupuncture approaches bested standard therapy for anxiety and pain.  Relaxing acupunture was most effective for depression, sleep, and fatigue.


Acupuncture’s mode of action is not yet understood.  The best news is that it may be carried out at home, and women learn to apply proper pressure to appropriate body points with few negative effects.


Acupressure may well work for anyone suffering from anxiety, pain, depression, and sleep issues.  If you fit that description, look into it.


acupressure, Eastern medicine, breast cancer, pain, anxiety, insomnia, depression, health news, health tips

#acupressure #Easternmedicine #breastcancer #pain #anxiety #insomnia #depression #healthnews #healthtips



Suzanna Maria Zick, Ananda Sen, Afton Luevano Hassett, Andrew Schrepf, Gwen Karilyn Wyatt, Susan Lynn Murphy, John Todd Arnedt, Richard Edmund Harris. Impact of Self-Acupressure on Co-Occurring Symptoms in Cancer Survivors. JNCI Cancer Spectrum, 2018; 2 (4) DOI: 10.1093/jncics/pky064



Zebra Design Repels Biting Insects

Here’s a flash from the off-beat health news department.  Researchers in Sweden and Hungary report that the black and white striped design seen on Africa’s Zebras and copied into body painting by indigenous peoples protects against biting and blood-sucking insects including mosquitos and horseflies. 


The scientists compared the frequency of horsefly attacks on 3 different mannikins: one beige, one brown, and one black with white stripes.  The striped skin design reduced insect attacks by 90% compared to brown skin and by 50% compared with beige skin.


It is likely that Africans years ago discovered the protective effect of Zebra designs against insect-borne infections such as malaria.  We don’t yet know if Zebra-striped garments are as good insect repellants as body painting, but this is something you should try for yourself.  Do let me know if it works.


body paint, zebra stripes, mosquitos, horseflies, malaria, health news, health tips

#bodypaint #zebrastripes #mosquitos #horseflies #malaria #healthnews #healthtips


Gábor Horváth, Ádám Pereszlényi, Susanne Åkesson, György Kriska. Striped bodypainting protects against horseflies. Royal Society Open Science, 2019; 6 (1): 181325 DOI: 10.1098/rsos.181325



TRY A LITTLE KINDNESS: Lyft Driver Help Seizure Sufferer


Kate, not her real name, has epilepsy.   Late once night, she began suffering seizures and went to the ER.  She stabilized and was discharged at 4 in the morning.  She called a Lyft to get home as she could not drive.  


Here’s her first person account:

I called a Lyft to pick me up and hoped against hope that it would be someone kind, someone safe.  A small SUV pulled up in front of the hospital doors and I climbed in, expecting some awkward small talk. After all, it was 4:30AM and I was being picked up from a hospital by a complete stranger. 


I buckled my seatbelt, and then the driver turned around; she was a woman in her mid-forties with the kindest eyes.

“Are you okay, sweetheart?” she asked.


“Oh, I’m fine. I just have epilepsy so I can’t drive.” I replied, expecting her to shrug it off and hit the road. Instead, she began to tell me about her daughter’s recent epilepsy diagnosis. She said she understood my struggle of being sick and unable to drive; needing food to stay healthy, but not being capable of taking care of it myself; the unique riddle of needing help, but not knowing how to ask.  She told me about how – even though her daughter lives hours away – she drove to bring her groceries several times a week.


This was already some kind of serendipitous encounter, a little blessing after a few rough days – but what she said next surprised me.  “Honey, do you need groceries? Can I please take you to a store?” It was nearing 5 in the morning and a total stranger was worried that I wouldn’t be able to eat that day. I was so surprised. I told her, “No, it’s okay. I can handle it tomorrow, but thank you so much.”


As we got closer to my house, she gave me her cell number and insisted that I call her when I needed help – not just with more dire situations, but also with groceries and doctor’s appointments too. I felt comforted, but I knew deep down that my stubborn aversion to accepting help would probably keep me from ever picking up the phone.


But then the next day, she called me, knowing I needed food but sensing that I didn’t want to impose – and we went to the grocery store that afternoon.


She not only gave me safety and helped me fill my cupboards, but she gave me something I thought I had lost: she gave me hope. It was just a little taste, but it’s carried me through a lot, and these little glimmers of light can be so bright in the dark – and now I know that when the nights seem dark, my best choice is to find the light and follow it.


When you get a chance, do pay it forward.  You will feel wonderful.



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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