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HealthNews RoundUp - 3rd Week of March, 2019



I’m Dr. Howard Smith, PENTA Medical Network,  reporting from NYC with the Health News Roundup for the 3rd week of MARCH, 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 this week's headlines:

Eggs or No Eggs: Can You Eat Them Safely?

It’s Easier For Your Brain To Remember Than Forget 

Digital Devices Do Not Reduce Family Time

The Sleepier You Are, The More You Tend to Buy

Teen Binge Drinking Permanently Damages The Brain

Smoking Drives Up Risks of Sudden Unexpected Infant Death

Statins Do Prevent Heart Attacks.....If You Take Them

Fertility App DOT Works As Well As The Pill

Virtual Reality Helps Fine Tune Your Balance

An Antibiotic Wrapper Prevents Pacemaker Infections

Are Sit-Stand Desks Really Good For You?

Mushrooms May Help Prevent Those Senior Moments

FDA Warns That Thermography Is Not Effective Breast Cancer Screening 

You May Be Allergic To Your Pills

Diabetes Drug Fights Congestive Heart Failure

Heart Attacks And Cardiac Deaths Are At Historic Lows


#Eggs #cholesterol #memory #digitaldevices #familytime #sleep #consumption #teen #bingeing #alcohol #dementia #smoking #SUID #SIDS #InfantDeath #statins #heartattack #contraception #app #VR #balance #rehabilitation #envelope #antibiotic #pacemaker #defibrillator #sitstanddesks #mushrooms #thermography #mammography #inactiveingredients #diabetes #congestiveheartfailure #heartfailure


Eggs, cholesterol, memory, digitaldevices, familytime, sleep, consumption, teen, bingeing, alcohol, dementia, smoking, SUID, SIDS, InfantDeath, statins, heartattack, contraception, app, VR, balance, rehabilitation, envelope, antibiotic, pacemaker, defibrillator, sitstanddesks, mushrooms, thermography, mammography, inactiveingredients, diabetes, congestiveheartfailure, heartfailure


Here’s the news:

Eggs or No Eggs: Can You Eat Them Safely?

The poor ole egg is again under attack again.  Numerous studies over the past 30 years have declared the egg to be innocent of being an accessory before the fact when it comes to driving artery hardening, heart attacks, and strokes.  Many nutrition experts have stated that the majority of the cholesterol in our body is synthesized in the liver from the fats that we ingest.  They state that limiting your intake of saturated and trans- fats will keep your cholesterol and other lipids in control.


Now a study from Northwestern University suggests that a higher cholesterol intake, 300 mg or more per day, is associated with a 17% higher risk of cardiovascular disease and an 18% higher risk of death from all causes.  The cholesterol comes in egg yolks, red meat, and high fat dairy products such as cream, cheese, and butter.  


The study was a meta-analysis of 6 other studies covering nearly 30,000 adults with nearly 18 years of followup on average.  Experts reviewing the data and the study methodology have concerns about blaming the egg.  The study only surveyed the dietary habits of subjects as they entered the study and not again during the followup period.  The subjects were also consuming large amounts of red and processed meats that could confuse the results.


I wouldn’t totally ignore the study.  The best rule in nutrition, as in everything else, is moderation.   An egg breakfast everyday is a bad idea, but that omelet during any weekend brunch definitely won’t kill you.  If you do have the eggs, don’t overload them with bacon, eggs, or steak.


Victor W. Zhong et al. Associations of Dietary Cholesterol or Egg Consumption With Incident Cardiovascular Disease and Mortality. JAMA, 2019 DOI: 10.1001/jama.2019.1572


#eggs #cholesterol #redmeat #processedmeat #heartattack #stroke

eggs, cholesterol, redmeat, processedmeat, heartattack, stroke



It’s Easier For Your Brain To Remember Than Forget

Wiping a memory away requires more brain resources than retaining that thought.  Neuroscientists from the University of Texas at Austin report these findings after studying a group of adult subjects using functional MRI brain imaging to determine the levels of brain activity while attempting to either remember or forget images of people or scenes.


The brain is far more active as you try to forget a memory than if you are attempting to retain it.  The act of forgetting requires your brain to very actively engage with that memory as shown by MRI activity in the prefrontal cortex control center, the ventral temporal cortex, and in the hippocampus memory bank.


It is far easier to forget a scene than to wipe the memory of faces.  Images of people carry far more emotional energy.  To forget either, you shouldn’t try too hard since the studies revealed that too much attention or too little attention to the item failed to erase it. Our brains are constantly curating and prioritizing memories erasing some in order to make room for the next crop.


To forget a disturbing memory, actively try to associate less emotional energy with it.  If you just experienced a crisis at home or at work, think of the setting and not the faces you saw during the event.  It might also help to associate that place with your positive memories of it.


Tracy H. Wang, Katerina Placek, Jarrod A. Lewis-Peacock. More is less: increased processing of unwanted memories facilitates forgetting. The Journal of Neuroscience, 2019; 2033-18 DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2033-18.2019


#memory #remembering #forgetting #PTSD

memory, remembering, forgetting, PTSD



Digital Devices Do Not Reduce Family Time

Smartphones and tablets have not reduced the 90 minutes a day that children and teens traditionally spend with other family members.  Sociologists at the British Universities of Oxford and Warwick reviewed journals from nearly 2500 children 8 to 16 years of age and journals from their parents as well.   


The data shows that personal electronics actually added about 30 minutes to the amount of time the kids spent at home. This extra time, though, was not social time but rather what the scientists referred to as “alone-together” time.  You know what that is: the child is physically present but the mind is in some other galaxy or medieval castle. 


So there is good and bad news from this study.  It’s good that true family time remains during meals, shared discussions, and communal TV time as long as the devices are not in everyone’s hands.  The news is bad as the the extra 30 minutes at home may be robbing our kids of true social interactions with their peers.  


While some of that 30 minutes may involve texting to friends, the incessant LOLs and OMGs are not as satisfying and emotionally valuable as face-to-face communications.  It’s no wonder that many 20 and 30 somethings seem to lack effective interpersonal skills.


Killian Mullan, Stella Chatzitheochari. Changing Times Together? A Time-Diary Analysis of Family Time in the Digital Age in the United Kingdom. Journal of Marriage and Family, 2019; DOI: 10.1111/jomf.12564


#family #friends #smartphones #tablets #meals #texting

family, friends, smartphones, tablets, meals, texting



The Sleepier You Are, The More You Tend to Buy

Sleep deprivation will drive you to consume a wider variety of products.  Marketing researchers from the University of British Columbia’s business school draw this conclusion from several studies of buying patterns as a function of sleepiness.  


Their experiments included artificial situations such as choosing candy bars on more or less sleep and a look at the consumption patterns of some 60,000 American households whose occupants lost sleep with the shift to daylight savings time.  Their shopping is quantitated in the Nielsen consumer panel data set.  I guess Nielsen watches more than our TV viewing habits.


The results from the various experiments told similar stories.  We human consumers tend to crave variety when we’re tired.  It seems that the search for new products or a variety of the same product helps to stimulate our brains and keep us awake.  It’s shopping as the ultimate form of self-stimulation.


It’s not rocket science to conclude that the search for variety will ultimately lead to more consumption than is probably necessary.  If you want to avoid impulse buying and the ingestion of unwanted calories, avoiding supermarket expeditions and culinary adventures when you are half in the bag or completely exhausted.


Zhongqiang (Tak) Huang, Yitian (Sky) Liang, Charles B. Weinberg, Gerald J. Gorn. The Sleepy Consumer and Variety Seeking. Journal of Marketing Research, 2019; 002224371881133 DOI: 10.1177/0022243718811334


#shopping #dining #consumer #sleep #sleepdeprivation

shopping, dining, consumer, sleep, sleepdeprivation




Teen Binge Drinking Permanently Damages The Brain

Sporadic over-consumption of alcohol during adolescent years leads to epigenetic alterations in the cells of brain tissue, and that modification forever damages later emotional stability.  Experiments proving this phenomenon from the University of Illinois-Chicago were just published in the journal Biological Psychiatry.


Using an adolescent rat model, the scientists showed that repeated, intense exposures to alcohol early in life led to overt anxiety later in the animals’ lifespans.  Neuroanatomic studies revealed that the binge drinking led to a significant reduction of a protein ARC in the amygdala.  This missing protein was associated with a 40% reduction in critical neuronal connections.  

Worse yet, stopping drinking failed to correct the deficit.


The amygdala is the coordinating center for our emotions, and wiring problems in this zone will create emotional shortfalls including anxiety and depression.  This can lead to a closed loop and a downward spiral where the effects of early alcohol misuse can then lead to frank alcoholism later in life.


Evan J. Kyzar, Huaibo Zhang, Subhash C. Pandey. Adolescent Alcohol Exposure Epigenetically Suppresses Amygdala Arc Enhancer RNA Expression to Confer Adult Anxiety Susceptibility. Biological Psychiatry, 2019; DOI: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2018.12.021


#bingeing #alcoholism #adolescence #emotion #depression #anxiety

bingeing, alcoholism, adolescence, emotion, depression, anxiety



Smoking Drives Up Risk of Sudden Unexpected Infant Death

A mother smoking before and during pregnancy increases the risk that her child will die unexpectedly during infancy.  Seattle Children’s Hospital pediatricians and the data jockeys at Microsoft Corporation collaborated to analyze the CDC’s infant death data covering almost 21 million births and close to 20,000 episodes of infant death.


The risk of unexpected infant death skyrocketed by a factor of nearly 2.5 times with any maternal cigarette smoking, even one cigarette a day, during pregnancy.  The chance that her infant might die increased by 7% for each cigarette from 1 to 20 per day.  Even mothers who smoked within 3 months before becoming pregnant and quit once pregnant had a 47% increased chance of an infant death.


This study adds the precision of huge numbers to previous investigations that have already associated maternal smoking with sudden infant death.  If you are even thinking about becoming pregnant, you and anyone with whom you live should stop smoking at least 3 months before you begin trying to conceive.


If you have smoked before or during pregnancy and even if you haven’t, once your child is born take extra precautions and diligently follow Sudden Unexpected Infant Death prevention recommendations. These include: using a bare crib without covers, pillows, or bumpers; positioning your baby on the back to prevent obstructed breathing; and never fall asleep with your baby in your bed or chair.


An infant death is one of the worst tragedies any parent can endure.  Know that prevention is within your power and act on that knowledge.


Tatiana M. Anderson, Juan M. Lavista Ferres, Shirley You Ren, Rachel Y. Moon, Richard D. Goldstein, Jan-Marino Ramirez, Edwin A. Mitchell. Maternal Smoking Before and During Pregnancy and the Risk of Sudden Unexpected Infant Death. Pediatrics, 2019; e20183325 DOI: 10.1542/peds.2018-3325


#smoking #SIDS #SUID

smoking, SIDS, SUID



Statins Do Prevent Heart Attacks.....If You Take Them

Statins, in widespread use for lowering cholesterol and right-sizing the proportions of so-called good and bad fats, HDL and LDL.   Statins such as atorvastatin (Lipitor), lovastatin (Mevacor), pravastatin (Pravachol), rosuvastatin (Crestor), and simvastatin (Zocor) will save lives but all too few take them regularly as prescribed.  


Utah cardiologists presented their study of nearly 5500 patients at this years spring scientific sessions of the American College of Cardiology.  The good news revealed by the data is that those patients who took their statin medications at least 80% of the time enjoyed nearly a 50% reduction in risk of suffering a heart attack, stroke, or death from any cause.  The bad news is that only 6% of the patients took their statin medications regularly.  A whopping 94% couldn’t be bothered to take these lifesaving drugs.


That statistic is just crazy!  If you are prescribed medications for your heart, breathing, or cholesterol, consider them to be as vital as food and water.  Work out a system so you won’t forget to take them regularly as directed.


Intermountain Medical Center. "Taking statins for heart disease cuts risk in half, yet only 6 percent of patients taking as directed." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 March 2019.


#statins #heartattack #stroke #cholesterol

statins, heartattack, stroke, cholesterol



DOT Fertility Tracker App Works As Well As The Pill

Is your smartphone the final authority on the best time to have sex?  Whether you want to get pregnant or avoid parenthood, the answer appears to be yes.  Georgetown University’s Institute for Reproductive Health studied one app that can help you, the DOT Fertility Tracker, in over 700 women 18 to 39 years of age for up to one year of use.  


They found that careful use of the app resulted in a 1% pregnancy rate.  That’s as good or better than most forms of contraception including the pill, vaginal rings, condoms, and certainly the traditional low tech rhythm method.


The app tracks a woman’s cycle and predicts the risk of pregnancy for each day of that cycle.  When a woman begins using the app, historical cycle data is applied.  As the app accumulates more personal data on her, it becomes far more accurate.


If a woman consistently avoids unprotected sex on the days the DOT app predicts as fertile, she has a very cost-effective method of family planning.   As you can tell, the method sadly precludes spontaneity.  For that, you’ll need one of the old standbys: the condom, the diaphragm, or the cervical cap.


Georgetown University Medical Center. "Fertility app 'Dot' found to be as effective as other family planning methods." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 March 2019.


#contraception #app #smartphone #pregnancy #cycle #menstrualcycle

contraception, app, smartphone, pregnancy, cycle, menstrualcycle



Virtual Reality Helps Fine Tune Your Balance

If you’re struggling with balance problems due to an accident, an injury, or advancing age, that VR headset laying around the house or on the store shelf may just be the key to your recovery.  Balance specialists and physiotherapists at Sweden’s Lund University now report their results using a virtual reality environment to help subjects train their balance systems. 


Patients with chronic balance system issues often begin to rely almost exclusively on visual input to stabilize their stance.   By repeatedly practicing stabilizing themselves on a postural stability platform while immersed in a VR roller coaster ride, the 20 experimental subjects were able to deploy the non-visual balance sensors in their muscles, joints, and ears to better reach a state of balance equilibration.  


The average number of near fall events diminished 10-fold after 5 VR rides by the female subjects.  The males experienced fewer fall events overall but enjoyed a similar pattern of improvement.


The researchers speculate that VR technology could play a key role in the rehabilitation of both head injury and stroke victims.


Per-Anders Fransson, Mitesh Patel, Hanna Jensen, Michèle Lundberg, Fredrik Tjernström, Måns Magnusson, Eva Ekvall Hansson. Postural instability in an immersive Virtual Reality adapts with repetition and includes directional and gender specific effects. Scientific Reports, 2019; 9 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-019-39104-6


#VR #virtualreality # vestibularsystem, dizzy #balance

VR, virtualreality,  vestibularsystem, dizzy, balance



Antibiotic Wrapper Prevents Pacemaker Infections

Wrapping a new pacemaker in an absorbable, antibiotic-soaked mesh before implantation can prevent a nasty infection later.  Cardiologists at Cleveland Clinic conducted and recently published the results of an international, multi-center study of the FDA approved Medtronic TYRX  (TRIKES) Absorbable Antibacterial Envelope.


The trial enrolled nearly 7,000 patients in 25 countries each receiving a pacemaker or a defibrillator.  Half of the subjects received the antibiotic wrapper in addition to the standard prophylactic oral antibiotics.  


The mesh wrappers, constructed to release the two antibiotics minocycline and rifampin over about a week, reduced the incidence of infection by 40%.  This included not only pocket infections occurring around the devices but also the incidence of endocarditis, a nasty infection of the heart’s internal lining.


If you or someone your know are a candidate for an implantable pacemaker or defibrillator, ask the cardiologist about gift wrapping your device in the Medtronic TYRX.


Khaldoun G. Tarakji, Suneet Mittal, Charles Kennergren, etal . Antibacterial Envelope to Prevent Cardiac Implantable Device Infection. New England Journal of Medicine, 2019; DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1901111


#pacemaker #defibrillator #antibacterial #mesh #envelope

pacemaker, defibrillator, antibacterial, mesh, envelope



Are Sit-Stand Desks Really Good For You?

Sit-stand desks, so-called SSDs, are no miracle.  This conclusion stems from a University of Pittsburgh meta-analysis of some 53 studies.


The Pitt bioengineers conclude that these convertible desks do drive less sitting, can improve back pain issues, may make their users somewhat more comfortable, and can lower your blood pressure a bit.  They will not help you lose weight, and their safe use requires attention to how you are positioned such as desk height, monitor height, posture, and use of an anti-fatigue mat on which to stand.


These devices aren’t cheap.  Prices range from the bare-bones model at $175 to the luxury liners with push button controls that run nearly $1000.  Before making a final purchase, you might like to try one out by purchasing from a merchant with liberal return policies.


April J. Chambers, Michelle M. Robertson, Nancy A. Baker. The effect of sit-stand desks on office worker behavioral and health outcomes: A scoping review. Applied Ergonomics, 2019; 78: 37 DOI: 10.1016/j.apergo.2019.01.015


#standingdesks #sittingstandingdesks #dieting #ergonomics #footmat

standingdesks, sittingstandingdesks, dieting, ergonomics, footmat



Mushrooms May Help Prevent Those Senior Moments

I’m not referring to the psychedelic variety of ‘shrooms.  We’re talking more pedestrian varieties.


A study from Singapore just published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease suggests that mushrooms may be magic after all.  They seem to play a role in preventing cognitive impairment that occurs with aging and after head injury.


The researchers studied and tested more than 600 Chinese seniors over a 6 year period.  They determined that consuming two portions of mushrooms on a consistent, weekly basis reduced the odds of developing mild cognitive impairment by half.


Now understand that we’re talking a fair amount of mushrooms.  To reproduce the study, you would have to eat a cup and a half of mushrooms, that’s about half a plate, twice weekly over months.  


The good news is you can use any edible variety mushroom including shittake, oyster, golden, or white button.  They may be canned or dried.   The investigators hypothesize that the active ingredient is ergothioneine which has both anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.


Mushrooms, not actually veggies but rather fungi, are likely not the magic dementia bullet we’d all love them to be.  They do taste great with vegetables and atop your occasional pizza slice or burger treat.  So why not pile them on regularly.


Lei Feng, Irwin Kee-Mun Cheah, Maisie Mei-Xi Ng, Jialiang Li, Sue Mei Chan, Su Lin Lim, Rathi Mahendran, Ee-Heok Kua, Barry Halliwell. The Association between Mushroom Consumption and Mild Cognitive Impairment: A Community-Based Cross-Sectional Study in Singapore. Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, 2019; 1 DOI: 10.3233/JAD-180959


#mushrooms #dementia #cognitiveimpairment #ergothioneine

mushrooms, dementia, cognitiveimpairment, ergothioneine




FDA Warns That Thermography Is Not Effective Breast Cancer Screening

If you heard that you can avoid regular, breast squeezing mammography and still effectively screen for breast cancer using thermography, you heard incorrectly.  The FDA now repeats its warning that thermography, the use of an infrared camera to detect breast hot spots, cannot detect breast cancer at its earliest and most treatable stages.


The FDA has been taking regulatory action against imaging centers, providers, and equipment manufacturers who have been misleading patients by stating that thermography is a substitute for mammography.  It is definitely not! 


Over years, there has been a decline in breast cancer deaths,  That progress is in no small part due to the adoption of regular screening with mammography.  Don’t risk your life by believing that thermography will keep you safe.


#breastCA #cancer #mammography #thermography

breastCA, cancer, mammography, thermography



You May Be Allergic To Your Pills

Ninety percent of the most popular prescription medications in the US contain one or more ingredients that may make you sick.  Now, I’m not talking about the main or so-called active ingredient but rather about the inactive ingredients that are added to pills, capsules, and liquids to improve shelf life, absorption, and taste.


A study just released by collaborators from Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital and MIT analyzed some 42,000 oral medications and their nearly 350,000 inactive ingredients.  The investigators pinpointed 3 troublesome inactive ingredients that appear most often.  


Forty-five percent of medications contain lactose, 33% contain one or another food dye, and up to 0.1% contain peanut oil.  This latter ingredient that could be life threatening for those with peanut allergies.  


To make matters worse, there are countless versions of the same prescription drug by different manufacturers that contain different inactive ingredients.  If you are an allergic individual, check drug labels and question your pharmacist about the inactive ingredients in the medication you are given.   


Those with allergies should always have an antihistamine like Benadryl handy, and those with severe allergies should carry Epipens or their generic equivalents.


Daniel Reker, Steven M. Blum, Christoph Steiger, Kevin E. Anger, Jamie M. Sommer, John Fanikos and Giovanni Traverso. Inactive” ingredients in oral medications. Science Translational Medicine, 2019 DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aau6753


#inactiveingredients #allergy #fooddye #lactose #peanut

inactiveingredients, allergy, fooddye, lactose, peanut



Diabetes Drug Fights Congestive Heart Failure

The drug dapagliflozin (DAP-AG-LI-FLOSIN), marketed as Farxiga (FAR-SIGA), which helps type 2 non-insulin dependent diabetics control their blood sugars, can help patients with heart failure as well.  


The beneficial effect of Farxiga on heart failure has been known, but the new information from the international DECLARE-TIMI study is that the drug preferentially benefits those heart failure patients with a reduced ejection fraction of 45% or less, that is the sickest patients with the weakest heart pumping action.


Farxiga helped these patients with the weakest hearts by reducing their need for hospitalization and their likelihood of dying from any causes by 38% and reduced their deaths from cardiovascular causes by 45%.  The drug also helped those with stronger hearts, but it only reduced their hospitalization and death rates by 12%.


The drug is effective for diabetics by causing the kidneys to dump excess blood sugar into the urine and out of the body.  The drug’s ability to expel body metabolites and liquid may help to reduce a weakened heart’s pumping burden.


This news is exciting, since we have few weapons in the battle against congestive heart failure.  The use of Farxiga may extend the lives and improve comfort for the many thousands with heart failure while helping the lucky few candidates for heart transplants make it to their surgery in the best possible condition.


Eri T. Kato, Michael G. Silverman, Ofri Mosenzon, etal. Effect of Dapagliflozin on Heart Failure and Mortality in Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus. Circulation, 2019; DOI: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.119.040130


#Heartfailure #Farxiga #dapagliflozin #diabetes #reducedejectionfraction #hearttransplant

Heartfailure, Farxiga, dapagliflozin, diabetes, reducedejectionfraction, hearttransplant



Heart Attacks And Cardiac Deaths At Historic Lows

Here’s some very good news.  A new study from Yale cardiology shows that the incidence of heart attacks and the rates of death from them are at 20 year lows.


Following more than 4 million Medicare patients from 1995 to 2014, the investigators report a 38% decline in heart attack hospitalizations over 2 decades.  Even more impressive is the all time low 12% 30 day mortality rate after any given heart attack.


This is no accident.  We as a society have been assaulting cardiovascular disease by exercising more, eating less or at least less unhealthy food, and monitoring as well as lowering our cholesterol levels.


The Yalies caution us about resting on our laurels.  We should be literally heartened by our success to date but also press forward until we have eliminated all cardiac disease.


Harlan M. Krumholz, Sharon-Lise T. Normand, Yun Wang. Twenty-Year Trends in Outcomes for Older Adults With Acute Myocardial Infarction in the United States. JAMA Network Open, 2019; 2 (3): e191938 DOI: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.1938


#heartattack #diet #cholesterol

heartattack, diet, cholesterol



That’s health news you should use.  Thanks for listening and special thanks to my followers on social media.  I’ll be off next week, but I will place some “best of” episodes on the feed.  Until we next speak, I’m Dr. Howard Smith, 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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