Archive for June, 2008

Mental decline linked with type 2 diabetes

Older adults with type 2 diabetes appear to have a steeper mental decline as they age, according to Harvard researchers.  One of the reasons for this is that diabetes damages blood vessels, and it can certainly damage the blood vessels that supply the brain. 

These findings confirm previous studies and adds to the current body of knowledge about the ravages of this disease.   Diabetes was known in ancient times and remains today a world-wide and increasing health problem.  One of the leading causes of death and disability in the United States, it is associated with long-term complications that affect almost every part of the body.

In adults, type 2 diabetes accounts for about 90 to 95 percent of all diagnosed cases of diabetes.  It is associated with older age, obesity, physical inactivity, and a family history of diabetes.  Type 2 diabetes in children and adolescents, although still rare, is being diagnosed more frequently.  

There is a very significant correlation with the rise of obesity in this country and the increased incidence of type 2 diabetes.  Since the mid-seventies, the prevalence of overweight and obesity has increased sharply for both adults and children in this country and this raises very serious concern about Americans’ future health.

via Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, June 2008
via Diabetes, Bay Area Medical Information

Ten percent of middle-aged people had silent strokes

In a recent large study of people whose average age was 62, routine brain scans detected that one in ten had previously suffered a stroke without ever knowing it. 

Silent strokes are caused by a blood clot that interrupts blood flow to the brain and have been associated with an increased risk of further stroke as well as memory loss and cognitive impairment.

Protect your brain and minimize your risk factors for stroke. Learn what you need to know about Stroke from Bay Area Medical Information.via Stroke, Dr. Sudha Seshadri of Boston University School of Medicine, June 2008



Cats and babies may not be a good mix

A new study found that cats in the home appear to trigger eczema in some infants. Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, usually begins in the first year of life, according to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, and about 20 percent of all infants and children have eczema.  The researchers noted that these findings are preliminary, and it’s too early to advise parents of small children to get rid of any cats, but it would make sense to avoid adopting any cats when there’s a baby in the home.

via PLoS Medicine, June 2008


The sport most likely to expose kids to the super-bug MRSA

Football has been frequently implicated as the source of MRSA outbreaks where there’s a combination of physical contact, cuts and skin abrasions, and contact with artificial turf and athletic equipment, but wrestling, fencing, and almost all other sports are not immune. 

Also referred to as “Super Bugs” or “flesh-eating bacteria”, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections are a type of “staph” bacteria that are resistant to most oral antibiotics. Thus the term “methicillin-resistant”.  These infections are a growing concern in the United States with the highest rates  in the southern parts of the U.S., including Atlanta, Los Angeles and Texas.

A MRSA sports-related infection often causes a painful abscess with surrounding redness. A reddened bump may look like a pimple, a spider bite, or a boil and can be red, swollen, painful, and possibly be ulcerated and have pus or other drainage. Especially concerning are whitish pus-filled areas when there is associated fever or a general feeling of illness. Another warning sign is when skin infections seem to be passing from one family member to another or if two or more family members have skin infections simultaneously. Photo courtesy of the CDC

Most cases of MRSA are minor and resolve with little or no intervention, however some infections can be very serious and even life-threatening. MRSA infections can become invasive and spread to internal organs via the bloodstream. These are the infections that are the most concerning and the subject of a recent report from the CDC which reveals that they may be more common than previously suspected.  

Contact your health care provider if you think you have a staph infection. Treatment of mild staph infections may be with topical or oral antibiotics, whereas more serious infections are treated with intravenous antibiotics. Many staph skin infections may be treated by draining the abscess or boil and may not require antibiotics. Drainage of skin boils or abscesses should only be done by a healthcare provider.

If after visiting your healthcare provider, the infection is not getting better after a few days, contact them again. If other people you know or live with get the same infection, tell them to go to their healthcare provider. 

For a detailed list of preventive measures, visit MRSA at Bay Area Medical Information ( 

via MedPage Today, Clinicians warned to watch for MRSA among athletes, June 25, 2008

Exercise may help in preventing drug & alcohol addiction

New research is underway to answer the question whether exercise can prevent addiction to drugs or alcohol. There has been mounting evidence to suggest that regular physical activity might spur natural changes in the brain powerful enough to fight against the devastating addictions of alcohol and drugs.

Alcoholism, also known as alcohol dependence, is a disease that includes the following four symptoms, according to the Nat’l Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism:

  1. Craving–A strong need, or urge, to drink.
  2. Loss of control–Not being able to stop drinking once drinking has begun.
  3. Physical dependence–Withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, sweating, shakiness, and anxiety after stopping drinking.
  4. Tolerance–The need to drink greater amounts of alcohol to get “high.”

Answering the following four questions can help you find out if you or a loved one has a drinking problem:

  1. Have you ever felt you should cut down on your drinking?
  2. Have people annoyed you by criticizing your drinking?
  3. Have you ever felt bad or guilty about your drinking?
  4. Have you ever had a drink first thing in the morning to steady your nerves or to get rid of a hangover?

One “yes” answer suggests a possible alcohol problem. More than one “yes” answer means it is highly likely that a problem exists. If you think that you or someone you know might have an alcohol problem, it is important to see a doctor or other health care provider right away. They can help you determine if a drinking problem exists and plan the best course of action.

via Nat’l Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, “Facts for the General Public”
via Bay Area Medical Information, Drug Abuse Resources for U.S. and Pinellas Co., FL
via Bay Area Medical Information, Alcohol Abuse Resources for U.S. and Pinellas Co., FL

Simple falls can be deadly

Each year, one in three older Americans falls, and 30 percent of these falls are serious, according to a new report by the CDC. Hip fractures are certainly one of the devastating consequences of many falls, but traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) are all too common. In fact, because of the high incidence of head injury, falls are the leading cause of injury deaths and nonfatal injuries for those 65 and over. 

Serious injury to the brain can be caused by a simple bump or blow to the head and can be life-threatening or result in long-term disabilities such as difficulty with thinking, functional impairments, and/or emotional disturbances. 

There are many reasons people 65 and over tend to fall, but usually a cause can be traced back to one or more the following: mobility problems due to muscle weakness or poor balance, loss of sensation in feet, chronic health conditions, vision changes or loss, medication side effects or drug interactions, and home and environmental hazards such as clutter or poor lighting.

According to the Nat’l Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, “Symptoms of a TBI can be mild, moderate, or severe, depending on the extent of the damage to the brain. Some symptoms are evident immediately, while others do not surface until several days or weeks after the injury… Anyone with signs of a TBI should receive medical attention as soon as possible.”

Preventing a fall in the first place is key, and the CDC has recently developed the ‘Help Seniors Live Better, Longer: Prevent Brain Injury’ initiative. Developed in collaboration with 26 organizations, it features easy-to-use materials to help prevent, recognize, and respond to TBI. For more information and materials, visit

via NINDS, “Traumatic brain injury: Signs and symptoms”
via CDC, “Traumatic brain injuries can result from senior falls”

Children under the age of six should be tested for lead once a year

Two recent studies have found that adults with high levels of lead in childhood not only showed signs of brain damage but were far more likely to be arrested in later years for violent crimes.  In fact researchers are discovering that our current prisons have a very high percentage of inmates with signs of childhood lead toxicity. 

Previous research has linked childhood lead exposure with anti-social behavior, lower IQ, attention deficits, hyperactivity and weak executive control functions, all of which are risk factors for adult criminal behavior. It is well known that lead poisoning can harm a child’s nervous system and brain when they are still forming. Small amounts of lead in the body can make it hard for children to learn, pay attention, and succeed in school, whereas higher amounts of lead exposure can damage the nervous system, kidneys, and other major organs. Very high exposure can lead to seizures or death.

A child playing with a tea setLead is invisible to the naked eye and has no smell. It usually accumulates silently and gradually in the body, going unnoticed until it’s too late. Unfortunately, children with even high levels of lead in their bodies can appear healthy. Despite significant U.S. legislation banning its use in products, much lead remains in the environment and some lead-based products still exist.  The recent worldwide recall of millions of children’s plastic toys is a good example of the persistent threat of lead in our children’s lives. 

The EPA and CDC strongly recommend that children under the age of six be tested for lead once a year. Have your home tested for lead by a professional (see links below) and consult your doctor or pediatrician about having your child tested.   

Unfortunately, at this point, the test kits for lead currently on the market are not reliable.  In October 2007 the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) performed 104 analyses of lead test kits on the market and found that none of them consistently detected lead in products, if the lead was covered with a non-leaded coating. Many of the tests performed using the kits did not detect lead when it was there (false negatives); some indicated lead was present when it was not (false positives). Based on the study the CPSC urges consumers not to use lead test kits to evaluate consumer products for potential lead hazards.  Until a reliable testing kit becomes available, testing by a qualified laboratory and trained personnel is the only way to accurately assess the potential risk posed by a consumer product that may contain lead.

via Consumer Product Safety Commission, Home test kits for lead are unreliable
  American Academy of Pediatrics Testing for lead in your home
via EPA, Testing your home for lead in the paint, dust and soil
via CDC:
Childhood Lead Exposure; Lead Recalls of Consumer Products (including toys) 
EPA, Frequently Asked Questions, from the  California Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Branch

Health care workers are common carriers of the super-bug, MRSA

One in twenty health care workers are carriers of Methicillin Resistant Staph Aureus (MRSA), according to a recent study published in the Lancet Infectious Diseases. Of those workers found to be carriers, the vast majority were without symptoms and only 5.1% of them had full-blown clinically evident infections. Based on these findings the researchers recommend that health institutions should screen all workers, regardless of any symptoms, as part of a pre-employment exam, and then perform periodic spot checks.  Strict handwashing and contact precautions are a critical part of staff education in controlling the spread of this dangerous bug.

Staph bacteria, including MRSA, most often infect the skin with localized skin infections that may look like a pimple, a spider bite, or a boil and can be red, swollen, painful, and possibly have pus or other drainage. Especially concerning are whitish pus-filled areas when there is associated fever or a general feeling of illness. Another warning sign is when skin infections seem to be passing from one family member to another or if two or more family members have skin infections simultaneously.

Contact your health care provider if you think you have a staph infection.  Read more about MRSA

via Albrich WC, Harbarth S “Health-care workers: Source, vector, or victim of MRSA?” Lancet Infect Dis 2008; 8: 289-301

Bogus cancer cures are widespread on the internet

Today the FDA ordered 25 companies, that market fake cancer cures, to stop sales activity of these products or face regulatory actions ranging from product seizure to criminal prosecution. 

Black salve, a topical treatment that can burn skin and tissue, is one example of these internet scams.   The following list from the FDA details the 125 fake cancer cures currently on the market.

via MedPage Today/FDA June 2008

A new college drinking ritual with deadly outcomes

Alcoholic drinksIt’s called “21 for 21,” students down 21 alcoholic drinks on their 21st birthday, and some students are dying from this game, according to researchers at the University of Missouri.  

In an article about this ritual in HealthDay, Dr. Evaristo Akerele, vice president and director of medical and psychiatric affairs at Phoenix House in New York City said, “What generally happens is that we are normally protected by alcohol when you pass out before you get too drunk and get to the stage of death. What happens here is somebody keeps the mouth open and keeps putting more and more alcohol so you override [the tendency to pass out first]. It’s potentially fatal.”

In an effort to get the word out to college students, many universities have instituted the “birthday card,” which is sent out before a student’s 21st birthday and provides information about the dangers of this type of drinking.  Apparently this has had only limited success and the dangerous game continues.

via Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology/HealthDay/Medline Plus, June 2008