Archive for March, 2010
March 31st, 2010 by Nina Thompson, ARNP
Treatment with a certain type of blood pressure medication has been associated with better outcomes in breast cancer, according to British researchers from the Nottingham University Hospital in England.
Based on their review of 466 medical records of breast cancer patients, those taking blood pressure medication referred to as beta blockers, had a 71% reduction in the risk of breast cancer-specific death. Also, there was a 57% reduction in the risk of distant metastasis, compared with patients on other antihypertensive agents or no antihypertensive therapy.
The findings of this study add to previous research suggesting that drugs of this type might have anticancer activity. In one study of patients with cardiovascular disease, there was a significant reduction in total cancer incidence among patients treated with beta blockers versus those on other antihypertensive medications. In another study, prostate cancer was found to be significantly reduced in patients treated with alpha-1 blockers.
These findings are very compelling, but more research in this area is needed before any definite conclusions can be made.
Source: Powe DG, et al “Beta-blocker treatment is associated with a reduction in tumor metastasis and an improvement in specific survival in patients with breast cancer” EBCC 2010; Abstract 445.
Source: “EBCC: Beta-Blocker Role in Breast Cancer Examined ”, MedPage Today, March 30, 2010
March 30th, 2010 by Nina Thompson, ARNP
Aerobic exercise involves continuous activity that will increase your heart rate and maintain it at a higher rate for a sustained period of time, such as for 20-60 minutes. An intensity that is considered ”moderate” can be roughly estimated to be activity that is strenuous enough to cause a slight but noticeable increase in breathing and heart rate. Hard enough to break a sweat, although not so hard that you can’t comfortably carry on a conversation. If you can sing and maintain your level of effort, you’re probably not working hard enough. If you get out of breath quickly, you’re probably working too hard, especially if you have to stop and catch your breath.
According to the American Heart Association’s exercise guidelines, an adult walking at three miles per hour on a flat surface is expending about 3.3 METs, which is the low end of moderate intensity. Light intensity exercise is less than 3.0 METs; moderate intensity is 3.0 to 6.0 METs; and vigorous activity is more than 6 METs.
Another more precise method of estimating moderate intensity would be to monitor your heart rate. Activity at 60 to 70% of the maximum heart rate is considered moderate intensity exercise, by some experts. (Other authorities use different ranges and methods of measurement.)
- 220 (beats per minute) minus age = maximum heart rate.
- then multiply 60% times the maximum heart rate to calculate the lower end of the target heart rate
- and multiply 70% times the maximum heart rate to calculate the upper end of the target hart rate
- A 60-year-old woman exercising at 60% intensity would use the following calculation:
- 220 - 60 = 160 (maximum heart rate)
- 160 X 60% = 96 (target heart rate)
- 96 is her target heart rate (the rate at which she should strive for during her exercise)
To calculate her target heart rate range for moderate intensity exercise, make an additional calculation using the intensity level of 70%:
- 160 x 70% = 112
- So, 96 to 112 is the target heart rate for a 60-year-old who wishes to exercise at a moderate intensity
Aerobic activities include walking briskly, bicycling, using a stationary bicycle, swimming, running, jogging, stepping machine, climbing stairs, vigorous dancing, ice skating, roller skating, aerobics (regular or low impact) cross-country skiing, rowing and playing racquetball or tennis.
Note: A few high blood pressure medications lower the maximum heart rate and thus the target zone rate. If you’re taking such medicine, contact your physician to find out if you need to use a lower target heart rate.
It’s always best to check with your doctor before beginning an exercise program, and start slowly with aerobic activities or muscle strengthening exercises that are less intense at first. Beginners might want to start with as little as three 10-minute walks a day, most days of the week. People who are younger and more fit might want to aim for as much as 60 minutes a day of moderate intensity exercise.
Read more about the Benefits of Exercise and How to Get Started
Calculate your BMI (Body Mass Index)
Sources: “Physical Activity” from MedLine Plus
Sources: American Heart Association
March 25th, 2010 by Nina Thompson, ARNP
For normal-weight women, middle-aged and older, sixty minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a day is needed to prevent weight gain, according to researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School.
Weight tends to gradually increase with age, even among those who have maintained a normal weight in their younger years. After the age of 25 our body naturally gains 1 pound per year, if nothing else changes.
What is moderate-intensity exercise? Experts usually consider it to be strenuous enough to cause a slight but noticeable increase in breathing and heart rate. Hard enough to break a sweat, but not so hard that you can’t comfortably carry on a conversation. In the above study, moderate-intensity exercise was considered the equivalent of one hour a day of brisk walking or 30 minutes a day of jogging or running.
Note: Check with your health care provider before beginning an exercise program. If you have chest pain, feel faint or light-headed, or become extremely out of breath while exercising, stop the activity at once and tell your doctor as soon as possible.
More Information: Exercise
Source: Lee IM, et al “Physical activity and weight gain prevention” JAMA 2010; 303(12): 1173-79.
Source: “Cardiovascular Exercise” from Harvard.edu
March 23rd, 2010 by Nina Thompson, ARNP
The Mediterranean diet, with its emphasis on consumption of olive oil, legumes, fish, vegetables, fruits and whole grains may help protect against major depression, according to Spanish researchers from the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.
In this 2009 study, participants were scored on their dietary practices and categorized according to their adherence to the Mediterranean Diet. Those in the highest category of adherence to the Diet were found to be the least likely to develop depression, whereas those in the lowest category were the most likely.
The Mediterranean diet is based on a high ratio of monounsaturated to saturated fatty acids, a high intake of legumes, cereal, fruits and nuts, vegetables, and fish, moderate intake of alcohol and dairy products, and low intake of meat.
A growing body of literature is reporting the benefits of the Mediterranean Diet with respect to Cardiovascular Disease, Cancer, Cognitive Decline, Parkinson’s Disease, Erectile Dysfunction, and Type 2 Diabetes.
More Information: Depression
Source: “Mediterranean Diet May Protect Against Depression”, MedPage Today, October 5, 2009
Source: ”Mediterranean Diet Protects Against Stomach Cancer”, Reuters, January 15, 2010
March 18th, 2010 by Nina Thompson, ARNP
Smoking wreaks havoc on every blood vessel in the human body, it damages nearly every organ, and is linked to at least 15 different cancers. But researchers from the University of Wisconsin offer hope for long-term smokers. In their recent study of 1,500 smokers, blood vessel function started recovering one year after the smokers kicked the habit.
More Information: Smoking Cessation includes a photo of a chronic smoker’s lungs, the facts about smoking, and tips and resources for quitting
Source: University of Wisconsin, news release, March 15, 2010
Source: “Blood Vessels Bounce Back Once Smokers Quit”, HealthDay, March 16, 2010
March 17th, 2010 by Nina Thompson, ARNP
A recent study from the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute in Murray, Utah has found that people who increase their vitamin D blood levels to 43 or higher may lower their risk of diabetes, heart attack, heart failure, high blood pressure and heart disease.
Heralded as “One of the Top 10 Medical Breakthroughs of 2007″, Vitamin D continues to surface in new research as a critical nutrient in maintaining good health and preventing disease, yet almost half of the world’s population has lower than optimal levels of vitamin D.
It is well known that hip fractures and muscle weakness, in people over 50, are linked with a deficiency in Vitamin D. Many recent studies have also found that low Vitamin D levels are associated with a number of serious, chronic diseases, such as diabetes, gum disease, multiple sclerosis and other autoimmune diseases, peripheral neuropathy, osteoporosis, cancer, stroke, mental decline, depression, high blood pressure and heart disease.
A Vitamin D deficiency can be treated with a simple daily supplement and a blood test can measure the circulating Vitamin D levels in your blood. A level of 30 nanograms per milliliter of vitamin D is considered normal, although this may vary from lab to lab.
Many doctors are routinely drawing blood levels of Vitamin D to to make sure patients are getting enough vitamin D to optimize good bone health and prevent chronic disease. Ask your doctor about this.
Important Note: Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin, thus toxicity can occur from high intakes of vitamin D. Overdosage can occur from large amounts of supplements or cod liver oil, but it is unlikely to result from sun exposure or diet. Parents should consult with their pediatrician before giving any child vitamin D supplements. Excess vitamin D can reach toxic levels and be harmful.
Source: “Boosting Vitamin D Can Do a Heart Good”, HealthDay News, March 15, 2010
March 16th, 2010 by Nina Thompson, ARNP
Driving skills may still be intact in early Alzheimer’s, but the risk of getting lost on familiar streets, may be greater than one would think, according to researchers from the School of Occupational Therapy at Pacific University, Oregon. Memory and navigation skills become impaired in early Alzheimer’s while poor judgment and reasoning frequently compound the problem.
In this recent study of 207 drivers with Alzheimer’s who went missing while driving, 32 died and 35 were found injured, while 70 were still not found by the time the data was analyzed. Most had set off on routine and familiar trips to the post office, the local store or a relative’s house. Once lost, some had driven for almost two days and covered more than 1,700 miles. One New Jersey couple in the study, both with dementia, got lost on a trip to the store and drove around until they ran out of gas. The husband went for help but was unable to direct authorities to his car. His wife was found dead several days later.
Giving up the car keys is often a monumental loss for elderly folks who are considered unsafe to drive. Especially for men, it’s a milestone that represents a loss of independence, freedom and control. Families are frequently put in the difficult position of identifying the problem and enforcing the restrictions. So what is a family to do? Here are some helpful tips and resources:
- This is an important time to seek the help of the elderly person’s doctor. Have a confidential meeting or phone conversation ahead of their visit so the doctor has a clear understanding of the circumstances. People often will listen more to their doctor and less to their spouses and children about driving ability.
- There are many excellent resources for family members available through the Area Agency on Aging. Call their Senior Information Line at 800-645-2810 for a copy of booklets, brochures, or DVD’s about safe driving with aging.
- The Alzheimer’s Association offers a web-based program called “Comfort Zone” that families of Alzheimer’s patients can use if the person can still drive safely in familiar places. The driver agrees to limit driving to a “comfort zone,” and a global positioning system (GPS) monitors driving. If the driver leaves the area, the family is notified in real time.
Read more about “Comfort Zone”
Source: Linda Hunt, Ph.D., associate professor, Pacific University, Oregon; Elizabeth Gould, M.S.W., director, quality care programs, Alzheimer’s Association, Chicago; March 2010, American Journal of Occupational Health
Source: “Driving With Early Alzheimer’s May Be Ill-Advised”, HealthDay, March 12, 2010
March 15th, 2010 by Nina Thompson, ARNP
While moderate exercise has a protective effect on the heart, exercising too much can do harm, say Greek researchers from Athens Medical School.
In their recent study, male marathon runners had significantly increased stiffness of the aorta when compared with people who took part in moderate, recreational exercise.
The aorta is the major artery leading from the heart and is the largest and most important artery in the body. Stiffness of the aorta can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, and even death.
Source: “Marathoners Face Greater Risk of Artery Problems”, HealthDay, March 14, 2010
March 10th, 2010 by Nina Thompson, ARNP
Light to moderate drinking may keep women from gaining too much weight, according to the researchers from the Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston.
In their recent 13-year study of normal-weight women younger than 50, those who drank light to moderate amounts of alcohol daily, gained less weight and had a lower risk of becoming overweight or obese than either teetotalers or those who drank too much.
These findings and conclusions are highly controversial for a number of reasons. Experts do agree that further research is needed to confirm these conclusions, but certainly the findings should not be used as a license to drink.
The fact remains that alcohol is well known to increase the risk of cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, liver, and breast. Regular consumption of even a few drinks per week is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer in women. In fact, the American Cancer Society warns that those at high risk of breast cancer may want to consider not drinking any alcohol at all.
Wang L, et al “Alcohol consumption, weight gain, and risk of becoming overweight in middle-aged and older women” Arch Intern Med 2010; 170(5): 453-61.
Source: “Cheers! A Drink a Day May Keep the Pounds Away”, MedPage Today, March 8, 2010
Source: “Common Questions about Diet and Cancer” from the American Cancer Society
March 9th, 2010 by Nina Thompson, ARNP
Avodart (dutasteride) may both prevent prostate cancer and improve the predictive power of the blood test, PSA, according to researchers from the Kimmel Cancer Center at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. In their recent study of men with benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), the medication was associated with a 40% lower incidence of prostate cancer diagnosis than the BPH drug tamsulosin (Flomax) in at-risk men.
Several other trials have also found similar results. The American Society of Clinical Oncology and American Urological Association recommends that healthy older men discuss this with their doctors.
About Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH)
Source: “Prostate CA Prevention Affirmed for BPH Drug”, MedPage Today, March 07, 2010
Gomella LG, et al “Effect of dutasteride on the detection of prostate cancer in men with benign prostatic hyperplasia in the combination of dutasteride and tamsulosin (CombAT) trial” ASCO GU 2010; Abstract 28.