Archive for the 'Baby Boomers' Category

New Recommendations for Ovarian Cancer Prevention

Two womenAccording to new recommendations from the Society of Gynecologic Oncologists, women with a strong family history of ovarian cancer or BRCA mutations should have prophylactic bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy after completing childbearing, to reduce the risk of ovarian cancer .

A bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy is a surgical procedure that removes both sets of fallopian tubes and ovaries. 

Read about Ovarian Cancer

Source: “Individualize Decisions about Prophylactic Oophorectomy“, MedPage Today, September 26, 2010

More Information about Prophylactic Oophorectomy from the Mayo Clinic

Excess Weight Linked to Poor Memory in Older Women

The brainIf you want to keep your mind as healthy as possible as you age, pay attention to your waistline.  Evidence is accumulating that excess weight is linked to mental decline in older years. 

A recent study found that postmenopausal women lost one point from their scores on a standard memory test for every point increase in their body mass index, indicating that obesity is linked to a decline in  memory and brain function with aging. 

A 2008 study found similar results. People with the greatest central fat accumulation had almost a three-fold higher rate of dementia 36 years later than those with the least amount.

More Information:

Source: Neurology, March 26, 2008

SOURCE: Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, online  July 14, 2010 

Volunteer Activities May Help Mental Decline

Two men playing chessSenior citizens can preserve their memory and cognitive abilities longer if they keep their minds and bodies active, according to a number of experts and researchers. 

A recent study from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that volunteer activities appears to delay or reverse declining brain function in older people. Although this study was small, it adds to a growing body of literature suggesting that mentally stimulating lifestyles may help maintain or improve cognitive function in aging people.

Another study has found that people who were free of Alzheimer’s disease in later life were more likely to have engaged in mentally stimulating leisure activities when they were younger. These activities included playing chess, reading books, playing a musical instrument, or learning a foreign language.

An active social schedule also appears to be key to healthy mental stimulation.   A 2008 study from Harvard found that elderly people in the U.S. who have an active social life have a slower rate of memory decline.

SOURCE: “Volunteering Keeps Older Minds Sharp”, MedPage Today, December 18, 2009

SOURCE:  Carlson M, et al “Evidence for neurocognitive plasticity in at-risk older adults: The Experience Corps Program” J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci 2009: 64; 1275–82. 


Skip the Highly Processed, Refined Grains in Your Diet

Whole grain foodsWhite is bad, at least when it comes to weight control and a healthy diet.  White bread, white, flour, white rice, white sugar, and even white pasta are all highly refined, have less fiber, and are thought to contribute to obesity and Type 2 Diabetes.

The more you substitute whole grain carbohydrates for the white, highly processed foods, the easier it’ll be to control weight and avoid such diseases as Type 2 Diabetes.

A recent study from Harvard found that having more than five servings a week was associated with a 17% higher risk of Type 2 Diabetes, whereas having two servings of brown rice a week was associated with a decreased risk of developing diabetes.

In an article by MedPage Today, Carl J. Lavie, MD, who was not involved in the study, cautioned that the data is “not strong enough to suggest to patients to increase their consumption of brown rice. Rather, the data is stronger to suggest that instead of consuming high quantities of white rice, it would be preferable to replace this with either brown rice and even better to replace white rice with other whole grains that have even lower glycemic indices.”  Another obesity researcher added that “whole grains are likely more important than brown rice alone”.

More Information:

SOURCE: Sun Q, et al “White rice, brown rice, and risk of type 2 diabetes in U.S. men and women” Arch Intern Med 2010; 170(11): 961-69.

SOURCE: “Brown Rice over White to Cut Diabetes Risk”, MedPage Today, June 14, 2010

Animal Protein Associated with Irritable Bowel Disease

Beef burgersA diet heavy in animal protein appears to increase women’s risk of developing inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), according to researchers from Paris.

This study adds to a growing body of literature suggesting that diet might play a role in inflammatory bowel disease.  

Also there have been several studies linking vitamin D deficiency to IBD.

Inflammatory bowel disease is a general term for diseases that are marked by severe inflammation in the digestive system such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.

Meat could contribute to inflammatory bowel disease risk because digestion of animal protein produces many potentially toxic “end products,” such as hydrogen sulfide and ammonia, the lead researcher said in an interview with Reuters Health. Also, a high-protein diet could alter the mix of healthy bacteria that live in the colon.

More Information:

SOURCE: American Journal of Gastroenterology, online May 11, 2010
SOURCE: “Meat, fish protein linked to women’s bowel disease”, Reuter’s Health, June 7, 2010

Weight-Loss Drug Linked with Rare Cases of Liver Damage

Bathroom scalesThirteen cases of severe liver damage have occurred in association with taking the widely-used weight-loss drug Orlistat, according to the the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Orlistat is sold by prescription under the trade name Xenical and available over-the-counter as Alli.

The FDA estimates that some 40 million people worldwide are taking the drug, so the incidence of liver damage is rare.  Nonetheless those who take the drug should be advised to stop the use of Orlistat and see their doctor if they develop itching, yellow eyes or skin, dark urine, light-colored stools, right-upper quadrant abdominal pain, fever, weakness, vomiting, fatigue, or loss of appetite. Orlistat therapy should be immediately discontinued if liver injury is suspected. 

Although a rare side effect, the bottom line is that all medications that you put in your body have potential for side effects.  This includes over-the-counter medications and herbal products.  Weight-loss drugs, in particular, have a bad track record so far.  Most people remember the disasterous Fen-Phen combination drug which swept the diet market in the early 1990s.  The popularity of Fen-Phen fell as fast as it rose when fenfluramine, which was the “Fen” in Fen-Phen, was linked to the life-threatening diseases, pulmonary hypertension and serious heart valve problems.  

Since 1980, obesity rates have risen three-fold and have reached epidemic proportions globally.   In the U.S., 66 percent of adults are either overweight or obese, according to the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics.   We need to solve this growing problem, but taking a pill has not proven to work very well.  The side effects are often difficult to tolerate or even dangerous at times, and once the pill is stopped, the weight piles back on, often more quickly than it was lost.  

There’s no easy solution for weight control–like so many things on this planet that are worthwhile, you have to work at it.  Permanent lifestyle changes which include eating right and exercising regularly remain the only true cure for obesity.     

More Information:


SOURCE: “Rare Cases of Liver Damage Tied to Weight-Loss Drug”, HealthDay News, May 26, 2010

Concerns are Mounting Over Deadly Fungus in Northwest U.S. and British Columbia

Trees and soil in the Pacific Northwest are thought to be the source of the fungusA new deadly strain of an airborne fungus, called Cryptococcus gattii, is infecting both animals and people in the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia, according to Duke researchers. 

Although rare so far, this airborne fungus has been highly virulent with a mortality rate of about 25 percent. It typically only infects immunocompromised patients, but this new strain is genetically different and is a threat to healthy people as well.

Treatment of this highly lethal infection requires months to years of antifungal medications. Surgery is often necessary to remove the large masses known as cryptococcomas that can develop in various parts of the body.  There is no known method of prevention or vaccination at this point.

C. gatti has historically been a tropical fungus normally found in South America, Australia and Papua New Guinea. In these areas, it tends to favor eucalyptus trees with rates of infection among people being relatively low.

However, in 1999, the fungus emerged as a new strain on the east side of Vancouver Island where it is thought to have infected certain areas of soil, water, and local trees. From 1999 through 2003 the outbreak was confined to the island, but since 2003 the infection has also been found in the mainland of British Columbia, Washington state, California and Oregon.   Given this path, as well as the fact that C. gattii potentially can be dispersed through export of trees and woody products, air currents, water currents, and biotic sources, such as birds, animals, and insects, the researchers predict further spread of the fungus into the U.S. 

The disease is not contagious from person to person or person to animal.  It is thought to spread through the air to both humans and animals by inhalation of spores released by the fungus from the trees, soil, water or air.  

“The primary site of infection is the lung; C. gattii can lead to pneumonia or formation of cryptococcomas. The infection can disseminate to most other organs, notably the central nervous system (CNS), where it causes meningoencephalitis or brain cryptococcomas”, according to a February 2010 article in Emerging Infectious Diseases.

Most people never develop symptoms, but the spore-forming fungus can cause symptoms in people and animals two weeks or much longer after exposure.  Symptoms in people include a cough that lasts for weeks, sharp chest pain, shortness of breath, headache, fever, nighttime sweats and weight loss. 

 Cats, dogs and a wide range of both domestic and wild animals have been infected.  In animals the symptoms are a runny nose, breathing problems, nervous system problems and raised bumps under the skin.

Although the occurrence of this infection is rare, the CDC warns residents and even tourists in these areas to be aware of suspicious symptoms such as those described above, which should be reported to their physicians. 

SOURCE: “Emergence and Pathogenicity of Highly Virulent Cryptococcus gattii Genotypes in the Northwest United States”, PLoS Pathogens 2010.

SOURCE: “Potentially deadly fungus spreading in US, Canada”, Reuters Health, April 23, 2010

SOURCE: “Cryptococcus gattii Risk for Tourists Visiting Vancouver Island, Canada”, Emerging Infectious Diseases, Vol 13, No. 1, January 2007

SOURCE: “Epidemiology of Cryptococcus gattii, British Columbia, Canada, 1999–2007″, Emerging Infectious Diseases, Volume 16, Number 2–February 2010 

SOURCE: “Projecting Global Occurrence of Cryptococcus gattii”, Emerging Infectious Diseases, Volume 16, Number 1–January 2010


New Weight-Loss Drug Decreases Hunger

Bathroom scalesA new and potentially exciting weight-loss drug is on the horizon, but has not yet been approved by the FDA.  The compound, called Attiva, is a  superabsorbent hydrogel capsule which is made entirely from food components. 

Attiva is to be taken with water before mealtimes to induce satiety.  When the water mixes with the hydrogel, the substance expands to fill the stomach, making less room for food, causing the person to eat less. 

The material then passes to the smaller intestine, decreasing its volume and slowing the rate of sugar absorption, making for better glycemic control, according to the researchers who developed Attiva.  Finally, it degrades in the colon where it releases the absorbed liquids, and is elimated from the body in the stool.

So far, researchers have found Attiva to be safe and well-tolerated.  Gastrointestinal symptoms, particularly nausea, were the most common side effect occurring in 7.4% of patients taking the capsules.

Source:  Heshmati HM, et al “Attiva, a novel superabsorbent biodegradable hydrogel, increases the feeling of satiety in humans” AACE 2010; Abstract 605. 

Source: “AACE: New Hydrogel Diminishes Hunger”, MedPage Today, April 22, 2010 


Trichloroethylene Linked to Parkinson’s Disease

Trichloroethylene (TCE) has once again been linked to increased rates of Parkinson’s disease.  In this recent study from the Parkinson’s Institute in Sunnyvale, California, Parkinson’s disease developed in individuals with occupational exposure to TCE at more than five times the rate seen in those without such exposure.

More Information: ToxFAQs for Trichloroethylene (TCE) from the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry

Source:  Goldman S, “Parkinson’s Disease Risk is Increased in Discordant Twins Exposed to Specific Solvents” AAN 2010.

Source: “AAN: Industrial Cleaner Again Tied to Parkinson Risk”,  MedPage Today, February 07, 2010

Fat Cells Can Increase Stroke Risk

Measuring your waist line regularly is a good way to keep an eye on weight gainBeing overweight increases the risk of ischemic stroke by 22%, while being obese increases the risk 64%, according to Italian Researchers from the University of Naples Medical School. In their 2010 study of almost 2.3 million people, the researchers found that being overweight and obese independently affected stroke risk.  

One possible reason for this, one of the researchers told Reuters, is that fat cells can secrete unhealthy substances that promote inflammation and contribute to hardening of the arteries and blood clotting.

Source: “Being overweight ups stroke risk, study confirms”, Reuters Health, April 5, 2010

More Information:  Control weight gain with exercise