Vitamin D Supplementation Helps Prevent Falls in Older Adults

Nutritional Health
Each year, one third of adults 65 years and older have at least one fall. And, 9% of those falls require an emergency department visit and up to 6%result in a fracture. Consequently, strategies to prevent falls have become an important public health goal for the elderly. A recent review of multiple published studies concluded that vitamin D supplementation taken in dosages of 700 to 1,000 IU per day (achieving a serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D level of at least 24) reduces falls in older persons by 26%. And, for good news for the cost conscious, the more expensive active forms of vitamin D (which also had double the rate of a significant side effect) were no more effective than the very inexpensive and safer over-the-counter supplemental vitamin D. A vitamin D level…
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Dark chocolate Easter eggs good for your heart?

Heart Health, Nutritional Health
Easter eggs and other chocolate may be good for you – at least in small quantities and preferably if it’s dark chocolate – according to research that shows just one small square of chocolate a day can lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk of heart disease. The study is published online in the European Heart Journal. Researchers in Germany followed 19,357 people, aged between 35 and 65, for at least ten years, and found that those who ate the most amount of chocolate – an average of 7.5 grams a day – had lower blood pressure and a 39% lower risk of having a heart attack or stroke compared to those who ate the least amount of chocolate – an average of 1.7 grams a day. The difference…
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Afternoon Nap Might Make You Smarter

Men's Health, Woman's Health
A study is claiming that snoozing refreshes the brain's capacity to learn. While the findings are preliminary, this new research raises the prospect that sleep, specifically a lengthy afternoon nap, prepares the brain to remember things. Think of it as similar to rebooting a computer to get it to work more smoothly. Here are some of the details as reported by Health Day News: Want to ace that next test? Try taking a mid-afternoon siesta. "Sleep is not just for the body. It's very much for the brain," said study author Matthew Walker, an assistant professor at the University of California at Berkeley. Walker and colleagues divided 39 young adults into two groups. At noon, all the participants took part in a memory exercise that required them to remember faces and…
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Superfoods for Women

Nutritional Health, Woman's Health
Most of us love to eat great food. But, we also want to feel great. Can we do both? You bet you can if you choose foods that make you energetic, smarter, leaner, and stronger -- and then use them the right way in your daily eating habits. To help you accomplish that, here's a story reported by CBS News. Registered dietician Frances Largeman-Roth, the senior food and nutrition editor for Health Magazine, made these suggestions on "The Early Show" about what she considered some of the top "superfoods" for women: What are "superfoods"? As Largeman-Roth explained, the list comes from Health magazine's experts. "We went to our experts and said, 'If you had to compile a list of 10 superfoods based on nutrient profiles and research, what would you choose?'" Health magazine…
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Coffee and Your Health

Heart Health, Nutritional Health, Woman's Health
Today I'm teaching the family medicine residents at the In His Image Family Medicine Residency Program in Tulsa, Oklahoma. One of them asked if there were any health benefits of coffee. Of course, long time readers on this blog know the answer to that question is a qualified YES. There are a number of coffee and health related studies that have come out just this year. In fact, two recently came out at an American Heart Association meeting. Among the findings: coffee drinkers are less likely to be hospitalized with heart rhythm disorders, which is a bit surprising because heart palpitations are more common among those who drink coffee. Bloomberg News reported that "while a shot of espresso may give people the sensation their hearts are racing, drinking more coffee reduced…
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Eating Processed Meat Riskier Than Red Meat

Heart Health, Nutritional Health
Here's some surprising information from the Harvard School of public health. It's an old news, new news story. First a reiteration of some old news: Eating processed meat such as bacon, salami, hot dogs, or lunch meats is associated with an increased risk for heart disease and diabetes. But, this old news becomes even more convincing since this particular report is based upon an analysis of 20 studies including more than 1.2 million adults. However, the new news is that the increased risk of heart disease and diabetes does NOT come from eating UNPROCESSED red meat, such as steak, lamb or pork. How about that for a shocker!? The risk comes from eating PROCESSED meats. The researchers theorize that the higher sodium and nitrate levels in processed meats are the…
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Can Hibiscus Tea lower your blood pressure? Surprising new research says, “Yes.”

Heart Health, Nutritional Health
When I speak on natural medications (herbs, vitamins, and supplements), I tell folks that my favorite natural medicines website is the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database which has new information about Hibiscus (Hibiscus sabdariffa). NMCD says, “Hibiscus is getting more attention as a potential treatment for hypertension. New clinical research shows that drinking a specific hibiscus tea (Celestial Seasonings) three times daily for 6 weeks significantly lowers blood pressure by about 7 mmHg in patients with pre-hypertension or mild hypertension.” According to NMCD, “This is promising, but preliminary.” Also,  I suspect most people could not (and would not) be compliant with drinking the tea three times a day every single day for years at a time. So, the Database encourages us physicians to “explain to patients that drinking hibiscus tea might help,…
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Loneliness harms blood pressure

Heart Health, Mental Health
Like happiness, loneliness is contagious In my book, the 10 Essentials of Happy, Healthy People, one of the ten essentials of health I write about is "avoiding loneliness like the plague." I say, "Avoiding loneliness and pursuing healthy relationships can increase the likelihood of your becoming a highly healthy person ... The absence of loneliness, the fostering of socialization and positive rela- tionships, and the development of constructive and graceful communication styles can increase not only the likelihood that you will be highly healthy but that those around you will be healthy as well." There are a number of reasons this is true -- not the least of which is the association of loneliness with worsening cardiovascular health outcomes. Commenting on the newest research showing this is the Los Angeles…
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Increased spiritual support may be linked to higher quality of life in cancer patients

Bioethics, Cancer
This headline is likely not news to most of the readers of this blog -- or likely to most people. We all seem to know intuitively that terminal diagnoses cause people to begin to think about spiritaul and eternal issues. HealthDay reports, "Addressing the spiritual needs of someone with advanced cancer could be just as important as taking care of their medical needs." This is based upon a study appearing in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. The study of 670 patients showed that 60 percent "said that their spiritual needs either hadn't been met or were minimally supported," even though patients ranked "pain control and being at peace with God" as the two most important factors "at the end of their lives." Patients who received "greater spiritual support from their…
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If you take St. John’s wort, here’s another potential side effect you need to know about

Alternative Medicine, General Health
My favorite natural medicines website is the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database and the NMCD has a new warning about St. John's wort (SJW) and your eyesight: St. John’s wort  has now been linked to an increased risk of cataracts in new research. There have been concerns for years, based upon animal studies, that SJW might increase cataract risk. Why? The hypericin constituent of SJW is known to be photoactive. In the presence of light, hypericin might damage lens proteins and precipitate cataracts. However, this risk has never been studied in humans -- until now. A new population study shows that taking St. John's wort is associated with risk of developing cataracts. The researchers used self-reported data on SJW use in the past 12 months and cataracts that were obtained from the 2002 National…
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St. John’s wort may cool the hot flashes of menopause

Alternative Medicine, Woman's Health
Reuters Health has a nice report on the popular herbal remedy, St. John's wort, and some news from a small study that says it may help ease menopausal hot flashes. St. John's wort is probably best known as an herbal antidepressant, with some clinical trials suggesting that it can help relieve mild to moderate depression symptoms. A few studies have also investigated the herb's effects on menopausal symptoms, but have focused on its impact on mood -- and not the so-called vasomotor symptoms of menopause, which include hot flashes and night sweats. Here's the Reuter's report: "(The) findings of our study suggest that this herbal medicine can be used to treat hot flashes due to menopause, and it is a new finding about the usage of St. John's wort," Marjan Khajehei, of…
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Amberen a new supplement for hot flashes. Does it work?

Alternative Medicine, Woman's Health
According to a new report by the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database (NMCD), Amberen is a popular new dietary supplement used mainly for menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes. The manufacturer says the product is "Backed by published clinical, toxicology and safety studies, and over 30 years of research, Amberen is your best choice for a natural alternative to HRT." The NMCD say, of Amberen, "It contains unusual ingredients including ammonium succinate, calcium disuccinate, magnesium disuccinate hydrate, and others." But, does it work? The Database relates, "Although patient testimonials suggest that the product might help, there is NO reliable clinical research." To doctors NMCD says, “Don't recommend this product until there is reliable evidence of safety and effectiveness.” For menopausal women, this is one product I'd recommend you skip until there's…
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Unvaccinated Children at Center of Measles Outbreak

Children's Health, Parenting
Many parents who refuse to have their children vaccinated, don't realize the potential harm of this decision on both their children and the children in their community. The reason? Children whose parents refuse vaccinations for them provide fertile ground for the spread of vaccine-preventable diseases. Here's another case proving that point. This one is an investigation of a 2008 measles outbreak in San Diego. As one of the researchers reminds us, "It's very important for parents to understand that the disease itself is always more serious than a true reaction to the vaccine." Action Points Explain to interested patients that all 12 of the measles cases identified in this study were unvaccinated children, most of whose parents had refused the vaccine. Here are the details, from a MedPage report: Although…
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Nearly a third of physicians surveyed unaware of ‘Choking Game’

Children's Health, Parenting
In the New York Times online Doctor and Patient column, Pauline Chen, MD, observed, "Until recently, there has been little attention among healthcare professionals to" the "choking game" in which "children ages seven to 21 participate ... alone or in groups, holding their breath, strangling one another, or dangling in a noose in the hopes of attaining a legal high." A study published this month in the journal Pediatrics "reported that almost a third of physicians surveyed were unaware of the choking game" and "could not describe any of the 11 warning signs, which include bloodshot eyes and frequent and often severe headaches." To help you be able to know more about this dangerous new phenomena, here's a CDC report on the topic: What is the choking game? The choking game is…
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Medical community unaware of ‘Choking Game’s’ popularity among teens

Children's Health, Parenting
The Los Angeles Times "Booster Shots" blog reported that there is a game being played throughout the nation by some teenagers that involves "cutting off oxygen to the brain" to "induce a natural high." Although the "choking game may not be as prevalent as other [risky behaviors] like drugs," the lead author of a paper appearing in Pediatrics points out "a seriously low level of awareness" among members of the medical community. This raises concerns, because "a recent CDC report estimated that about 85 deaths from 1995 to 2007 were likely caused by participation in choking games, and several incidences of brain injuries have been reported," according to a WebMD report. But, 68 percent of the "163 pediatricians and family practitioners" who were surveyed by Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital…
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Discovering Teenagers’ Risky ‘Choking Game’ Too Late

Children's Health, Parenting
Here's a heart rending story from the New York Times about an extremely risky game that is becoming more and more popular with teens. Worse yet, most parents and doctors are unaware of the game. Here are the details: The patient was already on the operating room table when the other transplant surgeons and I arrived to begin the surgery that would remove his liver, kidneys, pancreas, lungs and heart. He was tall, with legs that extended to the very end of the table, a chest barely wider than his 16-year-old hips, and a chin covered with pimples and peach fuzz. He looked like any one of the boys I knew in high school. Those of us in the room that night knew his organs would be perfect — he…
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Understanding the California Law Suit Over PCBs in Fish Oil Supplements

Alternative Medicine, Medical Economics, Nutritional Health
Long-time readers to this blog and my best selling book, Alternative Medicine: The Christian Handbook, know of my enthusiasm for fish oil (omega-3 fatty acid foods and supplements). And, you've read where I've written that no fish oil supplements have been found "to contain detectable levels of mercury, PCBs, or dioxins." Now comes news about a law suit over PCBs in fish oil supplements. Who are you to believe? Here are the facts: According to a report in ConsumerLab.com, "A lawsuit was filed on March 2, 2010 by a group that tested ten fish oil supplements and found that all violated California's Prop 65 labeling requirement because they contained PCBs.  While it raises legitimate concerns, the suit may have created some confusion." Here are some points to keep in mind:…
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Court once again rejects theory that vaccines cause autism

Bioethics, Children's Health, Parenting
A federal court has determined that the theory that thimerosal-containing vaccines cause autism is "scientifically unsupportable," and that the families of children diagnosed with the condition are not entitled to compensation. Three special masters in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims determined that the three families represented in the suit didn't prove a link between the vaccines and autism. The three released more than 600 pages of findings after reviewing these test cases. Hopefully, this court ruling will put to rest the persisting delusion that some have that vaccines are associated with autism. Whether it's the MMR vaccine or the vaccine preservative, thiomersol, there is no compelling reason to believe that either are causing the increasing numbers of kids with autism or autism spectrum disorders (ASD). The New York Times reported, "In…
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Nearly One-Third of Doctors Could Leave Medicine if Health-Care Reform Bill Passes

Bioethics, Medical Economics
What if nearly half of all physicians in America stopped practicing medicine? While a sudden loss of half of the nations physicians seems unlikely, a very dramatic decrease in the physician workforce could become a reality as an unexpected side effect of health reform. The Medicus Firm has announced some astounding data from a recent national survey of physicians. Simply put, if the data are accurate, the passage of health reform as outlined in the current legislations may lead to a significant reduction in the physician workforce. Meanwhile, nearly one-third of physicians responding to the survey indicated that they will want to leave medical practice after health reform is implemented. The Medicus Firm, a leading physician search and consulting firm based in Atlanta and Dallas, found that a majority of…
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Expert calls for an end to inappropriate use of PSA screening

Cancer, Mental Health
Each year some 30 million American men undergo testing for prostate-specific antigen (PSA), an enzyme made by the prostate. Approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1994, the P.S.A. test is the most commonly used tool for detecting prostate cancer along with a digital rectal exam (DRE -- note, the two should ALWAYS be done together for prostate cancer screening). In an op-ed in the New York Times, Richard J. Ablin, a research professor of immunobiology and pathology at the University of Arizona College of Medicine and the president of the Robert Benjamin Ablin Foundation for Cancer Research, writes, "The test’s popularity has led to a hugely expensive public health disaster.” He goes on to write, “As Congress searches for ways to cut costs in our healthcare system, a…
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New guidelines say physicians should educate men on risks and benefits of PSA testing

Cancer, Men's Health
On an edition of ABC World News recently, Dr. Richard Besser reported that "there's a big change in store" for prostate cancer screening. He went on to say, "Since 1997, the American Cancer Society (ACS) ... hasn't routinely recommended the PSA test, but most doctors have done it. Now they're saying you need to have a conversation between you and your doctor before that test is done." The Los Angeles Times reports, "New (ACS) guidelines ... emphasize that physicians should better educate men about both the risks and benefits of using the PSA test for screening." The ACS "also urged greater use of education specialists, pamphlets, videos, and other materials." The AP reported that the ACS "wants doctors to talk to men and give them plenty of information before they have a…
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New report questions effectiveness of Saw Palmetto for prostate health

Alternative Medicine, Men's Health
According to a new report by the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database (NMCD), saw palmetto might not be as effective as we used to think for reducing symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). Many men take saw palmetto to decrease urinary symptoms associated with BPH. Several clinical trials have shown that it is modestly effective for this use, and some studies suggest that it can be as effective as finasteride (Proscar) or tamsulosin (Flomax). But not all studies have been positive. A 2009 meta-analysis suggests that saw palmetto might modestly reduce some measures of BPH symptoms such as nocturia, but does not significantly reduce other measures of BPH symptoms including peak urine flow. The reason for different study results is unclear. But it might be due to different study designs or different saw…
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Obese children show signs of heart disease

Children's Health, Heart Health, Nutritional Health, Obesity, Parenting
Obese children as young as three years old show signs of future heart disease, say US researchers. In a study of 16,000 children and teenagers, researchers showed the most obese had signs of an inflammatory marker which can predict future heart disease. Here's a report from the BBC: In all, 40% of obese three-to-five-year olds had raised levels of C-reactive protein compared with 17% of healthy weight children, a study in the journal Pediatrics reported. But more work is needed to prove the link with heart disease in later life. The study, carried out by a team at the University of North Carolina (UNC), looked at children aged one to 17. Overall, nearly 70% were a healthy weight, 15% were overweight, 11% were obese and 3.5% were very obese. In the older age…
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Obese kids more likely to injure legs, ankles, feet

Children's Health, Nutritional Health, Obesity, Parenting
Obese kids' injury patterns look different from those of their slimmer peers, a new study out in Pediatrics shows. According to a report in Reuters Health, Dr. Wendy J. Pomerantz of Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, Ohio, and her colleagues reported that obese children had more leg, ankle and foot injuries, but fewer injuries to the head and face, than normal-weight children. While the researchers had no information on how the children in their study were injured, they speculate that heavier kids may be more vulnerable to getting hurt while walking or running, while thinner kids may be more prone to engage in activities and sports that carry a risk of head injury. Research has already shown that obesity increases children's likelihood of getting hurt, and that heavy children take longer…
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Kids pack on the calories with frequent, unhealthy snacks

General Health
Children today snack an average of three times a day, and they are mostly consuming sugary beverages, cookies, cake, candy, salty snacks and other high-calorie junk food, a new study shows. In fact, children are now consuming 168 more calories from snacks than kids did in 1977, new research shows. The findings confirm previous studies that indicate snacking may have run amok in the USA, and it may be contributing to the rising rates of childhood obesity. USA Today reports: "Today we think we need to be eating all the time, so we have snack foods available for our kids constantly," says Barry Popkin, a nutrition professor at the University of North Carolina. "Kids are not only snacking too often, but essentially the foods they are consuming represent almost completely unhealthy…
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Child Obesity Rates Still Going Up

Children's Health, Nutritional Health, Parenting
In my Amazon.com best-selling book, SuperSized Kids: How to protect your child from the obesity threat, I predicted that if we did not stem the epidemic of childhood obesity, that our children could become the first generation in American history to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents. Now, a number of studies in the March issue of Health Affairs are reporting that the prevalence of obesity has grown in recent years among children aged 10 to 17, and certain kids are being especially hard hit. And one new study in Health Affairs points to a possible reason why: Kids are snacking on potato chips, candy, and other fattening foods an average of almost three times per day. The findings are based on the U.S. National Survey of Children's Health and found…
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Though unproven, 1 in 4 parents believes vaccines cause autism

Children's Health, Parenting
The New York Times, in Vital Signs, reports that one in four parents "think some vaccines cause autism in healthy children, and nearly one in eight have refused at least one recommended vaccine," according to a study published online March 1 in the journal Pediatrics. The USA covered the story with this article: Most parents continue to follow the advice of their children's doctors, according to a study based on a survey of 1,552 parents. Extensive research has found no connection between autism and vaccines. "Nine out of 10 parents believe that vaccination is a good way to prevent diseases for their children," said lead author Dr. Gary Freed of the University of Michigan. "Luckily their concerns don't outweigh their decision to get vaccines so their children can be protected…
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Survey Shows Parents Still Worry Unnecessarily About Vaccines

Children's Health, Parenting
Most parents believe vaccination is a good way to protect their children from potentially deadly diseases, but a study shows more than half still worry about the possibility of vaccine side effects. The study concludes: Although parents overwhelmingly share the belief that vaccines are a good way to protect their children from disease, these same parents express concerns regarding the potential adverse effects and especially seem to question the safety of newer vaccines. Although information is available to address many vaccine safety concerns, such information is not reaching many parents in an effective or convincing manner. Here's an article on the survey from WebMD: The study shows 88% of parents follow the child immunization schedule recommended by their doctor, but 54% are concerned about serious vaccine side effects. Researcher Gary…
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Parents Often Miss Subtle Autism Signs

Children's Health, Parenting
Action Points Explain to interested parents that autism may progress more slowly and subtly than previously thought. Note that parents often miss regressive symptoms of autism in their children. The symptoms of autism tend to emerge in children after six months of age, with a loss of social and communications skills that is more common and more subtle than previously thought, according to a new study that questions previous assumptions about the progression of the condition. At six months, children with autism spectrum disorder demonstrated behavior similar to other children, gazing at faces, sharing smiles, and vocalizing with similar frequency, researchers reported online in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. However, autistic children displayed fewer of these behaviors as as they got older, and from…
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Kitchens, Bathrooms No Place to Store Vitamins or Medications

General Health
The Los Angeles Times "Booster Shots" blog reported that keeping vitamin C supplements in the bathroom or kitchen may expose them to "humidity and high temperatures" that "may seriously degrade" them, according to a study published online in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. After observing "the stability of two types of vitamin C -- sodium ascorbate and ascorbic acid, both also used as food additives -- under a variety of humidity and temperature states," food scientists discovered that "humidity and temperature caused degradation in both forms." In fact, storing vitamin C above a certain humidity level made the vitamin more unstable under higher temperatures. The UK's Daily Mail quotes a study author saying that the degraded supplements are "not necessarily unsafe ... but why take a vitamin if it…
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