Monthly Archives: November 2010

Larimore Family Newsletter – December 2010

Here are the contents of our Family Newsletter:

  • Holiday Gifts
  • Family Update
  • Publication Update
    • Avoid Loneliness Like the Plague
    • Past Articles in Significant Living magazine
    • New Dutch Translation
  • Broadcast Update
    • Family Talk Broadcast on Immunizations
  • Events of the last month
  • Upcoming Events

What Better Holiday Gifts For Readers Than Signed/Personalized Books

It’s not to early to begin thinking about unique holiday gifts, and what could be more exclusive than receiving a best-selling book, autographed by the author, and personalized to the recipient. Most of my books are available for just such gifts. You can order them here. Better yet, some of them are on sale between now and Christmas. Supplies are limited, so be sure to order yours now.

Family Update

Finally, our wonderful and prolonged fall fell with a vengeance. Yesterday, the snow started falling (the latest first snowfall in recorded history around here. The thermometer fell to 5 degrees and the snow piled up. My usual 25-minute commute to Mission Medical Clinic in the Springs took an hour and fifteen minutes. Whew!

But, the evening brought a warm fire and hot chocolate … so, all is well. Travels this month will take us to the historic Grove Park Inn in Asheville (and visits with dear friends), as well as a visit with family and friends in Baton Rouge. And, I just got a call from the Surgeon General asking me to attend a meeting in Atlanta this month, so that means I get to see Scott, Jen, Anna Kate, and Sarah. So, I’m blessed.

And, I pray that this Christmas season will be a blessing for you and yours. Merry Christmas.

Publishing Update

Avoid Loneliness Like the Plague

My latest article in Significant Living magazine is a continuation of my series on “The 10 Essentials of Happy, Healthy People.” It’s titled Two Are Better Than One.

I begin the article writing, “Extensive research involving hundreds of thousands of people around the world shows that loneliness not only hurts us physically, emotionally, and spiritually—but also can kill.”

The article is in the November/December 2010 issue of Significant Living magazine.

Past Articles in Significant Living magazine

You can see some of my past articles in Significant Living magazine, including some in the “10 Essentials of Happy, Healthy People” series by clicking here:

  • Seek Balance: Manage stress wisely to improve your well-being. Part four in our series on becoming a highly healthy person.
  • Unburden Yourself: Harboring anger, resentment, or blame? It may be taking a toll on your health. Part three in our ongoing series about the essentials of happy, healthy people.
  • Take Good Care: Make a few changes to prevent disease and improve your longevity. This is part two in our on-going series about essentials of happy, healthy people.
  • A Balancing Act: Last issue we started a new series on the 10 essentials of happy, healthy people. But what really defines being healthy?
  • His Brain, Her Brain: He thinks she talks too much. She says he says too little. You may be surprised to learn the problem is not with their tongues, but with their brains.

New Dutch Translation

I’m pleased to learn that The Gabon Virus and The Influenza Bomb are both to be translated into Dutch. This is the first of my books to be translated into Dutch and the first foreign translation for the TSI novels. I’m blessed to have had my books translated into 12 languages (Arabic, Chinese, Croatian, Dutch, German, Hungarian, Indonesian, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, Romanian, and Russian).

Broadcast Update

I received a call this month from my friend, Dr. James Dobson. He wanted me to come into the studio with him to record a couple of radio shows for his new nationally syndicated show called Family Talk on the topic of childhood and adult vaccines.

It was good to see and be with him again. Those of you who know him will be pleased to learn that he and Shirley’s health is well and he’s loving being able to work with his son, Ryan.

The shows, I am told, will be scheduled for broadcast in January, so, in next month’s newsletter I should be able to let you know the dates.

Events of the last month

Nov 11-12, I was in Louisville, KY, speaking twice at the Global Missions Health Conference at Southeast Christian Church. This is the largest Christian medical missions conference in the world – and this year had 40% more attendees than any year in the past. There must have been 4000 attendees, although I’ve not learned the official count. I did a workshop on The Spiritual History, and a plenary talk on The Sanctity of Life – One Physician’s Journey. My time there was short, but the talks seemed well received and it was great to see a few old friends.

Nov 12-13, I scurried back to Colorado Springs and out to the Golden Bell Camp in the Rocky Mountains where Barb and I attended a Life Network Board retreat. It was a very fruitful time with some dear friends in a beautiful setting.

Nov 17, Barb and I celebrated our 37th wedding anniversary. We had a wonderful day together. Lunch at Amuze (the wonderful restaurant at which we celebrated our anniversary last year when it was located in Palmer Lake) and a tour of a new exhibit at the Fine Arts Center in Colorado Springs, followed by some shopping and then a quiet dinner at home. Romantic … restful … refreshing … and, Barb has signed up for another year. Sweet!

Nov 25-28, we enjoyed a quiet Thanksgiving weekend together at home with our daughter Kate. Wonderful. It’s by far my favorite holiday of the year.

Upcoming Events

Dec 2-5, Tomorrow, Barb and I will fly to Asheville, NC, where I’ll address the North Carolina Academy of Family Physicians. I’ll be talking on The Childhood Obesity Epidemic: What Can A Busy Family Physician Do? and Natural Medications in the Treatment of Osteoporosis: An Evidence-Based Approach. We’ll be staying at the historic Grove Park Inn and will be spending a romantic evening touring the Biltmore Estate. Of course, we’re looking forward to visiting with old friends, especially Rick Pyertiz, MD, with whom I practiced in Bryson City, NC, from 1981-1985.

Dec 9-14, Barb and I will be in Baton Rouge at a family reunion with Barb’s side of the family. Then, Barb will fly home.

Dec 14-16, I’ll spend Tuesday night with dear friends in New Orleans and then fly to Charlotte, NC, on Wednesday. Tuesday morning I’ll be filming with Joe Gibbs at Joe Gibbs Racing. We’re filming a small-group study for his book, Gameplan for Life. I wrote the health chapter for Joe’s book. It will be good to be with him again. The afternoon of the 16th, I’ll fly to Atlanta.

Dec 16-17, Thursday afternoon and evening will be with son, Scott, daughter-in-love, Jennifer, and grandchildren, Anna Kate and Sarah Elisabeth. How I’m looking forward to my time with them. Friday, I have a meeting with folks at the Surgeon General’s office and then I’ll fly home Friday evening.

For the rest of December, I’ll be home, resting and writing. I’m still working on the Hazel Creek novel and Guy Talk for teen boys.

Past Issues

You can get more information on many of my upcoming events here. www.DrWalt.com/schedule

Devotional for Men – Healthy Through and Through – Part 7 – Examine Your Wheels

Here’s the seventh of an eight-part devotional for men based upon my chapter on health in Coach Joe Gibbs best-selling book, Gameplan for Life , was featured by the Men of Integrity ministry of Christianity Today. I hope you enjoy the series. Here’s Part 7 of 8:

THE SERIES’ THEME: Healthy Through and Through. What does it mean to be a truly healthy man of God?

EXAMINE YOUR WHEELS

KEY BIBLE VERSE: No matter how much you want, laziness won’t help a bit, but hard work will reward you with more than enough. (Proverbs 13:4) Dig Deeper: Proverbs 20:4; James 1:2-4

One day, my wife, Barb, pointed out a nail in one of our car tires. All I could see was the head of the nail. No air was escaping, and we didn’t have time to get it fixed, so I said, “Honey, I think we can keep going.”

About 20 miles later, the tire blew. How I wished I’d heeded her warning and taken the time to repair the tire before it went flat.

Your four health wheels have many miles to travel. To become a highly healthy person, you’ll need to understand each wheel and take responsibility for your overall health.

I must warn you, though. It’s hard work. It takes time. Think about how complex your car is. It requires regular checkups and preventive maintenance. When it malfunctions, it often requires a professional’s care. Your body is hundreds of times more complex than any machine, and it requires even more special care.

Following God’s plan for being highly healthy may mean controlling your temper, eating better, exercising more, spending time in prayer, developing friendships, spending more time with your kids, or investing in your marriage. Becoming highly healthy requires a tough, honest assessment of your weaknesses, and then courage and a commitment to take action.

MY RESPONSE: I will write down two or three health-related areas I need to work on:

1)

2)

3)

THOUGHT TO APPLY: Just as your car runs more smoothly and requires less energy to go faster and farther when the wheels are in perfect alignment, you perform better when your thoughts, feelings, emotions, goals, and values are in balance.—Brian Tracy (speaker, writer)

I’ve created an assessment tool you can use, for free, to measure your four wheels of health. You can access and download it from here.

You can also learn more about these principles in my book, 10 Essentials of Happy, Healthy People: Becoming and staying highly healthy. Autographed copies are available here.

10 E's

Here’s the entire series:

Adapted from Game Plan for Life (Tyndale, 2009) by permission. All rights reserved by the copyright holder and/or the publisher. May not be reproduced.

My chapter on physical health in Coach Joe Gibbs best-selling book, Gameplan for Life http://gameplanforlife.com/ , was featured by the Men of Integrity http://www.christianitytoday.com/moi/ ministry of Christianity Today. I hope you enjoy the series. Here’s Part 7 http://www.christianitytoday.com/moi/2010/006/november/12.12.html of 8:
THE SERIES’ THEME: Healthy Through and Through. What does it mean to be a truly healthy man of God?
EXAMINE YOUR WHEELS
KEY BIBLE VERSE: No matter how much you want, laziness won’t help a bit, but hard work will reward you with more than enough. (Proverbs 13:4 http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Proverbs%2013:4&version=NIV ) Dig Deeper: Proverbs 20:4 http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Proverbs%2020:4&version=NIV ; James 1:2-4 http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=James%201:2-4&version=NIV
One day, my wife, Barb, pointed out a nail in one of our car tires. All I could see was the head of the nail. No air was escaping, and we didn’t have time to get it fixed, so I said, “Honey, I think we can keep going.”
About 20 miles later, the tire blew. How I wished I’d heeded her warning and taken the time to repair the tire before it went flat.
Your four health wheels have many miles to travel. To become a highly healthy person, you’ll need to understand each wheel and take responsibility for your overall health.
I must warn you, though. It’s hard work. It takes time. Think about how complex your car is. It requires regular checkups and preventive maintenance. When it malfunctions, it often requires a professional’s care. Your body is hundreds of times more complex than any machine, and it requires even more special care.
Following God’s plan for being highly healthy may mean controlling your temper, eating better, exercising more, spending time in prayer, developing friendships, spending more time with your kids, or investing in your marriage. Becoming highly healthy requires a tough, honest assessment of your weaknesses, and then courage and a commitment to take action.
—Walt Larimore in Game Plan for Life http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1414329792/christianitytoday
MY RESPONSE: I will write down two or three health-related areas I need to work on:
1)
2)
3)
THOUGHT TO APPLY: Just as your car runs more smoothly and requires less energy to go faster and farther when the wheels are in perfect alignment, you perform better when your thoughts, feelings, emotions, goals, and values are in balance.—Brian Tracy (speaker, writer)
Adapted from Game Plan for Life (Tyndale, 2009) by permission. All rights reserved by the copyright holder and/or the publisher. May not be repro

Fish oil supplements do not boost babies’ cognitive development or prevent postpartum depression

The New York Times reports, “Many women take fish oil supplements during pregnancy, encouraged by obstetricians, marketing campaigns, or the popular view that a key fish oil ingredient — docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA — is beneficial to a baby’s cognitive development.” However, a study published “in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that the DHA supplements taken by pregnant women show no clear cognitive benefit to their babies.” What’s more, researchers “found no evidence that DHA can reduce postpartum depression, except perhaps for women already at high risk for it.”

“In the new study, 2,399 women at the midpoint of their pregnancies were divided into two groups,” the Los Angeles Times reports. “One took a daily capsule of 800 mg of DHA derived from fish oil until giving birth; the other took an identical capsule filled with vegetable oil.”

Then, “six weeks and six months after each woman delivered her baby, researchers had her complete a psychological inventory to check for symptoms of depression.” Next, when the babies were about 18 months old, investigators subjected them to comprehensive batteries of tests to measure their cognitive ability.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the study authors found no evidence that the fish oil supplements prevented new mothers from postpartum depression or enhanced cognitive development in their babies. However, the study indicated that 800 mg of fish oil daily appeared to decrease the chances of developing postpartum depression by about four percent in women who already had a history of clinical depression. This was not considered a statistically significant difference, however.

According to a report in Bloomberg News, an editorial accompanying the study “said pregnant women shouldn’t give up eating low-mercury fish or taking recommended doses of fish oil, as the mineral does help prevent preterm labor and may have benefits not shown in the study.”

“The study did find that significantly fewer infants from the DHA group spent time in the neonatal intensive care unit, compared to infants in the control group — something that researchers attributed to fewer preterm births in the DHA group,” HealthDay reported. “DHA supplementation was associated with a ‘small to modest increase in the duration of gestation,’ they reported.”

WebMD reported that, despite the study’s conclusions, the authors “concede that further work is needed to determine the benefits of DHA for women with a history of depression or those at risk of delivering prematurely,” a concession echoed by the authors of the accompanying editorial.

New Moms’ Brains May Grow After Childbirth

The brains of new mothers actually get bigger within months of giving birth, according to new research. The researchers, most from the Yale University School of Medicine, said that the growth was likely fueled by changes in levels of certain hormones just after birth. They reported finding expansion in areas of the brain associated with behavior and motivation. Here are more details from HealthDay News:

The researchers also found that mothers who were most enthusiastic about their babies had more growth in key parts of the mid-brain — areas linked to maternal motivation, rewards and emotion processing — than did mothers who were more reserved about their infants.

The findings, from a small study reported in Behavioral Neuroscience, suggest that a new mother’s desire to look after her baby may be driven less by instinct and more by active brain building, according to two neuroscientists whose commentary on the study was also published in the journal.

Led by neuroscientist Pilyoung Kim, the study compared MRI images of 19 women taken two to three weeks and three to four months after they gave birth at Yale-New Haven Hospital, in Connecticut. The women averaged about 33 years old, all were breast-feeding, nearly half had other children and none had postpartum depression.

The brain scans revealed small but significant increases in gray matter volume in various parts of the brain, including areas associated with maternal motivation (hypothalamus), reward and emotion processing (substantia nigra and amygdala), sensory integration (parietal lobe) and reasoning and judgment (prefrontal cortex).

In adults, gray matter generally does not change size over a few months without significant learning, brain injury or illness, or a major shift in the environment, according to background information in a news release from the American Psychological Association.

Hormonal changes that occur immediately after birth, including increases in estrogen, oxytocin and prolactin, may make new mothers’ brains more susceptible to reshaping in response to their infant, according to the researchers.

Mothers who suffer postpartum depression may experience reductions, instead of growth, in these same brain areas, the researchers suggested. They added that further research into what occurs in the brains of at-risk mothers could lead to new treatments.

For More information: The Nemours Foundation has more about bonding with babies here.

Devotional for Men – Healthy Through and Through – Part 6 – The Spiritual Wheel of Health

Here’s the sixth of an eight-part devotional for men based upon my chapter on health in Coach Joe Gibbs best-selling book, Gameplan for Life. The devotional was featured by the Men of Integrity ministry of Christianity Today. I hope you enjoy the series. Here’s Part 6 of 8

THE SERIES’ THEME: Healthy Through and Through. What does it mean to be a truly healthy man of God?

THE SPIRITUAL WHEEL

KEY BIBLE VERSE: “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” (John 10:10) Dig Deeper: Psalm 32

What does it mean to be in a state of maximum well-being as we relate to our Creator? Obviously, for us to be spiritually healthy, any break in our relationship with God must be prevented or treated.

Your spiritual wheel must be seen as the most crucial one, because good physical, emotional, and relational health alone will not make you a highly healthy person. Spiritual well-being has to be a consistent priority.

In the New Testament, the apostle Paul instructs his young disciple Timothy about this very thing: “‘Physical training [the physical health wheel] is good, but training for godliness [the spiritual health wheel] is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.’ This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it” (1 Tim. 4:8-9).

Can you see the value of learning to view your physical, emotional, and relational health as secondary to your spiritual health?

Though we’re not promised a perfectly healthy physical life, the Bible does promise abundant life to those who have a vital relationship with God. An abundant life is one that will be full and meaningful—infused with purpose, contentment, and joy.

My Response: What changes might I need to make in order to be more spiritually healthy?

1)

2)

3)

THOUGHT TO APPLY: A bodily disease which we look upon as whole and entire within itself, may, after all, be but a symptom of some ailment in the spiritual part.—Nathaniel Hawthorne(writer)

You can learn more about this principle in my book, 10 Essentials of Happy, Healthy People: Becoming and staying highly healthy. Autographed copies are available here.

10 E's

Here’s the entire series:

Adapted from Game Plan for Life (Tyndale, 2009) by permission. All rights reserved by the copyright holder and/or the publisher. May not be reproduced.

Give Thanksgiving leftovers a healthy and delicious overhaul

One of the wonderful things about Thanksgiving dinner is there are often lots of delicious leftovers. You can just warm up a few of your favorite dishes or make a simple turkey sandwich. But for healthful alternatives, USA Today asked the Food Network’s Ellie Krieger, the editors of EatingWell and Cooking Light to share some nutritious recipes that use Thanksgiving leftovers. I hope you try them out.

Greek salad pitas with feta spread and turkey

Ingredients:

  • 3 tbsp non-fat plain yogurt
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 whole-wheat pita breads
  • 4 large pieces of romaine lettuce, torn in half
  • 1 English cucumber, sliced into half moons
  • ¼ cup lightly packed fresh mint leaves
  • ¾ lb. thinly sliced roasted turkey breast

Directions:

In a medium bowl, combine the feta cheese and yogurt with a fork, mashing any large chunks of cheese. Stir in the lemon juice, oregano, lemon zest and pepper. The spread will keep for up to five days in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

To make a sandwich, cut a pita in half to form two pockets. Line each pocket with a half of a lettuce leaf. Spread two heaping tablespoons of feta spread into the pocket.

Then fill each pocket with about six cucumber slices, four or five mint leaves and two or three slices of turkey.

Servings: 4, two pockets

Nutrition information per serving: 360 calories; 9 grams of fat; 5 grams of saturated fat; 32 grams of protein; 40 grams of carbohydrate; 6 grams of fiber; 80 milligrams of cholesterol; 700 milligrams of sodium.

Source: So Easy: Luscious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Week by Ellie Krieger

Creamy carrot and sweet potato soup

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp butter, divided
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
  • 4¾ cups cubed peeled sweet potatoes (1½ pounds)
  • 3½ cups water
  • 3 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
  • 3 cups chopped carrots (about 1 pound)
  • ¼ cup half-and-half
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • ⅓ cup reduced-fat sour cream
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Directions

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion to pan; cook 4 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in cinnamon and nutmeg. Cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.

Move onion mixture to side of pan; add remaining 2 tablespoons of butter to open space in pan. Increase heat to medium-high; cook 1 minute or until butter begins to brown. Add sweet potatoes, water, broth and carrots; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 35 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

Place half of soup mixture in a blender. Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters). Blend until smooth.

Pour into a large bowl. Repeat procedure with remaining soup mixture. Stir in half-and-half, salt, and pepper. Ladle about 1 cup soup into each of 8 bowls; top each serving with about 2 teaspoons sour cream and ¾ teaspoon parsley.

Servings: 8, about one cup each

Nutrition information per serving: 173 calories; 6.7 grams of fat; 4.1 grams of saturated fat; 3.6 grams of protein; 25.7 grams of carbohydrate; 5 grams of fiber; 18 milligrams of cholesterol; 415 milligrams of sodium.

Source: Cooking Light, November 2009 (MyRecipes.com)

Cream of turkey and wild rice soup

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups sliced mushrooms (about 4 oz.)
  • ¾ cup chopped celery
  • ¾ cup chopped carrots
  • ¼ cup chopped shallots
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup quick-cooking or instant wild rice
  • 3 cups shredded cooked turkey or chicken (12 oz.)
  • ½ cup reduced-fat sour cream
  • 2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

Directions

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add mushrooms, celery, carrots and shallots and cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add flour, salt and pepper and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes more.

Add broth and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits. Add rice and reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook until the rice is tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in turkey (or chicken), sour cream and parsley and cook until heated through, about 2 minutes more.

Ingredient note: Quick-cooking or instant wild rice has been parboiled to reduce the cooking time. Conventional wild rice takes 40 to 50 minutes to cook. If you can’t find the quick-cooking variety, just add cooked conventional wild rice along with the turkey at the end of Step 2.

Servings: 4, about 1¾ cups each

Nutrition information per serving: 354 calories; 9 grams of fat; 3 grams of saturated fat; 36 grams of protein; 27 grams of carbohydrate; 3 grams of fiber; 87 milligrams of cholesterol; 378 milligrams of sodium.

Source: EatingWell magazine; eatingwell.com

Comparing Weight Loss Plans, Dollars Per Pound

Well,  it’s the day after Thanksgiving, and there are at least two or three things on most people’s minds: (1) Black Friday shopping, (2) Football, and/or (3) Weight Loss. Have you ever wondered which of the weight loss plans cost you the most for each pound dropped? Well, here you have the answer, provided by ABC News:

  1. $500 per pound with Liposuction
  2. $300 to $400 per pound with Gastric Band Surgery
  3. $235 to $353 per pound with Duodenal Switch Surgery
  4. $237.56 per pound with One-on-One with Jenny Craig
  5. $173 per pound with Non-prescription Weigh Loss Aids when paired with a Low-Fat Diet
  6. SAVE $12.50 per pound by just Kickin’ It Old School

Here are the details:

1) One-on-One With Jenny Craig

Bottom-Line Estimate: $237.56 per pound for one-on-one weight loss support and special food products

Jenny Craig is a weight-loss program that centers around an individualized diet plan, pre-prepared foods, and one-on-one support from a consultant either in person at one of their centers, or via phone or internet communication.

Jenny Craigers are told that they can expect an average weight loss of one to two pounds per week, a figure Jenny Craig spokesperson Cheryl Overton says is derived from third party analysis. A recent study of women on the Jenny Craig in-centre program, subjects saw a more modest average weight loss per week of about three quarters of a pound in the first six months. Soon after six months, weight loss generally plateaued but maintained over the next year and a half.

Though participants in the study received the program and food for free, lead author Cheryl Rock, professor of family and preventive medicine at University of California, San Diego, lays out the estimated cost to consumer of a year on the program: Enrollment fee for a year runs $359 plus the cost of special Jenny Craig food — the average participant spends about $100 per week. Given an average 23.4 pounds lost over the course of a year, this works out to $237.56 per pound.

A bit pricey, but Rock points out that the program does a good job of training people in the habits that will help them maintain the weigh loss, which most study participants did over the course of two years.

2) Going Under the Knife: Weight Loss Surgery

Bottom-Line Estimate: for the surgery alone, anywhere from $235 to $400 per pound if paying out of pocket.

When other diet plans fail and excess weight becomes a pressing health concern, thousands of consumers a year are turning to weight loss surgery for help. These surgeries shrink the digestive track using a gastric band, which pinches off a portion of the stomach, or by removing a portion of the stomach and sometimes the small intestines. After surgery, the amount of food the patient can physically eat in one sitting will be significantly reduced.

These surgeries are only recommended for those with a BMI of 40 and above or those with a BMI of 35 and above who have health complications due to excess weight. The surgeries can run anywhere from $15,000 to $35,000 if paid out of pocket, though under many insurance policies, those that qualify for surgery will have full or partial coverage of the procedure. The most common weight loss procedure is gastric banding. According to the website for Lap-Band, the top selling adjustable gastric band system, the procedure costs $15,000 to $20,000, and the average patients loses one and a half to two pounds per week post-op. Patients generally lose about 50 percent of his or her excess weight, says Dr. John Morton, director of Bariatric Surgery at Stanford University.

Duodenal switch is a less common but more effective procedure, according to Dr. Mitch Roslin, a bariatric surgeon at Lenox Hill Hospital. The procedure involves cutting away a portion of the stomach and small intestines while preserving the duodenal valve that is the gateway between the stomach and the intestines. Roslin says that with a duodenal switch, patients lose 85 percent of excess weight by three years out.

For a 250 pound patient whose ideal weight is 150, a 50 percent excess weight loss with the band would be 50 pounds, which works out to $300 to $400 per pound. A duodenal switch is generally $20,000 to $30,000 so for a 85 percent excess weight loss in the same 250 pound patient, that would work out to $235 to $353 per pound.

Considering post-operative costs of medical care, cost of food, and varied insurance coverage, however, it’s nearly impossible to assign a cost per pound for weight loss surgeries.

3) Liposuction: Sculpting Out Fat

Though liposuction is not a weight-loss technique by any means, it does provide a means for getting rid of fat from targeted areas.

Bottom-Line Estimate: $500 per pound.

With some diets, especailly any diet that leads to more than two pounds a week, weight loss is in part the result of a loss of other things besides fat, such as water or muscle mass, says Dr. Keith Ayoob, director of the Nutrition Clinic at Albert Einstein School of Medicine. With liposuction, up to six to eight pounds of fat can be removed immediately from specific areas on the body, for the purpose of body contouring.

The average cost of procedure runs around $4,000 and up depending on which areas are worked on. Given a low price estimate, that works out to $500 per pound.

The downsides of liposuction, as compared to losing weight naturally, are many. While the fat removal takes place in one sitting, the full results of the procedure take months to see.

“Most patients will see 90 percent of their ultimate liposuction results with in one to three months after surgery. For the first few weeks after surgery there is postoperative swelling. When the surgeon closes the incisions with stitches, swelling usually resolves within 8 to 12 weeks,” according to Liposuction.com, a consumer information website.

Patients can also be left with an irregular skin surface or dimpling following the procedure and as with any surgery, there are medical risks such as blood clot and in rare cases, death, associated with going under the knife.

4) Non-prescription Weigh Loss Aids — Adding Oomph to A Diet

Bottom-Line Estimate: $173 per pound when paired with low-fat diet.

When paired with a calorie-restricted diet and exercise, some diet pills can boost weight loss. Unfortuantely, most of the diet pills on the market have not been evaluated and approved by the Food and Drug Administration. In fact, the only FDA-approved over-the-counter diet drug at this time is GlaxoSmithKline’s Alli, a lower-dose version of the prescription weight loss drug Xenical.

Orlistat, the chemical name for the active ingredient in both Xenical and Alli, works by attaching itself to enzymes in the digestive tract to stop about 25 percent of the fat intake from each meal. That fat later passes through the body undigested, which can lead to gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea.

At its prescription strength, clinical trials show that Orlistat helped those on a fat-restricted diet lost 13.4 pounds over the course of a year compared with 5.8 pounds in those who only dieted. That makes for twice the weight loss, but only a real increase in loss of about eight pounds. Non-prescription strength Alli provides half the dose of Xenical, but comparable results with those using the product experiencing a similar doubling in weight loss compared to those on placebo.

Alli costs about $1.20 per pill, or $1,314 a year if taken with every main meal. Given given Orlistat’s 7.6 pound average increase in weight loss in a year, that works out to $172.90 a pound.

Alli’s side effects should be taken into consideration: users can experience “gas with oily spotting”, “loose stools”, “difficulty controlling bowel movements” according to the product website. A recent FDA safety review has also found that Orlistat can lead to severe liver damage in rare cases. The company advises that those who experience yellow eyes or skin, dark urine or loss of appetite should stop taking Alli because of possible liver damage.

Alli and Xenical also absorb some necessary fat soluble vitamins from each meal, which can result in nutritional deficiency.

5) Kickin’ It Old School

Bottom-Line Estimate: You SAVE $12.50 per pound you lose.

Losing weight the old fashioned way, by just eating less, is the cheapest “diet plan” yet. Though most diet plans are geared towards limiting certain foods and boosting other, healthier options, you can also lose weight by simply eating a bit less of what you already eat, diet experts say.

Nutritionist Mark Haub, an associate professor of nutrition at Kansas State University, proved this point recently when he experimented with limiting his caloric intake while incorporating snack cakes such as Twinkies and Nutter Butters in his daily fare. Even with two to three sweet treats a day alongside things like steak, whole milk, fruits and veggies, he made sure to eat only 1,800 calories a day and he lost 15 pounds in a month.

That’s not to say that “simply” eating less is a simple feat, but if you can manage it, you could actually save money by dieting. Haub’s Twinkie-heavy dietis not recommended, but as long as you cut back on what you normally eat by about 25 percent, you can expect to lose about a pound a week, says Ayoob.

“A pound of fat is 3,500 calories so to lose a pound of week, you’d need to trim off 500 calories a day from what you eat. Based on the standard 2,000 calorie intake per day, that would amount to a 25 percent decrease in caloric intake overall,” Ayoob says.

While you may choose to eat healthier food, which could make your grocery bill a little higher, if you’re cooking at home as opposed to eating out and overall buying less food, this would be the cheapest diet yet, he adds. In fact, that diet could actually pay you to be on it.

For a rough estimate: The Consumer Expidenture Survey estimates that the average U.S. consumer spends about $50 a week on food. So if you cut your caloric intake by 25 percent, you could be spending about 25 percent less on food in general (if you’re buying less of the same stuff), so you could save $12.50 a week, or $650 a year! If you stick to the plan and lose a pound a week, this works out to being paid $12.50 per pound you lose.

Update on Anastasha – 1 month after birth and death

Many of you have been following the notes sent to me by family physician Craig DeLisi, MD, about his daughter, Anastasha. Here’s an update, about a month after her birth and death:

November 26th 2010

We’ve updated Anastasha’s blog with several new posts and lots pictures (funeral, funeral program, her monument) since my last email.

Today marks the one month anniversary of Anastasha’s birth and death. She is gone. We’re still here. And we hate that.

There are many days that we wish we weren’t here either and that Jesus would return to take all of us who are in Christ with Him and end all pain and suffering once and for all. But He tarries, so we wait …

In the month since we said good-bye to Anastasha, we have:

  • laid her body to rest in the ground
  • enjoyed special time with numerous precious family and friends
  • received her social security card in the mail
  • returned to work (Craig)
  • returned to the same Labor and Delivery to be with friends who were having their first daughter
  • went to Tonya’s postpartum checkup (first time back to the place of “life” 5 times for us)
  • returned to basic homeschooling (Tonya)
  • signed Anastasha’s death certificate as the physician of record (Craig)
  • rejoiced in the births of FIVE babies born to local friends in the last month
  • cried daily
  • read to the kids more, played more kickball with them, and hugged them more tightly

So how are we doing one month later? We’re hurting. We’re sad. We’re emotionally spent. We don’t have the energy to put on a happy face and “pretend” to others that all is well.

If our journey with Anastasha was a marathon, and the days and weeks leading up to her death were the “kick” at the end, then we are in the cool down period right now. And neither of us has the energy to sprint, or even to jog.

We aren’t crumbling. By God’s grace we are standing up under the pain. But all isn’t well. Our daughter is dead. We can’t hold her or kiss her. We can’t watch her grow up. We know she is with the Lord. But to be truthful, we want her here with us.

As the colorful life of summer gives way to the dreary death of winter, so it is in our hearts. The world seems a bit duller. Things that are usually attractive and appealing have lost their shine. And I don’t mean that in a depressed, anhedonic sort of way. I mean that in a “seeing-things-for-what-they-really-are” sort of way.

Money, “stuff”, sports, achievements — its all gonna burn someday. The truth is that this world is temporary. We were made for another home … a heavenly one. And the things we often run around chasing in this world by and large have very little meaning or purpose for that home that is to come. What matters is what will last — the lives we impact for God. And most importantly, how we love Him while we are here.

Because when the day comes that He calls our name, none of that other stuff will matter. He won’t ask us what car we drove, how much money was still in our bank account, or what degrees we earned. He’ll ask us how we responded to His Son. That’s all that will matter, and the day is coming for each of us sooner than we realize.

Yesterday at Thanksgiving, there was an obvious absence in our home and at our “table”. We felt great thankfulness for Anastasha, but at the same time this feeling was almost overshadowed by grief that she isn’t here with us. There is a void there, one that I suspect will never be truly filled this side of heaven.

Grief is a process that looks different for everyone. It looks different for Tonya than it does for me. God is present in our grief, guiding us through the journey with this unwanted guest in our lives. But we won’t rush it. We couldn’t if we wanted to.

We are determined to let the Lord lovingly take our hands and lead us through this to the other side, in His timing. And we desperately want to emerge on the other side more like Christ than when we started.

God is still good. Christ still reigns. It is well with our souls. We’re pressing in to Him. We’re still trusting. We’re still hoping in His unfailing love.

But we hurt.  A lot.

Craig and Tonya

If you’ve not visited the website devoted to Anastasha, you can check it out here.

Here’s the entire series of amazing stories:

Holidays are a great time to obtain a family medical history

Healthcare professionals have known for a long time that common diseases (like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes) as well as some rare diseases (like hemophilia, cystic fibrosis, and sickle cell anemia) can run in families. If one generation of a family has high blood pressure, it is not unusual for the next generation to have similarly high blood pressure. Tracing the illnesses suffered by your parents, grandparents, and other blood relatives can help your doctor predict the disorders to which you may be at risk and take action to keep you and your family healthy.

To help focus attention on the importance of family history, the Surgeon General has launched a national public health campaign called the Surgeon General’s Family History Initiative, to encourage all American families to learn more about their family health history.

A recent survey found that 96 percent of Americans believe that knowing their family history is important. Yet, the same survey found that only one-third of Americans have ever tried to gather and write down their family’s health history.

Because family health history is such a powerful screening tool, the Surgeon General has created a new computerized tool to help make it fun and easy for anyone to create a sophisticated portrait of their family’s health.

The “My Family Health Portrait” tool is a Web-enabled program that runs on any computer that is connected to the Web and running an up-to-date version of any major Internet browser. The new version of the tool offers numerous advantages over previous versions, which had to be downloaded to the user’s computer.

The Web-based tool helps users organize family history information and then print it out for presentation to their family doctor. In addition, the tool helps users save their family history information to their own computer and even share family history information with other family members. You can access the My Family Health Portrait Web tool here.

Each year since 2004, the Surgeon General has declared Thanksgiving to be National Family History Day. Over the holiday or at other times when families gather, the Surgeon General encourages Americans to talk about, and to write down, the health problems that seem to run in their family. Learning about their family’s health history may help ensure a longer, healthier future together.

ABC News interviewed NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins yesterday and he advised all of us to learn about their families’ medical histories during the holidays. Collins said, “There is a tool that the Surgeon General has put together which is freely available on the Web to allow people to collect their own family medical history, and then present it to their physicians in a way that can start a conversation. This would be the single most important thing to do as far as assessing your genetic risks for future illness. DNA tests can help with that in many situations, but it’s always good to start with the family history.”

Devotional for Men – Healthy Through and Through – Part 5 – The Relational Wheel of Health

Devotional for Men – Healthy Through and Through – Part 1 – IntroductioHere’s the fifth of an eight-part devotional for men based upon my chapter on health in Coach Joe Gibbs best-selling book, Gameplan for Life. The devotional was featured by the Men of Integrity ministry of Christianity Today. I hope you enjoy the series. Here’s Part 5 of 8:

Here’s the fifth of an eight-part devotional for men based upon my chapter on health in Coach Joe Gibbs best-selling book, Gameplan for Life. The devotional was featured by the Men of Integrity ministry of Christianity Today. I hope you enjoy the series. Here’s Part 5 of 8:

THE SERIES’ THEME: Healthy Through and Through. What does it mean to be a truly healthy man of God?

THE RELATIONAL WHEEL

KEY BIBLE VERSES: Be gentle, kind, humble, meek, and patient. Put up with each other, and forgive anyone who does you wrong, just as Christ has forgiven you. (Colossians 3:12-13) Dig Deeper: Colossians 3:14-15

We’re socially healthy if we’re succeeding in all our relationships—those with family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, the members of our church, everybody. Does that mean living without any conflict? Absolutely not! We’re talking about human beings, after all. But we can help prevent and even treat injured relationships—that’s part of being highly healthy.

A pastor I know had a spiritual wheel that seemed intact, but he was a physical and emotional mess. As his doctor, I spent many months trying to help him balance his physical and emotional wheels. But no matter what I did for him medically, he always came to my office completely out of balance.

I finally realized that his real problem stemmed not from physical or emotional disease, but rather from a series of broken relationships—beginning with his own dad.

Only after he agreed to work on mending his relationships, with the help of a Christian psychologist and a support group, could the other parts of his life become balanced.

As his relational wheel came into balance, he began to experience a smoother ride, both physically and emotionally.

My Response: Are there changes I need to make so that my relationships are healthier, more God-honoring?

1)

2)

3)

THOUGHT TO APPLY: The concept of total wellness recognizes that our every thought, word, and behavior affects our greater health and well-being. And we, in turn, are affected not only emotionally but also physically and spiritually.—Greg Anderson (writer, wellness expert)

I have a free assessment tool that can help you evaluate your four wheels of health. You can take it now, or at the end of this devotional series. You can download it for free here.

You can also learn more about this principle in my book, 10 Essentials of Happy, Healthy People: Becoming and staying highly healthy. Autographed copies are available here.

10 E's

Here’s the entire series:

Adapted from Game Plan for Life (Tyndale, 2009) by permission. All rights reserved by the copyright holder and/or the publisher. May not be reproduced.

Physicians’ group and FDA say radiation risk from TSA scanning is “miniscule”

With all the news today about the new body scanners that TSA is using, I thought it might be reassuring for my readers to understand that the radiation exposure in these scans is incredibly low. In fact, a national group of radiologists is now saying that it would take 1,000 TSA whole body scans in one year to reach the effective dose of radiation a person gets with one standard chest X-ray.

USA Today reports,”The nation’s Homeland Security chief asked for air travelers’ ‘cooperation’ and ‘patience’ with full-body scanning and pat downs this holiday season amid a growing public backlash that the airport tactics are intrusive.”

But, “some consumer, civil rights and pilots groups are protesting new Transportation Security Administration (TSA) methods,” in part because they “could emit dangerous radiation,” even though “a Food and Drug Administration review found no health threat.”

CNN also covered  the story, and noted that the “American College of Radiology, an organization of more than 34,000 professionals, including radiologists, oncologists and medical physicists, said it believes backscatter technology is safe.”

The group stated, “The ACR is not aware of any evidence that either of the scanning technologies that the TSA is considering would present significant biological effects for passengers screened.”

The organization referenced a report from the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements, citing that a traveler would need to receive 100 doses of backscatter radiation per year to reach what it calls a “Negligible Individual Dose.”

“By these measurements, a traveler would require more than 1,000 such scans in a year to reach the effective dose equal to one standard chest X-ray,” the group’s statement said.

The probability of dying from radiation from a body scanner and that of being killed in a terror attack are roughly the same, he said. About one in 30 million.

The bottom line, and I’m on the road over 150 days a year, I won’t think twice about going through the whole body scanner at the airports this year.

How to help kids follow a healthy diet even over holidays

This is a reprint of one of the more popular blogs I posted last year. It’s adapted from an AP story on how we, as parents, can help our children with more healthful nutrition during the holidays. I also have a ton of tips in my book, SuperSized Kids: How to protect your child from the obesity threat which in on sale in both hardback and softcover at my DrWalt.com book store. Better yet, they’re autographed:

SuperSized Kids - .161 MB JPEG copy

Many parents are trying to figure out how to have a healthier holiday without depriving their kids of holiday treats. About a third of American kids are overweight or obese, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates.

Studies show Americans gain about a pound between Thanksgiving and New Year’s; people who are overweight or obese are at risk of gaining five pounds, said Dr. Susan Z. Yanovski, an obesity expert at the National Institutes of Health. She said the weight gain is slight, but it accumulates over time.

During the winter holidays many children are “indulging in their favorite foods and sitting around with nothing to do,” said Dr. Joanna Dolgoff, a pediatrician and author of the forthcoming Red Light, Green Light, Eat Right: The Food Solution That Lets Kids Be Kids.

“Then there’s the fact that kids realize it’s the holiday season,” she said. “‘I deserve to indulge. How come everyone else is indulging?’ They start to feel resentful and entitled.”

Dr. Goutham Rao, clinical director of the Weight Management and Wellness Center at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, said some of his patients gain five to seven pounds for that very reason. They see the holidays as a time to unwind and treat themselves. Some aren’t even thinking about their weight, said Dolgoff, promising to get back on track when school starts.

“If they say, ‘I’m going to start in the new year,’ they have given themselves free rein to eat anything and everything in sight,” she said. “That’s unfortunate. They wind up gaining more.”

Children face a greater challenge when it comes to holiday eating than adults, said experts. They have less impulse control — they see tempting sweets and want them without thinking of the consequences, said Rao. Many are unsure which items are healthy and what an appropriate portion size is.

Tracie Brosius, 46, of Greensburg, Pa., said she tries to keep the goodies in her house to a minimum. Her 17-year-old daughter, Torie Washington, is down 22 pounds since enrolling in Dr. Rao’s program 1 1/2 years ago.

She said last Christmas Torie ate whatever she wanted, especially pizzelles — Italian cookies. This year she is more focused, wanting to slim down for college next year.

“We don’t deprive her of anything,” said Brosius, who works for an insurance company. “If you are really craving something, you have a little bit of it.”

That’s a good strategy, according to Dr. Thomas Robinson of Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford, who warns parents not to be the food police. He suggests parents and kids work together to prepare healthier holiday meals.

Vetter said her son has since calmed down. They went out for a sushi dinner on Thanksgiving — California rolls, Yellowtail, Spanish Mackerel — and he loved it, she said.

“We are still on track for more fish and we don’t have the sweet carbs sitting around the house,” she said. “Now my son wants sushi for Christmas.”

Go healthy, not hungry for Thanksgiving dining

The holiday season means you’ll be faced with a seemingly endless buffet of food temptation. While some people simply give in and eat too much, others deny themselves any holiday treats.

But there are ways to navigate between overindulgence and deprivation, according to Julie Redfern, manager of Nutrition Consult Services at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. She offers the following advice in a report by Health on the Net Foundation:

  • Eat a light snack before you go to a holiday party. That will prevent you from arriving hungry and overeating or gobbling down foods high in calories and saturated fat.
  • When you’re invited to a party, offer to bring a healthy food dish.
  • Research how you can use healthy ingredients in your favorite holiday recipes. For example, using 1 percent milk instead of whole milk and cream in a traditional eggnog recipe can save almost 200 calories and 20 grams of fat per serving.
  • Wear tight clothes, such as form-fitting slacks, to holiday events. People who wear loose clothing tend to overeat without realizing it.
  • Staying away from the food table at gatherings will help you resist the urge to eat.
  • Carrying a clutch or handbag will keep your hands busy and reduce the likelihood that you’ll reach for every treat that passes your way.
  • Use a small plate or no plate. You’ll eat less if you have to walk back and forth to get food.
  • Keep portion control in mind. A dinner plate should be half vegetables, a quarter protein, and a quarter carbs. Avoid going back for seconds and thirds.
  • You can have dessert, but keep the portions small.
  • Beware of high-calorie holiday drinks such as eggnog and apple cider. Have only a small cup.
  • Plan to go for a family walk after your main holiday meal.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Devotional for Men – Healthy Through and Through – Part 4 – The Emotional Wheel of Health

Here’s the fourth of an eight-part devotional for men based upon my chapter on health in Coach Joe Gibbs best-selling book, Gameplan for Life. The devotional was featured by the Men of Integrity ministry of Christianity Today. I hope you enjoy the series. Here’s Part 4 of 8:

THE SERIES’ THEME: Healthy Through and Through. What does it mean to be a truly healthy man of God?

THE EMOTIONAL WHEEL

KEY BIBLE VERSE: A cheerful disposition is good for your health; gloom and doom leave you bone-tired. (Proverbs 17:22, The Message) Dig Deeper: Proverbs 14:30, 15:13

My friend Ben is a model of emotional health. For years, I’ve watched him handle whatever life throws at him. He doesn’t pretend things are better than they are, nor does he treat the inevitable letdowns of human existence as catastrophes.

Ben is comfortable with his own emotions, neither running from nor chasing down the lows and highs along his journey. Now in his 40s, Ben is one of the most authentic people I’ve ever known. His willingness to lean into and experience the rich scope of emotion inspires me to do the same, even when it’s uncomfortable.

Being mentally healthy requires healthy brain function. Charles, a former patient of mine, lives with a severe, inherited form of chemical depression. This dysfunction, if untreated, throws his physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual wheels out of balance.

At his worst, Charles loses his appetite, motivation, and concentration. But by taking a prescribed medication, eating right, exercising, and proactively balancing his other wheels, Charles has been able to dramatically decrease the impact that his depression would otherwise have on his mental and emotional health.

MY RESPONSE: What lessons about caring for my emotional health could I take from Ben? From Charles?

1)

2)

3)

THOUGHT TO APPLY: Cheerfulness, sir, is the principle ingredient in the composition of health.—Arthur Murphy (Irish actor, writer)

I have a free assessment tool that can help you evaluate your four wheels of health. You can take it now, or at the end of this devotional series. You can download it for free here.

You can learn more about this principle in my book, 10 Essentials of Happy, Healthy People: Becoming and staying highly healthy. Autographed copies are available here.

10 E's

Here’s the entire series:

Adapted from Game Plan for Life (Tyndale, 2009) by permission. All rights reserved by the copyright holder and/or the publisher. May not be reproduced.

FDA announces crackdown on chelation therapy — finally!

I’ve written about chelation for many years. In my book, Alternative Medicine: The Christian Handbook, I conclude, “Evidence against (chelation’s) effectiveness in heart disease is so clear, its continued use raises serious ethical questions. The therapy is very expensive and can be very lucrative for providers. But, it’s virtually worthless for consumers.” Some of my past blogs on chelation have included: Chelation therapy for autism not only potentially harmful, it’s based on faulty premise and Federal investigators uncover major problems with chelation study. Now, finally, comes news that the FDA is going to crack down on these quacks.

The Washington Post reports that officials from the Food and Drug Administration have “announced a crackdown on” chelation, “a controversial therapy widely hawked on the Internet and elsewhere as an alternative treatment for conditions such as autism, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease by ‘cleansing’ the body.”

In fact, the FDA “said it has sent warning letters to several companies notifying them that the substances they sell without a prescription for …’chelation’ are ‘unapproved drugs and devices,’ which makes them illegal.”

The Chicago Tribune reports that the chemicals used in chelation, “which help remove metals from the body, are potent drugs that carry serious risks, including kidney damage, dehydration, and even death, said FDA Medical Officer Dr. Charles Lee.”

In a separate but related piece, the Chicago Tribune notes that the FDA letters “come a year after a Chicago Tribune investigation found chelation treatment is popular among parents of children with autism, even though the therapy is … based on a disproven hypothesis that children with the disorder are actually suffering heavy metal poisoning.”

In fact, “in 2008, the National Institutes of Health halted a controversial government-funded study of chelation before a single child with autism was treated” after investigators “had found that rats without lead poisoning showed signs of cognitive damage after being treated with a chelator.”

The AP reported that the agency’s “warning letters call on each company to immediately stop marketing and selling their products or face legal action.” The products in question are freely available online and “come in a variety of forms, including sprays, capsules and drops.”

You can learn more about chelation is the QuackWatch.com article, Chelation Therapy: Unproven Claims and Unsound Theories, or read my chelation chapter in Alternative Medicine: The Christian Handbook.

Chelation Therapy:
Unproven Claims and Unsound Theories

Watermelon extract may lower blood pressure

The Los Angeles Times and Orlando Sentinel reported that, according to a study published in the American Journal of Hypertension, there is “evidence that eating watermelon could reduce … blood pressure.”

In fact, “in a small, pilot study led by food scientists at Florida State University, researchers found that eating six grams of watermelon extract a day for six weeks lowered blood pressure in all nine middle-aged subjects with prehypertension.”

The study authors “suggest that watermelon may prevent prehypertension from progressing to full-blown hypertension.”

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel “Health & Science Today” blog quoted one of the study authors, who explained that “watermelon is the richest edible natural source of L-citrulline, which is closely related to L-arginine, the amino acid required for the formation of nitric oxide (which is) essential to the regulation of vascular tone and healthy blood pressure.”

So, from those of us from the south, this is good news — our beloved watermelon is found to be highly healthy in yet another way.

FDA approves Botox as treatment for chronic migraines

On the front page of its Business Day section, the New York Times reported, “The Food and Drug Administration on Friday approved Botox, the anti-wrinkle shot from Allergan, as a treatment to prevent chronic migraines, a little more than a month after the company agreed to pay $600 million to settle allegations that it had illegally marketed the drug for unapproved uses like headaches for years.”

Botox “had worldwide sales last year of about $1.3 billion, divided equally between medical and cosmetic uses.” But Allergan said “sales of Botox for chronic migraine and other medical uses would soon eclipse sales of the drug as a wrinkle smoother.

The Los Angeles Times “Booster Shots” blog reported, “The FDA’s decision expands the potential market for Botox, which burst upon the American cosmetic scene in the late 1980s, to 12% of the US population – the proportion of Americans thought to suffer from the throbbing, pulsating pain of migraine headaches.”

The approval allows Allergan “to advertise to consumers and promote to doctors the use of Botox for chronic migraine.”

The FDA “underscored Friday that Botox does not appear to be useful in treating or preventing less frequent migraines, or headaches that are not caused by the activation of nerve fibers within the brain’s blood vessels–the definition of migraine headache.”

The AP reported, “For the new use, doctors are directed to inject patients in the neck or head every 12 weeks to dull future headaches.”

The FDA “approved the new use based on two company studies of more than 1,300 patients who received either a Botox injection or a dummy injection.” Those “who received Botox reported slightly fewer ‘headache days’ than patients given the sham treatment. In the more significant of the two studies, patients on Botox reported about two fewer headache days than patients who didn’t receive the drug.”

Bloomberg News reported, “… the company settled a 2 1/2-year investigation of its Botox marketing that analysts said held up FDA approval for the migraine treatment.”

Allergan “pleaded guilty and was ordered by a judge to pay $375 million to resolve Justice Department allegations it promoted Botox for headache, pain and juvenile cerebral palsy from 2000 to 2005 without FDA approval.”

CNN reported, “The drug – whose generic name is onabotulinumtoxinA – has not been shown to work against migraines that occur 14 days or fewer per month, nor has it been shown to work for other forms of headache.”

Patients use prayer as part of healing process

The Chicago Tribune reports, “The relationship between prayer and physical healing has long been the subject of conflicting studies. Some indicate prayer can help, but at least one study concluded that in some cases it can be harmful.”

Researchers “found that coronary bypass patients who were told strangers were praying for them did worse than those who got no prayers.” But, “increasingly … prayers are being offered by chaplains, doctors, nurses, and social workers. They are recited in hospitals before and after surgery, during treatments, upon admission and discharge, and on the anniversary of a diagnosis.”

Despite this one negative study, there are not “some” studies showing prayer can help, but hundreds of studies showing a positive association between a wide variety of spiritual interventions (spiritual assessment, prayer, spiritual counseling, etc.) and physical and emotional health outcomes.

You can read more on this topic in my book, Alternative Medicine: The Christian Handbook. You can order a signed copy here. You can also read some of my blogs on Faith-Based Health and Healing:

You can read more on this topic in my book, Alternative Medicine: The Christian Handbook. You can find it here.
Also, citations to all of the studies quoted in this blog are found in the book.
==================
Additional Blogs on Faith-Based Health and Healing:
Part 1 – What does the Bible say about health?
Part 2 – What Value Should We Place on Our Health?
Part 3 – Devout Faith Helps but Does Not Guarantee Good Health
Part 4 – Can Faith be Unhealthy?
Part 5 – What Causes Sickness?
Part 6 – Why God’s Response Isn’t Always to Heal
Part 7 – Not All Healing is From God
Part 8 – Illegitimate Spiritual Practices
Part 9 – Life Energy and Medical Magic
Part 10 – Medical Characters Condemned for Pursuing Certain Forms of Healing
Part 11 – Look to the Bible, Not Inner Voices, for Guidance
Part 12 – Biblical Principles on Which to Base Medical Decisions and The Power of Faith

Most Doctors Don’t Follow Colon Cancer Screening Guidelines

Most doctors (81 percent) fall short when it comes to comparing what they do for colon cancer screening with what they should be doing. And, we docs fall off both sides of the balance beam, either ordering tests too frequently or too seldom. Here are the details from HealthDay News:

Only one in five doctors in the United States follows all the recommended colon cancer screening guidelines, a new report finds. Some 40 percent of doctors follow guidelines for some tests, while the remaining 40 percent don’t follow guidelines for any colon cancer screens, the researchers said.

“There’s more work to be done to understand how to improve colorectal cancer screening,” concluded lead researcher Robin Yabroff, an epidemiologist at the U.S. National Cancer Institute.

Most doctors also don’t adhere to guideline recommendations about when people should start screening and how often they should be screened, she added. The report is published in the online edition of the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

In the study, the researchers looked at the recommendations for various tests to find colon cancer, including colonoscopy, flexible sigmoidoscopy, fecal occult blood test (stool-based testing) and double-contrast barium enema.

For the study, Yabroff’s team questioned almost 1,300 doctors who participated in a National Cancer Institute survey. The researchers compared the survey answers against expert guidelines for the various screening tests.

They found that while most doctors correctly recommended beginning screening for adults at average risk for colon cancer at age 50, and correctly recommended how often screening was needed, only 19 percent followed the guidelines for the different types of tests they recommended.

Doctors who followed screening guidelines tended to be younger and board-certified, Yabroff’s group noted.

In addition, they were more likely to use electronic medical records and take patient preferences into account. They were also likely to be influenced by the clinical evidence behind the screening guidelines, the researchers found.

Moreover, many doctors either overused or underused certain tests, Yabroff’s team found. For example, colonoscopy was the test many doctors recommended more frequently than the guidelines called for.

Colonoscopy is the most expensive screening test and the most commonly recommended, the researchers found. They note that overuse of screening can result in unnecessary follow-up testing and an increased risk of complications.

On the other hand, some doctors recommended starting colon cancer screening in patients older than age 50, or at intervals that are less frequent than guidelines recommend. Underuse of screening can result in fewer cancers being found at an early stage when they are more likely to respond to treatment, Yabroff’s group says.

Commenting on the study, Dr. Durado Brooks, director of colorectal cancer at the American Cancer Society, said that “the good news is that most of these physicians do recommend colorectal cancer screening. The concern is how inexact their recommendations are.”

Brooks noted that the knowledge gap around the guidelines is occurring mostly in older doctors. They often continue to practice as they have since they were trained and aren’t keeping up with the latest recommendations, he said.

“We need to figure out how to disseminate that information effectively to people once they have been out in practice,” he said. But as the number of doctors using electronic health records increases, adherence to guidelines will also increase, Brooks believes.

Patients also have a role to play in cancer screening, Brooks said.

  • First, they should be aware of the need for screening and
  • Second, they should know which tests are available, when screening should start, and how often it’s needed, he said.

“As much as we can get people to take responsibility for their personal health and the health of their family members, the greater the likelihood that care can be given appropriately,” Brooks said.

What the Experts Recommend on Colon Cancer Screening

Here are the American Cancer Society’s current guidelines on checking for colorectal cancer and polyps (often precursors to cancer). Starting at age 50, men and women should follow one of these testing schedules:

To detect both polyps and cancer (preferred) :

  • A flexible sigmoidoscopy every five years or a colonoscopy every 10 years (sigmoidoscopy examines the lower part of the colon, colonoscopy is more extensive)
  • double-contrast barium enema once every five years
  • or CT (“virtual”) colonoscopy once every five years

To primarily detect a cancer:

  • Fecal occult blood test (gFOBT) or fecal immunochemical test (FIT) every year
  • Stool DNA test (SDNA), interval as yet uncertain

Some people may require a different screening schedule due to personal or family history; the cancer society recommends that you talk with your doctor to determine which schedule is best for you.

For more information on colon cancer, visit the U.S. National Cancer Institute here.

Abortion Boosts Breast Cancer Risk 193%: Study

Researchers in Iran have published the results of a new study showing women who have an abortion face a 193% increased risk of breast cancer. On the other hand, women who carry a pregnancy to term find a lowered breast cancer risk compared with women who have never been pregnant. Here are the details in a report from LifeNews.com:

The study follows on the heels of new reports indicating Komen for the Cure gave $7.5 million to the Planned Parenthood abortion business in 2009. The findings were reported in the journal Medical Oncology but are coming to the public’s attention only now.

Hajian-Tilaki K.O. and Kaveh-Ahangar T. from Babol University of Medical Sciences compared 100 cases of women who were newly diagnosed with breast cancer compared with 200 age-matched controls to review several reproductive factors.

The researchers discovered abortion significantly elevated breast cancer risks. Also, having a first pregnancy at an older age increases the breast cancer risk by 310 percent – which has implications for women who have relied on birth control and delayed a first pregnancy until later in life.

The Iranian scientists also confirmed what other studies have found, namely that increasing parity or the number of births reduces the breast cancer risk significantly.

Reporting on the study, the FoodConsumer web site indicated women with parity equal to or greater than 5 reduced their breast cancer risk by 91 percent compared with women who had never been pregnant and not given birth. Each additional birth also reduced the breast cancer risk by 50 percent.

The Iranian study came just before another research study conducted by scientists in Sri Lanka, which found women who had an abortion in the past were 242 percent more likely to contract breast cancer. That study was published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology and found a 3.42 odds ratio against women having abortions compared with those who kept their baby.

Abortion was the most significant factor in the study on breast cancer risk and researchers found a significantly reduced risk associated with prolonged duration of breastfeeding a newborn. Malintha De Silva and colleagues from the University of Colombo led the study.

Combined with the Iranian study and others from the U.S., China, and Turkeyfive studies in the last 18 months have shown abortion elevates breast cancer risk.

In the one from the United States, Louise Brinton, a NCI branch chief, served as co-author. She and her colleagues admitted that “… induced abortion and oral contraceptive use were associated with increased risk of breast cancer.” The authors cited a statistically significant 40% increased risk of breast cancer following an abortion.

“It’s becoming increasingly difficult for the NCI to keep its fingers and toes in the dike,” said Malec, “especially since many researchers in other parts of the world do not depend on the agency for grants.”

See related articles:

Devotional for Men – Healthy Through and Through – Part 3 – The Physical Wheel of Health

Here’s the third of an eight-part devotional for men based upon my chapter on health in Coach Joe Gibbs best-selling book, Gameplan for Life. The devotional was featured by the Men of Integrity ministry of Christianity Today. I hope you enjoy the series. Here’s Part 3 of 8:

THE PHYSICAL WHEEL

THE SERIES’ THEME: Healthy Through and Through. What does it mean to be a truly healthy man of God?

KEY BIBLE VERSE: You surely know that your body is a temple where the Holy Spirit lives. (1 Corinthians 6:19, CEV) Dig Deeper: Proverbs 3:7-8

When NASCAR racing teams prepare for a race, they put the cars through a series of tests to check out all the systems in these expensive machines. Such tests are designed to either prevent problems before they happen, or find them early, when they are far less expensive to fix.

Though the cost to build the best race cars is well into six figures—not to mention the millions of dollars it takes annually to staff and support a team—your body is far more valuable than any automobile. Why wouldn’t you want to treat it with just as much care and respect as NASCAR mechanics and technicians lavish on [their] cars? To take care of your “temple” means seeing a doctor regularly—not only in an emergency or when your wife begs you or when you’re forced to in order to buy an insurance policy.

When a disease or disorder proves incurable, physical health involves learning to cope and adapt. Can you see why the physical wheel may actually be the least important? With good emotional, relational, and spiritual health, a person can still be highly healthy, even though his or her body may not be “whole.”

MY RESPONSE: To do a better job at taking care of my physical health, I would be wise to make the following changes:

1)

2)

3)

PRAYER FOR THE SERIES: Dear Creator-God, show me what I need to do or change to be a truly healthy man of God; guide me as I strive to care for my physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual health.

I have a free assessment tool that can help you evaluate your four wheels of health. You can take it now, or at the end of this devotional series. You can download it for free here.

You can learn also more about this principle in my book, 10 Essentials of Happy, Healthy People: Becoming and staying highly healthy. Autographed copies are available here.

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Here’s the entire series:

Adapted from Game Plan for Life (Tyndale, 2009) by permission. All rights reserved by the copyright holder and/or the publisher. May not be reproduced.

Devotional for Men – Healthy Through and Through – Part 2 – The Four Wheels of Health

Here’s the second of an eight-part devotional for men based upon my chapter on health in Coach Joe Gibbs best-selling book, Gameplan for Life. The devotional was featured by the Men of Integrity ministry of Christianity Today. I hope you enjoy the series. Here’s Part 2 of 8:

THE FOUR WHEELS OF HEALTH

THE SERIES’ THEME: Healthy Through and Through. What does it mean to be a truly healthy man of God?

WHO SAID IT … WALT LARIMORE

Walt Larimore is one of America’s best-known family physicians and has been listed in the Guide to America’s Top Family Doctors and the Best Doctors in America. He’s been a practicing family physician for around three decades—delivering more than 1,500 babies. Walt has been a medical journalist since 1995 and has served as an on-air medical consultant for many radio stations.

WHAT HE SAID … THE FOUR WHEELS OF HEALTH

The Bible’s holistic view of health is most easily seen in Luke 2:52, where the writer describes the preteen Jesus: “So Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and all the people.” Jesus grew in stature (physical health), wisdom (emotional/mental health), and in favor with God (spiritual health) and others (relational health).

The Bible focuses on pursing physical health, emotional health, spiritual health, and healthy relationships with our family and others. I call these elements the four wheels of health, the importance of which has been confirmed by thousands of scientific studies.

If any one of our four wheels is wobbly or flat, our health will suffer. Life won’t run as smoothly, or as far, as it was intended.

Make no mistake—God is concerned about our physical bodies. We need to take care of our physical health—but God also designed three other wheels of health.

Key Study Passage: Psalm 32

I have a free assessment tool that can help you evaluate your four wheels of health. You can take it now, or at the end of this devotional series. You can download it for free here.

You can learn more about this principle in my book, 10 Essentials of Happy, Healthy People: Becoming and staying highly healthy. Autographed copies are available here.

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Here’s the entire series:

Adapted from Game Plan for Life (Tyndale, 2009) by permission. All rights reserved by the copyright holder and/or the publisher. May not be reproduced.

Lactoferrin for Acne. Does It Work?

Drinking cow’s milk enriched with the protein lactoferrin may improve acne by up to 20 percent, researchers report in the journal Nutrition. Here are details from the experts at The Natural Standard:

Earlier laboratory studies have suggested that lactoferrin-enriched cow’s milk may have anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. In a recent study, 36 adults with acne were randomly assigned to drink fermented milk supplemented with 200 milligrams of lactoferrin or non-enriched fermented milk daily for 12 weeks.

Every four weeks, the researchers recorded the participants’ acne severity and lesion counts. At the beginning and end of the study, the authors evaluated the skin’s hydration, sebum (oily secretions), pH, and surface lipids.

By the end of the study, the number of inflammatory lesions, total lesion count, and acne severity significantly decreased by 38.6 percent, 23.1 percent, and 20.3 percent, respectively, in the lactoferrin group compared to the control. Additionally, lactoferrin led to a 31.1 percent drop in sebum content compared to the placebo.

In the control group, no significant improvements were observed in acne severity and inflammatory lesion count.

Both groups experienced reductions in skin surface lipids. However, triacylglycerols and free-fatty acids declined in the lactoferrin group, while only free-fatty acids decreased in the control group. According to the researchers, the drop in triacylglycerols was significantly associated with improvements in acne.

Skin hydration and pH were similar in both groups.

“Although the results are promising,” The Natural Standard concludes, “additional research is needed to confirm these early findings.”

Several natural therapies have been studied for acne. For example,

  • some studies suggest that zinc may be beneficial for acne, and that serum zinc levels may be linked to acne severity.
  • Also, derivatives of vitamin A called retinoids are used to treat various skin disorders, including acne. Topical and oral retinoids, such as tretinoin (Avita®, Renova®, Retina-A®, Retin-A Micro®), are available by prescription.

TV show contestants on “The Biggest Loser” lose fat while preserving muscle mass, study shows

USA Today reports, “The grueling boot-camp workouts on NBC’s The Biggest Loser help contestants lose large amounts of body fat while preserving their muscle mass, a new study shows.”

The “scientists measured the weight, body composition and resting metabolic rate of the 16 participants at the start of the show, at Week 6 and at Week 30, the finale.”

The findings, presented recently at the meeting of the Obesity Society in San Diego, noted that “overall, the contestants dropped from an average 49% body fat to 27%,” and “after 30 weeks, participants lost an average of 128 pounds; 81% was body fat and 19% was fat-free mass, mostly muscle.”

Nurse practitioner writes about her decision to stop getting mammograms

Last week I blogged on the topic “Mammography Screening for Breast Cancer: What’s a Woman to Do?” That blog was somewhat technical — although I think it presented both the benefits and the risks of mammography — and the fact that this is routine mammography is NOT by any means an easy decision to make. Now, a far more intimate and personal look at the topic is featured in a special report in the Washington Post where Veneta Masson, a nurse practitioner and writer living in Washington, explained the reasons for her decision to stop getting mammograms:

Masson cited a 2008 report by the Nordic Cochrane Center in Denmark, which noted that “if 2,000 women are screened regularly for ten years, one will benefit from the screening, as she will avoid dying from breast cancer.” At “the same time, ten healthy women will … become cancer patients and will be treated unnecessarily.  …

“Furthermore, about 200 healthy women will experience a false alarm.” The “psychological strain until one knows whether or not it was cancer, and even afterward, can be severe.”

In other words, for every 2,000 women who choose mammogram screening, one life will be saved, and 210 women will be harmed. That leaves 1789 who will be relieved.

Masson, 56 years old, last had her mammogram 10 years ago. But, unlike her, virtually all of the women in my practice are still choosing to be screened.

Devotional for Men – Healthy Through and Through – Part 1 – Introduction

Here’s the first of an eight-part devotional for men. It’s based upon a chapter on physical health that I wrote for Coach Joe Gibbs’ best-selling book, Gameplan for Life. The devotional series was featured by the Men of Integrity ministry of Christianity Today. That chapter, and this series, are based upon my book, 10 Essentials of Happy, Healthy People: Becoming and staying highly healthy.

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I hope you enjoy the series. Here’s Part 1 of 8. I’ll be posting a new part each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday through the end of November:

Taking good care of our bodies should be important to the serious Christ-follower. After all, the believer’s body is God’s temple (1 Cor. 6:19) and God shouldn’t have to live in a shabby, unkempt shack. But as we’ll see in this week’s readings by Dr. Walt Larimore, good health isn’t simply about how well we take care of our physical bodies—as important as that is.

“The Bible focuses on pursing physical health, emotional health, spiritual health, and healthy relationships with our family and others,” says Dr. Larimore. “I call these elements the four wheels of health, the importance of which has been confirmed by thousands of scientific studies.”

This series focuses on these four wheels of health—and how to keep our lives rolling along more smoothly.

Here’s the entire series:

Also … check out these featured Men of Integrity Bible studies:

  • Letting Christ Transform Us: The apostle John moved from being known as a fiery “Son of Thunder” to “the disciple Jesus loved.” Why the big change and what does it mean for your own identity as a transformed man of God? This study of select passages from John and 1 John offers answers.
  • Caring Commitment: Here are insights from Scripture on what it means to be a truly loving Christian husband.

Adapted from Game Plan for Life (Tyndale, 2009) by permission. All rights reserved by the copyright holder and/or the publisher. May not be reproduced.

Six doctor-recommended sleep aids

Tired of counting sheep? Consider one of these remedies for the possibility of getting a good night’s sleep when you have occasional insomnia. These tips were posted on Health.com and are from RealSimple.com:

1) Aromatherapy

Try it: When you’re drowsy but slightly tense.

How to use it: Massage a dab of aromatherapeutic balm or oil into the back of your neck and shoulders (and inhale deeply) before you hit the sack. Certain fragrances, including lavender and lemon balm, promote snooze-inducing relaxation, says Rubin Naiman, Ph.D., a sleep specialist at the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, in Tucson. (Try Dr. Andrew Weil for Origins Night Health Bedtime Balm, which contains lavender; $25, origins.com.)

Good to know: You don’t have to stick to traditional aromatherapeutic scents — any fragrance that makes you feel good can be calming, says Dr. Phyllis Zee, M.D., Ph.D., a professor of neurology and the director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Northwestern University, in Chicago.

2) Valerian tea

Try it: If you are getting a full night’s sleep but still feel tired in the a.m.

How to use it: Sip a brew made from the flowering plant an hour or so before bedtime. (Try the Republic of Tea Get Some Zzz’s; $10.50 for 36 bags, republicoftea.com.) Some studies have shown that valerian can help increase sleep quality (it’s packed with antioxidants, too). You may have to drink it for several nights in a row before it works, says Naiman.

Good to know: Valerian shouldn’t be taken for more than two weeks at a time, since prolonged use can lead to dependency. And it can interfere with some prescription medications, including cholesterol drugs, so check with your doctor before steeping.

3) GABA-enhanced drink

Try it: When your head is racing with worries.

How to use it: Down a shot of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) right before bed. (Try Arizona P.M. Relax FastShot; $3, drinkarizona.com for stores.) “GABA, an amino acid found in your body, has been shown to quiet the mind when taken orally,” says Naiman.

Good to know: Certain foods, including brown rice, bananas, and mackerel, contain GABA. Consuming them during the day may help you sleep better at night.

4) Melatonin supplement

Try it: If you don’t feel tired until way past bedtime.

How to use it: Take a three-milligram tablet 15 to 20 minutes before bed. (Try GNC Melatonin 3; $5 for 60 tablets, gnc.com.) Your brain makes this neurohormone naturally to “tell the body that it’s time for sleep,” says Naiman. “But many people have suppressed melatonin production because they’re overexposed to light in the evening.” Naiman has been using it nightly for 20 years.

Good to know: Consult with your doctor before taking melatonin. It is not recommended for pregnant women, women trying to conceive, children, and adolescent boys (it can affect testosterone levels in maturing males).

5) Over-the-counter sleeping pill

Try it: When you’re going through a short period of sleeplessness, like during a stressful time at work.

How to use it: At bedtime, take two tablets that contain diphenhydramine, an antihistamine that makes you feel sleepy (research shows that an excess of histamine in the body may cause insomnia). “The less often you take these pills, the better,” says Dr. Lisa Shives, M.D., a sleep specialist in Evanston, Illinois. “You can build up a tolerance, and then they won’t work as well.” (Try Unisom SleepGels; $10 for 32 gel tabs, at drugstores.) Note: Never mix alcohol and sleeping pills.

Good to know: “The older you are, the slower you metabolize this type of drug,” says Shives. That means you may experience lingering sleepiness in the morning.

6) Prescription medication

Try it: When insomnia becomes a chronic problem.

How to use it: Work with your doctor to figure out which medication is best for you. Shives’s favorite is Rozerem (rozerem.com). It acts on the melatonin receptors in the brain that help you fall and stay asleep (other aids act only as a sedative). However, only Lunesta (eszopiclone) and Silenor (doxepin) are approved by the FDA for long-term use. Take a tablet about 30 minutes before bed.

Good to know: Finding the right medication may require trial and error: Some can make you more wired and awake. Side effects are common, says Shives, and range from the annoying (headaches, grogginess) to the serious, like unconscious nighttime binge eating and driving. Pregnant women may want to avoid these aids, even though they have not been proven to be dangerous.

Insomnia is considered chronic when it lasts most nights for a few weeks or more. This longer-term condition deserves professional attention, says Tom Roth, Ph.D., head of the Sleep Disorders and Research Center at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. If you’re unsure about whether you have chronic insomnia, Roth suggests looking at it like a headache. “If it goes on day after day and nothing you do makes it go away, then you should see a doctor,” he says. “Ask yourself: Do you know the cause?”

Study Shows Risks for Kids Who Watch TV or Use Computers More Than 2 Hours a Day

New research is documenting some of the risks I’ve told you about in previous blogs for kids who utilize screen time (TV, computers, video games) more than 2 hours a day. Specifically, children who watch television or use computers for more than two hours a day are more likely to experience psychological problems than kids who don’t, even if they are physically active, according to this new study. Here are the details from WebMD:

The study, which involved 1,013 children ages 10-11, found that those who spent more than two hours in front of a screen, whether watching TV, using a computer, or a combination, also were more likely to say they had trouble relating to friends and peer groups and to report feelings of unhappiness.

The children were told to wear accelerometers, devices attached to their waists that recorded their activities every 10 seconds during waking hours for seven straight days.

Working on a computerized questionnaire, the children then were asked about how much time daily they usually spent watching TV or using a computer for reasons other than doing homework. They also were asked questions such as whether they often felt unhappy, down-hearted, tearful, or lonely.

Scores were based on a “Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire,” a well-known inventory designed to provide insights into the psychological well-being of young people.

The answers “combined to produce an overall score that indicates whether the child/young person is likely to have a significant problem,” study researcher Angie S. Page, PhD, of the University of Bristol in England, tells WebMD in an email. “It has five sections that cover details of emotional difficulties — conduct problems, hyperactivity or inattention,” and trouble relating to friends and peers.

The questionnaire “is only a screening tool that will provide predictions about how likely it is that a child or young person has significant mental health problems.”

Role of Physical Activity

Page tells WebMD that the study found “no evidence that sedentary time — time spent not moving or [engaging in] minimal movement — is related to negative psychological well-being. It seems more like what you are doing in that sedentary time that is important, [for example] if you choose to spend large numbers of hours screen viewing for entertainment then this is associated with negative mental well-being.”

Page tells WebMD that while low levels of screen viewing may “not be problematic, we cannot rely on physical activity to ‘compensate’ for long hours of screen viewing.”

She says “watching TV or playing computer games for more than two hours a day is related to greater psychological difficulties, irrespective of how active children are.”

Parents, she says, should encourage physical activity for their children and take steps to reduce their time in front of a screen.

What’s seems clear from the study, she tells WebMD, is that children who spend longer than two hours in front of a computer or TV screen may suffer detrimental consequences, physically and mentally.

Children who engaged in more moderate physical activity fared better in certain measures of psychological health, she says.

Screen Time May Consume Nearly 1/3 of Day for U.S. Kids

Child experts have issued an updated policy statement on use of electronic media for entertainment by kids. This is critical because children and teens in the United States spend an average of seven hours A DAY using television, computers, phones and other electronic devices for entertainment (compare this to the average of three hours a day watching TV in 1999). Parents, physicians, and educators need to understand the effects of this increasing exposure to media and educate youngsters about media use according to the American Academy of Pediatrics in the updated policy statement. Here are more details from HealthDay News:

The AAP statement lists several concerns:

  • Excessive time spent using electronic media leaves less time for physical activity or creative and social pursuits.
  • Violent or sexual content can have harmful effects, as can movies or programs that glamorize alcohol and tobacco use.
  • Research has shown that high levels of media use are associated with school problems, attention difficulties, sleep and eating disorders, and obesity.
  • The Internet and cell phones have become major new sources and platforms for illicit and risky behaviors.

However, educating children about media can help reduce harmful effects, and careful selection of media can help children learn, the AAP said. Along with longstanding advice about limiting, planning and supervising children’s media use, the group’s updated policy statement includes a number of new recommendations:

At each office visit, doctors who care for children should ask at least two media-related questions:

  1. Is there a TV set or Internet access in the child’s room?
  2. How much entertainment media is the child watching?

The AAP recommends children have less than two hours of screen time per day. Before 2 years old, viewing should be avoided altogether, it says. Parents need to be good media-user role models, encourage alternate activities, and make children’s bedrooms electronic media-free areas.

Schools should offer media education and Congress should consider funding media education in schools. The federal government and private foundations should boost their funding for media research.

The statement authors concluded that “a media-educated person will be able to limit his or her use of media; make positive media choices; select creative alternatives to media consumption; develop critical thinking and viewing skills; and understand the political, social, economic and emotional implications of all forms of media. Results of recent research suggest that media education may make young people less vulnerable to negative aspects of media exposure.”

In addition, the experts added, “simply reducing children’s and adolescents’ screen media use has been shown conclusively to have beneficial health effects.”

The Formula for Good Health = 0, 5, 10, 30, 150

An easy-to-remember formula for good health (0, 5, 10, 30, 150) is proposed in a wonderful editorial in American Family Physician titled “Preventive Health: Time for Change.” The author suggests this formula to physicians to “help patients achieve healthy lifestyle goals”:

  • 0 = no cigarettes or tobacco products
  • 5 = five servings of fruits and vegetables per day
  • 10 = ten minutes of silence, relaxation, prayer, or meditation per day
  • 30 = keep your BMI (body mass index) below 30
  • 150 = number of minutes of exercise per week (e.g., brisk walking or equivalent)

The editorial is penned y Colin Kopes-Kerr, MD, from the Santa Rosa Family Medicine Residency in Santa Rosa, California:

It is time to make a decision. Which will be our health promotion strategy—primary prevention or secondary prevention?

Traditionally, the only one available to us was secondary prevention. Medicine consisted of a one-on-one physician-patient relationship, and taking care of patients meant minimizing the impact of any diseases the patient had. We did not have the time or tools to do anything else. More recently, we have been able to reduce a patient’s mortality by 20 to 30 percent by treating heart disease with a statin or beta blocker. These two medications have had the most dramatic effects in secondary prevention.

But now, the way we practice medicine has changed. We have a real choice to make. According to recent literature, primary prevention appears to work better than any other strategy in medicine. So why do some physicians not implement primary prevention? Despite the literature, maybe physicians are not getting the news. We need to keep repeating the message to physicians and patients that primary prevention is simple and effective. Next, we need to take a look at our own behavior as physicians and determine if it makes sense in the context of primary prevention.

There are 10 major studies on the effects of primary prevention.(1–15) These studies demonstrate very large correlations between specific healthy lifestyle behaviors and decreases in major chronic diseases (e.g., diabetes mellitus, heart disease, stroke, cancer) and all-cause mortality.

Although these studies offer a complex array of data to sift through, the elements of a healthy lifestyle are clear: not smoking, regular exercise, healthy diet, healthy body weight, and reduced stress.

Although exercise guidelines vary, I ascribe to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, which recommends at least 150 minutes of brisk walking or the equivalent per week.(16) For the diet criterion, the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities study illustrates that merely consuming five servings of fruits and vegetables per day is associated with the same benefits as consumption of a Mediterranean-style diet.(11) A standard of five servings of fruits and vegetables is much easier to remember and adhere to.

There is strong support for at least one weight-related variable in a healthy lifestyle. This may include body weight, body mass index (BMI), waist circumference, or waist:hip ratio. The INTERHEART study showed waist:hip ratio to be the most predictive of cardiovascular disease.(6) However, unlike BMI calculation, measurement of weight:hip ratio has not yet become standard in U.S. practices. I use BMI as the metric, and a value less than 30 kg per m2 as the cutoff between a healthy and unhealthy lifestyle. The goal is to move away from this outer limit toward a more ideal parameter, such as less than 25 kg per m2.

The final variable of a healthy lifestyle, which has strong support from the INTERHEART study, is stress reduction.(7) The INTERHEART study offers useful suggestions for measuring stress—perception of severe stress at home or at work, financial stress, or major life events.(7)

The minimal lifestyle intervention that would be beneficial is not defined. However, 15 to 20 minutes of silence, relaxation, or meditation appears to be a common interval.(17) To be more inclusive of patients, I set the criterion to an even less restrictive amount, about 10 minutes per day.(17) This is enough time to produce a change in biorhythms and is achievable for most patients.

Information alone does not lead to behavior change, however. Motivational interviewing or brief negotiation is a new framework that can close the gap between knowledge of available lifestyle interventions and changing behaviors. The framework has already been proven markedly effective for tobacco, drug, and alcohol addiction.(18) Few physicians have received the training necessary to implement motivational interviewing or brief negotiation. Resources for learning about these skills include the Kaiser Permanente Medical Group Web site and the book Motivational Interviewing in Health Care: Helping Patients Change Behavior.(18)

In terms of health, we can have it all. We have the requisite tools to convert knowledge into healthy behaviors. This newfound power to reduce diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer, and all-cause mortality with primary prevention strategies should impel us to change how we counsel patients. Research is needed to explore why some physicians are not making this change.

Address correspondence to Colin Kopes-Kerr, MD, at cpkerr@nni.com. Reprints are not available from the author.

Author disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

REFERENCES

  1. Stampfer  MJ, Hu  FB, Manson  JE, et al.  Primary prevention of coronary heart disease in women through diet and lifestyle.  N Engl J Med.  2000;343(1):16–22. View here
  2. Hu  FB, Manson  JE, Stampfer  MJ, et al.  Diet, lifestyle, and the risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus in women.  N Engl J Med.  2001;345(11):790–797. View here
  3. Forman  JP, Stampfer  MJ, Curhan  GC.  Diet and lifestyle risk factors associated with incident hypertension in women.  JAMA.  2009;302(4):401–411. View here
  4. Knowler  WC, Barrett-Connor  E, Fowler  SE, et al.; Diabetes Prevention Program Research Group.  Reduction in the incidence of type 2 diabetes with lifestyle intervention or metformin.  N Engl J Med.  2002;346(6):393–403. View here
  5. Knoops  KT, de Groot  LC, Kromhout  D, et al.  Mediterranean diet, lifestyle factors, and 10-year mortality in elderly European men and women: the HALE project.  JAMA.  2004;292(12):1433–1439. View here
  6. Yusuf  S, Hawken  S, Ounpuu  S, et al.; INTERHEART Study Investigators.  Effect of potentially modifiable risk factors associated with myocardial infraction in 52 countries (the INTERHEART study): case-control study.  Lancet.  2004;364(9438):937–952. View here
  7. Rosengren  A, Hawken  S, Ounpuu  S, et al.; INTERHEART Investigators.  Association of psychosocial risk factors with risk of acute myocardial infarction in 11119 cases and 13648 controls from 52 countries (the INTERHEART study): case-control study.  Lancet.  2004;364(9438):953–962. View here
  8. Chiuve  SE, McCullough  ML, Sacks  FM, et al.  Healthy lifestyle factors in the primary prevention of coronary heart disease among men: benefits among users and nonusers of lipid-lowering and antihypertensive medications.  Circulation.  2006;114(2):160–167. View here
  9. Chiuve  SE, Rexrode  KM, Spiegelman  D, et al.  Primary prevention of stroke by healthy lifestyle.  Circulation.  2008;118(9):947–954. View here
  10. Kurth  T, Moore  SC, Gaziano  JM, et al.  Healthy lifestyle and the risk of stroke in women.  Arch Intern Med.  2006;166(13):1403–1409. View here
  11. King  DE, Mainous  AG  III, Geesey  ME.  Turning back the clock: adopting a healthy lifestyle in middle age.  Am J Med.  2007;120(7):598–603. View here
  12. Khaw  KT, Wareham  N, Bingham  S, et al.  Combined impact of health behaviours and mortality in men and women: the EPIC-Norfolk prospective population study [published correction appears in PLoS Med. 2008;5(3):e70].  PLoS Med.  2008;5(1):e12. View here
  13. Ford  ES, Bergmann  MM, Kröger  J, et al.  Healthy living is the best revenge: findings from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and nutrition–Potsdam study.  Arch Intern Med.  2009;169(15):1355–1362. View here
  14. Lee  CD, Sui  X, Blair  SN.  Combined effects of cardiorespiratory fitness, not smoking, and normal waist girth on morbidity and mortality in men.  Arch Intern Med.  2009;169(22):2096–2101. View here
  15. Djoussé  L, Driver  JA, Gaziano  JM.  Relation between modifiable lifestyle factors and lifetime risk of heart failure.  JAMA.  2009;302(4):394–400. View here
  16. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 2008 physical activity guidelines for Americans. View here.
  17. Dialogue Partner. View here
  18. Rollnick S, Miller WR, Butler CC. Motivational Interviewing in Health Care: Helping Patients Change Behavior. New York, NY: Guilford Press; 2008. View here