Category Archives: Health Headlines

Women taking statins MAY have slightly increased risk of type 2 diabetes

ABC World News reported, “And we have a red flag to tell you about tonight about the most popular prescription drug in the world: statins.” Investigators “at Harvard Medical School” found that “people who take statins to reduce their cholesterol are at slightly higher risk of diabetes.” Sounds scary, right? Not to worry … it isn’t! Continue reading

PSA screening for prostate cancer. The debate continues.

ABC World News reported, “An earthquake in the debate over men and prostate cancer” regarding a “simple blood test called a PSA. Twenty million men use it to find out if they show a sign of risk, yet today, a government task force is saying healthy men should skip that test, arguing that the treatment that often follows the test may not be worth the consequences.” Continue reading

Is the US infant mortality ranking “shameful”? I say, “no,” but here’s the debate:

Of the over 2000 blogs I’ve posted, one of the most popular was Health Myth #1: “The U.S. has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the developed world.”. Now, in an editorial, USA Today points out that the US has now dropped “to 41st worldwide in newborn death rates.” Is it really that bad here? Continue reading

Can cocoa products reduce blood pressure or heart disease?

CocoaVia and Cirku are new supplements used for high blood pressure and cardiovascular health according to the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database (NMCD). These products are flavored powders that can be added to a beverage. Each packet contains a cocoa extract providing 350 mg of cocoa flavanols. Those selling the supplements say they may reduce heart disease, but do they? Continue reading

TV watching as dangerous as smoking and lack of exercise

Researchers in Australia say smoking “can shorten of life expectancy by more than four years after the age of 50. That represents 11 minutes of life lost for every cigarette and that’s the same as half an hour of TV watching.” Said another way, for every hour of TV watched “after age 25, lifespan falls by 22 minutes.” Ouch! Time to turn off the TV, snub out the cigarettes, and begin walking 15 minutes a day to increase the quality and quantity of your life! Continue reading

15 minutes’ daily exercise boosts life expectancy by three years

ABC World News reported, “If you need any more convincing that a little bit of exercise can make a huge difference in your life, here’s some powerful new proof: A study in the medical journal Lancet looked at 400,000 people and found just 15 minutes of exercise a day increases life expectancy three years.” Continue reading

Cancer risk from airport scanners extremely low, study finds

My previous blogs on airport scanners (see list below) have been particularly popular among readers for obvious reasons. Now, Bloomberg News is reporting, “Airport body scanners pose little radiation risk to travelers, emitting less than 1 percent of the dose a person would get from cosmic rays while flying at high altitudes,” according to a study in the Archives of Internal Medicine. Continue reading

Americans have nothing to fear from Japan’s nuclear crisis — or don’t go buy potassium iodide tablets today

I’ve been sent a number of email notes from physicians in the U.S. advising their friends and patients to immediately buy potassium iodine tablets in case the radiation from Japan should be carried across the jet stream to the United States. I’m with the large number of experts saying that would be a waste of time and money. Continue reading

ObamaCare Repealed in the House

The House of Representatives resumed debate this morning on H.R. 2, legislation to repeal ObamaCare. A final vote came this evening, and it, as expected, passed easily with the new GOP majority in control. Also, in the “breaking news” category is a headline from American Spectator saying CBO Says Repealing ObamaCare Would Reduce Net Spending by $540 Billion. Haven’t heard that from the liberal news media, have you?

Unfortunately, Senate Democrat Leader Harry Reid called today’s vote “partisan grandstanding,” and again said that he won’t allow a vote to take place in the Senate. Reid is using the same tactics that resulted in this lousy law being rammed down the throats of the American taxpayer to begin with.

Here are some interesting facts from my friend, Gary Bower, founder and President of the Campaign for Working Families:

Yesterday, 200 economists sent a letter to congressional leaders calling for ObamaCare’s repeal. In the letter they warned, “We believe [ObamaCare] is a threat to U.S. businesses and will place a crushing debt burden on future generations of Americans.” But it’s not just economists who are worried.

A Thomson Reuters survey released this week found that 65% of doctors fear ObamaCare will cause healthcare to deteriorate. Just 18% of doctors believe ObamaCare will improve healthcare in America. Who do you trust most when it comes to your healthcare — Harry Reid or your own doctor?

The concerns of so many doctors should not be dismissed. Consider some markers of the quality of healthcare in countries with socialized medicine. A 2008 study found that the United States “had the highest five-year survival rates for breast cancer, at 83.9% and prostate cancer, at 91.9%.” But in Great Britain’s National Health Service the figures were dismal: “69.7% survival for breast cancer … and 51.1% for prostate cancer.”

Writing in today’s New York Post, Sally Pipes of the Pacific Research Institute notes that ObamaCare is already having a negative impact on healthcare in America. Here are some of the emerging problems she cites:

  • Because of ObamaCare mandates, construction at 45 hospitals around the country has been halted.
  • 40% of doctors said they plan to “drop out of patient care in the next one to three years.”
  • 60% of doctors said they will close or significantly restrict their practices. (How are the 30 million folks supposedly insured under ObamaCare going to get healthcare if 40-60% of doctors quit or restrict their practices?)

On the House floor today, Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) said, “You know there is a lot of talk these days around here about where Members of Congress are going to sit during the State of the Union Address.  …I learned a long time ago it doesn’t really matter where you sit.  It matters where you stand.  And today House Republicans are going to stand with the American people and vote to repeal [the Democrats’] government takeover of health care lock, stock and barrel.”

Despite what happened today, it won’t be the end of this fight. If the Senate refuses to act on repeal legislation, House conservatives are determined to defund ObamaCare. Just as importantly, the House is scheduled to vote soon on a resolution instructing various House committees to start drafting free market alternatives to ObamaCare — alternatives that Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Barack Obama refused to consider last year.

No doubt this story will continue to evolve.

Two-week course of antibiotic may benefit patients with IBS (irritable bowel syndrome)

In the category of a study that will change my practice in the area of giving patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) another treatment option, is a study discussed in a Los Angeles Times report that says, “A two-week treatment with an antibiotic” manufactured by Salix Pharmaceuticals “can ease overall symptoms in many patients with irritable bowel syndrome for at least 10 weeks and perhaps for much longer, according to a pair of clinical trials of more than 1,200 patients.”

The paper appearing in the New England Journal of Medicine reveals that the “proportion of patients who benefited — about 11% — was modest, but the fact that any at all were helped validated the idea that intestinal bacteria play a role in the onset of irritable bowel syndrome, commonly known as IBS.”

Lead study author Dr. Mark Pimentel, of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, added, “This is the culmination of a 10-year journey in proving that gut bacteria are a cause of IBS.” Before, “there has been a lot of skepticism, a lot of criticism.”

Salix executive Bill Forbes told the Raleigh News & Observer (1/5, Avery), “With IBS, even though it is such a common condition, no one really understands why patients have symptoms.” He added, “It becomes a condition that is diagnosed by exclusion. But the economic costs rank right up there with the worst medical conditions there are. It has an enormous impact on individuals and society as whole.”
With that in mind, the company sponsored two trials in which 1,260 patients received either “Xifaxan three times a day for two weeks” or placebo, Bloomberg News (1/6, Ostrow) reports. “The patients were followed for 10 weeks after treatment.” Investigators eventually noted that a “total of 41 percent of those getting the drug had relief in at least two of the first four weeks after therapy, compared with 32 percent of people treated with a placebo.” What’s more, the “study confirmed that the condition in some patients can be explained by the movement of bacteria from the colon into the small intestines.”

Salix executive Bill Forbes told the Raleigh News & Observer, “With IBS, even though it is such a common condition, no one really understands why patients have symptoms.”

The executive added, “It becomes a condition that is diagnosed by exclusion. But the economic costs rank right up there with the worst medical conditions there are. It has an enormous impact on individuals and society as whole.”

With that in mind, the company sponsored two trials in which 1,260 patients received either “Xifaxan (generic name = rifaximin) three times a day for two weeks” or placebo, Bloomberg News reports. “The patients were followed for 10 weeks after treatment.”

Investigators eventually noted that a “total of 41 percent of those getting the drug had relief in at least two of the first four weeks after therapy, compared with 32 percent of people treated with a placebo.”

What’s more, the “study confirmed that the condition in some patients can be explained by the movement of bacteria from the colon into the small intestines.”

So, if you suffer from IBS and few or no treatments have been helpful, then you may want to discuss this one with your physician. However, be warned, the two week treatment could cost several hundred dollars!

Reminder: Clean Out Your Medicine Cabinet This Weekend

Americans are being encouraged to gather expired, unused, and unwanted prescription drugs from their medicine cabinets this Saturday and take them to one of the more than 4,000 drop-off sites around the country.
The national “Take-Back” campaign is part of the effort to reduce the growing problem of teen abuse of prescription drugs, the Associated Press reported.
“We have an epidemic,” said acting Drug Enforcement Agency Administrator Michele Leonhart. The DEA is working on the “Take-Back” with the Partnership for a Drug-Free America and thousands of state and local agencies.
“Our research shows that the No. 1 source of medicines that kids abuse is their own home medicine cabinet or a family member or friend’s home,” Steve Pasierb, president of the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, told the AP.

Americans are being encouraged to gather expired, unused, and unwanted prescription drugs from their medicine cabinets this Saturday (tomorrow) and take them to one of the more than 4,000 drop-off sites around the country.

The national “Take-Back” campaign is part of the effort to reduce the growing problem of teen abuse of prescription drugs, the Associated Press reported.

“We have an epidemic,” said acting Drug Enforcement Agency Administrator Michele Leonhart. The DEA is working on the “Take-Back” with the Partnership for a Drug-Free America and thousands of state and local agencies.

“Our research shows that the No. 1 source of medicines that kids abuse is their own home medicine cabinet or a family member or friend’s home,” Steve Pasierb, president of the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, told the AP.

Collection activities will take place from 10:00 a.m. through 2:00 p.m. at sites established throughout the country.  The National Take-Back Day provides an opportunity for the public to surrender expired, unwanted, or unused pharmaceutical controlled substances and other medications for destruction.  These drugs are a potential source of supply for illegal use and an unacceptable risk to public health and safety.

This one-day effort is intended to bring national focus to the issue of increasing pharmaceutical controlled substance abuse. And, the program is anonymous.

  • Prescription and over the counter solid dosage medications, i.e. tablets and capsules accepted.
  • Intra-venous solutions, injectables, and needles will not be accepted.
  • Illicit substances such as marijuana or methamphetamine are not a part of this initiative.

You can find a collection site near you here. Please check back often as new collection sites will be added daily.

Should Cholesterol Drugs Be Used By Those Without High Cholesterol?

Some experts say statins help healthier people, but others worry about risks. So, when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of the cholesterol-lowering statin drug Crestor for some people with normal cholesterol levels, cardiologist Dr. Steven E. Nissen cheered the decision. But, not everyone did. Here are the details in a report from HealthDay News:

“You have to go with the scientific evidence,” said Nissen, who is chairman of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic. “A clinical trial was done and there was a substantial reduction in morbidity and mortality in people treated with this drug.”

But Dr. Mark A. Hlatky, a professor of health research and policy and medicine at Stanford University, has expressed doubts about the FDA move. He worries that more people will rely on a pill rather than diet and exercise to cut their heart risk, and also points to studies linking statins such as Crestor to muscle troubles and even diabetes.

“I haven’t seen anything that changes my mind about that,” Hlatky said.

So, will millions of healthy Americans soon join the millions of less-than-healthy people who already take these blockbuster drugs?

The FDA’s February approval of expanded use of rosuvastatin (Crestor) was based on results of the JUPITER study, which involved more than 18,000 people and was financed by the drug’s maker, AstraZeneca.

People in the trial who took the drug for an average of 1.9 years had a 44 percent lower risk of heart attack, stroke and other cardiovascular problems compared to those who took a placebo — results so outstanding that the trial was cut short.

Based on JUPITER, an FDA advisory committee voted 12 to 4 in December to approve widened use of the drug.

The people in the trial included men over 50 and women over 60 with normal or near-normal cholesterol levels.

However, these individuals did have high levels of C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation that has also been linked to cardiovascular problems. They also had at least one other heart risk factor, such as obesity or high blood pressure.

For that specific group, Crestor makes sense, Nissen said. “Over a five-year period of time, you prevent one death or minor stroke for every 25 people treated,” he noted.

Whether or not others with normal cholesterol should take Crestor or another statin remains unclear. “Not everyone with normal cholesterol should be treated,” Nissen said. “You should give it to people with a high enough risk.”

And he added that the results applied only to Crestor. Other popular statins include Lipitor, Pravachol and Zocor, as well as some generic versions.

Those statins might not produce the same benefits, Nissen said. “Statins differ from each other in terms of potency,” Nissen said.

Crestor, which is available only in a more expensive brand-name form, is toward the top of the list in terms of potency, he noted, while generic drugs such as simvastatin (Zocor) and pravastatin (Pravachol) have much less powerful effects.

“For patients who need a lot of cholesterol reduction, I use the most powerful drug,” Nissen said. “If I can get a patient there with a generic drug, of course I use a generic drug.”

But Hlatky has his doubts about the advisability of widening statins’ reach. He said he’s reluctant to have people at cardiovascular risk pop a pill rather than change the lifestyle factors that put them in trouble in the first place.

“My view has always been that you start with the basics and do the simple things first before you go to drugs,” Hlatky said. “Lots of people are not doing the sensible things. They’re not eating the right diet, they’re not exercising, they’re still smoking. Most of the people in the JUPITER trial were smack in the middle of that group.”

So Hlatky says he might still prescribe a statin for someone in that group, “but I would have an informed conversation about the long-term risks and benefits and what you need to do to reduce the risks.”

“It is so much easier to prescribe a drug than to change behavior, and that is my worry,” Hlatky said. “We’re heading down that road. Cardiovascular risk prevention is moving in the wrong direction.”

He’s also worried about exposing more people to the rare but still possible side effects that come with statins. The drugs can cause myalgia — severe muscle pain — and a recent study published in the British journal The Lancet found a 9 percent increase in diabetes incidence among people taking statins.

But Nissen believes the benefits of expanded use of Crestor outweigh possible risks. The study that found an increased incidence of diabetes did not find that it was accompanied by any increase in cardiovascular problems and deaths, he noted.

“The is one example where the FDA got it exactly right,” Nissen said.

And, from my perspective, I agree.

Top 10 Good News Pro-life News Stories of 2009

The following are the top ten good news stories of 2009, ranked according to popularity, from

1) 12-Year-Old Stuns Pro-Choice Teacher and School with Pro-Life Presentation

12-year-old “Lia” of Toronto become a star at her school and on Youtube with her five-minute pro-life speech, crafted for a school competition. A video of her speech has been watched over 800,000 times on Youtube.

2) List of Bishops Opposing the Notre Dame Invitation and Award to President Obama

83 U.S. bishops spoke out against Notre Dame’s decision to honour the “most pro-abortion president in history.” The widespread and public outrage from the country’s bishops was considered by many to be an encouraging sign about the current direction of the U.S. Catholic Church on the life and family issues.

3) Florida Quarterback Tebow Leaves Reporters Speechless: “Yes I am” Saving Myself for Marriage

Tim Tebow, the young football superstar, literally left reporters speechless when he answered a question during a press conference about whether or not he is “saving himself” for marriage.

4) Star Trek Actor Who Paid for Three Abortions Now Condemns Woman’s “Right to Choose … to Kill Her Baby”

A dramatic turn-around for the actor best known for his roles as Ambassador Soval in the TV series “Star Trek: Enterprise” and Capt. Ingles on “J.A.G.”, who admitted that during his drug-fuelled youth he personally paid for three abortions for women he had impregnated. “Abortion is murder,” Graham now says, after acknowledging that he will be “hated” for saying so.

5) Pro-Life Convictions Worth Risking Career For: “The Passion” Actor Jim Caviezel

Jim Caviezel, the heart-throb actor who took the film world by surprise with his moving depiction of Christ in 2004, said that abortion has nothing to do with helping women and that he is willing to risk his career to say so.

6) 400 Students Defy ACLU and Stand to Recite Lord’s Prayer at Graduation

A dramatic protest against an attempt by the ACLU to silence prayer in Florida schools. Many of the students also painted crosses on their graduation caps to make a statement of faith.

7) ‘In the Womb’ is Now on the Net: Amazing 4-D Footage of Growing Baby

Few tools have been more effective for the pro-life cause than ultrasound. However, recent advances in ultrasound technology have made the humanity of the unborn child even more impossible to deny.

This 2-hour Discovery Channel documentary presents a remarkable visual apologetic for the pro-life message that human life begins with fertilization.  Showing the continuous development of the unborn child from conception to birth, it shatters all attempts to pinpoint any other time as the beginning of life.

8) Director of Planned Parenthood at 40 Days for Life Birthplace Resigns after Watching Abortion Ultrasound

The turning point for Abby Johnson in her journey to the pro-life position was reportedly when she witnessed an actual ultrasound image of an abortion being performed on an unborn child.

Since converting to the pro-life position, she has said: “I feel so pure in heart. I don’t have this guilt, I don’t have this burden on me anymore.”

9) Bishop Hermann of St. Louis – Strongest Ever Pro-Life Column

Bishop Hermann wrote: “I may courageously say that I am willing to die to end abortion, but am I equally willing to say that I am ready to let my ego get ruffled daily for the same cause? Yet … that is where I need to arrive if I am to be a credible witness.”

10) Controversial U.K. Mayor Cuts Gay Pride Funding, Pledges End to Political Correctness in Government

A rare breath of fresh air in the world of politics. “I’m not a homophobe,” said Peter Davies, “but I don’t see why council taxpayers should pay to celebrate anyone’s sexuality.” In his first week in office, Davies also cut his own salary from £73,000 to £30,000; reduced the number of councillors from 63 to 21, saving the town £800,000 a year. He also immediately announced plans to reduce council tax by 3 per cent and got rid of the mayoral limousine.

Top 10 Pro-Life News Stories of 2009

President Barack Obama, abortion, the Supreme Court, and healthcare dominated pro-life news in 2009. As we look back on 2009, the first with a new pro-abortion president, it seems to me that the pro-life movement essentially is on the defensive.

Thanks to a pro-abortion president and Congress, pro-life advocates spent most of their time this last year attempting to hold back the opening of the floodgates ushering in an expansion of abortion and taxpayer financing of it.

With the health care debate continuing into the new year, those efforts will be forced to continue — although the potential for pro-life gains in the 2010 elections provides significant hope for the future.

So, with that in mind, the following are the top ten pro-life news stories of 2009, ranked according to impact

1. Health Care:

The health care debate has become the central focus of the pro-life movement during the latter half of 2009 and for good reason. If the abortion language in the final bill is anything like what is currently in the Senate version of the legislation, the result would be the greatest expansion of taxpayer funding of abortions since the 1970s when the Hyde Amendment was adopted.

The Senate bill not only would allow the forcing of taxpayers to pay for abortions but would let the Obama administration force insurance plans to pay for them as well.

The end result? With Hyde getting credit for stopping more than 100,000 abortions annually, the health care bill could result in a 10% or greater increase in abortions — all financed with government money.

This doesn’t even touch on the rationing, promotion of assisted suicide, and lack of conscience protection for medical professionals found in the bill.

2. Barack Obama promoting abortion:

The influence of the president of the United States on abortion policy can never be underestimated, despite some who still think the president doesn’t have any impact. has the most comprehensive chronicle that I have seen of Obama’s pro-abortion actions, but the most consequential ones include his overturning of the Mexico City Policy and allowing tens of millions of taxpayer dollars to flow to abortion businesses like Planned

Planned Parenthood and Marie Stopes International that not only do abortions by lobby pro-life nations to overturn or water down their laws.

Obama also reversed the prohibition on funding the UNFPA, which works hand-in-hand with the Chinese officials who implement the one-child policy and enforce it with forced abortions and other human rights abuses.

Obama has installed not only abortion advocates but former abortion advocacy group staffers in key places where abortion policy will be affected. He is working to overturn conscience protections, funded abortions in DC, zeroed out abstinence funding, and will continue promoting abortion at every turn.

3. Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor:

Amid the health care debate, Sotomayor has been quickly forgotten, but her impact on the high court and abortion and pro-life issues may be felt for decades to come.

Sotomayor never gave the pro-life movement the smoking gun it needed to show how extreme of an abortion proponent she will be on the high court. But her own judicial activist comments, membership and participation in groups that endorse abortion, and with Obama, pro-abortion senators and groups saying she’s “one of us” — that gave pro-life groups enough anecdotal evidence to oppose her.

Obama will likely have another chance to appoint a pro-abortion zealot to go along with Sotomayor before the 2012 elections roll around. The appointments will have the effect of cementing legalized abortion for another generation.

4. Barack Obama promoting embryonic stem cell research:

It hasn’t received near as much attention as it should have because of his abortion actions and because of the health care debate, but Barack Obama is the first and only president to fund new embryonic stem cell research where tax money will directly go towards the active destruction of human life.

Pro-life advocates also have reason to be concerned that this is just the beginning. With other issues providing news cover, Obama can push the overturning of the Dicker-Wicker law that forbids funding the purposeful creation and destruction of human life for scientific research and could push human cloning for research purposes. The Obama administration may also be the first to allow, through the FDA, human trials with embryonic stem cells that still pose problems when used with animals.

5. Americans are Pro-Life:

2009 was marked by the release of several polls showing a majority of Americans are pro-life on abortion. A Gallup poll showing 51 percent of Americans call themselves pro-life received the most attention, but more than a dozen polls on abortion itself and abortion funding had pro-life majorities popping up every time.

One poll that should have received more attention but didn’t: a new CNN survey with 63% saying they oppose all or most abortions, one of the highest measurements in recent years.

6. Notre Dame:

The scandal of scandals in the Catholic community came when the mother of all Catholic colleges decided not only to allow Obama the opportunity to give its commencement address but bestowed on him an honorary degree. Even evangelical pro-life advocates joined their Catholic friends in condemning the action — which saw Father John Jenkins and the Notre Dame trustees thumb their nose at the Catholic bishops, who years earlier told Catholic schools to not give a platform to abortion advocates and who directly condemned the decision.

With pro-abortion “Catholic” groups claiming to be pro-life yet promoting Obama in 2008 and pro-abortion health care this year, the scandal is merely a predictor of more intense battles to come within the Catholic community.

7. George Tiller:

The shooting death of George Tiller, the late-term abortion practitioner from Kansas, rocked the abortion world. Sadly it gave pro-abortion groups and the mainstream media yet another chance to paint the pro-life community as violent even though every pro-life group under the sun condemned the killing. And it came at a time with the local groups working against Tiller were on the threshold of getting his medical license revoked for legitimate reasons.

8. James Pouillon:

In September, a local man who didn’t like the use of graphic pictures of abortions took it upon himself to shoot pro-life advocate Jim Pouillon. The shooting death was notable for the nearly complete lack of coverage from the mainstream media, a very delayed reaction from Obama, and zero condemnation from pro-abortion groups.

9. Abby Johnson:

Greeted with a collective yawn by the mainstream media but wild enthusiasm by the pro-life movement, Texas Planned Parenthood abortion business director Abby Johnson resigned in October. Johnson’s resignation came about when she saw an ultrasound of an abortion procedure — confirming what pro-life advocates already knew about their power and use. Johnson has since exposed what a lot of pro-life advocates already knew about Planned Parenthood’s abortion business and industry. Planned Parenthood tried to shut her up but eventually lost in court.

10. Planned Parenthood:

As appears to be the case every year the exposing of the Planned Parenthood abortion business again makes the list. This year saw our friends at Live Action exposed a center in Wisconsin lying about abortion and fetal development, another hiding statutory rape, and other pro-lifers a California center injuring a woman. it also used underage girls in clinical trials. Fortunately, the abortion business closed several centers during the year.

Other Notables

Attacking Pregnancy Centers:

It didn’t receive the national attention that it might in future years, but pro-abortion groups are upping their aggressive attacks on pregnancy centers. Their effort culminated in the passage of a new law in Baltimore that makes pregnancy centers post a sign saying they don’t do abortions in an attempt to cut down their number of clients and boost abortion customers. Look for more of these kinds of attacks and state legislatures and cities across the country in 2009 as NARAL and Planned Parenthood are emboldened by this year’s victory.

Pro-Life Democrats:

2009 will be known as the year pro-life Democrats took a big hit in their legitimacy and reputation. Bob Casey feuded with his bishop over abortion, kept up appearances until voting for the pro-abortion health care bill, and continued his spotty voting record. Then, Ben Nelson made Democrats 60 for 60 in the Senate in backing abortion funding. Bart Stupak, if he holds in the House, may find himself as the only national pro-life Democrat with any credibility. With just one Republican in either chamber of Congress backing the bill and a pro-life Democrat switching parties recently, the partisan divide on abortion is growing

40 Days for Life:

The peaceful, prayerful grassroots movement is replacing the more vitriolic and sometimes-illegal abortion protests of the 1980s and 1990s. And the results are even bigger as abortion centers are shutting down, staff converting, and women making pro-life decisions. The twice-annual event is becoming the new face of pro-life direct action for good reason and even getting pro-life friends in other nations to re-establish long-dormant pro-life activity.

The Top 10 Health Scares Of The Decade

With disagreement over baby bottle chemical (bisphenol A), what’s a parent to do?

While the past decade has seen great strides in medical technology, it hasn’t seen solutions to all of our health problems. There were novel viruses that threatened to kill us all. There were toxins in our children’s toys, and we were told to worry about the junk they were eating.

Some of these threats turned out to be almost nonexistent. Others were arguably overblown. Some caused widespread harm. So what new threats have been robbing you of sleep since the annual odometer rolled over from 1999 to 2000?

Here’s a list from ABC News of the top ten new threats of the last ten years.

1) Swine Flu (H1N1)

Since it came to public attention in the United States in April, the largest health scare of 2009 has been swine flu.

While other forms of the virus typically peak in February and largely affect the elderly, this strain of the H1N1 flu virus came out of season and mostly affected younger people.

In June, the World Health Organization declared the virus a pandemic, meaning that it was widespread on multiple continents.

Manufacturers began producing vaccine at the end of the spring, but there were shortages nationwide, even late into the fall.

While the majority of cases of the flu have been mild, thousands of American deaths have been attributed to the virus.

But no matter the severity, many health experts agree there are lessons to be learned.

“We just have to note, and this was a bit scary, that when H1N1 came along in communities… our capacity to take care of [patients] was stretched,” said Dr. William Schaffner, Chair of the Department of Preventive Medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. “We don’t have a lot of reserve in the health care system anymore.”

Here are some of my blogs on the topic:

2) Bisphenol A (BPA)

While much of the alarm over the chemical bisphenol A, or BPA for short, has come lately, scientists have been looking at it for years.

In January of 2000, an article in the Journal of the American Dental Association discussed how BPA — which is used in some dental sealants — was not found at detectible levels in the body more than a few hours after the treatments.

Since then, studies have shown the chemical to cause birth defects in lab animals, and even create some problems in humans in high doses. The chemical, used in household plastics, has also been found in babies, leading to increased scrutiny from regulatory bodies.

But while we know it is present in humans and can create problems at high levels, it remains unclear what the effect of BPA is in humans at lower doses.

“I would say that there’s growing evidence that it is a significant concern, but it’s not clear yet how much of a concern,” said Joel Schwartz, a professor of epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health and director of the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis. “There’s a lot of things that still need to be understood, but there’s certainly enough things to say, ‘Yes, this is something that needs to be on our radar screen.'”

Here are some of my blogs on the topic:

3) Lead Paint On Toys From China

In 2007, a number of products made in China were recalled — but perhaps the recall that drew the most attention was of children’s toys containing lead paint, including some from the popular Thomas the Tank Engine line.

The problem wasn’t so much one of scientific analysis as it was of enforcement.

“We do know that lead is bad for you,” said Schwartz. “Kids and toys are a bad place to put that exposure together. That’s a case where that’s just outrageous.”

The exact effects of the oversight are unknown, but it did shine a spotlight on imported goods.

“It’s doing a little more to make sure this stuff doesn’t keep slipping in,” said Schwartz.

4) Trans-Fats

Concern over trans-fats — found in such crowd-pleasing but doctor-disapproved foods as doughnuts and French fries — came to a head in 2006, when New York City became the first city to ban trans-fats from restaurants.

“The issue became viral, and a lot of it was related to population studies that came out of Harvard University,” said Keith-Thomas Ayoob, director of the nutrition clinic at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. “The problem with them is they tend to raise bad cholesterol and lower good cholesterol.”

In response to doctors’ concerns, most trans-fats have been removed from food products — but in many cases they may have been replaced by saturated fat, which can also be harmful in excess.

Ayoob said trans-fats were “an easy whipping post.”

Trans-fats may have disappeared because they were easy to replace with other ingredients. And ultimately, the virtual disappearance of trans-fats may be a better testament to the power of economics in responding to consumer demand than that of regulation responding to public complaints.

“It’s box office poison now, is what it is. No one really wants to list that on an ingredient list,” said Ayoob. “That’s one where the food industry responded much more quickly than government ever would have. It just didn’t pay to keep it in there.”

Here are a couple of my blogs on the topic:

5) Bird Flu (H5N1)

This year’s swine flu pandemic wasn’t the first time Americans were concerned with a strain of flu named for an animal.

At the beginning of the decade, avian influenza was a concern in Southeast Asia because of the devastation it was causing in chicken populations. But concerns soon arose about its spread to humans and the possibility it would mutate into a form that could spread from person to person.

“These new influenza viruses usually are modified viruses that come from birds, and now, we know, swine,” said Schaffner. “We know that influenza viruses change on an annual basis… The world’s population will be or will virtually be completely susceptible.”

But concerns over avian flu did have one positive effect for the flu vaccine industry, which has been maligned for its reliance on old technologies to create the vaccine each year. Because antigens for flu vaccines are grown in chicken eggs, it was hard to develop a vaccine for a virus that was deadly to birds, and so work had to be done to begin developing a means of creating antigen without using eggs.

Although the new manufacturing processes are not available yet, “It was exactly H5N1 bird flu that stimulated a number of new ways to create new vaccine,” said Schaffner. “What we see now actually came forward as a consequence of all that concern with H5N1.”

6) Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)

SARS was the first novel virus to captivate the world’s attention this decade after it was identified by the World Health Organization in February 2003.

The respiratory infection was first reported in Asia and then spread to North America, South America and Europe before being contained.

Like influenza, the virus could spread through airborne particles, but it was far more deadly when it infected someone. According to the WHO, 8,096 people were infected worldwide. 774 people died. The virus receded by the end of 2003.

“SARS-like infections, I think, epitomize the emerging infectious diseases,” said Schaffner. As for whether the strain could re-emerge, he said, “My crystal ball is pretty cloudy about that… Trying to anticipate whether it would come back or not would be very, very difficult.”

7) Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA)

MRSA is the best-known of a number of bacteria that resist many of the antibiotics used to treat them. The emergence of MRSA and other bacteria has been blamed on a combination of heavy use of antibiotics and a lack of incentives for drug companies, leaving these bacteria, as Schaffner calls it, “a real, very vital threat”

Schaffner said the existence of these bacteria puts responsibility on both food producers and people who would use antibiotics to be more prudent. But he also said the problem could be compounded by the fact that there is currently little financial incentive for drug companies to devise new antibiotics that could fight the threat.

“Clearly, pharma sees the development of new antibiotics to help us treat these drug-resistant infections as high-risk and low-profit,” said Schaffner. “I can think of no new product in any line of industry that, once it’s released, the experts in that area say, ‘Don’t use it,’ and that’s the circumstance when any new antibiotic is created.”

MRSA is not untreatable, but when using the stronger antibiotics for it, “You get yourself into a very restricted corner,” Schaffner said. “You get patients to whom these drugs are incredibly toxic or you may need to keep patients in the hospital rather than send them home.”

Here’s one of my blogs on the topic:

8) Hormone Replacement Therapy

At the start of the decade, millions of women were using hormone replacement therapy to relieve unpleasant symptoms of menopause. It was also used prevent osteoporosis and bone fractures, and heart disease as well.

But as early as 2000, some doctors were recommending against the treatment because of a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggesting that it increased the risk of breast cancer.

That alarm greatly increased in 2002 when researchers cut short the Women’s Health Initiative study of the treatment, citing concerns over heart problems and strokes in women in the study who received HRT.

Some researchers supported the decision to stop the study, leading many women to stop their HRT, but others felt that it discouraged women who should continue the treatments. Meanwhile, studies have come out with contradictory findings, further confusing women who were unsure what to do. Controversy over HRT continued in 2008, when the International Menopause Society released new guidelines saying that HRT was effective for post-menopausal symptoms and should be considered by women and their physicians.

Following the release of the new guidelines, ABC News contributor Dr. Marie Savard wrote a column for this site in which she tried to clear up some of the confusion.

“There is no question that for a woman with severe hot flashes, sleep disturbance and an annoyingly dry vagina, nothing else works as well as estrogen,” Savard wrote. “But the risks of breast cancer, stroke and blood clots from estrogen are hard to ignore… So once again, women are asked to balance the benefits of hormones with the risks and make the best decision for them.”

Here are some of my most popular blogs on the topic:

Here are some of my logs on Bio-identical Hormones:

9) Anthrax

After the collapse of the World Trade Center in 2001, five people died after inhaling anthrax bacteria sent through the mail.

But the public at large had little to fear from a tainted envelope.

“That was obviously not a major health problem but a significant problem for a small number of people who have been getting exposed,” said Schwartz. “I think the primary concern was this might be being used to kill some people.”

Senators Tom Daschle of South Dakota and Patrick Leahy of Vermont, among other public figures, had letters mailed to their offices containing anthrax.

No one was ever convicted of sending the letters, but the Federal Bureau of Investigation reportedly planned to charge government researcher Bruce Ivins in the case before he committed suicide in the summer of 2008.

10) Cell Phones

As cell phones became more popular this past decade, concerns over the radiation they emit – and what effect they might have on human health — have proliferated. Some have worried that their use may be linked to the development of brain tumors.

Thus far, however, most research suggests there is little to worry about.

Animal studies have shown that magnetic fields can affect melatonin levels, so while radiation only shows up in low levels, it’s unclear what effect it has on humans. And a Scandinavian study released last week in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute confirmed what many have been saying about cell phone safety, showing no increase in brain cancer among cell phone users.

“Whether they do something worth worrying about, that’s another question,” said Schwartz. Similar questions are raised about high-voltage power lines, but Schwartz urged calm. “It seems to be an issue where it hasn’t completely resolved, but I would say the evidence is that if something is going on it’s not that big.”

Of course, cell phones present an unquestioned safety hazard to Americans, but not for reasons related to radiation. Studies have shown that their use while driving poses a very real hazard.

“That’s pretty clear – talking on a cell phone and driving is like driving drunk,” said Schwartz. “The radiation effects – that doesn’t look like that’s a major public health issue. That doesn’t look very compelling.”

Here is a blog of mine on the topic:

When it comes to fast food, how can you make better choices for you and your family?

Fast food may be inexpensive and convenient, but it is often high in calories, fat, sugar, and salt. Being highly processed, it may be low in many essential nutrients. And, it’s typically very low in fiber. So, what’s a parent to do when it comes to fast food? Some say avoid it completely. That’s great, if you can do it. If not, definitely try to reduce your visits to fast food restaurants. But, if you go, here are some helpful suggestions.

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A blast from the past – YouTube video shows Dr. Walt’s ‘groundbreaking’ web events of 1999

Speaking of memories (here on Memorial Day), I have fond memories of hosting a live, 5-night-a-week, cable TV show, “Ask the Family Doctor” on America’s Health Network and then Fox’s Health Network from 1995 – 2000. All-in-all, about 854 shows. Perhaps none was more watched than the first live birth on the Internet.

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The pro-life Super Bowl ad NBC refused to show you now seen by nearly 1.5 million (and counting)

Super Bowl ads can be more fun than the game. And what’s more fun than a Super Bowl ad? A banned Super Bowl ad, of course. And what’s more exciting than that? A Super Bowl ad banned for celebrating life. You can see the banned ad here and read more about how the banning may actually lead to more people watching it.

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For Pro-Lifers, an Early Christmas Present from President Bush — regulations to protect the conscience rights of healthcare professionals

President Bush’s days may be numbered, but not his pro-life influence. In a monumental decision that will be felt well into the next administration, the White House-with the cooperation of the Department of Health and Human Services-made good on its promise to protect the faith and conscience of health care workers. Today, the President fulfilled the longstanding request of pro-life healthcare professionals: to issue new rules that reinforce the rights of doctors, pharmacists, technicians, and even receptionists. 

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Researcher to APA: You Can’t Keep Ignoring Studies Showing Abortion Hurts Women

The leading researcher responsible for a new study showing abortion has serious mental health complications for women says the American Psychological Association needs to reverse its own misleading conclusion that abortion doesn’t cause women mental health problems.

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eHarmony: Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places

My friend, Tony Perkins, the President of the Family Research Council, writes, “The surest way to lose the culture war is refusing to fight. Unfortunately, no company illustrates that better than eHarmony, whose shocking concession to the homosexual movement is sending tremors through the faith community.”

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On Conscience, HHS Rules!

The FRC is reporting, “He may technically be a “lame duck,” but President Bush is going out with guns blazing. With just two months left in office, the administration dealt a crippling blow to online gambling and is prepared to do the same to the pro-abortion movement on conscience exemptions.”

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