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Sleep Problems Can Be Harmful

It is common and normal for people to occasionally have difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep at night, but if this occurs on a regular basis and interferes with functioning during the daylight hours, you need a medical evaluation to find the cause. Getting fewer than seven hours of sleep each night is associated with increased risk for heart attacks, depression, weight gain and diabetes. More than 30 percent of North Americans do not meet their needs for sleep.

Supplements Don’t Lower Cholesterol

A study of supplements that claim to lower cholesterol followed 199 patients at the Cleveland Clinic for 28 days. Participants were given either a supplement (fish oil pills, red yeast rice, cinnamon, garlic, turmeric or plant sterols), a statin drug (rosuvastatin, brand name Crestor, 5 mg/day) or a placebo.

The Latest on COVID-19

I am following the latest developments on COVID-19 and our efforts to control the pandemic or to deal with it as an endemic disease. I will update this page regularly, so if you are interested, check back often.

Best Times to Brush Your Teeth

Dentists do not agree on whether it is better to brush before or after breakfast. I think you should brush after breakfast, but you should try to wait and brush at least 30 minutes after eating. If that doesn't fit into your schedule, do whatever works best for you. Any brushing is better than no brushing.

Early Warning Signs of Dementia

University of Cambridge researchers analyzed genetic, lifestyle and health data on more than 500,000 adults, 40-69 years old, and found that those people who were later diagnosed with dementia had tested poorly up to nine years before on measures of problem solving, memorizing, reaction times and grip strength. The study authors believe that this information could lead to earlier diagnosis to start preventive treatments that target known risk factors for dementia.

Get Your Flu Shot Now

This winter is expected to be a severe flu season. Flu virus is headed here from the southern hemisphere, and Australia already has a very severe flu season. Only 49 percent of North Americans plan to get a flu shot during the 2022-2023 flu season, according to a survey by the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID).

Predicting Longevity

To find out if they could predict how long an older person will continue to live, Duke University researchers used 1507 blood samples and lifestyle data from participants in the D-EPESE study that was conducted in New Haven, CT, in 1992. Participants were at least 71 years old when the study started, and the Duke researchers counted their years to death over the following 27 years

Over-The-Counter Hearing Aids

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that by mid-October 2022, adults with mild to moderate hearing impairment will be able to buy hearing aids directly from stores, pharmacies and other retailers without a prescription or health care appointment. That's good news for the 30 million U.S. adults who could benefit from hearing aids but think they are too expensive or too much trouble.

Combination Pill to Prevent Heart Attacks?

A respected group of researchers found that after a patient had a heart attack, taking one pill containing three heart drugs was more effective than taking similar prescribed drugs in separate pills during three years of follow-up (New Engl J of Med, August 26, 2022). The combined pill was more effective in preventing death from heart disease, another heart attack, strokes, or urgent surgery to replace heart blood vessels.

New COVID-19 Vaccine Appears to Be More Protective

More than 450 people are still dying every day from COVID-19. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Communicable Disease Center (CDC) have authorized the new bivalent COVID-19 vaccines as a single booster dose at least two months after primary or booster vaccination, for anyone over 12 years of age).

Healthful Lifestyle Linked to Lower Death Rate in Parkinson’s Disease

In the largest prospective study yet on the subject, researchers followed 1251 participants in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study and the Nurses' Health Study who developed Parkinson's Disease. (JAMA Netw Open, Aug 19, 2022;5(8):e2227738). The average age at diagnosis was 73.4 years. During the 32-34 years of follow up, 942 patients died. They found that compared with those who had the worst before-and-after lifestyles, those with the healthiest eating and exercise regimens prior to diagnosis reduced their all-cause death rates by 49 percent.

Suspected Carcinogens in Some Sunscreens

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) released its 2022 annual Guide to Sunscreens, which found that 75 percent of more than 1,850 sunscreen products evaluated either offered poor skin protection from the sun, or contain ingredients that may harm your health or increase your skin’s sensitivity to the sun’s harmful rays, Only 25 percent of the products met EWG's standards for adequate protection and did not contain harmful ingredients such as oxybenzone that is an endocrine disrupter.

Monkeypox Declared a Public Health Emergency

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has declared monkeypox to be a public health emergency, and the U.S. has recorded more than 7000 infections, more than any other country in the world. The only two states that have not yet reported monkeypox infections are Montana and Wyoming.

Gut Bacteria Associated with Colon Cancer

A study from Harvard Medical School found that a typical Western diet increases growth of specific bacteria in the gut called “polyketide synthase (pks+) E. Coli” that produce a chemical called colibactin, which causes DNA mutations that can turn normal colon cells into cancer cells.

Long COVID Syndrome

The U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that 13.3 percent of patients who develop COVID-19 will suffer from Long COVID syndrome, which can last for two months or more and cannot be explained by a different diagnosis. More than 30 percent of hospitalized patients still have symptoms at six months.

The Latest on Monkeypox

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that monkypox is spreading faster than early reports stated. The increased spread is due to the virus's 50 DNA mutations from 2018 to 2022, or up to 12 times the expected number of mutations. This could lead to 100,000 cases worldwide by August, 2022 and 500,000 to one million cases by the end of September.

Colorectal Cancer Remission with Immune Checkpoint Inhibitor Drugs

Fourteen patients with “mismatched-repair” colorectal cancers were given a drug called dostarlimab every three weeks for six months, and follow-up after two years found that none of the patients had any remaining evidence of cancer. This is an incredible result because all patients had complete remission and none suffered serious reactions to the drug.

Lifestyle Changes to Lower Blood Pressure

A study of 14,392 individuals with high blood pressure, followed for 5-10 years, found that those who adopted a healthful lifestyle along with taking medication had a much lower risk for suffering heart attacks and lived significantly longer than those who treated their high blood pressure just with drugs.

What Caused Beethoven’s Deafness?

Ludwig van Beethoven was a composer and concert pianist whose symphonies and other compositions are still among our most-beloved and often-performed classical music. Beethoven started to lose his hearing at age 31 and spent his last years feeling very sick, but he continued to compose incredible music until his horrible death at age 56 of liver failure, kidney failure and pneumonia.

Healthful Habits Reduce Risk for Dementia

The American Heart Association promotes a list called "Simple 7" as a reminder of the lifestyle habits that can help to prevent dementia and heart attacks. This "Simple 7" list has been used in a 30-year study of 11,561 people (average age 54), with 2234 who developed dementia during the study period.

Colon Cancer Associated with Sugared Drinks and Foods

The largest prospective study yet of 121,111 adult health professionals in the Nurses’ Health and Health Professionals Follow-Up Studies found 2733 cases of colon-rectal cancer, with 901 deaths. Sugar-sweetened beverages were associated with significantly increased risk for suffering and dying from colon cancer.

What You Should Know About Monkeypox

So far, the monkeypox virus does not appear to be likely to cause an epidemic or to be any more dangerous than chicken pox. There is evidence that it can be spread from humans-to-humans, rather than from most cases previously of animal-to-human transmission, so there is concern that this recent monkeypox virus has changed to become more transmissible.

Should Men Take Testosterone?

Many men take testosterone because they think it will help them to function better sexually, increase muscle strength, raise bone density, and improve mood, behavior, and mental function. As of May 2022, the only FDA-approved indication for men to take testosterone is having low testosterone levels. Testosterone has not been approved for age-related drops in testosterone, and there is significant concern that testosterone use is associated with increased plaques in the arteries leading to the heart.

Cancer Patients Are At Increased Risk for Heart Attacks

A study of 4,519,243 Canadian adults followed for 12 years found 224,016 cases of new cancers, and the people with newly diagnosed cancers were at increased risk for heart attacks, strokes, heart failure, lung clots, or death from heart disease. Patients with new cancers of the kidney, urinary tract, stomach, intestines, chest, nervous system or blood were at the highest risk for heart disease.

Exercise to Treat Arthritis

If you have joint pain, you should still keep moving. There is increasing evidence that exercise can help to treat and prevent osteoarthritis of the hips and knees. Low-intensity sessions of walking or cycling offered pain relief after just 2-12 weeks (BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders, Feb 3, 2022;23(113)), and after joint replacement surgery (Sport Sci Rev, 2021;49(2):77-87).

Daily Aspirin is Beneficial Primarily for People at High Risk for a Heart Attack

The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has advised against people aged 60 and older taking aspirin for primary heart attack prevention because of their increased risk for bleeding into the brain or gastrointestinal tract.

Lifestyle Changes to Prevent and Treat Diabetes

A healthful plant-based diet can help to cure Type II diabetes if you already have it, or help to protect you from developing diabetes in the first place. People who eat the healthful plant-based foods -- vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, nuts and other seeds --are far better protected than those who eat the "unhealthful" plant-derived foods, such as refined grains, fried potatoes and sugar-added foods

Strength Training to Help Prevent and Treat Osteoporosis

All men and women will develop osteoporosis if they live long enough and the best way to prevent this increased risk for breaking bones may well be a resistance exercise program. A study from Romania found that a resistance training program markedly increased the bone density of osteoporotic women, average age 56 years, in just six months.

A Low-Fiber Diet to Treat Constipation?

The standard treatment for chronic constipation is to eat a high fiber, plant-based diet. However, other studies have shown that taking in large amounts of fiber can actually cause constipation in some people. In one study, constipated people on a high-fiber diet solved most of their constipation problems by going on a very low fiber diet..

Sleeping with Lights on and Not Getting Enough Sleep Both Increase Risk for Diabetes

Sleeping with the lights on or a television set on for just one night raises blood sugar, heart rate and insulin resistance, all risk factors for diabetes. Five to ten percent of the light can actually get through a closed eyelid. An elevated nightly blood sugar, called the "dawn phenomenon," increases risk for heart disease and diabetes