Subscribe to Dr. Mirkin's free FITNESS & HEALTH NEWSLETTER      
Home Health Other Diseases & Conditions

Other Diseases & Conditions

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.

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).

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.

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.

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.

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.

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..

Plastic Water Bottles May Be Harmful

A study from Copenhagen found more than 400 different substances from bottle plastic, and more than 3,500 substances derived from dishwasher soap in reusable plastic bottles stored for 24 hours after being washed in a dishwasher. The water stored in plastic bottles contained endocrine disruptors, carcinogens, insecticides, plastic softeners, antioxidants and release agents used in the manufacture of the plastic, as well as Diethyltoluamide (DEET), found in mosquito sprays.

Does Marijuana or Hemp Affect Brain Health?

The American Heart Association (AHA) reported that cannabinoid chemicals in marijuana and hemp may have harmful effects on the brain, and presented a review of the scientific literature at the AHA’s 2022 International Stroke Conference in New Orleans.

Should You Take Melatonin to Help You Fall Asleep?

This year, about six million North Americans will take over-the-counter sleeping pills called melatonin. The percentage of people taking melatonin regularly has increased five-fold, from 0.4 percent in 1999 to 2.1 percent in 2017, even though the evidence that it helps people fall asleep is controversial.

Low Vitamin D Increases Risks for Heart Attacks and Severe COVID-19

Recent studies show that having low levels of vitamin D is associated with increased risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, and severe consequences of COVID-19. Researchers in Australia collected data prospectively from 295,788 participants, and found that having low blood levels of vitamin D is associated with increased risk for high blood pressure and heart disease. (Normal blood levels of hydroxy-vitamin D are considered to be above 30 ng/mL).

Forgetfulness is Not Necessarily a Warning Sign of Dementia

One in nine North Americans over age 65 will develop dementia, a progressive brain disorder that interferes with normal daily living and is marked by memory loss, personality changes and impaired reasoning). Aging is the major risk factor for dementia, but forgetfulness among seniors does not necessarily mean the person is headed for dementia.

Are Electric Blankets Safe?

There is no good data to show that electro-magnetic fields (EMFs) produced by electric blankets, cell phones and other devices cause cancer. Electric blankets do emit radiation from the movement of electric current through wires. Extensive studies in animals have repeatedly failed to show that low-frequency radiation EMFs cause cancer.

Overdiagnosis of Chronic Kidney Disease

Older people may be diagnosed with chronic kidney disease because of their results on a routine blood test called eGFR (Estimated Glomular Filtration Rate) that is used to screen for kidney damage. This test is important because patients with kidney disease often have no symptoms until just before the kidneys fail. However, it is normal for people to lose some kidney function with aging.

The Latest on COVID-19: Archive

This post contains older entries in my summaries of research on COVID-19 vaccinations and other aspects of the epidemic since it began in late 2019. Newer entries can be found in the main post titled The Latest on COVID-19.

Does Ivermectin Treat COVID-19?

A review of 41 studies found no good evidence that ivermectin prevents or treats COVID-19 infections. No study compared ivermectin to an intervention with proven efficacy. Additionally, 31 studies are ongoing and 18 studies are awaiting classification until publication of results or clarification of inconsistencies.

High Sugar Intake Associated with Increased Risk for Alzheimer’s Disease

Researchers at Rush University followed 837 patients with 19 different tests for memory and other brain functions. They found that higher consumption of foods and drinks with added sugars was associated with greater loss of ability to recognize objects and remember facts, and with greater risk for developing dementia.