Saturday, 26 May 2007

TV causes elevated glucose in children

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The report says, diabetic children who spend a great deal of time watching television had a tougher time controlling their blood sugar. I saw the headline and immediately envisioned that scene in The Poltergeist -- the infamous horror movie from the 80s.

The study looked at 538 children with an average age of 13 who were affected by Type-1 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is caused when the body cannot make insulin, which converts sugar from food into energy. The study's authors say encouraging children with Type-1 diabetes to watch less television may play an crucial role for improving blood sugar control and better health overall. Chicago diabetes educator Monica Joyce founded a basketball camp for diabetic children and wasn't surprised by the results. Joyce said campers typically are asked how much TV they watch and are taught "they can get much better blood sugars if they're active." Physical activity can lower blood sugar levels and snacking and overeating can increase them. While TV-viewing is often accompanied by snacking, the researchers didn't examine diet or physical activity

With her little hands pressed to the TV set, Carol Anne must have been onto this research 20 years ago when she spoke the immortal words, "They're here!" They could've been supernatural powers or perhaps all that time in front of the TV welcomed supernormal blood sugars.

Flavanoids may not protect heart after all

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Though research studies have linked the intake of plant antioxidants called flavanoids and heart health, a large study of American women recently found that the nutrient may not protect the heart after all. The Nurse's Health Study, which has followed 120,000 since 1976 found that there was no connection between eating flavanoids and a reduction in cardiovascular disease. The one exception was an antioxidant called kaempferol, which is found in broccoli and tea. Women who took in more kaempferol did show a reduction in cardiovascular disease risk.

Does that mean we can all finally let go of that pesky 5-a-day habit? Absolutely not, say health experts. A diet rich in plant antioxidants is important to good overall health. It's just unfortunate that the heart doesn't seem to be benefiting from flavanoids as much as previously believed.

Worthy Wisdom: Fat in hiding

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I wrote recently about the hidden amounts of sugar found in the foods we love so dearly. I learned all about this topic during my visit to Tucson's Canyon Ranch -- a world renowned health and healing destination -- and this sweet lesson came right as I'd decided to rid my diet of as much sugar as possible. Learning that one can of soda houses 12 teaspoons of sugar and a typical container of fruit yogurt has eight sealed the refined sugar deal for me. No more, I say. It's just not worth it.

Now here comes the lowdown on fat. Some say the fat we eat is the fat we wear. Perhaps. But one thing is for sure -- fat kills. That's Fit blogger Rigel Gregg wrote a May 24 post all about it, documenting five ways wearing fat can kill us -- it strains our heart and raises our insulin, leading to increased risk of heart disease and diabetes, for example. Now I'm here to clue you in on the fat hiding in more of our favorite foods.

Here goes.

Let's start with chocolate chip cookies. No doubt they contain a lot of sugar. But how about fat? Well, 54 percent of the total calories come from fat. Ouch. Potato chips: 60 percent. One beef hot dog: 82 percent. Mayonnaise: 74 percent. A cheeseburger: 55 percent. Cheddar cheese: 74 percent. A chocolate bar: 99 percent.

OK, I've got some new motivation now that I've put these numbers in writing. I'm officially on the hunt for low-fat foods. You should be too.

Thanks Canyon Ranch for the worthy wisdom.

Kelly Jo Dowd, mom of teen golf pro, dies of cancer

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Kelly Jo Dowd, mom of 14-year-old golf sensation Dakoda Dowda, died of breast cancer in her Palm Harbor, Fla. home Thursday night. She was 42.

Dowd spent years battling the disease that had spread to her bones, liver, and brain. She also spent years waiting to see her young daughter play in an LPGA event. Her wish came true last spring.

"I'm prouder today than I was yesterday that my daughter has the courage and strength to play with these LPGA professionals," Dowd said after the Ginn Clubs & Resorts LPGA tournament. "And I feel great right now. I feel great. My dream came true out here."

Dowd, former Hooters Calendar Cover Girl and the only woman to climb the restaurant's corporate ladder from waitress to general manager, chose to go public with her cancer story to convince women everywhere to be vigilant about self-exams and screening. Dowd had ignored a lump in her breast for several months before her eventual diagnosis.

"I did something pretty stupid," she said in a 2006. "And the only way that I can let myself feel better about it is if I know that people can learn from our situation."

The Dowd family, involved with groups like, which grants wishes to people who have been diagnosed with terminal breast cancer, will honor their brave hero at a memorial service on Tuesday at Sylvan Abbey Funeral Home in Clearwater, Fla.

Previous Cancer Blog posts about Kelly Jo Dowd are as follows:

Hooters: $1 million in honor of calendar girl Kelly Jo Dowd
Young teen plays in LPGA for dying mom

Dakoda Dowd phenom golfer walks away due to cancer

Friday, 25 May 2007

I love you, you're perfect, now change

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For more the more than 300,000 users that once relied on animal-derived insulin, the final chapter of animal insulin is finally ending for the US market. In December 2007, Novo Nordisk has officially decided to discontinue making animal-insulin. Their explanation doesn't go into great detail why they chose to discontinue it. But the supporting evidence they use to warrant the decision is a little weak.

Novo says, animal insulin is derived from the pancreas of slaughtered animals. This statement is as true as the statement "human insulin is derived from the pancreas of slaughtered humans". Novo continues, since that time there has been significant improvement of insulin quality and formulation. Absolutely true! In fact, a Novo pork product was shown to be greater than 99% pure, while an Eli Lilly human insulin only exceeded the 97 percentile. As a consequence, demand for these old animal insulins has declined by as much 20% in the last year to a point where approximately 2% of all insulin users are currently using these products. Largely due to the fact doctor's were advising their patients they must prepare to switch to GM insulin because animal-derived insulin would be nearly impossible to obtain. True. The research that introduced GM insulin (back in the 80s) was preemptive, at best. The claims supporting it was better than the existing insulin choices was clearly debatable .A telling similarity to the discovery about Avandia.

The long-term results of GM insulin and its analogs would prove to be a nightmare if the right questions were asked, and the data properly collected. Is it fair for any of the companies to ask us to change from an insulin product we have grown to love? No, but much like the off-Broadway play suggests: We love you (as a customer). Your diabetes is perfect (for our bottom line). Now change your insulin (we don't feel like making that kind anymore). Too bad type 1 diabetics forced to change to GM insulin didn't have the outspoken advocates like those taking Avandia.

Pycnogenol may help prevent heart damage

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Pycnogenol, a natural extract from the French maritime pine tree, may help slow the damage done to the heart by high blood pressure, in addition to other benefits such as lowered blood pressure, lowered cholesterol, and prevention of thrombosis.

The American Heart Association says nearly 5 million Americans are currently living with heart failure, with over half a million new cases diagnosed every year. Alternative treatments such as pycnogenol could provide another choice for patients and doctors to look into when prescription medications may not be indicated or have adverse side-effects. This test was only on mice, though, so does that mean they're already endorsing it for human use? Talk to your doctor, of course!

How unfair: Feeling wronged and heart attacks are linked

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Do you feel that you are unfairly treated in some aspect of your life? Maybe your mother is unusually hard on you, or you don't get paid as much as you should. Maybe you just weren't dealt the best hand in life. But if this sounds like you, I have another blow for you ... you might be more susceptible to a heart attack, according to this study. It has to do with stress, and there's no denying that someone who feels wronged is more on edge than someone who is carefree and happy-go-lucky.

I minored in Psychology in college, and there one of the undercurrents of many of my classes was the role that perception of fairness played in so many aspects of ones life, from confidence to mood to satisfaction. So I'm not surprised it can play a role in your health too. It's a good reason to appreciate the good in your life, as hard as it may seem sometimes.

Website offers healthy restaurants and eating tips

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It is one thing to prepare heart healthy foods at home, but eating out and trying to maintain a heart healthy diet can be a challenge. Many restaurants do not offer a wide variety of palatable foods for diners wishing to eat in moderation. With this thought in mind, I recently did some research to determine if I could eat healthily in most states or cities around the nation. I hit upon a few websites that offer suggestions for local eating establishments and a few that offer tips for how to eat out.

The site that hosts various restaurants varied from city to city. The Denver area lists three restaurants offering heart healthy menus, while the Branson, Missouri area offers just one, Blimpie Subs and Salads. I was somewhat disappointed with the restaurant suggestions since many of the cities are so large and the restaurant listings so few. It appears that it is actually easier to use the websites offering healthy eating tips.

How do you eat out? Are you careful about where and what you eat when at a restaurant? Or do you indulge and simply enjoy what the menu has to offer?

High blood pressure is now a global issue

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Global warming is not the only adverse effect to hit worldwide these days. High blood pressure is also on the rise around our blue ball. Millions of people from the United States to Africa are dying from heart disease. High blood pressure does not just lead to heart disease; now strokes, kidney failure and dementia are being attributed to the global problem.

One of the concerns surrounding high blood pressure is that it does not command the sort of media attention that cancer or AIDS might. High blood pressure is a fairly old-school problem and does not carry the sort of glamour that the recent bird flu outbreaks can garner. Another concern is that many people are just not willing to discuss the issue. Some cultures even take it as an insult to have high blood pressure.

High blood pressure is a relatively easy and inexpensive condition to treat. With a significant amount of media coverage and some simple educational campaigns, many people could benefit from this silent but deadly disease. The next time you are in the grocery store, stop by a self-checking blood pressure machine. Get a read. If it is at all high, go see your doctor and take the first step toward diminishing this global problem.

You have high cholesterol. What now?

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It's not a death sentence but it's still pretty scary to hear the words, "you have high cholesterol." After all, high cholesterol is linked to a whole slew of problems, including cardiovascular disease. But unlike being diagnosed with cancer or some other dreaded health problem, this is something you can change. You're lucky, in fact, to have this wake-up call that some people don't get. All you have to do to change your fate is, well, change your life.

It sounds overwhelming but it's not. Incorporating fruits, veggies, whole grains, healthy fats and moderate amounts of exercise seems daunting but it's easy. All it takes is for you to invest a bit of time in yourself and your health. Nothing is more precious than your health.

To find out more about your cholesterol in simplified terms, and to learn what to do to go from high cholesterol to normal cholesterol, check out this informative article from eDiets. And if you've been there, done that, what advice do you have from people who are just learning about their cholesterol now?

Sleep apnea + pregnancy = heart risks

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Sleep apnea is a big problem all by itself, but when you start complicating things by combining it with a pregnancy the health risks only compound. In a recent study that looked at 4 million women sleep apnea was tied to an increased risk for both gestational diabetes and pregnancy-induced high blood pressure.

This is one of those situations where prevention really is the best medicine. Maintaining a healthy weight (obesity is one of the greatest risk factors) and actively managing sleep apnea if you have it is key.

Wi-fi and Cancer: a connection, or lack of?

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Remember all the hype about cell phones causing cancer? Now it's wireless Internet that's in the hot seat, after it was discovered that Wi-fi gives off high levels of radiation than your average cell phone tower. Which is a bit frightening, granted, but cell phone towers don't raise much alarm anymore because the amount if radiation they give off is relatively small, and apparently the same goes for Wi-fi. In addition, there's no evidence to prove that it affects health, so it's not really an issue at the moment, at least according to the experts.

Still, I think telling us that there's no evidence it will harm us is not all that reassuring. There was a time when it was thought that asbestos and cigarettes weren't that harmful either but we now know that's not the case at all. But as usual, convenience wins out and I'll probably keep using my laptop as much as I did my cell phone when it was the supposed cancer-causing device.

Do you think Wi-fi is harmless, or should we all be a bit more careful about trusting the experts?

Hormone treatment fights breast cancer

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Although many women are opting for natural remedies to fight the effects of menopause over hormone replacement therapy (HRT), how about hormone therapy specifically used to fight breast cancer?

The hormonal drugs, which are referred to as "luteinising-hormone-releasing hormones (LHRH)," have appeared to some medical professionals to be effective by themselves or combined with other treatments in challenging breast cancer development.

Dr. Michael Thun stated that "this is an important finding for the subgroup of women who develop estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer before menopause," although he was not involved in the study. Anything that shows promise in fighting breast cancer without high levels of side effects is cause for further investigation. How will you be proceeding?

Cancer Quiz: How much do you know?

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  1. Today more than half the people diagnosed with cancer are cured? True or False
  2. There are no warning signs for cancer, illness tends to come on suddenly? True or False
  3. Most cancers are hereditary? True or False
  4. Standard treatments for cancer include surgery, radiation and chemotherapy? True or False
  5. People going through cancer treatment have fewer side effects when they eat a well balanced diet? True or False

Find out if you answered correctly!

  1. True -- In this century, scientists have come to understand what cancer is and how it grows. Thanks to advances in diagnosis, prevention, and treatment, people who face a cancer diagnosis have great reason to hope. Some forms of the disease remain difficult to treat, but there are treatments available to improve quality of life in those cases.
  2. False -- There are some symptoms that may indicate cancer, including change in a wart or mole; a sore that doesn't heal; persistent cough or hoarseness; change in bowel or bladder habits; chronic indigestion or difficulty swallowing; unusual bleeding or discharge; unexplained loss of weight or appetite; persistent fatigue, low-grade fever, nausea, vomiting, headache, or bone pain; thickening or lumps in the tissue; and repeat infections.

  3. False -- For many cancers, there is no known cause. But some of the most common cancers are linked to environmental factors like smoking, sun exposure, and diet. These environmental factors combined with your age, heredity, and overall health seem to contribute to your cancer risk.

  4. True -- Surgery and radiation are used to remove or destroy cancerous cells from localized areas, such as in the case of a cancerous breast lump. Chemotherapy is used to destroy cancer cells that may have spread, or metastasized, throughout the body. Hormone therapy may be used to slow the growth of certain types of cancer.

  5. True -- People with good nutrition seem to respond better to cancer treatment and ward off weight loss and malnutrition, common problems for cancer patients. In particular, patients who follow a vegetarian diet report feeling better. However, no particular diet has been shown to slow or cure cancer.

Cancer research competition could fuel better research

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If all else fails, why not hold a competition with a million dollar prize for the best cancer cure idea? This is exactly what a group of Harvard researchers and hedge fund managers are doing. Due to a recent lack of adequate federal funding, the Gotham Prize for Cancer Research has been formed to bring out the most creative ideas to help further cancer research.

While more traditional folks might balk at an idea that focuses on creativity rather than concrete proof, the founders of the organization are expecting good things to come of the contest. The competitors will be invited to write an essay outlining their idea. Over the course of a year the entries will be evaluated and judged on their feasibility. This sounds like a most interesting approach.

Career by cancer

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I'm not sure where I was headed professionally before cancer. I knew I was happy as a stay-at-home mom, and I didn't give much thought to what might come next. I was pretty certain I would not do what I did before kids -- college administration and counseling -- and that's as far as I'd gotten in my decision-making process.

It seems cancer would have further confused my future intentions. But it didn't. Instead, it led me in a direction I may have otherwise never discovered. First, it guided me to a part-time position at my kids' preschool. Just after surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation and in the midst of Herceptin breast cancer treatment, I felt a strong urge to reenter the world of the living. One day as I was dropping off my oldest child at his Pre-K class, I noticed an advertisement on the doors of the school. I inquired within -- and got a job working two afternoons per week.

The job was a blessing. I got to see my kids while I worked, interact with loving adults and children, and distract myself from the darkness of cancer.

For two years, I worked at this preschool. And yesterday was my last day. Preschool work was never my lifelong pursuit. It was a means to renewal. It served its purpose. And I will forever be grateful for Abiding Savior Lutheran School.

From now on, I will devote my time to writing. I've been doing it ever since the day I was diagnosed, and I plan to continue writing -- for myself, for others, for pay. This is no short-term gig. It's my long-term ambition. I plan to stick with it, now while my kids are still young and later, when they no longer need my constant attention. It's my new career, a career created by the one thing that could have thrown me right off my already-uncertain course: cancer.

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Survivor Spotlight: Renee, living life to the fullest

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A little crazy, a lot loud, always happy. That describes Renee. You will recognize her easily. She is the beautiful blond with the tattoos and piercings whose infectious laughter you can hear miles away. Diagnosed in 2000 at age 23 with Thyroid Cancer, she is a survivor of five recurrences and single mom of a six year old daughter. She teaches everybody that knows her about her motto: "Just keep swimming!"

Knowing Renee has taught me that we can all face life's challenges if we face it with humor and honesty.

How did you find out you had cancer?

During my second prenatal visit while pregnant with my daughter, my doctor found a lump in my neck. She sent me for an ultrasound and on February 4, 2000, I was told that I had cancer. It was papillary cancer of the thyroid. I know that now, but at the time I just heard -- Cancer.

What types of cancer treatments were recommended?

My doctor and I had a long discussion about this, as I was pregnant and was adamant that I would not terminate the pregnancy. We had to wait until I was at least 20 weeks pregnant before I could have the surgery. I had a total thyroidectomy and bilateral neck dissection. I had to look that up in my chart when you asked me. I could not remember everything. That whole time is really blurry. I was pregnant, I had cancer, I moved from one city to another - it was crazy!

How did you research cancer and cancer treatments?

I ask a lot of questions and I am the type of person that has to know everything! My doctor did not have all the answers, but she was awesome. She phoned the hospital and had them fax me everything they had on Thyroid Cancer. My boyfriend and I researched a lot on the internet as well.

How did you tell your family?

I drove home. It's funny, because I phoned them to tell them I was pregnant, but I could not tell them this over the phone. I drove the four hours and just sat them down and told them. My family is amazing. They are my support system. We are very close and share everything. We all got the same tattoo with my third recurrence - we share a special bond.

What advice would you give to someone newly diagnosed with cancer?

Don't be afraid to ask questions. Never, ever think that a question is dumb or not important. If you can think of a question, it is worth asking. Make sure you have a good support system. Tell people what you need. My family knows that sometimes I just need to be a total disaster and they should just let me be.

What advice would you give the family members and friends of someone diagnosed with cancer?

Be honest. Some people told me that they could handle me being sick, but as soon as they saw me in the hospital with drainage tubes out of my neck, they freaked. I would rather know from the beginning that someone can not handle it rather than relying on them and then being disappointed. Don't be afraid to laugh at the situation. Sometimes things happen that is funny and it's okay to laugh. When I went in for my surgery, my sister and I laughed all the way through pre-op.

As a cancer survivor, what thoughts do you have on surviving cancer and being a cancer survivor?

I am a different person now. I used to be really stuck up, but after my cancer diagnosis I realized I would rather be remembered as the crazy girl than the girl who did not talk to anyone. I don't care what people think of me anymore -- what you see is what you get. We always have to remember what Dory (from Finding Nemo) taught us: "Just keep swimming!"
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Stem cells may look, but not act, like cancer

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I love it when I find research coming straight from the halls of the very hospital where I received my breast cancer treatment. It reminds me that I'm in good hands, that University of Florida researchers are on the cusp of breaking through the mysteries of cancer, that I may one day be the lucky recipient of cutting-edge discoveries, like this:

University of Florida researchers report in a paper to be published in the August issue of Stem Cells that bone marrow stem cells attracted to the site of cancerous growths often take on the appearance of the malignant cells surrounding them. While these cells look like cancer, though, they may not act like cancer. They have the same skin, says lead study author Dr. Chris Cogle. But the question is: do they have the same guts?

"Our results indicate these cells act as developmental mimics; they come in and look like the surrounding neoplastic tissue, but they aren't actually the seed of cancer," said Cogle who is affiliated with the cancer center I've called home for more than two years.

"At the worst, these cells could help support cancerous tissue by providing it with growth factors or proteins that help the cancer grow and survive. At the very least, these marrow cells are just being tricked into coming into the cancerous environment and then made to walk and talk like they don't usually do."

This phenomenon has been termed developmental mimicry and it could have implications for the integrity of the cell lines scientists use to test new cancer drugs.

Up to five percent of cancerous tissue contains marrow-derived cells that look just like surrounding cancer. So when malignant tissue is grown in experiments that test the effects of new drugs, it's possible the results are inaccurate. As a result, drugs may be targeting the marrow cell mimics, not actual cancer cells.

Researchers are collaborating with scientists at other institutions as they strive to further understand this issue.

Genetic marker is linked to prostate cancer

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Being susceptible to a particularly aggressive form of prostate cancer could be in your genes, according to this. Scientists have identified a genetic marker called 8q24 that ups your chances of getting prostate cancer or having a family member that will by a significant amount. The presence of the marker can be determined by a blood test, and those with it will have to ensure they're more careful about getting screened for cancer. Furthermore, African American men are more likely to be carriers than those of European ancestry.

I've had several family members who've been diagnosed with prostate cancer, and it's scary stuff, boys! Get yourself checked out for the sake of yourself and your loved ones.

Chromium in water causes cancer, says agency

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Are you a fan of ordinary, household tap water? I'm really not (no matter how much the local water authorities try to convince me) just based on the sources my local water comes from -- which are not the cleanest by any means.

Well, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recently stated that a type of chromium can cause cancer in lab animals when they drink it in water. Surprised? I'm not, oddly. Hexavalent chromium has already showed to be cancerous to the lungs when inhaled -- and now, findings are that it is just as dangerous when consumed in water. Who here does not drink water? No hands went up -- I thought so.

Avoiding the possibility of this in your drinking water means finding a natural (and generally expensive) water source from which to consume. In other words, bottled and shipped to you in many cases.

Hodgkins survivors are successful at having children

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Norwegian researchers report that about 68 percent of patients who wish to have children manage to do so after successful treatment of Hodgkin's lymphoma.

The researchers studied both men and women survivors. They found that the type of treatment was significantly associated with successful parenthood. The highest probability was in patients treated with radiation only or with less damaging types of chemotherapy.

Dr. Kiserud told Reuters Health, "Information on fertility issues is important in clinical oncological practice, and fertility saving tasks should be discussed with patients at risk of post-treatment infertility. Females should be informed that both the treatment and their age at treatment influence their fertility potential."

Cutting Remarks: A surgeon's blog

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Sidney M. Schwab, M.D., the author of Surgeonsblog, is a mostly retired general surgeon. With his blog, his intention is to inform, entertain, and possibly educate the reader about the life and loves of a surgeon.

He also has written a book, Cutting Remarks; Insights and Recollections of a Surgeon. It's about his surgical training in San Francisco in the 1970s, aimed at the lay reader with the goal of entertaining with good stories, informing with understandable details of surgical anatomy, procedures, and diseases.

Here is a little taste of what you can find on the Surgeonsblog --good stuff!

If there's such a thing as mild OCD, I think I have it. For a surgeon, I'd say that's generally a good thing. In my practice, I was pretty obsessive over making sure everything was as it should be: the right instruments available, all lab and paperwork hand-carried to the OR the night before surgery. I liked the look of putting sutures in perfectly spaced, each bight the same size as the last. I took certain stairs, walked the hospital halls in ways that required the least amount of retracing steps, achieving maximumfficiency. Back stairs to the top floor, down a particular hall where the first patients were, then to the nurses' station, then another hall, down the front stairs to the next floor. Like that. The down side is that I often over-reacted if things weren't just so: if during the thousandth time I was doing a particular case, the suture (for example) that I always used wasn't readily available, it could drive me nuts. Less in terms of going ballistic (oh, there were times) than getting stressed out.
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Thursday, 24 May 2007

A theory to furrow your brow over

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The J.F.K. assassination. The whereabouts of Jimmy Hoffa. Causes of major disease. What do all three have in common? Questionable theories to explain each of them. Leaving my own questionable theories out on the first two, I came across a theory on the third one -- related to a person's risk for developing diabetes.

While your eyes may be the window to your soul, your eyebrows apparently are the window to your health. That's because German scientists recently concluded that eyebrow color may tell of a person's risk of diabetes. After examining the blood glucose levels of 100 men with gray hair, they found that those of them who had dark eyebrows, 76 percent had diabetes. This was compared against the mere 18 percent of men with gray eyebrows who had diabetes.

Doctors wonder if diabetes may delay the graying in the eyebrow follicles. They suggested that if your hair is turning gray but your eyebrows are still showing their more youthful colors, you may want to have your blood sugar tested.

Anyway, it's a theory. Then again, so is the idea that a single bullet can strike someone in the back of the head know what, never mind.

Prescription for Love

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Have you heard about this online dating site specifically created for people with a health condition? Ricky Durham was inspired to create a site for his brother to meet people who battled with an illness that few people in the dating scene understood. Once Ricky saw how helpful it was for his brother - he opened it up for other people dealing with chronic conditions that would otherwise get in the way of breaking the ice.

These days, many people are seeking others online and consequently, specialized alternative dating services have emerged. Dating with a specific health condition can be awkward, especially when it comes time to divulge your situation, so an online service such as Prescription 4 Love could be just the outlet for you. Finding others with similar circumstances is a natural desire for everyone. Honesty is important, but finding an opportune situation to broach the subject can be difficult. By using Prescription 4 Love, you can be honest in advance and progress to the next stages of friendships and relationships.

Although the site was pioneered to meet the needs of Ricky's brother - he has since expanded the site to include many more conditions, including but not limited to: cancer, diabetes, obesity, IBS, allergies - and of course the more discreet conditions like HPV, herpes, and little people. No, really - I'm not politically incorrect. I'm just documenting fact. See for yourself. I can't make this stuff up!

Fiber for diabetic health

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Psyllium is not exactly a "food" that fills us with joy when we think about it. We usually only think about it when we are constipated. But this soluble fiber has many health benefits: lowering bad cholesterol, aiding in controlling appetite and weight and helping to control diabetes in Type 2 diabetics.

In diabetes it reduces the post meal rise in blood sugar due to decreasing the glycemic response of foods.There have been studies that showed that lipids and glucose values improved with the use of psyllium. It is believed that fiber-depleted foods lead to higher glucose levels and stimulate excessive insulin secretion. Psyllium may act to break this cycle. It is easy to add psyllium to your diet, since it is a concentrated source of soluble fiber. Just 1/3 cup of cereal with psyllium provides 12 grams of fiber (almost half of our daily fiber needs). Be careful when adding fiber to your diet, though - add it slowly and drink plenty of water to prevent discomfort.

Other studies showed great results in a laboratory setting, but when people were monitored in the real world, there was no difference in the blood glucose levels of those who added psyllium to their diet.

I do not think that any food can be a miracle on its own. However, I think that if we add these foods that we know are good for us (and we know fiber is good for us), we can be healthier. Maybe it is as simple as that.

Retro Review: Week of May 26 - 23, 2007

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Irreverence. Curiosity. A fighting spirit. Surprising information. We've got all this and more over at our sister sites covering cancer and cardio issues. To find out why we should all "puck cancer" or invest in a heart rate monitor (not to mention drink our afternoon tea), read on ...

The Cardio Blog
Chronic anxiety hurts your heart
Light cigarettes are just as dangerous for the heart
Think you're too young and healthy for a heart attack? Think again!
Satisfy your sweet tooth without jeopardizing your health
When should you invest in a heart rate monitor?
Reduce stress one cup of tea at a time

The Cancer Blog
Misha Barton: A good spokesperson for SAFE?
The bride was beautiful: Katie's story (a beautiful tear-jerker!)
Oral sex linked to throat cancer (um, nice)
Farrah Fawcett fights cancer again
Oakland A's Nick Swisher shares hair for cancer cause
Puck Cancer!
Why France is so good at fighting cancer
Let's talk about sex: Reclaiming intimacy after breast cancer

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Form and Function: Cell membrane

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I am a Licensed Practical Nurse with five years' experience in this profession. I believe it is essential to go back to the basics in all things in order to really understand them. I am fascinated by how our bodies work and I hope I can get my readers to share my fascination. I hope we all learn new things and marvel again at the things we already know. This feature -- which includes a closing section on how disease affects the topic in question -- will run on The Cancer Blog on Wednesdays, and The Cardio Blog and The Diabetes Blog on Thursdays. [The contents in this post are for informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice or substitute for professional medical care.]

We start with the cell, because so much of what happens to us when we get sick, and how we get healthy again, can be explained by what happens on a cellular level. The cell is extremely complex and I will only touch on the basics in these posts, but at least we can have a rudimentary understanding.

Structure of cells

A cell has three basic parts:

1) Plasma membrane: This post will discuss the membrane in more detail.

2) Cytoplasm: All the cellular contents between the plasma membrane and the nucleus and can be further divided into the Cytosol and Organelles.

3) Nucleus: Technically an organelle, but usually considered separately because of its numerous and diverse functions.


A membrane lies at the border of the cells. It consists of lipids and proteins.

Phospholipids (one of the three classes of membrane lipids) are formed into what is called a lipid bilayer. This occurs because it is amphiphilic (containing both hydrophobic and hydrophilic properties). The hydrocarbon tails of the molecule are hydrophobic (water repelling) and its polar head is hydrophilic (water loving). As the plasma membrane faces watery solutions on both sides, its phospholipids accomodate this by forming a phospholipid bilayer with the hydrophobic tails facing each other. Picture a row of heads facing the outside of the cell -- which contains water -- with the tails facing in and another layer of the heads facing the inside of the cell with the tails facing in.

The membrane acts as a boundary layer to contain the cytoplasm (fluid in a cell). It also acts as a gatekeeper, allowing or denying access to and from the cell. The phospholipids permit lipid-soluble materials to easily enter or leave the cell by diffusion through the cell membrane. The membrane also serves as an anchor to provide the shape of the cell. Cholesterol, another one of the three classes of membrane lipids, helps the membrane to keep its shape.

The molecular arrangement of the membrane resembles an ever-moving sea of lipids that contains a mosaic of many different proteins. The proteins may float freely, be moored at specific places, or be moved through the lipid sea. The peripheral proteins lie on the surface of the membrane and the integral proteins extend into, and sometimes through, the membrane.

Proteins serve many functions in the cell membrane. Transport proteins function as the shipping and receiving department of the membrane. They can transport molecules across the cell membrane. Receptor proteins can detect chemical signals to pass between cells and systems. Proteins also participate in the enzyme activity important in such functions as metabolism and immunity.

It is amazing that something so minuscule as a cell membrane can also be so complex and elegantly constructed. We have only touched upon the form and function of the cell membrane, and yet we've seen enough to marvel at its grand design.

How does it affect you?

It could be said that when membranes go wrong, much else can too. Most diseases involve the cell and specifically the membrane, because of its many functions.

Sugar stimulates the pancreas to release insulin. The targets for insulin are muscle, fat and liver cells. These cells have insulin receptor sites on the outside of the cell membrane. A series of events begin when insulin has bound to the receptors, but in Type 1 diabetes, for instance, the process doesn't work.
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Nutraceuticals for diabetes prevention

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Nutraceutical refers to foods claimed to have a medicinal effect on human health. The American Diabetes Association says individuals at risk of developing diabetes can make changes in their diet and increse their level of physical activity to reduce their risk. The following mentions a few foods and supplements that are your friends in the fight against diabetes.

You've probably heard a million times the benefit of soluble fiber. It lends a big helping hand by slowing carbohydrate absorption. Easy sources of soluble fiber include: oat bran, nuts, barley, flax seed, fruits like oranges and apples, and vegetables like carrots. Another nutritional gem is coffee! Well, more specifically chlorogenic acid, the antioxidant found in coffee. It slows the release of glucose into the bloodstream after a meal. Caffeine counteracts this effect, so diabetics are better off drinking decaf. Barley malt has similar blood glucose lowering effects as metformin, without the side effects. Some say barley malt is to beer as grapes are to wine. Barley malt extract (available in powder and liquid forms) is also used medicinally as a bulking agent to promote bowel regularity.

Other honorable mentions include: magnesium, chromium piccolinate, conjugated linoleic acid, bitter melon and our beloved cinnamon. Nutraceuticals would likely have substantial diabetes-preventive efficacy, and presumably could be marketed legally as aids to good glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity.

Less and less people following heart-healthy diets

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Back in 1999 when the government issued diet recommendations for people with high blood pressure they inadvertently triggered the exact opposite of the effect they were going for: the number of people eating the right heart-healthy foods actually went down, instead of going up. A recent study found that only 22% of people with high blood pressure are bothering to make efforts towards following the right diet.

This seems to point out yet another major flaw in our health care system, but experts aren't exactly sure where the problem lies. It seems to be in several places, probably starting with doctors who don't emphasize and teach enough and ending with the patient dealing with possible availability and convenience issues.

Rhuematoid arthritis may be caused by high triglycerides

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Want to reduce your risk of heart disease? Keep your triglyceride levels down. Want to reduce your risk of rheumatoid arthritis? Keep your triglyceride levels down. A Dutch study revealed that people who suffer from late onset arthritis tended to have higher triglyceride levels and lower HDL (good) cholesterol while in their youth.

Why this correlation may exist remains unknown, although some researchers speculate that it may have something to do with having a poor lipid profile, and how that may make someone more prone to the inflammation that ultimately causes rheumatoid arthritis.

Related studies on rheumatoid arthritis have shown that regular exercise can reduce a person's risk of developing this impairment by around 40 percent. Given the fact that triglycerides and HDL levels may be related to this form of arthritis, it's very possible that the exercise reduces their risk which, in turn, then effectively reduces the risk of the arthritis.

Udderly ridiculous

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Previously, we busted the myth behind the sometimes faulty "Whole Grain" claims made by bread manufactures. To get you up to speed in case you didn't catch that one, the gist of if it is that Whole Grain does not necessarily mean whole grain. As long as the bread contains some whole grain (meaning, the rest of it can be made from refined and enriched flours and whatever else), the FDA allows it to be labeled as whole grain on packaging. The way to remedy this is to look for products listed as being "100% Whole Wheat" or "100% Whole Grain." To truly make sure you're getting what you paid for, check the ingredients list. If whole wheat flour does not appear as the first or second ingredient, know that you're not getting what you thought you were. Anyway, as I was saying before I had to recap the Whole Grain claim thing -- There is a new myth to be busted; only this time it deals with Whole Milk.

What is still true: Whole Milk contains more fat and calories than, say, 2 percent or skim. And, there is a fair amount of sugar in it, as well. So, Whole Milk is still the least healthy options among its lesser percentage colleagues (assuming that statement made any sense whatsoever).

What is not true: Also known as What has been Busted -- Whole Milk does not boost LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. Scientists from the U.K. followed 32 men who doubled their consumption of a daily glass of whole milk to two glasses. The researchers found that their LDL levels did not rise at all.

This is not to say that you should switch back from 1 percent to whole milk. Obviously, 1 percent is still the healthier choice. But, if you're the time who thinks that anything less than whole milk tastes as good as runoff from a storm drain, don't feel so guilty the next time you down a glass of the original stuff.

Nipping smoking in the bud with the cold, hard truth

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The other day I was taxiing my 13 year-old son and a few of his friends around town. I shamelessly eavesdrop on their conversations because I believe that at this age I need to know anything they are willing to divulge. If they are scheming about doing something they needn't be doing, I need to know that information. One of the boys was discussing smoking and what he would do were he to pick up a cigarette and start inhaling. He was laughing and telling the other boys that they would likely get "all hyper and spaz out!"

One of the activities I hope never to witness my children doing is lighting up and inhaling. So I piped up and began conversing with the boys. While three of them claimed they would never do such a thing, the other said he would just stop before he got too old so that his body would get better. Ah, the beauty of youth. So I did what I had to do and took the boys home, after a few more stops, and opened up my computer for them. I shared some statistics with them and then showed them some pictures. Then I told them that my father, a man they all knew and spent time with, smoked heavily until he was 30 when he quit cold turkey. He then devoted the rest of his life to good diet, exercise and educating others about the dangers of smoking addiction. Unfortunately, my father had only 35 years after he made the decision to quit smoking. Upon his death, it was determined that a piece of hardened plaque in his carotid artery broke off and traveled to his brain, killing him in a mere seconds. After dropping that bomb, all the boys declared they would never smoke.

Will the harsh truth alter their decisions? I can't predict that, but I sure hope it does.

Hazelnuts shown to reduce cholesterol

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Walnuts, Pistachios, Macadamias and now Hazelnuts. Frankly, the only negative thing related to writing about nuts is trying not awaken my inner eighth-grade boy and make an inappropriate joke. Aside from that, there is a great deal of benefits I'd like to pass along about....nuts. Arggg -- moving right along.

Where were we? Hazelnuts -- yes, that's right. Much like walnuts, almonds and a host of other cholesterol reducing treats (clearly I'm trying to avoid using the actual word), Hazelnuts appear to also have a similar effect in lowering your risk of heart disease. In a recent study, men with high cholesterol consumed about 1 ounce of hazelnuts daily for 8 weeks. At the end of the 8 weeks, researchers noticed an average 30 percent drop in their LDL and an increase of 12 percent in their HDL.

The high content of monosaturated fat is what doctors say should be credited for the improvement in blood lipids. So, the next time you're at the bar or at the ballgame, don't be shy -- grab yourself some nuts.

Clearly he has awoken.

Reducing stress one cup at a time

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In the good ol' U.S of A. we drink coffee. Lots and lots of it, in fact. By contrast, our friends across the pond seem to prefer a spot of tea. Same goes for those living in the far east. Probably other places too, but honestly, I don't have the time to research where all the regions rated highest in tea consumption. Even trying to compile such a list would likely drive my stress levels through the roof. Fortunately, researchers have discovered that drinking tea may help reduce stress (regardless, I'm still not putting together that list).

In a U.K. study, researchers had a group of men drink either 4 cups of black tea daily. Another group drank a placebo beverage that contained the same amount of caffeine. After six weeks, the men were asked to engage in stressful activities (though I could not find examples in the research of what was deemed "stressful activities") whilst scientists kept record of their behavior and anxiety. It turned out that the tea drinkers had 20 percent lower stress levels than the men drinking the caffeinated placebo. What's more, the tea drinking men stated that they also felt more relaxed.

Now for the 'Why.' Well, it seems as though the research sort of stopped with the actual experiment, because the scientists have yet to determine why tea seemingly reduced stress levels.

And fine, here's your dang list. The things I do for you guys...

1) India

2) China

3) Russia

4) U.K.

5) Japan

6) Turkey

7) Pakistan

8) U.S.

9) Iran

10) Egypt

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Education: the foundation of good health

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I'm sure there's research to support what I'm about to say, but I think common sense is more than enough support. As for what I'm going to say: Fitness starts with education. A friend may suggest Pilates or Yoga, or a co-worker may say that doing lunges and stiff-legged deadlifts are great for your legs. Whatever the case, if you are not educated in fitness, these friendly suggestions will do you little good if you don't even understand what they mean.

You could find an entire library of books on fitness and nutrition -- which, of course, wouldn't be a bad way to begin your education. But, if you just don't have the time to read through a tome on physiology and kinesiology, then here are a few much quicker and to-the-point magazines and websites that can at least start you in the right direction.

MAGAZINES: Men's Health/Women's Health - both are great resources for easy-to-follow exercise plans and nutritional 411. A personal favorite of mine is the very quick sidebar "The Crime/The Punishment" -- where unhealthy food choices are truly put into perspective (ex. The Crime: Denny's Extreme Grand Slam and a Large Orange Juice (1,396 calories). The Punishment: 127 hours you would have to shovel snow for in order to burn 1,396 calories).

WEBSITES: -- provides you with a very detailed breakdown of how many calories, carbohydrates, protein, fat, cholesterol, etc. in many types of food and helps you keep an active log of your consumption.

BOOKS: "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Losing Weight." Don't be offended by the title. This book offers great advice on fitness and nutrition, geared especially to the beginner or relative beginner. And, it is completely free of any diet or exercise fad nonsense -- something that is almost unheard of these days.

There are a number of other valuable resources out there, but I feel these are a great place to start. If anyone would like to post suggestions of their own, please be my guest.

Avandia and Avandamet tied to heart risks

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In a scary bit of news that affects more than 6 million Americans, a drug commonly used to treat diabetes has been linked to increased risk for heart attacks and death. The drug, sold as Avandia or Avandamet, has been on the market for 8 years and has been widely used by diabetes patients to help control blood sugar levels. This is even more concerning due the fact that diabetes patients are already at risk for heart problems without possibly making things worse by using medication that is supposed to be helping, not hurting, their health.

Experts warn that people shouldn't panic and stop taking any prescription medication suddenly, but should instead visit with their doctor about any changes that may need to be made.

Introducing myself ... Martha Edwards

Hey there, I'm Martha Edwards -- writer, photographer, healthy living enthusiast and much more. I've been sharing my inner most feelings on exercise, nutrition and healthy over at That's Fit since September of 2006. A former exercise-hater/junk-food lover, I started making healthy changes around 2006. It wasn't for any specific reason -- I just felt I needed a change. I haven't looked back. Eating well and being active makes me feel more alive than I've ever have before, and that's something the me of the past would have never imagined saying. I'm not an expert by any means but I've done lots or research and I love to share what I know.

I know it's a cliche, but I truly believe in living life to the fullest and that ever day is a gift. I'm not the type to go for a 10-mile run at 6 in the morning, but then again, I'm not the type to sit in front of the TV and eat cheetos on a beautiful sunny day. You're health is one of the most important things you have and it's worth taking care of. I hope to motivate and educate, so if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact me.

Thanks for reading.
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Retro Review: Week of May 16 - 23, 2007

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Irreverence. Curiosity. A fighting spirit. Surprising information. We've got all this and more over at our sister sites covering cancer and diabetes issues. To find out why we should all "puck cancer" or ditch certain drinks to decrease diabetes risk, read on ...

The Diabetes Blog
Fiber may fight diabetes
Breastfeeding can reduce risk of diabetes
Ditch these drinks to decrease diabetes risk
Prescription4Love: Online dating service for people with diabetes and other health conditions

The Cancer Blog
Misha Barton: A good spokesperson for SAFE?
The bride was beautiful: Katie's story (a beautiful tear-jerker!)
Oral sex linked to throat cancer (um, nice)
Farrah Fawcett fights cancer again
Oakland A's Nick Swisher shares hair for cancer cause
Puck Cancer!
Why France is so good at fighting cancer
Let's talk about sex: Reclaiming intimacy after breast cancer

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New machine keeps heart beating on its own until transplant

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I can't begin to imagine what this looks like in action. A new machine keeps donor hearts beating on their own for up to 24 hours. The extra time allows the organ to be flown anywhere in the country to a patient who needs it, and eliminates the conventional 6 hour time limit. Some hearts, according to the article, get damaged by the ice that hearts are now placed on, and others aren't strong enough to survive the wait until transplant, but by keeping a heart beating that kind of damage could be eliminated.

Three hearts preserved in the machine have been successfully transplanted into recipients, and the machine will be tested at five transplant centers around the country. Medical technology is a marvel, isn't it?

Puerto Rican children battling obesity and high cholesterol

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Puerto Rico is dealing an epidemic that is plaguing many American children, obesity. Nearly 25% of all Puerto Rican children are struggling with obesity. Country officials are alarmed that if intervention is not taken, the newest generation has become so unhealthy that the children will die before their parents.The staggering number of overweight kids has prompted the government to invest $8 million dollars in an island wide program called "Puerto Rico in Shape". Children who are battling cholesterol, high blood pressure and the earlier stages of heart disease are taking part in physician ordered exercise classes and learning to eat better at home. Some officials are expecting this change in lifestyle to be an uphill battle for many families. There are concerns about a culture where a chubby baby is valued as a healthy baby. Many Puerto Rican children come from homes where both parents work and dinner is often fast food, a dilemma that most American families face.

It will be interesting to follow this story and observe if the Puerto Rican program has success. If so, it could be a helpful plan for more American communities to follow.