Friday, 1 June 2007

Sweet and lower

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The Diet Channel promotes the headline: eat right, exercise smart, feel great! An authoritative resource for diet and fitness information, The Diet Channel offers several different summaries of the most popular diets, as well as informative articles on nutrition and health.

An article of diabetic interest pertains to those of us who are curious (or downright fixated) on artificial sweeteners. This article warns that it is not always safe to assume that just because a product is made with a sugar substitute, such as Splenda, it is healthier, or lower in calorie content. A thorough list of sweeteners and their key ingredients end the article, along with research findings on the safety of these products.

The Diet Channel offers information on every flavor of diet you can imagine, articles to motivate you to stick with it, and loads of information to keep you coming back. If I didn't know any better - I'd say it looks to be the wikipedia of dieting. And if you've ever found yourself consuming hour after hour digging through wikipedia topics...you'll know exactly what I'm talking about!

Pennsylvania announces diabetes action plan partially funded by CDC

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Governer Ed Rendell is worried. An estimated eight percent of Pennsylvanians have diabetes. Nearly 800,000 people. We all know money talks, and what has caught the attention of state politicians is the tremendous cost to manage chronic diseases.

Governor Rendell recently shared that about 78 percent of the state's health care costs are linked to 20 percent of chronic diseased patients. The Governor has announced The Pennsylvania Diabetes Action Plan to improve how Pennsylvanians with chronic disease benefit from future health care.

In an effort to prepare Pennsylvania to educate the public about diabetes and diabetes prevention, and improve management of the disease to reduce complications, the Plan focuses on four key areas: surveillance, standards of care, health policy, and evaluation.

Truly a collaborative of care, more than 200 stakeholders, agencies, organizations and individuals contributed to the Pennsylvania Diabetes Action Plan. The plan was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and a state appropriation.

In 2005, potentially avoidable hospitalizations for diabetics in Pennsylvania cost nearly $730 million. Now that is a number even the Governor cannot ignore.

Avandia controversy stirs Congress to investigate FDA

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Remember learning about "checks and balances" in U.S. History class? When state leaders gathered in 1787 to draft the Constitution, they established three branches of government (legislative/executive/judicial) to protect individual freedom and prevent government from abusing its own power. Now, Congress is questioning the balance of powers over at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate have called for an investigation into the FDA in the wake of the New England Journal of Medicine study which suggests the popular diabetes medication, Avandia, significantly increases the risk of heart attacks. A House hearing is set for June 6.

Original trials by the drug's maker, GlaxoSmithKline, revealed twice the rate of ischemic heart disease for patients taking Avandia versus recipients of placebos. The medical reviewer for the FDA initially expressed concern, but determined the risk was more benign following further analysis.

Internally, the FDA has one set of officials who approve drugs and another set who track the safety of drugs after approval. But there is an unequal balance of power between the safety and approval offices. Congressional investigators report the safety group recommended months ago Avandia receive its severest warning. The review group disagreed. Here's the catch -- the reviewers hold more power than the safety officials.

Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa and others in Congress have pushed for a separation of the approval and safety offices, and increased power for the safety group. Just this month, Senator Grassley proposed such a split, but it failed by one vote. House staffers believe the Avandia case re-ignites Senator Grassley's proposal as the House is soon entering debates to change the drug agency. Here is a previous post covering the Avandia concerns and the full story on the FDA.

Vehicle for change? Novo Nordisk's bus to visit US

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Drug giant Novo Nordisk's big white bus will soon roll into the USA. Officially known as the Novo Nordisk Changing Diabetes Bus, the vehicle is scheduled to visit a selection of towns in the USA between June and November. First, though, it's the turn of those lucky Canadians. The tour kicked off in Denmark back in September 2006 and goes under the banner "Changing Diabetes." Since Denmark, the bus and its crew have visited the following countries: Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, South Africa, Australia, China, Japan, and Canada. (Cool job, huh?) The Canada sojourn will last a few more days - 'till June 12, to be exact - then it's time to cross the border into the US. Last stop is New York City, where the tour will end on November 14, which is World Diabetes Day. Oddly, the Novo "bus" is actually a big truck, at least according to the pics I'm viewing on Novo's snazzy website. I guess calling it a bus tour makes it sound a tad folksier...more Partridge Family, less soulless pharmaceutical empire? But I digress...

The Changing Diabetes Bus tour is touted by Novo as an attitude-altering event with its high-tech educational displays that are housed on board the bus/truck. (See the website for a fun virtual tour of the bus.) A vehicle for change, if you will (yukkity yuk) designed to reach out to everyone: diabetics, their families, healthcare providers, as well as curious Average Joes. The specific purpose, says Novo, is to support the passing of a United Nations resolution on diabetes. Listen, I hate to be catty, but it's been an awareness-raising event in more ways than one, don't you agree? It's been a great promotional venture. An all around image-polishing exercise for Novo too. Hey, that's not to say this tour has not done good things to educate the public. I mean, it's good that mega-companies like that put aside money in the budget for feel-good, reach-out-to-the-community stuff. But let's be honest. Would they have put up the cash if their name wasn't plastered all over? Probably not.

Magnesium: The forgotten mineral

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If I were to ask you to list five essential minerals, I'd put money on the fact that you wouldn't mention magnesium. This is because you, just like me and everyone else, seem to only remember this mineral from the periodic table, not from the label on our vitamins. Iron, Zinc -- those we remember. But, magnesium, not so much. That being said, it may not be a bad idea for us to keep this unpopular mineral fresh on our minds, as its consumption may be linked to our cardiovascular health.

In an 18-year study, French researchers found that men who had the highest levels of magnesium in their blood were 40 percent less likely to die young than those men with the lowest levels. The researchers suspect that this could be due to the fact that low magnesium levels are related to greater inflammation -- which is known to cause heart disease and cancer.

The bigger problem is that an estimated 56 percent of the population doesn't consume a sufficient amount of magnesium -- probably because they forget about it in the first place. To make sure that you're not part of that population, be sure to get around 300mg of the mineral per day. Fortunately, you can get half of that by just eating a small portion of pumpkin seeds.

Margarine madness

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It happens all the time: Some researchers will say one thing, and then other researchers will refute the original research results -- only to then put forth research results of their own (which usually is later refuted by other researchers -- and so on, and so on...). Such is the case with margarine and butter. As far as I have read up until recently, real butter seemed to be the healthier choice over margarine. However, new information from a Dutch study revealed LDL cholesterol reducing properties in a specific type of margarine.

Perhaps the most intriguing part is that this reduction in LDL cholesterol occurred even in patients who were already taking cholesterol-reducing medication. In the study, patients who were regularly taking high-dose statins added a margarine enriched with 3 grams of plant sterols. At the end of 6 weeks, the patients experienced a 15 percent reduction in LDL beyond that already achieved with statins alone.

As far as what info. to believe goes, however, I think the key is to look more closely at the study itself. For one, the margarine used in the study was not your typical kind. It contained plant sterols, in addition to not having any trans fat. So, it stands to reason that the margarine itself had little effect on LDL, and that the benefits actually came from the plant sterols. This means that plant sterol supplements could have just as easily been taken, and the margarine could have been removed entirely. The end result (at least as far as I'm concerned) is that butter still seems to be the healthier option than margarine. And, rather than relying on specialized kinds of margarine to get your plant sterols, you may be better off getting them from supplements.

Think you're getting a healthy amount of sodium? Think again.

Over-consumption of sodium is rampant in our society. Sometimes it's because people really don't care about how much sodium they're getting but sometimes, in the case of people who actually do try and limit their sodium intake, it's because we just don't know enough about sodium to know that it's in almost everything. Eating out? Chances are you're getting a significant portion of your daily intake of sodium in just one meal, even a healthy meal like a chicken caesar salad.

But what can you do? The first step is becoming aware that sodium is in so many things we don't think about. When you're grocery shopping, read the labels. When you're eating out, try to obtain nutritional information. And when you're cooking at home, look for other things to add flavour, like pepper, garlic and other fresh herbs. Check out this for more information.

How do you keep track of your sodium intake when eating out?

Cancer patients recieve discounts in the Middle East

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Cancer patients in Saudi Arabia are now entitled to a 50% discounts on domestic air and land travel in the kingdom, according to this, which is the same discount that seniors and people with disabilities are entitled to. I've never heard of this before ... is this common practice in North America? Regardless of whether it is or not, it got me thinking.

Some discounts on the exorbitant parking rates at the hospital when my dad was ill would have been appreciated. Joking aside, I sympathize with cancer patients and think they deserve any break they can get but on the other hand, cancer isn't by definition a disability--it's a disease and if we're offering discounts on a disease, why stop with cancer? What about people with HIV, Chrohn's or Diabetes?

What do you think?

Thought for the day: Measure your lifestyle

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Do you watch what you eat and how you live your life in all respects? There are some medical sociologists and anthropologists who continually debate on whether genetics or environment come into play in the roles of disease and sickness in our global society today. My take: it's an ever-changing and intricate balance of both.

Think about this:

Lifestyle choices can affect the chance that you will have some type of cancer, but that's not the complete picture either. Helping ward off that chance from any genetic underpinning by the healthiest and best lifestyle choices you can make is the best decision you can make in life.

It's often said that "all you have is your health" -- and I am a firm believer in it. Money, possessions and affluence are nothing if you don't have health. But, in millions of cases, the thirst for anything except health overrides what should be of paramount importance these days -- the propensity to always make healthy choices. Do you?

Recipe for Healthy Living: Fruit and nut bars

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I haven't yet made these Fruit and Nut Bars, but I managed to consume several of them during my stay at Canyon Ranch in Tucson, Arizona. Besides bowls of apples, oranges, and bananas provided at every location at the Ranch, guests of this health and healing destination can request additional healthy snacks at dining areas. Of everything offered, this was my favorite.

Ingredients

1/2 cup chopped pecans, lightly toasted
1/2 cup chopped almonds, lightly toasted
3/4 cup honey
2 3/4 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup dried cranberries
3/4 cup dried chopped apples
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup sliced dates, about 10 medium
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 325º. Lightly coat a 9 x 13 x 1/2-inch baking sheet with canola oil. Spread nuts on baking sheet and toast for five minutes.
  • Warm honey in microwave or over low heat on stove top to the consistency of a thin syrup.
  • Place nuts in the bowl of a food processor. Chop briefly. Add oats, cranberries, apples, raisins, dates and cinnamon. Turn on machine and mix briefly until all ingredients are chopped. While machine is running, drizzle in warm honey until mixture binds.
  • Lightly spray baking sheet (same one used for nuts) with canola oil. Press mixture into baking sheet. Lightly spray parchment paper with canola oil. Using a rolling pin, roll (over parchment) until mixture is even. Place in freezer for at least 30 minutes.
  • Cut into 16 squares.
This recipe makes 16 bars, each containing approximately 190 calories, 36 gm. carbohydrate, 5 gm. fat, 0 mg. cholesterol, 3 gm. protein, 7 mg. sodium, and 3 gm. fiber.
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Survivor Spotlight: Mandy, cautiously optimistic

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I met Mandy on the Young Survivor Coalition website. She agreed to do an interview with me about her breast cancer diagnosis, at the age of 32.

How did you find out you had breast cancer?

I discovered a small pea-sized lump during a breast self-exam. I showed my doctor, but she was not concerned because of my young age (32 at the time). The lump grew while I was pregnant and I had bleeding from my breast during my pregnancy which was the reason I decided to get a mammogram.

What types of breast cancer treatments were recommended?

I had a choice of either doing traditional chemotherapy (every three weeks) or doing dose-dense chemotherapy (every 2 weeks), involving Adriamycin/Cytoxan for four cycles, and then Taxol for 4 cycles. I decided on the dose-dense treatments. I then did 33 radiation treatments and had a hysterectomy/oophorectomy followed by Armidex (which I am still taking). I also did Herceptin (2 years after I finished chemotherapy) for 9 months.

How did you research breast cancer and breast cancer treatments?

I had my husband do it - I was too chicken!

How did you tell your family?

My parents live in town and my Mom was watching my children when I went for the biopsy, so she knew right away. We called other family members and let them know.

Are you involved with any breast cancer support groups, fundraisers or breast cancer organizations?

I have been involved with my local Relay for Life. I am involved online with two breast cancer support groups for young women: The Young Survival Coalition & the Boo Bees.

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

Ask for help - people want to help out and you will need to have friends and family around you to get you through the tough times.

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

Let the person affected with cancer express their feelings. Not allowing the person to express their fears of the future or sadness about their diagnosis causes them to feel stressed. Sometimes it is best to let the feelings out and to talk to someone about them.

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

I am just trying to live my life the best way possible - I would say I do this by being "cautiously optimistic" every day! I am thankful for the gift of today. It is hard, though, to not be fearful of recurrence. It seems to be always in the back of my mind. I try hard not to worry about every little pain, but sometimes my fear gets the best of me!

Name three breast cancer book you would recommend:

Well, it isn't really a breast cancer book, but Conversations with God was an excellent book I read while going through chemotherapy! I also read "In Living Faith," a daily devotional book that helped me relax.

Name other breast cancer-related resources that you recommend:

I enjoy visiting the Young Survivor Coalition!

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Life after cancer

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Cancer stopped me from having a third child -- not physically, but mentally. Still, it hasn't taken away my ability to witness first-hand the miracle of childbirth, to hold a brand new baby in my arms, to lose myself in the wonder of an innocent and unburdened life.

Yesterday, my sister had her second baby girl. I was there -- from morning until evening, while she labored for 12 hours and then delivered a perfect, pink, precious bundle of hope. The whole journey made me cry. I cried for the sheer pleasure of being in the room for such a special occasion, for holding my sister's numb and heavy leg in the correct position, for watching a baby plunge into the world, for cutting the umbilical cord. I cried for the pain my sister endured, for the joy of new beginnings, for all that comes next.

For a moment while I held my new niece, I longed for my own baby. Then thoughts of cancer flooded my mind -- combined with thoughts of sleepless nights and endless shrieks and temper tantrums -- and I realized I am happy just as I am, with my own two little boys and a sweet baby girl I plan to borrow as much as possible.

Welcome to the world, Tori!
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Interferon may improve survival in advanced liver cancer

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Interferon is an immune stimulating agent. According to an article recently published in the Annals of Surgery, administration of interferon following surgery may improve survival among patients with advanced hepatitis B-related hepatocelluar carcinoma.

Hepatocelluar carcinoma (HCC) is the most common type of liver cancer. Unfortunately for this disease, recurrences often happen after surgical removal of the cancer. Researchers continue to evaluate ways to reduce these recurrences.

A clinical trial was conducted to evaluate the use of interferon following surgery in patients with HCC. The trial included 80 patients, one group received the interferon after surgery and the other group received no further treatment. The researchers found that the group treated with interferon experienced better survival rates.

Thursday, 31 May 2007

What you need to know about coronary heart disease

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How much do you know about coronary heart disease? I'll admit that I don't know much -- afterall, I'm young and healthy and far from heart problems ... at least I hope I am. But everyone should be informed about their health. We don't need medical degrees but we should know what risks we face and what arising symptoms could mean.

Dr. Naidu of Heart Matters recently posted this info on coronary heart disease, including the risk factors and prevention methods. By living a healthy lifestyle, not smoking, being active and managing my stress, I'm doing pretty well at preventing coronary heart disease, and it's good to know what I'm doing right. Don't you think?

Video game for teens diagnosed with cancer

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Cigna Corp is offering a free video game for teens called Re-Mission. The video game lets teens and young adults blast cancer while learning how to improve he odds of beating the disease.

The creator of the game Hopelab, a non-profit organization seeking to improve the health of young people with a mix of good science and fun technology. Re-Mission is a teen-rated shooting game featuring a nanobot named Roxxi who roams inside the bodies of fictional cancer patients, destroying cancer cells, battling bacteria infections and managing side effects associated with cancer and cancer treatments.

Gestational diabetes linked to oral contraceptives with a high androgenic progestin

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Results from a recent study reveal oral contraceptives are not all alike.

Researchers from the Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program of Northern California recently released evidence linking oral contraceptives containing a highly androgenic progestin to a 43% increased risk of gestational diabetes, when used for five years leading up to pregnancy. Interestingly, oral contraceptives with a low androgenic progestin were associated with a 16% decreased risk of gestational diabetes.

Gestational diabetes develops in about 4% of pregnant women who have never had diabetes, but exhibit high blood sugar levels during pregnancy. Untreated, it can be dangerous for both mother and baby.

The study selected 356 women with gestational diabetes and 368 women without the condition from a multiethnic cohort of 14,235 women who delivered a baby between January 1996 and June 1998. The women were members of Kaiser Permanente for a minimum of five years before pregnancy and screened for the condition between 24-28 weeks of pregnancy. Medical records and pharmacy data were utilized to determine contraceptive use.

Researchers state their results support other related studies that confirm more androgenic oral contraceptives can impact glucose tolerance.

Cervical cancer vaccine, Cervarix, slowed by FDA

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The Food an Drug Administration is not going to grant a priority review to its experimental cancer vaccine Cervarix. Adding pressure GlaxoSmithKline's controversy surrounding its diabetes drug Avandia.

Cervarix will now have to go through a standard 10 month review, instead of going the fast track route. The company is defending its diabetes drug after a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine said that those taking the drug are at greater risks of heart attacks.

GlaxoSmithKline expects to market the drug Cervarix in the United States sometime in 2008.

Treating low blood sugar: Practical advice and a variety of choices

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When my older brother Mark was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes at the age of 13, I was nine years old. I absorbed the basic science of high and low blood sugars, and how he needed daily insulin to regulate his blood sugar. But little did I expect an awaiting surprise.

One day my mom returned home from grocery shopping and pulled out two giant bags of Jolly Rancher hard candies. I remember the scene clearly. You see, I was a candy addict (still am). Big bags of watermelon Jolly Ranchers had my full attention.

My mom explained how this candy was purchased for Mark, in case he had low blood sugar at school. I nodded my head in full agreement, then began stuffing handfuls of them in my pocket every day or so thereafter. Yet, whenever the bag of Jolly Ranchers was nearly empty, my hand wavered, unable to steal the last candies. Deep inside my sugared-up, pre-adolescent consciousness, I knew better. Jolly Ranchers were my brother's mini-life preservers, just in case he floundered in the seas of low blood sugar.

The American Diabetes Association has a helpful publication for treating low blood sugar. Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) develops when blood glucose drops below 70 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl). Consuming 15 grams of fast-acting carbohydrates such as fruit juice, raisins, fruit or a couple pieces of hard candy are excellent ways to treat low blood sugar.

Glucose tablets or gels are another option, and may be a better choice. Hard candy most commonly contains sucrose, which is comprised of half glucose and half fructose. Fructose has a slower, less powerful effect on blood sugar compared to glucose. So 15 grams of a pure glucose tablet is roughly equivalent to 30 grams of sucrose. Also, many sucrose-containing foods are calorie-laden, adding to your waistline. There's more bang for your buck with glucose as it acts faster, has less calories and the dosage amount is clear, so you're less likely to overtreat and push blood glucose too high.

It is important to note certain type 2 medications -- Precose [acarbose] and Glyset [miglitol] -- slow simple sugar digestion, and type 2 diabetics on these meds should always treat hypoglycemia with pure glucose.

My own family chooses to treat low blood sugar in their own way. They tried glucose tablets, but found they did not reach for them. Considering they eat less sweets than pre-diabetes, low blood sugar is a time to indulge. My mom swears by orange juice and Dots and my brother prefers Starburst jelly beans. My dad keeps a stock of 8-oz. cans of sugar soda in the fridge -- he finds soda acts quickly and the mini-portion prevents over-medicating.

Type 1 vaccination successfully tested on mice

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I do not like vaccinations. I wonder if they are connected to the autism and diabetes epidemics, even attention-deficit disorders. I do vaccinate my children, just begrudgingly. Yet if there ever was a vaccination against type 1 diabetes, I would be first in line.

Researchers in France and Germany have demonstrated you can treat a type 1 diabetic mouse with a vaccination. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system's T cells cannot distinguish between "non-self" and "self", attacking cells of the pancreas that produce insulin.

Previously, Drs. Falk and Rotzschke of the Max Delbruck Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC), blocked the misdirected immune system by vaccinating mice with modified structures of the same organ targeted by the defective T cell immune response. Antigens are structures which activate a body's immune system, and the mice were protected from type 1 diabetes through the body's own antigens linked together in a repetive chain of identical copies. But the researchers did not understand how this protective string of antigens worked.

In a new study, Drs. Liblau, Falk and Rotzschke have proven this protective effect is due to the activation of an immune system's suppressor cells, the very cells that block those misguided T cells. Suppressor cells only inhibit T cells that attack a body's own tissue, allowing T cells to continue to attack foreign viruses and bacteria.

Dr. Rotzschke believes suppressor cells are a promising research focus in immunology. Even better, he is confident suppressing a haywired immune system through a specific vaccination with one's own antigens opens up a whole new treatment approach.

Gladys Knight supports type 2 diabetes research and prevention in memory of mother

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My soul is inspired whenever I discover a celebrity advocate for diabetics. The famous R&B performer, Gladys Knight, has been singing the praises of type 2 diabetes prevention for years.

Her mother, Elizabeth Knight, passed away 10 years ago from type 2 complications. In her honor and all those living with type 2 diabetes, Gladys Knight and family established the Elizabeth Knight Fund through the American Diabetes Association (ADA) to support peer-reviewed diabetes research and awareness programs in communities nationwide. Ms. Knight also collaborated with the ADA on a cookbook of diabetic recipes, At Home With Gladys Knight, initially released in 2001.

The Knight family believes education is critical to living a long and healthy life with type 2. Their mother's legacy lives on in the hearts of diagnosed and undiagnosed diabetics alike, thanks to the good works of the Elizabeth Knight Fund.

Humming bees and soy nuts to the rescue

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A Medco Health Solutions report found that spending on diabetes drugs could rise 70% by 2009, and was second only to cholesterol medications in 2006. Yet, myths about this condition abound. Life@work tells you what causes diabetes, and offers tips to help reduce the complications of the disease.

The following risk factors increase your chances of developing Type 2 diabetes: age, obesity, physical inactivity, and a high fat diet. Rarer causes of diabetes (including type 1 diabetes), include: certain medicines, as well as any illness that damages the pancreas and affects its ability to produce insulin. Eating sweets does not cause diabetes. However, it may cause obesity and this is associated with people developing Type 2 diabetes. Stress does not cause diabetes, although it may be a trigger for the body turning on itself as in the case of Type 1 diabetes. It does, however, make the symptoms worse for those who already have diabetes.

Diabetics can reduce heart disease by consuming ½ c. soy nuts. Half a cup of soy nuts (dry-roasted soybeans) every day, may work as well as anti-hypertension medication to lower blood pressure, a new study conducted on women at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston found. A technique used in yoga to reduce stress and lower blood pressure is the Bhramari or Humming Bee. To perform this pose: Sit comfortably, eyes shut. Inhale and exhale deeply a few times. Inhale. While exhaling, hum gently, making an "mmm" sound. Lips must remain shut. You can also insert index fingers into each ear to feel the sound vibrating at your facial sinuses. This is one round. Do up to nine rounds. This exercise is used to create a meditative mind-set, for healing or controlling various ailments, from diabetes to digestive disorders. Pause for a moment today and enjoy some soy nuts and a humming bee pose.

Form and Function: Cell organelles

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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: A membrane lies at the border of cells and consists of lipids and proteins. See my post of 23 May on the cell membrane

2) Cytoplasm: All the cellular contents between the plasma membrane and the nucleus and can be further divided into the Cytosol and Organelles. We will discuss the organelles in today's post.

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

Organelles

Organelles are specialized structures that evolved to perform specific functions. We could probably discuss each organelle in a separate post, because each one has it's own characteristic shape and function. i decided to keep this very basic and just list the different organelles, what they look like and what their basic function is. We will also just look at the "famous" organelles. There are other organelles, but the ones we discuss will give us a good understanding of what goes on inside the cell.



Endoplasmic reticulim (ER): A network of membranous tubules that extend from the nuclear membrane to the cell membrane. The ER can further be subdivided into a rough and smooth. The rough ER is continuous with the nuclear membrane and has an outer surface studded with ribosomes. The ER function is to be a passageway for the transport of materials within the cell. It also synthesizes lipids and proteins.

Ribosomes: These are either floating bodies for the internal needs of the cell or attached to the ER for transport out of the cell. Ribosomes are the sites for protein synthesis.

Golgi apparatus: Besides having a cool name (named after the scientist that discovered it), it refines and moderates proteins produced in the ER prior to transport and packages materials for secretion from the cell. It is a series of membranous sacs, described as looking like a stack of pita bread.

Mitochondria: These organelles are roughly bean-shaped with inner membranes. They are (literally) the powerhouses of the cell. They break down sugar molecules into energy. Tissues that need a lot of energy, like muscles, have more of these organelles in their cells .

Lysosomes: They are single membrane structures and have a membrane. The lysosome breaks down larger molecules into smaller molecules and it also digests old cell parts. It is the waste manager of the cell. It has powerful digestive enzymes to break down the waste.

Chromatin: Fibers composed of protein and DNA molecules. It contains the genetic information for protein synthesis. It is the heredity material in cells

Sentriole: A pair of rod shaped structures perpendicular to each other. It plays an important part in cell division. It organizes the spindle fibers during cell division.

These are some of the most common organelles. It is easy to understand that what goes on in the cell can have a huge impact on tissues and systems and therefore on the disease process.

How does it affect you?

There are studies about the various organelles and their impact on diabetes. One study links type 2 diabetes and dementia through the mitochondria, for example. It is clear that research into the form and function of organelles will yield a lot of answers in the years to come.
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Medications that cause high blood sugar

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Several commonly used drugs have adverse effects on glucose metabolism. Among these drugs are: aspirin, and an antibiotic.

Aspirin is a commonly used drug to relieve minor aches and pains, to reduce fever, as an anti-inflammatory and as a blood-thinner. However, studies show it leads to glucose metabolism impairment in insulin-sensitive tissues. A 3g daily dose of aspirin was administered over a three-day period. Although insulin release increased after the aspirin, the glucose remained unchanged. Despite the increased insulin, the body seemed to decrease cellular sensitivity to insulin in the aftermath of aspirin.

A healthcare facility in Scottsdale, AZ advises doctors to avoid giving gatifloxacin to patients with diabetes. They suggest selecting an antibiotic other than a fluoroquinolone for an elderly patient with diabetes, especially those taking sulfonylureas. Beyond elderly diabetics, any person who has recently undergone treatment with an antibiotic in the fluoroquinolone family should raise questions if they are diagnosed with diabetes or deemed pre-diabetic. Drugs included in this family are: Cipro, Ciproxin, Enroxil, Penetrex, Megalone, Maxaquin, Noroxin, Quinabic, Janacin, Floxin, Oxaldin, and Tarivid.

May 31 is 'World No Tobacco Day'

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The WHO has declared tomorrow (May 31st) World No Tobacco Day, and the theme for this year is "smoke free environments." Smoking bans in public places are spreading rapidly across the country, and even more and more private homes are asking people to step outside before they light up -- there's even talk of banning smoking in certain outdoor environments like parks and other public property!

This is all great news about moving in the right direction, so consider some long-term changes starting tomorrow like quitting smoking for good or maybe making your home smoke-free. And if that doesn't work even just quitting for the day is something!

Quitting smoking only reduces heart attacks in small towns?

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Smoking bans are a great idea -- they make the air cleaner for non-smokers and reduce the amount of time that smokers spend puffing on the old cancer sticks. Smoking bans have even been shown to lead to a big drop in coronary heart disease ... in smaller towns, that is. According to this, it's a phenomenon that is just emerged as cities and towns implement smoking bans -- a decrease in heart conditions are only seen in smaller urban areas when a smoking ban comes into effect.

Why is this? The original post cites statistics and the incorrect assumption that because two things are linked, one causes the other. Which is true, but it makes me curious, especially since I live in a large city. Is pollution a substantial reason behind heart attacks? The stress of living in a busy urban centre? Road rage? I think it's a good reminder that we need to look after ourselves and our hearts and not assume that our environments will help keep us healthy.

What do you think?

The truth about women and heart disease

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Although breast cancer seems to be getting a lot more press lately, the biggest threat to women's health today is actually heart disease. And although men are more often thought of when picturing a heart attack victim, the truth is women are actually more likely to both have heart disease and they're more likely to die from a heart attack in the weeks immediately following than men are.

The Mayo Clinic has a handy quiz for women regarding the truth on a variety of health topics, heart disease and breast cancer included, and it's interesting to read the explanations after you take it because some of the answers are surprising!

Form and Function: Cell organelles

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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: A membrane lies at the border of cells and consists of lipids and proteins. See my post of 23 May on the cell membrane

2) Cytoplasm: All the cellular contents between the plasma membrane and the nucleus and can be further divided into the Cytosol and Organelles. We will discuss the organelles in today's post.

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

Organelles

Organelles are specialized structures that evolved to perform specific functions. We could probably discuss each organelle in a separate post, because each one has it's own characteristic shape and function. i decided to keep this very basic and just list the different organelles, what they look like and what their basic function is. We will also just look at the "famous" organelles. There are other organelles, but the ones we discuss will give us a good understanding of what goes on inside the cell.




Endoplasmic reticulim (ER): A network of membranous tubules that extend from the nuclear membrane to the cell membrane. The ER can further be subdivided into a rough and smooth. The rough ER is continuous with the nuclear membrane and has an outer surface studded with ribosomes. The ER function is to be a passageway for the transport of materials within the cell. It also synthesizes lipids and proteins.

Ribosomes: These are either floating bodies for the internal needs of the cell or attached to the ER for transport out of the cell. Ribosomes are the sites for protein synthesis.

Golgi apparatus: Besides having a cool name (named after the scientist that discovered it), it refines and moderates proteins produced in the ER prior to transport and packages materials for secretion from the cell. It is a series of membranous sacs, described as looking like a stack of pita bread.

Mitochondria: These organelles are roughly bean-shaped with inner membranes. They are (literally) the powerhouses of the cell. They break down sugar molecules into energy. Tissues that need a lot of energy, like muscles, have more of these organelles in their cells .

Lysosomes: They are single membrane structures and have a membrane. The lysosome breaks down larger molecules into smaller molecules and it also digests old cell parts. It is the waste manager of the cell. It has powerful digestive enzymes to break down the waste.

Chromatin: Fibers composed of protein and DNA molecules. It contains the genetic information for protein synthesis. It is the heredity material in cells

Sentriole: A pair of rod shaped structures perpendicular to each other. It plays an important part in cell division. It organizes the spindle fibers during cell division.

These are some of the most common organelles. It is easy to understand that what goes on in the cell can have a huge impact on tissues and systems and therefore on the disease process.

How does it affect you?

Features of mitochondrial diseases have been shown to mimic the symptoms of heart disease. Researchers are looking at the possible connections and are trying to find out if restoring the mitochondrial "dysfunction" can prevent or cure heart disease.
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Colorectal cancer risk and fiber intake

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Even though there has been much hype in recent years about the connection between dietary fiber intake to decrease the risk of colorectal cancer, results of a large study does not support such a link.

The findings were reported in the May issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The conclusion came after analyzing more that 291,000 men and 197,000 women ages 50 to 71 years. "Our study did not show any association between how much dietary fiber you eat and your risk of colorectal cancer" said the lead author of the study.

However, the lead author did say that he found consumption of whole grain foods may lower the risk of developing the disease.

Test may catch ovarian cancer in early stages

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Ovarian cancer is hard to detect and is usually found in the advanced stages. It is the most deadly of all gynecological cancers. Transvaginal sonography (TVS) screening has been associated with detecting ovarian cancer at earlier stages of the disease.

TVS is a procedure used to examine the vagina, uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries, and bladder. An instrument is inserted into the vagina that causes sound waves to bounce off organs inside the pelvis. These sound waves create echoes that are sent to a computer, which creates a picture called a sonogram. The test is also known as a transvaginal ultrasound.

The researchers' findings appear in the May issue of Cancer. In the study, colleagues assessed the value of annual TVS screenings in over 25,000 women. Participants had to be at least 50 years of age with no cancer symptoms or at least 25 years of age with a family history of ovarian cancer.

The TVS screening found 44 ovarian malignant tumors, 28 women were stage I, 8 were stage II, and 8 were found to be stage III. This shows that over 60 percent of the ovarian cancers were found in the early stages using TVS screening.

The one thing about this article that caught my attention is that they included women 25 and older who had a family history of ovarian cancer. I think it is important if you do have a family history to ask your doctor about this test along with getting the CA-125 ovarian cancer tumor marker.

Early detection of ovarian cancer is the key to survival. Some symptoms of ovarian cancer include:

  • Pelvic or abdominal pain or discomfort
  • Vague, but persistent, gastrointestinal upsets such as gas, nausea and indigestion
  • Frequency and/or urgency of urination in the absence of an infection
  • Unexplained changes in bowel habits
  • Unexplained weight gain or weight loss, particularly weight gain in the abdominal region
  • Pelvic and/or abdominal swelling, bloating, and/or feeling of fullness
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Ongoing fatigue
  • Abnormal post-menopausal bleeding

On cancer, a birthday, and a blessing

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Danny is four today. When I first saw him this morning, I sang him Happy Birthday. He shot me an odd glance, as if he wasn't sure why he was the recipient of this special serenade. "Today is your birthday," I told him. "Today, you are four."

Danny's face lit up. "Really, I am four?" he asked, studying the four fingers he'd allowed to pop up right in front of his face.

"Yes, you are four!" I assured him just before he asked, "Can I call Daddy and tell him? Does he know I'm four?"

Danny's daddy knows he's four. How could either of us forget the day he was born, almost six days late, weighing in at an impressive 10 pounds, two ounces, looking exactly like his big brother looked just after he was yanked, literally, into the world two-and-a-half years earlier.

Danny is our happy-go-lucky boy and while he happens to have a bit of a destructive streak at the moment, he is mostly a content, easy, sweet, loving guy. He goes with the flow. That's what we love about him.

Danny was just 18 months old when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. He had no idea what had hit our family. He rolled unknowingly with the punches and hasn't a clue how his simple take on life pulled us all through the trenches of disease. We'll tell him one day -- perhaps on another birthday years from now -- about what a blessing he is, about how he helped us survive. For now, though, all he needs to know is that he's four.

Yes, Danny, you really are four.

Happy Birthday!

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Directly targeting cancer cells and bypassing chemotherapy

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It's 2007 and the still-predominant way of fighting many types of cancer involves toxic chemotherapy that weakens the body while trying to destroy cancer cells.

Although a better way of cancer treatment has been on the minds of oncologists for decades, the mapping of the human genome recently and the prevalence of nanotechnology is starting to create possible solutions to health problems that are about as cutting edge as they come.

What would it mean to deliver anti-cancer drugs directly to cancer cells without polluting the human body at the same time? That kind of breakthrough is on the minds of an Australian biotechnology firm, which says it can do just that.

The process involved nanotechnology processes that almost sounds like science fiction. The truth is, though -- it is all too real. And, it will get better in the next few decades I'll bet.

Tammy Faye won't let cancer get her down

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On May 8, Tammy Faye Messner (formerly Bakker), announced that doctors had stopped treating her cancer, that her fate was in the hands of a higher power. Last night, I heard Tammy Faye's voice on television as she spoke to Entertainment Tonight reporters about the state of her health right now.

Tammy Faye's colon cancer, diagnosed in 1996, has spread to her lungs and is causing her severe pain. Her back hurts, she said, and her stomach hurts and she is having difficulty breathing. Still her message is loud and clear: she is not giving up.

When doctors told her there was nothing more they could do, Tammy Faye, 65, said she felt sorry for herself for about one minute. Then she reminded herself there is something out there bigger than doctors -- the Lord Jesus Christ. And so despite the fact that she has been in bed for most of the past year, has lost tremendous amounts of weight, and knows her days are limited, Tammy Faye is staying strong. She is truly living for the day.

If you'd like to send your wishes to Tammy Faye who is now in the loving hands of hospice, click here.

Actinic Keratoses warn of skin cancer

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I wrote on May 29 about my worry regarding a dry, flaky patch of skin on my nose. Unsure of the status of this unusual spot, I immediately called my dermatologist and made an appointment -- which did not end up being all that immediate. The earliest slot available for addressing my personal crisis was June 12 at 11 AM. I took it. And then the stars aligned and I got a call on this very same day.

"We have a cancellation tomorrow. Do you want to come in then?" said the voice on the other end of the phone. Yes, yes, yes, I wanted it. And so I took this slot instead.

Yesterday I met with my dermatologist. The good news is: what I found on the bridge of my nose is not cancer. The bad news is: it was trying really hard to become cancer.

What I had belongs to a family called Actinic Keratoses (AKs). Considered the earliest stage in the development of cancer, AKs are common growths of the outermost layer of the skin (the epidermis). They are caused by long-term exposure to the sun, dating back as far as childhood. The condition typically appears after age 40 but in geographic areas with year-round, high-intensity sunlight like Florida -- where I currently live and where most of my past tanning pursuits occurred -- AKs can show up in the teens and 20s. Half of all older, fair-skinned -- me -- people who live in hot, sunny areas will develop AKs.

AKs are pre-cancerous, and so mine was caught early and obliterated by a procedure called cryosurgery. The area was essentially frozen and while it looks fine now, it will likely take the form of a blister over the next few days. Then it will heal and fade. A light scar may linger.

There are other methods for treating AKs, depending on the magnitude of each person's lesion. Surgical removal, topical chemotherapy, photodynamic therapy, chemical peeling, and laser skin resurfacing are often options.

The only way to prevent AKs is to prevent sun exposure. And while it's never too late to implement sun-safe practices in our lives, it is too late for most of us who have already done damage to our skin to go back to the drawing board. We can serve as key players in the game of prevention, though, by initiating prevention for our children who can be saved by our hard lessons.

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Moderate drinking can lower the risk of kidney cancer

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It seems to me like health experts are always going back and forth on the subject of alcohol -- one day it's good for you, the next it's going to kill you. Well, today it appears it is good for you, as it has been shown to reduce the risk of renal cell (kidney) cancer in a study that tested non-drinkers compared to those who consumed one alcoholic beverage a day. But the article is quick to point out that it's not saying that drinking is good for you overall, as alcohol has been shown to be linked to other cancers, including breast cancer and cancers of the oral cavities, esophagus and more.

So I guess the moral of the story is, don't take up drinking to prevent kidney cancer, yet don't give up drinking as it might help ward it off. Huh? I think there is way too much information out there on what's good for you and what's bad for you to really take it all seriously. Live a healthy life, eat well, partake in occasional activity and enjoy the things you enjoy in moderation -- the rest is up to nature if you ask me.

What do you think?

Cancer patient recieves $1M payout from his employee, Qantas

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What's your body worth? $1 million? $2M? $20M? Philip Johnson settled on $1 million , the amount his former employer, Qantas Airlines, paid him for exposing him to Hexavalent Chromium while at work, which eventually lead to him being diagnosed with lung cancer. Johnson settled on the amount out of court, because in his words, "I can no longer work because of my condition, so I'm just happy to have the money to keep going with...I just feel relieved that it's all over actually."

It's impossible to put yourself in his place unless you've been in a similar situation, but somehow $1M doesn't seem enough, especially considering the emotional trauma he and his family must have endured due to his illness. Good health is priceless.

What do you think? Does $1M cover the cost of a life? Is Qantas to blame or is it just the luck of the draw?

Wednesday, 30 May 2007

Early hair loss may signal diabetes risk in men

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When I was 19, I started to notice a little bit of hair loss. I'll admit it, I freaked. Fortunately, the trend didn't continue, and several years later the state of my pate is still good. What I didn't realize at the time, and what I didn't realize until I recently came across a study from the Institute of Endocrinology in Prague, is that young men with thinning hair are at a greater risk of diabetes.

After analyzing the blood of several men, the researchers discovered that men who began losing their hair before the age of 30 were more likely to be insulin resistant -- increasing their risk of diabetes. The results of the study also suggested that as hair growth hormone decreased, insulin resistance increased.

So, if you happen to be a guy under the age of 30, and you're waking up on a pillow that looks more like a shedding cat slept on it than a human, then you may want to have a fasting blood glucose test done. Levels above 100 milligrams per deciliter signal trouble.

Popular diabetes drug Avandia poses heart attack risk for type 2 diabetics

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When my mom was first diagnosed with diabetes in the late 1990s, her internist prescribed Rezulin, a popular diabetes drug approved in 1997. Then one day the phone rang. Her internist called to alert her Rezulin was causing fatal liver failure and he wanted her off the drug immediately.

Now Avandia, a popular diabetes drug which helps sensitize the body to insulin, is on the hotseat. A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine by Dr. Steven Nissen and statistician Kathy Wolski at the Cleveland Clinic suggests Avandia significantly raises the risk of heart attack for type 2 diabetics.

Nissen pooled results of nearly 28,000 people across dozens of studies, revealing a 43 percent higher risk of heart attack for Avandia users compared to diabetics prescribed different drugs or no diabetes medication at all. Two-thirds of type 2 diabetics die of heart problems. With a 43 percent higher risk, Avandia may be downright dangerous.

GlaxoSmithKline PLC, maker of Avandia, disputes Nissen's analysis, but admitted a similar review revealed a 30 percent increased risk. I don't know about you, but a 30 percent higher risk of heart attack frightens me. Glaxo did say further rigorous studies did not confirm an excess risk.

I suspect the phones will soon be ringing in the homes of Avandia-prescribed type 2 diabetics. And it's not good news.

Fish oil and your heart: a healthy connection

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A post I wrote a while back for That's Fit generated a lot of interest. It was about one of the World's fattest men and how he lost weight with help from Fish Oil. But Fish Oil isn't just good for the morbidly obese -- it helps your heart too, according to this article. What is it about fish oil that makes it so healthy? I'm guessing it's the omega 3 in it, since that is the only nutrient referred to in the article. Regardless, I think it's a great suggestion as it's proven to be a healthy addition to any diet.

I love fish so I think I'm probably getting my share through diet alone. However, if you don't like fish (like my little brother), you can get your fish oil in capsule form these days, so no excuses!

Get a grip

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Have you ever shaken someone's hand who has a strong grip, wondering if your hand would look like a car wreck once it is finally released? Well, it turns out that building hand strength has more benefits than just crushing someone's knuckles. A study that appeared in the European Journal of Applied Physiology suggests that increasing hand strength can actually reduce blood pressure.

In 8 weeks, test subjects who performed hand grip exercises lowered their systolic blood pressure by an average 15 points and their diastolic blood pressure by an average of 5 points. To effectuate these results, test subjects squeezed digital grip machines for 2 minutes, four times a day, three times per week. Researchers discovered that the blood pressure response to grip training is greater than to aerobic exercise.

This is a great breakthrough for patients with high blood pressure, for it highlights the fact that something as simple as squeezing a hand gripper can have a dramatic effect. Plus, squeezing a gripper will help ensure that you are up for the challenge the next time your mechanic wants to exchange a nice, firm handshake.