Saturday, 11 August 2007

The Dudley Foundation b-ball camp for kids

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NBA veteran Chris Dudley was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 16. Luckily, his doctor was supportive of sports, and from that point forward Chris believed he could succeed. Sixteen seasons in the NBA followed. Along the way, Chris established The Dudley Foundation to help other kids with type 1 diabetes pursue their sporting dreams.

Yesterday, Chris wrapped up his 12th year of basketball camp enrolling 75 kids with type 1 diabetes between the ages of 10-17. Campers experienced a full day of skills, drills and games, with two hours of daily free time. The camp strives to teach these youngsters how to maintain good control of their diabetes while playing an intensive sport.

The Foundation allows Chris to give back the same inspiration he sought as an avid high school basketball player with type 1. As a teen, Chris' type 1 athletic role models included Philadelphia Flyers Hall of Famer, Bobby Clark, along with a triathlete. Now Chris is a role model to many, and the basketball camp is but one outreach of his tremendous advocacy for people with diabetes. Diabetes education and search for a cure are other Foundation goals. He has garnered several prestigious awards, including USA Today's Most Caring Athlete.

The Portland Trailblazers just interviewed Chris at the Oregon b-ball camp -- check out this podcast and see what he has to say.

Thiamine deficiency linked to vascular disease

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Many people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes have to deal with vascular problems. Just ask my brother. A type 1 for over 30 years, he has diabetic retinopathy and had a stroke in his late 30s. Microvascular complications can cause kidney disease, vision disorders and neuropathy, while macrovascular complications can cause heart disease, stroke and peripheral vascular disease.

Researchers at the University of Warwick have definitively shown diabetics are deficient in thiamine (vitamin B1), and the deficiency is connected to vascular complications associated with the disease. The research team found thiamine concentration in blood plasma was decreased 76 percent in type 1s and 75 percent in type 2s. Why is this only being discovered now? Previously, conventional assessment of thiamine levels involved measuring the activity of an enzyme (transketolase) in red blood cells. Past research observed normal enzyme activity, thus, thiamine levels were assumed normal. However, the 'normal' activity was actually due to increased levels of two proteins that aid in thiamine transport into red blood cells. Turns out increased levels of the proteins were triggered by a deficiency of thiamine. Who knew?

Researchers also found thiamine deficiency in vascular cells is linked to a marker of those serious microvascular and macrovascular complications in people with diabetes. Most discouragingly, ingesting a thiamine supplement with your eggs and toast is of no help. Decreased plasma thiamine concentration in clinical diabetes has nothing to do with diet, it is due to a marked increase of thiamine removal from the blood into the urine.

On the bright side, at least we know diabetics are deficient in thiamine, and it is related to vascular problems. I'm sure a cascade of new research is on the way.

Can being overweight REDUCE the severity of heart disease?

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Can obesity actually help heart disease be less severe??? According to this article, in some cases it can.

Talk about confusing and contradictory information! We know that obesity causes heart disease (the study doesn't dispute that), but apparently for overweight Type I diabetics once they have it their extra flab helps lessen how badly they suffer.

What?! Other than knowing that it happens, and that it seems more pronounced in women than men, experts have little more than guesses on how or why this phenomenon happens. One guess is that extra weight helps buffer fluctuations in blood sugar. But what they do know is that weight gain and obesity is still outrageously dangerous to a person's health -- with or without this news.

Via The Diabetes Blog

Thought for the Day: On beating the odds

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Forrest Church, Minister of Public Theology at All Souls Church in New York City, was diagnosed with esophageal cancer at the end of last year at the age of 58. His father, Frank Church, the former Senator from Utah, died of the same cancer at age 59.

In the beginning, the outlook was grim as esophageal cancer is a particularly aggressive cancer. However, as Church started to progress through the diagnosis stage, his odds kept getting better and better. First, metastasis was not found, jumping his odds from 20-1 to 50-50. Surgery was performed. The post-op report was good with clear margins and negative lymph nodes. His odds went to 4-1 that he was cured.

Church speaks about this idea of "Beating the Odds" ...

Church writes:

If my cancer returns to kill me, it won't be unfair, only unlucky, in the same sense that I was lucky to beat the odds that seemed at first to make survival a chancy bet. Beating the odds, I slowly began to realize, had nothing to do with the stakes of the mortality table.

The truth of the matter struck me with tremendous force.

I'd beaten the odds already, won the house on a zillions to one wager fifty-eight years before the moment I was born. Think about it, and then translate this unaccountable triumph to your own precious life. Whether the odds that I will die at 59 stand at 20-1, 1-1, or 1-4 is incidental, given how astronomically long the odds were against my being alive in the first place to reckon them ...

We're talking miracles here.

Maybe we have all beaten the odds already. Just by being here.

A new twist on the broken breast cancer bracelet

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My brother-in-law just read the post I wrote about his allegiance to the pink breast cancer bracelet -- the one that snapped after three solid years of wear, the one he replaced a day later.

I wrote my previous post in an attempt to give meaning to this perhaps symbolic happening. A breast cancer bracelet breaks -- what could that mean? I took a stab my own interpretation. My thoughts are featured in that post, On broken cancer bracelets. Now, Jack is weighing in with his own twist on the matter. I like his version.

Jack says his bracelet, worn ever since I was diagnosed with breast cancer in November 2004, broke because I am free of cancer. The bracelet is no longer necessary. End of cancer. End of bracelet. End of story.

"Then why did you put on a new bracelet?" I asked Jack.

"For someone else," he said.

This time, the bracelet is not for me. Because I don't need it anymore. It's for someone else. Who? No one in particular. It's just for someone else.

I like how you think, Jack.

Thank you.

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Breaking chromosomes can lead to cancer, Tufts study says

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In a study recently published in Molecular Cell, two molecular biologists at Tufts have used yeast artificial chromosomes to show that there is a highly flexible DNA sequence that increases fragility and stalls replication, causing the chromosome to break. The site that is prone to breaking lies in the middle of a tumor suppressor gene and breakage is highly associated with cancer.

According to Catherine Freudenreich, lead author on the study, "If you delete that gene or delete part of that gene so it doesn't work anymore, that can lead to tumors. The fact that there is fragility in the same region that this gene is located is a bad coincidence."

Worthy Wisdom: Trimming the fat

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I'm still synthesizing all of the information I gathered at Canyon Ranch in Tucson, Arizona. I've been home from this health and healing institute for three months now. Still, I'm discovering new and exciting ways to put into action the tools I brought home.

One task I've mostly mastered is trimming the excess fat out of my diet. I never realized how much fat I was eating before I closely examined my habits. A half order of cheese fries with ranch dressing during an occasional trip to the Outback was costing me 91 grams of fat -- not to mention 1,450 calories and 120 grams of carbohydrates. Now I steer clear of fatty foods and pay close attention to what I ingest. In case you want to jump on board, here are a few tips: Use skim or soy milk, pick low-fat cheeses, pick up some ground turkey instead of beef, and snack on fresh fruit instead of chips, dips, cookies, and cakes.

This is just a start. But a difference it will truly make.

Choline, found in red meat, poultry and dairy, may raise risk of colon cancer

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A new study suggests that choline, a nutrient found in red meat, poultry and dairy, may contribute to the development of intestinal polyps, which can lead to colon cancer. The study was led by Eunyoung Cho, an epidemiologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital.

The study was of more than 39,000 nurses, who all happened to be women. The women were originally free of colon cancer and then had at least one endoscopic examination performed. Polyps were found in more than 2,400 of the women. Women who ate the most choline were 1.45 times more likely to have polyps. Having more polyps does not necessarily mean more cancer and further studies will have to examine whether those who ate the most choline developed the most tumors, in addition to studying the effects of choline in men.

Cho cautions that this study is preliminary and that dietary changes should not be made as a result of it.

According to Regina Ziegler of the NCI who wrote a commentary on the new study, current dietary advice to eat lots of fiber and fruits and vegetables "isn't likely to change even if choline turns out to be a possible villain."

As for now, "people shouldn't run out and start either taking more choline or less choline," she said.

Friday, 10 August 2007

Diet and the risk of gastic cancer

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A Japanese study by Shoichirio Tsugane and Shizuka Sasazuki examined the role of diet in the development of gastric, or stomach, cancer.

Helicobacter pylori infection is a strong and established risk factor for stomach cancer. After reviewing the evidence from many studies, the researchers found that the risk may also be increased with a high intake of various traditional Japanese salt-preserved foods. Processed meat and N-nitroso compounds may be associated with an increased risk of gastric cancer.

Gastric cancer risk is decreased with a high intake of fruit and vegetables, particularly fruit. The researchers note that it remains unknown what constituents in fruit and vegetables play a role in gastric cancer prevention.

Consumption of green tea is also possibly associated with a decreased risk of gastric cancer, although the researchers note that the protective effect is limited to Japanese women, most of whom are nonsmokers.

Follow-up testing: What you need to know

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Join Living Beyond Breast Cancer (LBBC) for their next national teleconference, Follow-up Testing: What You Need to Know, from 12:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) on Thursday, August 16.

Virginia F. Borges, MD, of the University of Colorado Health Science Center, will answer your questions about follow-up testing after initial treatment, including:

  • An overview of follow-up testing guidelines and insights into future tests
  • Uses or limitations of screening tests
  • Emotional impact of follow-up testing
  • Routine follow-up tests for other health matters affected by treatment
  • Creating a plan to monitor your overall health
  • The role of follow-up tests for women with advanced (metastatic) breast cancer

Dr. Borges is an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Colorado Health Science Center. She specializes in the treatment of breast cancer, and her research interests include the study of new biologic therapies for breast cancer, development of cancer vaccines and improving the quality of life for people affected by breast cancer. In addition to her clinical practice and research efforts, Dr. Borges volunteers as a medical facilitator for Casting for Recovery.

After the presentation, Dr. Borges will answer questions

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START! walking towards a healthier heart

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If you live in the Philadelphia area then mark Sunday, September 16th on your calendar: it's the 9th annual Start! Heart Walk, sponsored by the American Heart Association. The purpose of Start! is to get people moving and walking to help reduce the devastating effects of cardiovascular disease and stroke, which are now the 1st and 3rd killers of adults in this country. The University of Pennsylvania is participating for the eighth year and through their Penn's Heart Walk page you can get more information, details, and sign yourself up. And I say even if you don't live in the area, it could be a great excuse for a weekend getaway!

Is your life worth a Wal-Mart settlement?

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A $50 million wrongful death lawsuit brought against Wal-Mart by the family of a man who was allegedly given the wrong insulin prescription has been settled during mediation without admission of liability or fault. Terms of the settlement, reached last month, were kept confidential, of course. The dusty news piece is now slowly trickling into more corners of the web.

On December 13, 2005, Keith Scofield visited a Wal-Mart pharmacy in Frederick, Maryland, and ordered over-the-counter Humulin R (u-100). Instead, he was allegedly given Humulin R (u-500), a prescription drug that contains five times the insulin of the requested medication. He injected the insulin on December 20, 2005, lapsed into a diabetic coma, and died on January 2, 2006, according to the lawsuit filed by his family.John Simley, a spokesman for Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart, said: "This was the best way to resolve the matter."

Of course it was. Wal-Mart won't feel a dent in its bottom line from whatever they decided to pay the man's mother and other family members. One report says that the settlement was reached "amicably" by both parties. Well, sure, why not take the money and run? But I doubt there were any clap routines or smiley-faced greetings. The lesson here? Whether you get your insulin at a brick-and-mortar pharmacy or wrapped in pounds of dry ice and bubble wrap (green living anyone?) in a package left by your mail carrier, you better check the label twice if you think your life is worth more than a settlement from a behemoth discount store.

Body butter for a better basal insulin?

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Imagine taking insulin was as easy as applying skin cream. Guess what - it's not so far fetched an idea, thanks to Phosphagenics and it may be coming soon!

Phosphagenics' has patented a transdermal carrier technology (TPM) that rapidly transports insulin across the skin without disrupting or damaging its surface. The company has recently announced successful results from clinical trials in Australia. This confirmes the TPM technology is safe and effective at delivering insulin into the bloodstream, without adverse events. The trial showed that the insulin safely penetrated through the human skin and delivered insulin into the bloodstream over a sustained period of time. Could this be the next generation of basal insulin? Adios Lantus. Arrivederci Levemir! Almost -- TPM/Insulin, applied topically, delivered insulin through the skin and into the bloodstream for up to 8 hours. So like sunblock -- you'll probably have to reapply.

Weep not, fellow Americans. Although Phosphagenics is based in Australia, they are in the process of applying for Phase 2 clinical trials in the U.S. Big ups to the Muffin Man for keeping me abreast of his leading-edge news from the diabetes-friendly forefront!

Anti-diabetes drug begins Phase III trial

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A new diabetes drug in the same class as Avandia has entered the final stage of its clinical trial, bringing it one step closer to government scrutiny in an effort to grab a chunk of the marketplace.

The final stage of testing for balaglitazone, known as the Phase III program, will comprise five to six studies involving different combination therapies for patients with Type 2 diabetes, as well as a long-term safety study, according to Philip Larsen, CEO of Rheoscience, which has partnered with Dr. Reddy's Laboratories Ltd. to develop the drug, said there are no plans to submit a new drug application until after 2009. They also don't have a commercial partner for the product. "We'd really like to see what potential the drug has before we enter a deal," he said.

But it's never too soon to envision to revenue. "I would be a wimp if I said we would only get five percent of the market," he said.

Avandia lesson: drug approval should be about more than blood sugar

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The chairman of the FDA advisory panel that reviewed the safety of rosiglitazone (Avandia) last week believes the time has come to abandon "surrogate endpoints" for approval of type 2 diabetes drugs, according to a report at


OK. English. Basically, the FDA currently approves drugs for diabetes that show great promise for controlling blood sugar. And they do it very quickly. But just because a drug controls blood sugar, doesn't mean it won't hurt your heart.

Endocrinologist Clifford J. Rosen, M.D., wrote his version of that in a perspective published online today by the New England Journal of Medicine. You can read medical jargon filled reports on it here or here. According to the reports, Rosen suggests if the FDA fails to make the shift from surrogate to clinical end points (English: make change to the criteria by which drugs are approved) "with regard to diabetes drugs, we are certain to be in the same position five years from now that we are now: we will again find ourselves in possession of a new wonder drug that is designed to treat a devastating chronic disease but that may do more harm than good."

Landmark agreement in California for students with diabetes

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Most school cafeterias and vending programs feed our kids junk, but even worse, students with diabetes are not provided legally required care to manage the disease during school hours. Children with insulin dependent diabetes are heading to school without the assurance of regular blood glucose testing, the administration of insulin or other diabetes care tasks.

In 2005, four California families and the American Diabetes Association (ADA) filed a suit in San Francisco, alleging some California school districts were not providing adequate diabetes care. In some cases, parents were called to give aid before summoning a school nurse. Michelle Ferry was one such parent. When her son was in first grade, this widowed mother of four had to hire a babysitter so she could head to school to give her son an insulin shot. Risky business for her son, let alone expensive for the Ferry family. What if she could not secure a babysitter and her son ran high blood sugars? This is outrageous and unacceptable. This is just one example, many schools across the country are not adequately serving students with diabetes.

The lawsuit has been settled, and per the agreement, the California Department of Education will now require districts to ensure all children with diabetes have access to proper diabetes care during the school day. What took so long? Students with type 1 diabetes have been in public schools for years! Now a volunter school employee can be trained to assist a student with diabetes. San Ramon Valley school district claimed they wanted this ability, but they were following state regulations that care be provided by a health practitioner. State law outlines seven different categories of caregivers -- which includes a self-administering student, a school nurse or other health professional and family/friends. Now the agreement states if a licensed health professional is unavailable, a trained, unlicensed school employee may provide insulin shots per individual physician order. Hallelujah -- may California trigger a domino effect nationwide.

Jack O'Donnell, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, explained a lack of resources, uncertainty of how to best deliver services, and lack of clarity about state and federal requirements combined to cause hardship to some parents of children with diabetes. He said no parent should have to risk their job to care for their child. What his statement truly lacks is concern for the student with diabetes -- O'Donnell misses the point when he disregards the cumulative, tragic complications of poor blood glucose control.

A big legal team contributed to this win. Hats off to the ADA, attorneys with the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund and the generous law firm of Reed Smith LLP (donor of $2.6 million in pro bono legal services). Here is the announcement of this landmark agreement and a story from Inside Bay Area.

Australian obesity crisis fuels diabetes epidemic

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Type 2 diabetes, mate? By crikey. Australia's diabetes epidemic continues to be a problem. News this week indicates the spread of obesity, and with it associated conditions like Type 2 diabetes, in rural areas is far worse than previously realized. A survey of 806 randomly selected adults (okay, not the biggest sample, admittedly) found that a great many are affected by the disease.

Based on their findings from that survey, researchers calculate that almost three-quarters of Aussie men living in rural areas are overweight. They think women in rural areas may be slightly better-off - around two-thirds may be overweight. This puts rural Australians at a very high risk for T2DM. The conclusion, stated in the Medical Journal of Australia: "urgent population-wide action is required to tackle the problem."

As is the case in the US, a big concern is how to treat all those people as they age and their overall health worses. Specifically, what will become of Australia's public healthcare system? "We might get a whole generation, now in their 40s, 50s and 60s, who will do markedly worse than their parents," predicts lead researcher for the study, Professor Edward Janus of Melbourne's Western Hospital.

Xenotransplants - the pig or not the pig

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The scientific community has been in a heated debate about xenotransplants (transplanting pig islets into humans). Although the procedures are showing to be effective - is the insulin secretion entirely pig? Some experts surmise that after the transplants, diabetic patients are actually able to produce some insulin on their own, after all.

The latest press release from Tissera, Inc (an Israeli-based company) made a statement that raises my hopes. It was, "By the fourth month after transplantation, the insulin dose needed to maintain near-normal blood sugar levels decreased by more than 90% in comparison with the insulin dose needed before transplantation, meaning that endogenous insulin production was predominantly responsible for blood sugar control."

The question of the origin of endogenous insulin was addressed by measurement of blood C-peptide. C-peptide splits from insulin and indicates the level of insulin secretion from the patient. C-peptide levels were measured both at baseline and in response to a sugar load, which brings about a rise in blood C-peptide. The measured C-peptide was shown to be predominantly of pig origin. So herein lies my question: is predominantly more than 50%? A type 1 diabetic has undetectable levels of C-peptide. Period. After the xenotransplant the C-peptide level is all of a sudden detectable? Could these islet transplants assist in regenerating the diabetics' own islets?

MacroGenics in final trials of type 1 drug

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MacroGenics, Inc. is racing to enroll up to 500 adults and children in its final stage trials of a molecule which helps save insulin-producing cells by killing their attackers. It also boosts other immune-system cells throughout the body. What's the rush? Tolerx Inc., a Massachusetts drug company, is scheduled to start late-stage trials for a compound that works similarly to MacroGenics' product. Final trials should last the remainder of the decade.

Earlier studies in academia have shown some type 1 diabetics under this particular treatment required less insulin. Scott Koenig, president and CEO of MacroGenics, stated final trials will test whether the compound could halt the need for insulin in some patients altogether. They expect patients will require fewer daily injections, and shoring up a patient's immune system will help people with diabetes avoid dangerous complications such as heart or limb disease.

If successful, Koenig said the course of the disease can be modified -- an acute intervention with dramatic effects on long-term health. Less insulin, saving beta cells, strengthening the immune system, final stage testing in adults and children ... all sounds exciting. If proven true, type 1 diabetics will flock under the care of this drug like tourists to Chicago's sculpture Cloud Gate (aka The Bean) in Millennium Park. I could not get enough of this reflective wonder yesterday!

MacroGenics is good at raising funds, but they need more. They have enough capital to last another year. According to Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturerers of America, for every 5,000 compounds tested to become a drug, only five make it to final patient clinical trials. Read more in the Washington Business Journal.

Heart disease: Assessing the risk

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It used to be that doctors would give give generalized information on your health. Like your cholesterol was either high, low or average. Your blood pressure was high, low or normal.These days, patients are assessed using specific numbers, accurate data. Heart-health testing has become quite specialized, and risks are presented in percentages. Heart disease is no longer clean-cut -- there are a number of factors that each play an equally important role. Specifically, there are 5 main things that a doctor considers in his or her patients when assessing their risk of heart disease:
  1. Cholesterol levels
  2. Other illness, including diabetes and kidney problems
  3. Other risk factors, like obesity and smoking
  4. Risk of a heart attack
  5. Treatment options
To find out more about assessing your risk, read the full article.

Like to walk, but would love to run? Read this!

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I'm a walker who dreams of being a runner, so when Kelly over at That's Fit wrote this post, it caught my eye! She's got three awesome suggestions for ramping up your walking routine to ease yourself into running, including adding short increments of running to your daily walk, picking a landmark and running to it (then walking again until you're ready to pick another landmark), or using music to help you pick up the pace. When I'm ready to try running, I'm definitely going to use one of these suggestions!

Walking is great exercise, especially for those who have health problems or have been sedentary for a long time. It's perfectly good exercise on it's own, so if you're a walker, don't feel like you ever have to pick up the pace and learn to run, but if your doctor agrees and you want to try it, check out Kelly's post to learn how or visit my favorite learn-to-run website, the Couch-to-5K Running plan.

Inside the aging process

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As we age, we get a few more wrinkles, and perhaps out hair will change colour -- or disappear. We'll have more aches and pains, we won't be able to eat as much, and we'll need more naps. Aside from any major health issues, is that the extent of the effects aging has on our body? No way. There are lots of changes that happen that we don't even think about, such as:
  • We lose lean tissue, which means we lose muscle and tissue from our organs
  • Our lungs shrink
  • Our heart capacity decreases
  • Our body fat increases
  • Our bones thin
  • We lose important functional strength to do every day things like carry groceries.
Wow, when you put it that way, aging sounds like a blast, don't you think? But getting older doesn't have to mean a total disintegration of our bodies. If we form healthy habits today, it should help us age gracefully and healthfully.

Longtime news anchor dies less than a week after diagnosis

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You may not have heard of 75-year-old KTLA news anchor Hal Fishman unless you live in California, but his is an alarming story, and one that's all-too-familiar to some of us. Fishman, who had been a new anchor for 50 years, died last Tuesday of cancer, less than a week after he was diagnosed with it. Fishman saw his doctor last week after collapsing in his home, and it was discovered that he had colon cancer that had spread to his liver. Unfortunately, his family didn't have much time to say goodbye and he passed away at home at 3am on Tuesday.

We often think of Cancer as being a slow disease that gives us lots of time to take in the diagnosis, and lots of time to say goodbye if need be. Fishman's story is much like the story of my dad's death -- he was diagnosed on Thursday and passed away the following Wednesday. Cancer can move faster than the blink of an eye, so it's a good reminder to enjoy every day with your loved ones.

Supposed cancer patient tries to elude the law

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A man who was told he was dying of cancer has been eluding police and the courtroom in New Zealand to avoid going to prison. His reasoning? Since he's dying, he's got nothing to lose and he doesn't want to spend his final days in prison. To be honest, I don't blame him. I might do the same thing if I was staring death in the face.

But now officials are beginning to question the legitimacy of his cancer claims. A known methamphetamine addict, 34-year-old Tifiga Atanoa was arrested with a large tumor on his neck, but that has since seemingly disappeared. What's more, upon re-arrest, he didn't admit to any illness. Is he ill or a liar looking for an excuse to run from the law? He's in police custody now and will face trial later this month.

Thought for the Day: Taking care of the yard, safely

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In spotting so many green yards this summer, I had to ask myself if homeowners were sacrificing potential health problems for the sake of a green yard. It sounds a little odd to many, but the components of many yard fertilizers (and "weed and feed" products) are chemicals many of us would never want in or around our house, let alone on grass that we may walk on.

Herbicides, the "weed" part of weed-and-feed products, can be quite potent and are generally not something you want to touch or inhale in any way. The good news is now that normal fertilizers are being brought under scrutiny by the mainstream media, more "natural" alternatives are showing up on store shelves.

When it comes to these alternatives, we're generally talking about yard nutrient products (fertilizers) that are organically made as opposed to being loaded with industrial chemicals that I'd never allow anywhere near my home. How about you?

Robin Roberts back to work Monday after cancer surgery

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If you plan to tune in to Good Morning America on Monday, you'll see Robin Roberts looking back at you. The co-anchor, 46, expects to back at work on August 13, just 10 days after surgery for breast cancer.

Roberts, who was just recently diagnosed with breast cancer after finding a lump during a self-exam, is still waiting for the test results that will determine her course of therapy. Right now, though, she feels great and looks forward to returning to work alongside Diane Sawyer.

Cancer survivor blogs life as a canvas

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"Our life is a series of images," writes Biko Mabilog on her blog canvas and manuscript. "They pass us by like towns on the highway. Sometimes, a moment stuns us as it happens. And we know that this instant is more than a fleeting image. We know that this moment will live on forever."

Biko's stunning moment came when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. This moment may live on forever, but this courageous woman is handling it with such grace as she documents her journey for all to read. Plentiful with poignant words and powerful pictures, Biko's blog makes it clear she cherishes her life, her family, her every experience.

Finished with chemotherapy and in the throes of radiation, Biko writes, "I am enjoying the mundane things in life and savoring the moments I have with family and friends. Being able to choose my priorities, my commitments, my concerns makes me feel happier, healthier, more in charge of my life. It's good for my health, it is good for my soul."

In June, just before her radiation therapy began, she compared her journey to a basketball game.

"Right now, it feels like I am in between the two halves of a basketball game. The first round of treatment through chemotherapy has just ended and I am gearing up for the second round with radiation treatment that will follow in the next week. In the meantime, the lights are out and the cheerleaders are entertaining the crowds. I am catching my breath, making up for some lost time and making the necessary connections that will make me breeze through the next half."

Wishing you many breezy days, Biko!

Mutation in LKB1 helps lung cancers develop into aggressive cases

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Flaws in a key gene LKB1 helps lung cancers develop swiftly into metastasising tumors according to a study in mice led by by Kwok-Kin Wong of the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. LKB1 has previously been identified as helping the body to suppress cancer.

In mice, the researchers found that mutations of this gene result in more aggressive tumors.

The researchers examined human non-small-cell lung tissues also and discovered that of the 144 samples, 34% of the lung adenocarcinomas and 19% of the squamous cell carcinomas contained abnormal versions of LKB1.

According to the authors, analyzing this gene could help predict how cancer will develop in a patient.

Ultrasound may launch attack on cancer, say Duke researchers

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A high-intensity form of ultrasound, HIFU, that shakes a tumor until it's cell starts to leak can set off an "alarm" that calls the body's immune defenses into play against the cancer, according to a study from Duke University's Pratt School of Engineering.

These findings suggest that once the immune system is activated, it might then seek and destroy the cancer cells, including those that have spread into the bloodstream. This study was done in mice.

If this effect is also true for humans, such a treatment could hold much potential to tackle both primary tumors and metastatic cancer.

According to Pei Zhong, "HIFU in the current form can only be used to treat the primary tumor."

"We now think that HIFU delivered in a different mode, with emphasis on using mechanical vibration to break apart the tumor cells, may have an even more significant impact in suppressing cancer metastasis by waking up the immune system."

Thursday, 9 August 2007

Fat: not so evil after all?

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Fat. Never a good thing, right? At least not in the US, where food is super-abundant. Instead of being rightly grateful for all that food, we blame it for our weight woes. Yes, there's a growing sense that food is the enemy. Food leads to weight gain, which leads to obesity, which leads to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and on and on. (Read Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma for more on what he terms "our national eating disorder.")

But apparently there's a silver lining in all that fat. Says journalist Natalie Angier for The New York Times, "to castigate fat for getting too big and to blame it for high blood pressure or a wheezing heart is like a heavy drinker blaming the liver for turning cirrhotic." That is, if the body couldn't convert energy to fat cells in an efficient manner we'd really be up the proverbial creek. In fact, evolutionary biologists have even speculated that humans' ability to store good-sized quantities of fat has aided the survival of the species and made it possible for our big brains to grow so big and, um, brainy. The fat, you see, helps us through hard times. Food for thought, huh?

Homeless felines adopted by fellow diabetics

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Pet enthusiasts may know that diabetes is rife amongst domestic cats these days. Why? Same reasons type 2 diabetes is such a problem for people - overeating and a sedentary lifestyle puts us at risk for the disease. But here's a cute story from the UK about some diabetic felines who just got lucky in life...or not, depending on your view.

The Lincolnshire Echo reports that an animal rescue organization called Lincoln Cat Care is trying to place rescued diabetic kitties with diabetic owners. Representatives with the group have appealed to diabetics in the community to come forward and help out one of the formerly-homeless cats. Their rationale is simple: people who have diabetes - or perhaps a family member with the condition - can better care for diabetic cats. They know the signs and symptoms of diabetes, they understand the whys, whens and hows of giving insulin.

Now, I'm involved in animal rescue and I have met tons of devoted pet owners over the years. I just don't buy that diabetics are more likely to make better owners. Nope. Sorry. People who really love their pets make the best owners for diabetic cats and dogs. I've met many wonderful owners of diabetic cats. None of those people are diabetic, but they've gone out, asked questions, read up in books and on the Web, and they are pretty darn knowledgeable. And who's to say a diabetic person would provide that level of care just because they have the disease themselves? Many diabetics out there don't even manage their own blood sugar very well! In short, it's dedication that matters here, not your diagnosis.

Cyclist with type 1 training to break world record

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New Zealander Stephanie Mackenzie is a cyclist spinning hard for world records. This teenager also has type 1 diabetes. I just love these stories of athletes with diabetes breaking into the elite levels of sport. The glass ceiling is shattering, and as Carly Simon sings, "that's the way I've always heard it should be."

Stephanie holds the under-17 200-meter track cycling record at the tender age of 14. She has also paired up with a powerful mentor -- Olympic gold medalist Sarah Ulmer. Gymnastics injuries steered Stephanie toward cycling after her osteopath hinted she had the right physique for the sport. Her speed emerged instantly.

Coach and former New Zealand cyclist Damien Wiseman says Stephanie is one of the best he has ever coached. Training daily, this intrepid cyclist has chosen an insulin pump to manage the disease. If Stephanie can nab sponsorship, reaching the junior world championships in Mexico is a short-term goal. Her 10-year goal is to break the world record and bow her head to receive Commonwealth and Olympic medals. Read the full story here.

To protect and preserve your vision

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Diabetes is known for the toll it can take on the small vessels of the body at a rapid rate, including eyesight. MacularProtect Complete is an all-in-one formulation that offers a simple solution to protect vision and the whole body.

MacularProtect Complete is appropriate for individuals concerned about preserving their eyesight and maintaining overall body health. This formula is based on the findings of the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS). The AREDS trial showed that supplemental antioxidants with zinc had a significantly better chance of retaining their macular health. Evidence shows that eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables improves the health of diabetics. MacularProtect Complete provides many of the nutrients at the forefront of nutrition and health research, such as the important antioxidant lycopene - concentrated in tomatoes, and protective bioflavonoids from such diverse sources as bilberry, grape seed, Ginkgo biloba, citrus, as well as quercetin, found in apples and onions.

ScienceBased Health is focused on clinical evidence. As an empirical study - I've been taking MacularPtorect Complete the last month. So far I've noticed a little improvement in my night vision but I can't call it vision resurrection just yet. If you care to test a product out for yourself - they are available through eye care physicians, or by visiting their website.

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Were you cured of Type 2 Diabetes?

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What do you see when you picture THE CURE? The proverbial cure has always been a pill or a shot - just once. Problem solved. Well, if you look at the long list of Type 2 diabetics who have already been cured - it seems a cure will only come one way: the hard way!

Google sent me to this page posted by the Alternative Cancer Treatment Centers. The information first explains where Type 2 diabetes derives: a derangement in essential fatty acids. Specifically and statistically speaking - the fact that we consume twice as many Omega 6s as Omega 3s. The Omega 6s have become the main building blocks of the fats in our diets and therefore the fat in our bodies. This seems to be a triggering event for the rising incidences of obesity, heart disease, and Type 2 diabetes.

So now what? Okay, the page details about 44 things one must do, and continue to do for however long it takes to cure you. Don't read too much into my cynicism. I'm all about the Udo's and dosing up on the Omega 3s over 6s but when the supplement list gets longer than my Christmas List from 1988 - something's got to give! Now does anybody out there have a Type 2 Cure story to share? This is your chance - tell the world your secret to success!

Poll says majority will not prescribe Avandia

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Avandia-maker GlaxoSmithKline might have breathed a sigh of relief after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) panel voted to keep Avandia on the market. But trust me, it is a very heavy sigh This vote was followed by the panel's official acknowledgment (20-3) the drug increases risk of heart attack in patients with type 2 diabetes.

What are the healthcare professionals saying? In a recent MedPage Today poll, only a trickle of respondents (9 percent) stated they would continue prescribing Avandia with no worries. One in four said the drug should be swept off the shelves. Per the FDA panel's recommendation, 36 percent stated they would continue treating certain patients with Avandia. But a whopping 55 percent will not write any more Avandia prescriptions. MedPage Today pointed out the current doctor strike against Avandia could crumble a bit over time. When a late May meta-analysis showed a 43 percent higher risk of heart attack for Avandia takers, a MedPage Today poll initiated shortly thereafter revealed 75 percent would not write any new prescriptions. Today, this 'no new prescriptions' number stands at a lower 55 percent.

The sages say 'time heals all wounds', but Avandia will likely be tattooed with the FDA's strictest black box warning. GlaxoSmithKline can knock on doctor doors and perform a public relations tap dance, but I doubt the Shim Sham will ever return this drug to previous sales levels. At the moment, healthcare professionals do not think so either. They see that tattoo.

UK fat cats diabetic in record numbers

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Hot on the heels of my previous cat-related post comes yet more kitty news from the UK. This time it's about the extent to which diabetes is affecting British cats, and the news isn't good. A study conducted at Edinburgh University reports that one in 230 pet cats in the UK is diabetic. Neutered, overweight male cats are most at risk, apparently. Hmm, at least our hefty male friends don't have to contend with the one of those risk factors! Like humans, however, the more sedentary the cat, the greater the risk.

Overall, being overweight ups the risk of diabetes in felines by three times. There are now around five times more diabetic cats in the UK than there were back in the 1970s. Says Professor Danielle Gunn-Moore of the veterinary program at Edinburgh University, "The lifestyle of cats, just like their owners, is changing. Unfortunately, just like people, cats will overeat if they are offered too much tasty food, particularly if they are bored. While cats would naturally exercise outside, many cats are now housebound, so they have little to do all day but eat, sleep, and gain weight."

Yikes, this describes our own chunky kitty Kato to a T. He is getting older, is sedentary, and weighs in at around 19 pounds last time I checked. Like many people, I'm reluctant to let my cats out in case they get lost, hit by a car, stolen, trapped and impounded...the list goes on and on. Then there's the killing of backyard birds to consider. So: what's a cat lover to do?

Exubera woes hurt outlook for other inhalables

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A year ago, competitors were out to produce their own versions of Pfizer's Exubera, the inhalable insulin. However, now it's clear that Exubera is a bomb. Yes, a slick new ad campaign might revive its fortunes, so don't count Exubera out of the race quite yet. But it's not likely to be the blockbuster product many thought it could be.

Now the fallout is hurting those companies that were scrambling to compete/cash in by producing their own inhalable insulins. According to a report in Forbes, those same companies are ready to beat a smart retreat. Meanwhile, they're trying to reassure nervous investors. Case in point: MannKind Corp. shares fell nearly ten percent on Monday after it was announced the company could take longer to line up a partner for its inhalable insulin, the Technosphere Insulin System.

Not only that, MannKind postponed the release of its second quarter financial report. Wall Street analysts downgraded the stock, saying its short-term outlook is "challenged" and cited disappointing sales of Exubera as a factor. The outlook could be even worse if it looks like insulin caps will make it to market. As I said in a previous blog on that topic, who wants to tote a bulky inhaler around if you can pop some capsules instead?

Drink cloudy apple juice to reduce your risk of heart disease

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The next time you sit down to eat a big juicy hamburger, instead of pouring yourself a glass of soda or a milkshake, consider reaching for a glass of apple juice. Certain substances in apple juice help reduce the level of the so-called "bad" (LDL) cholesterol and may protect against heart disease.

Even better, drink cloudy apple juice, often labeled 'natural.' it contains as much as four times the polyphenols as the clear types. These antioxidant chemicals in apple pulp are also believed to reduce your risk of cancer.

Apples have always played a role in a healthy diet. For decades, if not hundreds of years, we've been told to eat an apple a day to maintain our health. Now, science is uncovering that the healthy components are not just in apples, but are in apple juice as well ... now that's something we can all drink to.

Fat is normal?

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It's not new news that people around the world are getting fatter, but what is a little new is that as a result being overweight and obese is more socially acceptable today than it was years ago. An overweight person no longer sticks out in society -- a thin person is more likely to be noticed as out of the norm. That's sad! And although I would hope people of all shapes and sizes can be accepted for who they are, it seems the more we accept obesity as 'normal' the less we'll fight it. And since obesity = health risks it's something we should be fighting.

Avandia is still on the market, despite risks

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Most of us have heard of the risks associated with diabetes medication Avandia -- which include raising the risk of heart attack by 43% and raising the risk of dying from heart-related problems by 64%. But despite all this, Avandia is still on the market, and it's going to remain there, as the FDA has recommended that it continue to be sold, albeit with a stronger warning about it's potential to lead to heart problems and even death.

What's frightening is that type-2 diabetes patients often already have heart problems, and a drug that's suppose to help improve their health is just leading to more and more problems. But while the manufacturer, GlaxoSmithKline, may not have to lose profits by pulling the drug from shelves, they do have to answer to several angry families who are suing over the death of a loved one.

We're #1!

Hi readers, just a quick note to let you know that MyHeartCentral has listed us, the Cardio Blog, as their number 1 source for daily news and information on heart health, which is truly excellent news and I can assure you, we are certainly flattered. Of course, there are so many great sources of information out there for those who want to get healthy or stay healthy, so we are honoured to take the top spot. But we can't take all the credit. We get inspiration from lots of sources, including
For a list of more great heart-healthy blogs, check out the other top sites on MyHeartCentral.

Stress-reducing tips from Celebs

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An important step in having a healthy heart is reducing your stress. Yeah, it's not as easy as it sounds, especially when we're working long hours and trying to fulfill family and personal obligations. If you're struggling to find ways to de-stress, here are some suggestions from celebrities:
  • Joely Fisher cranks up her music and dances around her living room
  • Kathy Griffin indulges in cheesy reality TV
  • Nancy Travis gets a massage
  • Daisy Fuentes relies on her significant other to calm her down
  • Sharon Osbourne eats chocolate -- the dark kind
To see what more celebs have to say, check out the slideshow!

The Freshmen 15 is not a myth

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The transition of leaving the comfortable nest of your childhood home and heading off to college is stressful for so many reasons. It has been rumored that all too often the stress expresses itself as extra, unwanted weight on the hips and thighs of college freshmen.

The weight gain has long been a debate as to whether or not it is true or just an urban myth designed to scare potential college students. However, as written by Bethany Sanders on our sister blog, That's Fit, the dreaded Freshmen 15 is an all too real truth. According to a new study many college freshmen believe they are healthier than tests reveal. Many are shocked at what their blood tests show as far as cholesterol levels.

The Freshmen 15 likely accumulates from a number of stresses in the life a young student. Leaving the safety of rules of a parent's house for the freedom of every night pizza parties can be a problem. Eating in dorm cafeterias where there is an unlimited supply of pudding and rolls could be an issue. The huge change of leaving the home nest and being responsible is also a consideration. Whatever the case, if you have a young student heading off to the academic wonders of college, it might be wise to sit down and discuss the freshmen 15 and ways to avoid it.

Diet foods may make kids gain weight

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Recent rat studies have helped scientists better understand the connection between taste and calorie consumption. It seems that early on, in rodents at least, rats learn by taste that certain foods provide varying levels of calories. So when young rats were fed low-calorie foods they tended to overeat, because their bodies weren't receiving the proper information. Adolescent rats who were not affected by the low-calorie foods, leading researchers to conclude that this is something that develops in childhood.

From this research, scientists concluded that human children may similarly be affected if fed low-calories foods at a young age. Because childhood obesity and weight is such a concern in our society today, parents may be tempted to feed these "diet" options to kids, but that practice may just backfire on them in the long run. Teaching kids how to balance their foods and eat proper portion sizes seems like a better way to teach them good nutrition for life. What do you think?

The South Eat Diet give Southern cookinga new image

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Southern cooking brings to mind images of bountiful plates laden with fried foods swimming in puddles of grease. Just the mere thought sets many tongues to salivating. Unfortunately, traditional Southern cooking has had to be nixed from many diets because not too many of us want to ingest so much grease and fat into our precious arteries.

Luckily, Southern cooking is getting a bit of a makeover do to the South Eats Diet. The new approach to Southern cooking concentrates more on the beauty of vegetables and grains that have long been a staple on Southern tables while skipping the deep frying parts. By celebrating the slow cooking processes of varied veggies and promoting so many flavors, the fat is cut out of the food. For more on this new idea, click here and enjoy Southern cooking in a new light.

Tired? Watch out you don't eat too much

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If you struggle to get enough sleep every night you may be hurting more than just your energy level -- you could be setting yourself up for obesity. Studies have shown that sleep loss reduces glycogen release from the liver, which triggers hunger. This explains the "freshman 15" phenomenon for college students, and I can say that I for one do feel hungrier on days I'm more tired (plus I crave comfort foods).

This just makes me believe even more than one of the best things you can do for your health, if you were only going to do one thing, would be to get enough quality sleep every night. Of course that's easier said than done, but it's worth the effort!

My Life Line website: connect. inspire. heal.

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Marcia, the creator of MyLifeLine, has a dream: To make a difference in the lives of cancer patients and their families. A cancer survivor herself, she understands what it means to be diagnosed, undergo treatments -- and still be present and available to the questions of concerned family members and friends.

At age 27, Marcia was diagnosed with stage III ovarian cancer. To say it was unexpected is an understatement of vast proportions! At the time of the diagnosis, she was living in Chicago and working as a flight attendant for American Airlines. She went from flying the friendly skies to a complete hysterectomy, followed by 6 months of chemotherapy. One clear memory is the spiritual support she received from family and friends. "For that I am eternally grateful," she says. is a nonprofit organization that encourages cancer patients and survivors to create free, customized websites. Their mission is to empower patients to build an online support community of family and friends to foster connection, inspiration, and healing.