Today’s Headlines: Menstrual Cramps, Feeling Full and Sleep

Smoking increases pain of cramps. Menstrual cramps are bad enough without smoking coming along to make them worse. But new research has found that women who smoke are more likely to have severe menstrual cramps than their non-smoking counterparts. The researchers found the likelihood increased with the number of cigarettes smoked. “The researchers also found that the earlier women started to smoke, the higher their risk of chronically painful periods. Specifically, the risk was 59 percent higher for women who started to smoke before age 13, and 50 percent higher for those who took up cigarettes at age 14 or 15. The results may provide an incentive for young women to abstain from smoking.” Why this might happen is unclear, but it may have to do with how blood vessels are affected by smoking. “We know that smoking causes narrowing of the blood vessels and decreased blood supply. When this happens with the uterus, it can cause pain.” (Reuters)

New chemical designed to make you feel full faster. Part of the challenge in going on a diet is the sudden drop in food volume. That can make you feel hungry and unsatisfied, even if you just ate. Some researchers think they have the solution. “The team harnessed the power of a propionate, which naturally makes us feel full when it is produced by breaking down fiber in the gut. Researchers said their chemical would have to be eaten regularly to have an effect. In initial tests, 20 volunteers were either given inulin on its own or the new ingredient, known as IPE, and then allowed to eat as much as they liked from a buffet. Those who had been given IPE ate about 14% less food. In the next part of the study, 49 overweight volunteers were either given IPE or inulin in powder form and asked to add a spoonful to their food every day. After 24 weeks, six of the 24 volunteers given inulin had gained more than 3% of their body weight while only one of the 25 given IPE had done so.” The researchers point out that the compound is pretty foul tasting, but they’re working on ways to make it more appealing by combining it in certain foods or with specific ingredients. (BBC)

Sleep troubles may increase risk of Alzheimer’s.  Sleep troubles have been associated with a variety of health problems including high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease. A new study has found that low brain oxygen during sleep, seen in diseases like emphysema and sleep apnea, increases signs of brain damage. “The study analyzed 167 Japanese-American men with an average age of 84 until their death, which was about six years later. The men were divided into four groups based on percentage of time spent with lower-than-normal blood oxygen levels during sleep, with the highest group spending 72 to 99% of the night with low levels, according to a news release. The lowest group only spent 13% of their time with low oxygen levels. The researchers found the men in the highest group were nearly four times more likely to have brain damage that the lowest group. The researchers also concluded that people who spent less time in deep sleep were more likely to have a loss of brain cells compared to people who spent more time in deep sleep, also called slow wave sleep.” Fortunately, sleep apnea is a treatable cause of sleep disruption and emphysema can improve once smoking is stopped. If you’re a snorer, it might be time to get checked out by a sleep doc. (Fox)

Alcohol Causes the Wrong Kind of Sleepiness

alcohol woman in bed beerWhether it’s a glass of wine or a shot of brandy, many are familiar with the sleep inducing effects of an evening drink. Alcohol is so popular, in fact, that up to 20% of Americans use it as a sleep aid to help them get some shut eye. But new research into how exactly alcohol affects sleep has revealed that it’s probably not the best way to drift off.

Researchers have observed for some time that alcohol affects how we sleep. Those under the influence take less time to fall asleep, for example. The problem is, that effect is short-lived. While falling asleep is easy, staying asleep is much harder, and the sleep during the second half of a night of drinking is often disrupted. The case is more severe in alcoholics who often have terrible insomnia followed by daytime drowsiness. The authors behind this new study sought to understand why that was the case. Read more  »

Clarifying This Year’s Flu Vaccine

sick woman with cough in bedFlu season has arrived, with many regions of the country already seeing a significant uptick in flu cases. I make sure to get vaccinated every year before flu cases appear to protect the vulnerable and sick patients I deal with on a constant basis. I’m sure you’re well aware of the yearly calls to get the flu shot, and I hope you’re one of the many who have already bared their shoulders to get vaccinated.

But I know there are holdouts every year, and I hope to address some common concerns I hear from viewers and patients alike who ask for my advice every year. I think this is especially important in light of recent news that the flu vaccine may not be as effective as in previous years. Read more  »

Common Foot Skin Problems

feet

We all strive for beautiful, healthy skin. The market is full of thousands of skin products and moisturizers focusing on maintaining healthy skin for our faces and bodies. What about issues that affect the skin of our feet? Since our feet sustain our entire body weight when we walk, the skin on our feet may become rough and tough over time. Similarly, our feet may be susceptible to viral, fungal and bacterial skin infections. That means skin disorders of the feet may require special attention. Here are some common conditions that frequent my office. Read more  »

Today’s Headlines: Mammograms, Surgery Problems and HPV

Regular mammography with ultrasound unreliable for dense breasts.  The medical community has long struggled to effectively screen women with dense breast tissue for breast cancer. That’s because dense tissue is harder to see through, making it easier for cancer to hide from view. In the past, the solution had been to supplement the mammographic view with an ultrasound of suspicious areas. But “new research suggests that for women with dense breasts, conventional mammography supplemented by an ultrasound scan is a costly addition unlikely to improve detection or reduce breast-cancer deaths. But compared with conventional mammography alone, 3-D mammography, also called tomosynthesis, does increase the likelihood of detecting cancer in women with dense breasts.” The results come from two studies, neither of which compared 3-D mammography directly with mammography plus ultrasound. While ultrasound had been thought to help visualize worrisome spots on mammograms, one of the studies found that “sonogram scans frequently turn up false positives, prompting many women to undertake the risk, cost and inconvenience of having a breast biopsy when they either do not have breast cancer or have forms of cancer that will not ultimately threaten their lives.” (LA Times)

Problems after surgery best dealt with at the same hospital. While most who undergo surgery heal well without trouble, some experience problems. For many reasons, those who have complications may end up in a hospital different from the one where they had surgery. But new research says complications are best dealt with at the hospital where the surgery was done. According to the research, “patients who went to a hospital that didn’t do the original operation for treatment of a complication have a higher risk of death. Even when the team accounted for how sick patients were, what type of hospital they went to, and how far they traveled for care, they still found that patients had higher mortality rates when they had post-operative care at a different facility.” The research team thinks this is because the new care team doesn’t know much about the patient or the surgery that was done, causing them to take longer to figure out what’s going on. They may not even specialize in the kind of surgery performed. One physician noted that this shows the importance of planning at the hospital. “Patients shouldn’t leave the hospital without a follow-up appointment scheduled and clear directions on who to call for help when complications arise.” (Fox)

HPV vaccine doesn’t increase risky sex. The HPV vaccine blocks infection from most strains of the HPV virus responsible for most cases of cervical cancer among women. Some initial concern had arisen that this might make some girls and young women feel safer engaging in risky sexual behavior. Not so according to a new study that is the largest to date. “Teen girls in the study who were vaccinated against HPV were no more likely to become pregnant or contract another sexually transmitted infection (STI) than girls who were not vaccinated. Using health databases in Ontario, the researchers studied more than 128,000 girls, half of whom were eligible for the vaccine in school. The other half had gone through grade 8 before the vaccine was offered. In grades 10 through 12, more than 10,000 of the girls became pregnant, and 6,000 contracted an STI. But the girls who had been vaccinated were no more or less likely to experience pregnancy or an STI than those who had not been vaccinated.” (Reuters)

Vitamin C May Help With Breathing Troubles After Exercise

running in the winter dog womanIf you sometimes struggle to catch your breath after exercise, you’re not alone. About 10% of the general population and 90% of asthmatics have trouble breathing and symptoms like cough or sore throat after vigorous physical activity. It can even happen to competitive athletes, especially those who do endurance sports like running or those who compete in winter sports. Read more  »