Getting Some Exercise Drops Your Risk of Liver Disease

jogging running coupleIt used to be that people with liver disease were mostly heavy drinkers. But as waistlines began to expand in the ’80s and ’90s, doctors noticed an increasing number of overweight and obese patients who seemed to have liver disease but who didn’t drink. Further research found that it was their weight, not their alcohol consumption that was causing problems for their liver function. Past guidelines had suggested that exercise might help stave off liver disease, but new research has shown that exercise is better than most realized. Read more  »

Food Recalls: Why They Happen and Why We Should Care

food rotten smells badIt’s a fact of life that bacteria are everywhere around us. They’re on our clothes, in our guts and all over the food we eat. Most of those bacteria don’t do any harm. In fact, many of them help us. But occasionally we come across a few bad apples that can do us some serious damage. On the show, I’ve covered several cases of food-borne illness and Sabra’s recent hummus recall is just one more in a very long list that just seem to keep getting longer. I think it’s important we all know how our food is made, tested and kept safe, which is why I want to take a few moments to talk a little about the food safety.

Who regulates food production?

The modern food industry has mostly shifted production away from local making of food to industrial production of food that then gets shipped to locations across the nation. While farmer’s markets are making a comeback in a big way, they don’t come anywhere near competing. When this move to industrial food production took place, factories weren’t always the cleanest of facilities. You might have read Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle at some point in school, which talked in part about the unsanitary practices of meat preparation. Read more  »

Yolanda Foster on Her Battle With Lyme Disease

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Written by Yolanda Foster

Thank you so much for the extraordinary kindness and empathy. Knowing that you care and that you are now aware of this confusing disease is all I could ask for as I work my way through the darkness of this maze. I will try to address some of the most common questions I get asked here. As I write, I’m currently flying 18 hours to get home from Singapore, where I just spent two weeks in a clinic in Seoul, Korea, with a doctor that believes that rebuilding the immune system and healthy cells are the key to my recovery. Read more  »

Why Talking About Race Is Still Important in Health Care

women weights exercise happyOne of the things I’ve been most proud of about my show is the way it reaches people from all different backgrounds. I’m always amazed by the way my audience cuts across all racial groups, social groups and economic classes. That broad interest has shown me time and again that all Americans, no matter where they come from, want to improve their health and are ready to take steps toward a healthier, fitter version of themselves.

Unfortunately, we’re not all given the same opportunities to do that. Study after study has shown that race still plays an enormous role in your risk for several diseases and in your ability to access services that will keep you healthy. Medicine is still lagging behind in treating everyone equally and ensuring that all people, regardless of their race, status or resources, get what they need to get the most out of their health. It’s National Minority Health Month, and I want to take a moment to talk about why this is an important topic. Read more  »

Preventing Ovarian Cancer: What Would You Do?

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Two years ago Angelina Jolie revealed her decision to have a preventive double mastectomy. She made this choice after learning that she has a mutation in the BRCA1 gene, giving her an estimated 87% risk of breast cancer. It also gave her a 50% risk of developing ovarian cancer, which claimed her mother’s life. More recently, Jolie has written about a new medical decision she’s had to face. Given her increased risk of ovarian cancer–and the fact that she was 10 years younger than the age at which her mother was diagnosed, she elected to have her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed as a preventive measure. She has emphasized that her highly personal decision is not the only option for a woman under these circumstances. But it does give us cause to revisit the question: How far should we go to reduce our risk of cancer? Read more  »

Today’s Headlines: Exercise, Supplements and Mammograms

Even a little exercise is better than none. While current health guidelines recommend at least two to three hours of physical activity per week for optimal health, many fall below that mark. New research has shown that shouldn’t discourage you. “During years of follow-up, the team found that people who did less than the minimum recommended amount of physical activity still had a considerable decrease in risk of death compared to people who did no activity at all. Researchers looked at data on more than 660,000 men and women in the U.S. and Europe. Half the studies had tracked participants for more than 14 years. Based on self-reports of physical activity, people who did less than the recommended minimum of activity were still 20 percent less likely to die during the studies than people who were not active at all.” That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t bother to hit the minimum benchmarks. “Mortality risk was 31 percent lower for people who did one to two times the recommended minimum, and 37 percent lower for those who did two to three times the recommended minimum.” Still, the research shows that whatever you can fit in is better than nothing at all. (Reuters)

Acacia rigidula supplements may contain dangerous amphetamine. The FDA doesn’t verify the claims you see on herbal supplements, and recent research has shown these companies make outlandish claims about what their herbs do and may even add dangerous chemicals to get the right effect. “A new study found the stimulant beta-methylphenylethylamine, or BMPEA, in more than half of 21 brands of Acacia rigidula supplements. The products tested were marketed for weight loss, athletic performance and to improve brain function, the researchers said. BMPEA has been shown to raise blood pressure and heart rates in dogs and cats but has not been studied in humans. The World Anti-Doping Agency classifies it as a doping agent because it is closely related to amphetamine. BMPEA is the latest in a series of amphetamine-like stimulants that have appeared in supplements. Acacia rigidula, a shrub that is native to Texas, does not naturally contain BMPEA. The FDA began investigating the product after a study in the late 1990s suggested there could be trace amounts of amphetamine in the plant. The agency found no amphetamine and no BMPEA in the plant itself but high levels of synthetic BMPEA.” Rises in blood pressure and heart rate can increase the risk of stroke and heart disease. Acacia rigidula is also known as blackbrush acacia, Chaparro Prieto and Vachellia rigidula. (Fox)

Mammograms may lead to many false positives, higher cost. While there’s no doubt that mammograms help to detect breast cancer, the test has come under fire lately around concerns that it may lead some women to get more workups than they really need. “A new report estimates that the U.S. spends $4 billion a year on unnecessary medical costs due to mammograms that generate false alarms and on treatment of breast tumors unlikely to cause problems. The study breaks the cost down as follows: $2.8 billion resulting from false-positive mammograms and another $1.2 billion attributed to breast cancer overdiagnosis. That’s the treatment of tumors that grow slowly or not at all, and are unlikely to develop into life-threatening disease during a woman’s lifetime. The cost estimates cover women ages 40-59. Apart from the financial cost of screening tests and treatment, false positives and overdiagnosis expose women to risks from additional medical procedures, not to mention psychological distress. It’s not uncommon for mammograms to turn up some apparent abnormality that has to be resolved with more imaging tests or a biopsy.” The researchers hope their findings will continue the conversation about how best to use the mammogram as a screening tool for breast cancer. (CBS)

Smoking for Weight Loss Makes Quitting Less Likely

woman quit smokingEver heard that smoking can help you lose a few pounds? If so, you’re not alone. Many people notice that they lose a little weight when they first start smoking, and some continue smoking for fear of weight gain if they stop. New research out this week has shown that the belief that smoking helps with weight loss can have a powerful influence over whether women decide to quit and may even overpower the effects of some of the usual tricks designed to get people off nicotine. Read more  »

Double “T” Shake

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Tahini and sun-dried tomatoes are the power ingredients in this recipe, giving you vitamin A, vitamin C, iron and protein. Avocado adds vitamin E and antioxidants, and chia seeds are high in omega-3s. This smoothie is at the peak of protein and nutrients, even without the protein powder. Get the recipe.

The #1 Question to Ask Your Doctor (No Matter What’s Wrong With You)

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I see two kinds of patients: those who come prepared to doctor’s appointments with a long list of questions, and those who come with no questions at all.

But no matter how many questions a patient has, I still find they miss the most important one. What is it? It’s simple: “What are the next three actionable steps I can take to improve my condition?”

It doesn’t matter what the problem is. It works for diabetes, chronic back pain, high cholesterol, or a newly broken bone, which is a pretty wide range of medical issues. So why is this question the most important one to ask? Read more  »

Today’s Headlines: Acetaminophen, Googling and Sitting

Tylenol doesn’t work for most chronic pain. When you have a sore back or aching knees, your first inclination might be to reach for acetaminophen. But according to new research out this week, that might not be the right choice for common causes of chronic pain. “Australian researchers reviewed three randomized trials that compared acetaminophen with a placebo for the relief of spinal pain, and 10 trials that compared their use for easing the pain of osteoarthritis. All together, the analysis included 5,366 patients. The review found high quality evidence that acetaminophen is ineffective in treating low back pain or disability. The studies of pain from knee and hip arthritis found a small but clinically insignificant short-term pain-relief effect for acetaminophen compared with a placebo.” This is not to say that acetaminophen never works. Instead, the researchers emphasize that it should probably be used for short-term pain. Those with chronic pain should talk to their doctors about other pain relievers that might help with chronic pain, especially if that pain is back pain or from arthritis. (New York Times)

Googling the answers to your questions make you feel smarter. When someone asks a question no one seems to know the answer to, it’s tempting to pull out your phone and find the answer. New findings published this week have found that doing so can make you feel smarter, but may not actually make you smarter. “The researchers asked 195 people to answer common questions, such as “how does a zipper work?” Half were told to look up the answers on the Internet, and half were told not to. Then they asked them to rate their ability to explain the answers to six unrelated questions. The group that had searched the Internet claimed much more knowledge than the group that hadn’t. They next asked 142 people to rate their ability to explain six concepts before and after they did the same experiment. Beforehand, they expressed the same confidence to explain the material. But afterward, those who used the Internet were confident they could give significantly better answers. And even when they rigged the online searches so that they produced no results, the Internet users rated themselves as more knowledgeable than non-Internet users.” The team found the Googling effect only applies to areas where people think the Internet might be useful, indicating people are storing in their brain where to find certain information, rather than the actual information itself. (Washington Post)

Sitting less also means less diabetes. When the newest season of your favorite TV show appears online, it can be tempting to watch the whole thing in one go. But new research has found that doing so regularly may increase your diabetes risk. “The group started with the population of people at higher risk of developing diabetes who were enrolled in the Diabetes Prevention Program. Some were assigned to exercise at least 150 minutes at a moderate level each week and change their diet with the goal of losing 7% of their body weight. Others were given the diabetes drug metformin, and another group was given a placebo. After more than three years, those who adopted the lifestyle changes lowered their risk of developing diabetes by 58%, compared to 31% for those taking the drug. The researchers also asked how much time they spent sitting at work and how much time they spent watching TV. The lifestyle group spent fewer hours sitting than the metformin and placebo groups, despite the fact that sitting less was not a specific goal of the program. And the more time they spent off their chairs, the lower their risk of going on to develop diabetes. Every hour spent sitting increased the risk of developing diabetes by 3.4%.” The results emphasize the importance of physical activity in lowering diabetes risk and suggest that efforts to help high-risk people avoid diabetes should include a goal of sitting less. (TIME)