Tag Archives: medicine

Geeking out on Pi Day

As if the earlier infographic weren’t enough, I have found an interesting set of quotes from math loving scientists on Pi that may interest you. If not, no hard feelings… I hope.

Why do math lovers around the world call March 14 “Pi Day”? Because Pi, the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter, is 3.14. Pi is a Greek letter (π) that represents a constant in math: All circles have the same Pi, regardless of their size. Pi has been calculated out to as many as 1 trillion digits past the decimal, and it can continue forever without repetition or pattern.

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In honor of Pi Day, we, the National Institute of General Medical Scientists, asked several biomedical researchers in the field of computational biology to tell us why they love math and how they use it in their research.

Why do you love math?

The computational biologists we talked to offered similar answers. They love math because it lets them see the world in an ordered way. Tamar Schlick of New York University explained, “Math is essentially logic and order combined and applied to solve problems in interesting and creative ways.” Math’s constant rules allow computational biologists to understand and even predict natural phenomena, including biological processes such as cell behavior and biofilm formation. Andre Levchenko of Yale University added, “This predictive power is one of the coolest aspects of math, helping us understand what otherwise may seem paradoxical or impenetrable.”The researchers described exciting findings that math helped them make; here are a few snippets.

What type of math do you use?

The scientists’ toolbox of mathematical approaches extends far beyond the ones we may remember from high school or college. Computational biologists use different types of math and select one or many based on the problem they’re trying to solve. For example, to study the complex, time-dependent processes occurring in our bodies, scientists use a branch of math called nonlinear dynamics. Several of the researchers we interviewed said they’re still discovering mathematical approaches well-suited for biology. Reinhard Laubenbacher of the University of Connecticut Health Center said he’s proud his team “found ways to use areas of math that are not typically viewed as ‘applicable’ in the context of computational biology, such as abstract algebra and algebraic geometry.” Continue reading

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“9 OUT OF 10 DON’T KNOW IT”

I think there are some great points made here regarding living a healthy life vs taking medications regularly on a long term basis.

Tony

 

DIABETES is a DISEASE most people simply view as a “CONDITION.” It is certainly not FEARED like CANCER. This misconception is based on the belief that diabetes is CONTROLLED with prescription medication. This has proven to be an UNRELIABLE approach to addressing the underlying mechanisms of this disease and entirely incapable at reversing it LONG […]

via “9 OUT OF 10 DON’T KNOW IT” — All About Healthy Choices

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Why You Should Laugh More – Infographic

Who said “laughter is the best medicine” first? The best I could find was that it comes from the Bible – Proverbs 17:22 – “A joyful heart is good medicine …” Also, Henry Ward Beecher said, “Mirth is God’s best medicine.”

In any event, it’s good for you as it says below.

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Lord  knows, he’s right.

Maybe I will do more of the Fitness Funnies now that I know this.

Tony

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Do You Fall for the ‘Nocebo Effect’? 5 Ways to Stay Positive for Better Health

If we’re lucky, we learn something every day. Today I learned about the ‘nocebo effect.’

Regular readers know I am a big fan of positivity. To read further, check out

7 Exercises That Train Your Brain to Stay Positive

How to Harness Positive Psychology for You – Harvard

Positive, Happy People Suffer Less Pain

What is Positive Psychology?

pills

Tony

Our Better Health

Scientific studies confirm that a placebo (a dummy medication or procedure) can genuinely benefit a person’s health. But its sinister cousin, the “nocebo effect,” creates expectations of harm, which can lead to seriously negative health consequences.

A patient’s expectations of a treatment clearly influence the way it works. The authors of a 2012 German study note that vulnerable, ill, or injured patients are highly receptive to negative suggestion. A participant in one drug trial developed dangerously low blood pressure by “overdosing” on what he thought was an antidepressant—only when he learned that it was an inert substance did his blood pressure return to normal. (Conversely, the power of positive suggestion may explain some of the success of complementary therapies—from herbal remedies to homeopathy). The more strongly a patient believes in the treatment, the more likely it is to be effective. Here are some ways you can put this knowledge to…

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What is Personalized Medicine?

A 2001 study that was published in Trends in Molecular Medicine found that prescription drugs are only effective for between 50% and 75% of patients, on average. This number drops down to 25% for patients with cancer and 30% of people taking drugs to treat Alzheimer’s.

SwissChiropractic's Blog

Since the first healers began treating people for illness, the way it worked was that you described your symptoms to the doctor, who would then give you a physical examination and perhaps run some tests. Then he or she would make a diagnosis of your condition and treat you double-helix-200-300with drugs or other therapies that were standard for that condition. Personalized medicine takes the diagnosis and treatment of disease to a whole new level due to recent advances in genetics.

Scientists are now beginning to understand that each person’s unique genetic and molecular profile gives them greater susceptibility to particular diseases. Personalized medicine is a way of approaching medical treatment for the individual based upon their specific genetic profile. This can allow doctors to design treatments that are likely to be the most safe and effective for that person. For example, one drug may work well for one person, but…

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How to Make Pills Easier to Swallow

Certain conditions involving the esophagus will predispose one to having difficulty swallowing pills such as strictures (narrowing), scleroderma (hardening) and a condition called presbyesophagus where the muscles of the esophagus do not function properly.

Valley Doctor

Pills

On occasion I have patients present to me with the sensation that a pill was stuck in their throat. This is not an uncommon occurrence. A number of people do have problems swallowing medication in tablet or capsule form. When a pill actually does get stuck it is usually not really in the throat but in the upper esophagus just below the throat.

Certain conditions involving the esophagus will predispose one to having difficulty swallowing pills such as strictures (narrowing), scleroderma (hardening) and a condition called presbyesophagus where the muscles of the esophagus do not function properly.

Warning signs of a stuck pill are:

– Feeling of a tablet or capsule stuck in the throat.

– Pain with swallowing.

– Achy dull pain in chest after swallowing a pill.

There are techniques that help one to swallow pills more easily:

– Relaxing and taking several deep breaths before swallowing.

–…

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What is the Value of Hugging?

What is the value of hugging? Oh yes, it feels nice and likely makes the other person feel nice, too, but are there real tangible benefits to hugging? Or, is that all there is.
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Turns out that there are real measurable benefits from hugging. Scientists have isolated a hormone, a healthy neuropeptide  – oxytocin – that is released into the blood stream when you hold a friend close. As a result your blood pressure goes down as well as stress and anxiety.

Research from the University of Vienna points out that you need to be selective about who you are hugging. A polite squeeze to someone socially that you aren’t close to can have the opposite effect.

Partners in functional relationships have been found to have increased oxytocin levels. The hormone promotes bonding, social behavior and closeness between family members and couples.

Dr. Kathleen C. Light, a professor at the University of North Carolina Department of Psychiatry, studies oxytocin in married couples and those permanently living together. She has found an increase in the hormone over time in close couples.

The National Institute of Health’s News in Health publication reported that “Oxytocin makes us feel good when we’re close to family and other loved ones, including pets.  It does this by acting through what scientists call the dopamine reward system.  Dopamine is a brain chemical that plays a crucial part in how we perceive pleasure….

“Oxytocin does more than make us feel good. It lowers the levels of stress hormones in the body, reducing blood pressure, improving mood, increasing tolerance for pain and perhaps even speeding how fast wounds heal.  It also seems to play an important role in our relationships.  It’s been linked, for example, to how much we trust others.”

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Barbara Frederickson points out in her book Positivity “Although any single hug, or moment of positivity, is unlikely to change your life, the slow and steady accumulation of hugs – or positivity – makes a huge difference. So, find a way to increase your daily dose of genuine, heart-to-heart, hang-on-tight hugs. You will not only give and receive good feelings, but over time, you’ll give and receive good health.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

Tony

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How Bad is Depression?

The focus of this blog – living  a long healthy life – has more to it than just keeping your weight down, eating right and exercising regularly. We need to be aware of our mental well-being as well as our physical health. So I thought you could use this introduction to the scourge that is depression. It is a killer of a disease.

One of the first things you need to know about depression is that it is a disorder of cognition not just mood, according to Robert D. Edger, M.D. speaking before Northwestern Memorial Hospital’s Healthy Transitions Program® .

Depression is significantly more than feeling down or feeling sad.

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Dr. Edger said that depression is the leading cause of disability in the world according to the World Health Organization. Women outnumber men by a factor of two-to-one. Only a quarter of the people who suffer from depression ever get treated. Continue reading

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Should You Try a Gluten-Free Diet?

A popular diet myth is that everyone can benefit from a gluten-free diet. It can give you more energy and is anti-inflammatory. Sales of gluten-free products increased 16 percent in 2010.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition in which the body can’t digest gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. Less than two percent of the population suffers from celiac disease. So, the odds are that you don’t. Nonetheless, there are hundreds of Gluten-Free products.
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The Mayo Clinic says, “A gluten-free diet is used to treat celiac disease. Gluten causes inflammation in the small intestines of people with celiac disease. Eating a gluten-free diet helps people with celiac disease control their signs and symptoms and prevent complications.”

If you don’t have a medical reason for following a gluten-free diet, there is no benefit, according to Erin McCarthy, MS, RD, LDN at theCenter for Lifestyle Medicine at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

The Mayo Clinic also pointed out, “People who follow a gluten-free diet may have low levels of certain vitamins and nutrients in their diets. Many grains are enriched with vitamins. Avoiding grains with a gluten-free diet may mean eating fewer of these enriched products.

So, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. A gluten-free diet is very difficult to adhere to and you will likely get no direct benefit from it for your troubles.

Tony

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Better Diets and More Exercise May Increase U.S. Health – IHME

Data on potentially modifiable causes of health loss, or risk factors, such as improved nutrition and increased physical activity can help policymakers and donors prioritize prevention strategies to achieve better population health, according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington.
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Dietary risks were the leading cause of disease burden in the US and contributed to more health loss in 2010 than smoking, high blood pressure, and high blood sugar. Dietary risks include 14 different components. Diets low in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds and high in sodium, processed meats, and trans fat cause the most premature death and disability.

I think that bold-faced sentence shows the tremendous damage we do to ourselves with careless eating and snacking.

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How many deaths occur every year from dietary risks? 678,282, or 1 out of every 4 deaths. That’s more than 8,500 school buses filled with elementary school children. Continue reading

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What Do You Look for in a Cholesterol Report?

Regular readers know that I am a senior citizen and work at keeping up on my health. I get blood work done at least once a year and sometimes more often. This week was one of those times, so I thought it might help you to understand your cholesterol number more if I went over mine.

Here are my numbers from Tuesday.
CHOLESTEROL
197 Standard Range 0 – 200 mg/dL
TRIGLYCERIDES
46 Standard Range 50 – 150 mg/dL
HDL CHOLESTEROL
85 Standard Range >=40   mg/dL
LDL CHOL (CALC)
103 Standard Range 0 – 100 mg/dL
Non-HDL Cholesterol
112 Standard Range 0 – 130 mg/dL

As you can see from the standard ranges offered, I am on the high side for total cholesterol, but the main reason is that my HDL cholesterol – the good cholesterol – is so high.
Cholesterolin BloodstreamPhoto Continue reading

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What Does an Aging Heart Look Like? – American Heart Association

I found this illustration in the latest issue of American Heart Association’s Circulation Research Journal. I thought it provided a fascinating look at what happens to the heart during aging.

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The Caption in the journal said: Age-dependent changes to cardiovascular tissues. Both the heart and vasculature undergo numerous alterations during aging as a result of deregulation of molecular longevity pathways, leading to compromised function. Illustration credit: Cosmocyte/Ben Smith.

Tony

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Four Insights on Erectile Dysfunction – Harvard

As a sports fan and viewer of ESPN, I have been caught in the deluge of erectile dysfunction (ED) ads that proliferate on these TV venues. Who hasn’t heard the litany of Cialis, Viagra, Levitra, etc.? It seems you can’t help but conclude that a lot of the guys watching sports have a problem with ED.

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Harvard has a publication for sale on the subject.

By way of introduction to it, Harvard offered the following four observations on ED.

“1. ED is often the result of diseases or conditions that become more common with age — or a side effect of the medications used to treat them. Other possible causes of ED include prostate surgery, stress, relationship problems, and depression.
2. Other age-related factors can affect a man’s ability to have an erection — tissues become less elastic and nerve communication slows. But even these factors don’t explain many cases of ED.
3. Cardiovascular disease is a common cause of ED. Clogged arteries (atherosclerosis) affect not only the blood vessels of the heart, but those throughout the body as well. In fact, in up to 30% of men who see their doctors about ED, the condition is the first hint that they have cardiovascular disease.
4. Intriguing findings from the Massachusetts Male Aging Study suggest there may be a natural ebb and flow to ED — that is, for some men, trouble with erections may occur, last for a significant amount of time, and then partly or fully disappear without treatment.”

They conclude with the following positive thought: “Regardless of the cause, ED often can be effectively addressed. For some men, simply losing weight may help. Others may need medications, and there are other options available as well. Given the variety of therapies available, the possibility of finding the right solution is greater than ever.”

From the above list, it appears that age and diet have a lot to do with the problem. Must confess that number four was a surprise. I hadn’t known that ED could come and go, so to speak.

If you want to find out more about the subject, check out the link.

Tony

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Should I Be Tested for Hepatitis?

May is Hepatitis awareness month. Millions of Americans are living with chronic viral hepatitis and many do not know that they are infected. Every year, approximately 15,000 Americans die from liver cancer or chronic liver disease associated with viral hepatitis. Despite this, viral hepatitis is not well known. In fact, as many as 75 percent of the millions of Americans with chronic viral hepatitis don’t know they’re infected.

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The word “hepatitis” means inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis is most often caused by one of several viruses, which is why it is often called viral hepatitis.
The Centers for Disease Control offers a free Hepatitis Risk Assessment to find out if you should be tested for viral hepatitis. This risk assessment tool allows individuals to answer questions privately, either in their home or in a health care setting, and print their recommendations to discuss with their doctor. May 19 is National Hepatitis Testing Day.

You can take the free test by clicking on the link above.

Tony

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Wrigley Launches Caffeine Gum

I guess this would have to be filed in the Something We Need Like Another Hole in the Head Department. Wrigley, a subsidiary of Mars, Inc., has launched a chewing gum with 40 milligrams of caffeine per piece and 8 pieces per box. The average cup of coffee has 100 mg, so just one of these amounts to 40 percent of a cup of coffee.

As you can see from the ad, the product is being advertised for free at 7-Eleven with the purchase of a Skinny Salted Caramel Mocha or other large hot — and presumably caffeinated— beverage! I was not able to nutritional info on this drink, nor the amount of caffeine.

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The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) pointed out that The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages the consumption of caffeine and other stimulant substances in the diets of children and adolescents.  Too much caffeine can cause anxiety, restlessness, irritability, and insomnia in just about anyone, according to CSPI.

The release is perfectly timed to come out right around final exam time for kids everywhere.

Large amounts of caffeine can cause rapid heartbeat and seizures that are severe enough to require emergency care.  While the FDA has regulations governing caffeine in cola-type beverages, those regulations did not anticipate the widespread caffeination of the food supply.

As I oppose Red Bull and all those other stimulant drinks, I have to say this gumming up chewing gum idea really takes the cake. The opportunities for getting too much caffeine are rife. If you were to take all eight pieces you would have chewed up 320 mg of caffeine, more than three cups of coffee with caffeine.

These are a dangerous idea for adults and reckless for kids.

Tony

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What Does Too Much Sugar Do To Me?

I have written so many posts on sugar consumption that to list them here would bog down this post immeasurably. If you want to learn more about sugar, simply type S U G A R  into the search box at the right and you can see them all.

Before I get into this morning’s topic, I want to reiterate the best tool for dealing with sugar consumption – information. One teaspoon of sugar weighs 4.2 grams, so when you read that a beverage has 40 grams of sugar, you will know instantly that it has about 10 teaspoons full and maybe you will decide not to drink it. Secondly, the American Heart Association recommends 6 teaspoons of sugar for women and 9 for men per day.

So, what does too much sugar do to me?

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Here’s what BBC Science had to say on the subject:

“If we consume more sugar than we burn through activity our liver converts the excess glucose into fat. Some of this fat stays in the liver but the rest is stored in fatty tissues around the body.

This is why repeatedly eating too much sugar can lead to weight gain, and even obesity, when combined with a sedentary lifestyle.

“Here are some other health problems that can be caused by eating too much sugar:
Diabetes: Consuming too much sugar in your diet can lead to obesity, which increases your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Those with this condition don’t produce enough insulin and aren’t sensitive enough to what’s produced. Blood sugar levels aren’t regulated properly leading to thirst and tiredness in the short-term and damage to blood vessels, nerves and organs if left untreated.
Heart disease: Obesity also raises blood pressure and ‘bad’ cholesterol levels while lowering levels of ‘good’ cholesterol. These all contribute to raising the risk of heart disease.
Fatty liver disease: Excess sugar can be stored as fat in the liver. The condition has been linked to an increased risk of diabetes and even liver cancer.
Tooth decay: When we eat sugary foods, bacteria in our mouths break down the carbohydrates and produce acids that dissolve minerals in our tooth enamel. The longer the sugar is in contact with teeth, the more damage bacteria can cause. Left untreated this can cause pain, infection, and tooth loss.
Bad mood: Sugary foods like chocolate, cake and biscuits have been labelled ‘bad mood food’ by the NHS. They can give you a quick burst of energy by causing a sharp increase in blood sugar, but when levels fall this can make your mood dip. This cycle can make you feel irritable, anxious, and tired.”

So, there are five more good reasons to pay attention to the amount of sugar you are consuming. I hope that helps you to cut down.

Tony

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