Showing posts from July, 2013

Sudden Drop in Testosterone? Maybe Parkinson's

As if men didn't have enough to worry about, now a new study links sudden declines in testosterone to Parkinson's disease symptoms, and possibly, the disease itself.

According to, you can relax.  It's only happening in mice.  “While scientists use different toxins and a number of complex genetic approaches to model Parkinson’s disease in mice, we have found that the sudden drop in the levels of testosterone following castration is sufficient to cause persistent Parkinson’s like pathology and symptoms in male mice,” Dr. Kalipada Pahan, lead author of the study and the Floyd A. Davis endowed professor of neurology at Rush, was quoted by the Web site.

Still, since men's testosterone levels are "coupled" with many diseases, according to Pahan, it makes sense to look further when levels drop suddenly.  Drops in testosterone levels due to stress or other drastic events in a man's life can predispose him to Parkinson's-like symptoms, Pahan adde…

What Kind of Happy Are You?

Remember the old quote, "All happy families are alike?"  Well now, we're finding out that, just as there are many kinds of unhappiness (and families), there are also many colors of happiness.

According to, "While previous studies have mapped the effects of stress and other negative emotions on such a level, little time has been spent on positive emotions like happiness, hope and pleasure."

"I've known anecdotally that positive emotions impact us on a cellular level, but seeing these results have given us proof that there is a real difference in the kinds of happiness we feel and its potential long-term consequences," John Ericson quotes Barbara Fredrickson, a professor of psychology and principal investigator of the Positive Emotion and Psychophysiology Lab at the University of North Carolina, and the lead author of a new study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences."

Apparently, there are two t…

Shocking New Study: Kids Need More Calories to Gain Weight Than Thought

It's always been a tantalizing mystery to me.  How many calories must I burn to be able to eat a bag of M&Ms and not gain weight?  Someone once told me a whole football field equals one M&M (thankfully, I've since learned that's not true).

But since I've been wearing an activity monitor to see just how many calories I burn, though I run, swim and walk every day, sadly, it's not very many.  At least not as many as I  thought (/hoped).

Now a new study is finding out the exact same thing in reverse about obese kids.  HealthDay reports that kids are consuming far more calories than parents and doctors knew.

The new model found that it takes far more calories for children to gain weight than experts had realized.

Damn those lucky kids!  It's the difference between french fries, and an apple.

Brenda Goodman writes, "For example, the old model estimates that for a girl who's a normal weight at age 5 to become 22 pounds overweight by the time she's…

Brilliant Child? Must Have Been Breastfed

So, after all the hype, it looks like breast-feeding does provide advantages to babies. 

I probably sound bitter because, as I needed to have emergency surgery less than a week after my son was born, I was just never able to do it.  (He also had a problem latching on!)

According to, a new study has found that "breastfeeding longer is associated with better receptive language at 3 years of age and verbal and nonverbal intelligence at age 7 years."

While the study showed evidence that "supports the relationship between breastfeeding and health benefits in infancy," it was less certain if it leads to better cognitive development, however.

Women who breastfed the longest in the study had 3-year-olds who scored higher on a picture vocabulary test, and at 7 years, scored higher on the Kaufman Brief Intelligence Test, but the breast-feeding duration was not associated with other scores.

Babies that were breastfed for six months did the best.

So what does this …

So You're Going in the Hospital. Follow These Tips.

You're going in the hospital.  You've covered all the bases -- your insurance will cover, you stopped paper delivery, and you have someone to bring you home after your procedure is done.  But you're scared to death once you put on the gown.  How do you make sure no one screws up?

U.S. News & Review, which just released its rankings of the so-called best hospitals in the country,got  the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a leading patients rights organization, to give some tips:

Use the Internet, though that comes with a caveat.  Only use resources that come from a highly reputable, reliable source like or ( is fine but don't use it for your primary source of info).Research, research, research -- look for outcome stats for the procedure you're having for your doctor and hospital, and complication ratesHave a list of questions:How long is the procedure?Will I be in pain?What sho…

So I Didn't REALLY Have Cancer?

So now what?  Picked up The New York Times this morning to learn that the condition for which I had radiation and disfiguring surgery was not really cancer, after all.

Say what?  Doctors for many years have been treating ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), which I had, as cancer, but it turns out, as I have slowly learned, that it is not cancer at all but simply a risk factor for the disease.  I met with my oncologist (do I even need one now?) last week for my annual check-up and he was adamant that DCIS required aggressive treatment because in 25% of cases, it turned into invasive cancer.

"I have women who say, but 75% of us won't get it," he told me, "but that's one in four," seeming to imply that even that is too high.

Now, in my case, there may have been more reason to treat DCIS like a true cancer because mine was the highest grade of noninvasive cancer, and pathologists were divided on whether it already actually was a cancer.  Then, two years later, wh…

Who Has the Least Loyal Employees?

Amazon.  Google.  Family Dollar Stores Inc. New York Mutual Life Insurance Company.

What do these companies have in common?  Not what you think.  They're companies with the least loyal employees, according to a story at

The story adds that it's not just unhappy employees leaving.  Even at companies where employees have the longest tenure (20 years, Eastman Kodak Co.), 55% are not satisfied in their jobs.

And what's leading the reason band-wagon?  You'll never believe it.  The economy.  “As the economy continues to improve, jobs will become more plentiful,” said Katie Bardaro, lead economist for PayScale, as reported at “This creates options for people with in-demand skills, and the chance that top performers will jump ship increases. In this environment, companies will need to evaluate what causes employees to leave and improve these areas, such as pay, work environment, vacation policies, etc., before loyalty reduces further.”

Now th…

In Pain? Just Turn on the Light

If you're like me, and your back acts up (thanks to a rear-end collision 25 years ago), some days you'd do anything to stop the pain and be able to move around like a human being again.  What if just by flicking a light switch, you could do that? reports today that just such a solution is in the works.  Researchers believe that using controlled lighting "can reduce pain by stimulating a patient’s mood, sleep patterns and activity levels." Currently they're testing this theory "using a collection of LED and fluorescent bulbs that shine 'intensive light' that reaches the patient’s lower retina, an area of the eye that stimulates brain functions," the Web site notes.

Now, I don't mean to make light of pain.  There are many, many people who suffer far worse than an occasional backache (which, I must disclose, isn't helped by running) and these are the people German researchers are hoping to help.

“As a psychologist and neurol…

Eat This to Sleep Well


Well, it’s not quite that simple.But if you’re one of the millions of Americans who have trouble falling asleep, there are quite a few foods you might want to think about adding to your diet.
 The CDC recently took a survey of over 70,000 people and 35.3% of them said they had trouble sleeping.
According to Deborah Enos at, what insomniacs are missing are certain minerals that can easily be found in foods.Bananas are good, but dark leafy greens, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds and Brazil nuts, beans and lentils and some kind of fish are even better.The magnesium in these foods may be what you are missing that’s causing you not to be able to sleep.Enos notes that not enough magnesium may also cause depression and mental health problems.

Another mineral that may be missing?Potassium, and here’s where bananas come in.But beans, leafy greens, avocado and baked potatoes provide more, Enos writes.

And if you’re tired during the day, Vitamin D may be what you need more o…

Extreme Dieters: Partners Who Say 'Lose Weight'

Big surprise.  Women who are frequently encouraged by their significant others to lose weight are more likely to resort to unhealthy measures, such as fasting and diet pills, according to a new study by the Health Behavior News Service, part of the Center for Advancing Health, reported at

Almost half of the participants said their significant other encouraged them to diet.

Unhealthy weight control behaviors -- fasting, using diet pills, and self-induced vomiting -- and some of the more extreme ways young adults try to control their weight, are often the beginning of more severe eating disorders, depression and other health problems, the study found.

I'm a big fan of the shows on addiction and intervention, and I can't count on one hand the number of episodes that show young women -- even pregnant women -- hovering over the toilet as all the food they've eaten -- or binged on -- pours out.  

I'm fortunate.  My husband could care less what I weigh (alth…

Tall, and Female? You May Be at Higher Risk for Cancer

It's no joke.  Scientists are discovering that post-menopausal women who are tall see their risk of cancer increase with their height.

Tara Parker-Pope at the NYT writes,"Among nearly 145,000 women between the ages of 50 and 79, researchers found that height was more strongly associated with cancer than such established risk factors as obesity."
Don't panic if you're tall.  It's not your height itself that's the risk factor. It's that height “should be thought of as a marker for one or more exposures that influence cancer risk, rather than a risk factor itself," according to Parker-Pope, referencing the new study authors.

In other words, it's more about your hormones -- and what contributes to growth -- than height itself.  "Cancer involves the uncontrolled division of abnormal cells in processes having to do with growth, so it follows that hormones or other growth factors that influence height may also influence cancer risk, Geoffrey Kabat…

New Autism Screening Tool Showing Success

I used to think there was nothing new under the sun about autism. But today I read that a new screening method may improve the way the disease is diagnosed and tracked in children after age 3.  And it's very unique.

According to, the new method involves tracking a person’s random movements in real time "with a sophisticated computer program that produces 240 images a second and detects systematic signatures unique to each person."

How it differs from the traditional assessment for diagnosing autism is that it now removes the primarily subjective opinions of "a person’s social interaction, deficits in communication, and repetitive and restricted behaviors and interests."

In other words, there is now an objective way to test for, and diagnose, autism, providing an earlier, diagnosis by factoring in the importance of changes in movements and movement sensing.  This enables professionals to identify "inherent capabilities in each child," rath…

So Your Hospital's Ranked #1? Not So Fast

You've seen them.  The hospital rankings blasted across the covers of magazines (and probably, if she was named, your doctor's office, too).

But how real are they really?  Do they just reflect good PR?  And instead of their "reputations," shouldn't they be more proud of their decrease in number of hospital-acquired infections (HAIs)?

That's a position a Wall Street Journal op-ed writers want to know.

The always eagerly-awaited U.S. News & World Report list of best-ranked hospitals for 2012-2013 was released last week

Ezekiel K. Emmanuel, chairman of the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania, and Andrew Steinmetz, the senior research assistant, write that the highest-ranked hospitals "are always quick to tout their rankings in hopes of attracting new patients who will pay top dollar," and, of course, many Americans will use this list when they are selecting a hospital.

But what these authors feel is th…

Open Sesame! Your Medical Records Now Available Post-Appointment

Admit it.  Wouldn't you love to know what your doctor's saying about you when he taps away on his iPad? Is it that you need to lose weight?  Or see a therapist? Or, God forbid, you smell?  Or is he secretly just checking his email?

Well, now, in some parts of the country, you can.  According to, a new app, OpenNotes, allows doctors to share their notes with patients as part of treatment.

If you're a patient at Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, rural Pennsylvania’s Geisinger Health System and Seattle’s Harborview, you're one of the lucky ones.  These medical centers recently completed the first trial of OpenNotes and 14,000 patients got to see immediately after their appointments the electronic notes penned by their doctors and nurses, the story notes.

Here's the best news of all.  The study found that 60% of patients reported they took medications more regularly (up to 30% of prescriptions are usually not filled and up to 50% not taken…

Here's How the Germans Love, And We, Too

Would you believe it took, or its German equivalent, to help people in this country find love?  Well, according to, "The last decade has seen Germany grow into the second most profitable online dating market in Europe after the UK."

Shannon Smith reports that market value in 2012 was eight times what it was in 2003 when the first dating sites arrived on the scene.

But a little differently than in this country, it's mostly 40- to 60-year-olds who flock to the sites.  And the younger people who do visit these sites?  They're more into polygamy, Smith relates, manifesting in "separate living situations and other non-traditional romantic and familial arrangements."

In 2008 eight percent of people between 20 and 35 questioned by a German magazine acknowledged that they were in relationships with more than one person who they met online, according to a study referenced by Smith.

Smith notes that the magazine credits Jean-Claude Kaufmann…

Skip Breakfast? A Heart Attack May Be in Your Future

Saw a disturbing snippet on CBS this morning about people who skip breakfast.  Apparently, they're at higher risk for heart attacks.

Breakfast is good for a lot of things.  It helps you get prepared for the day.  It can help you lose weight (even though that seems counterintuitive).  Sometimes mine even tastes good.

But the new study finds that it's quite possible that skipping breakfast can hurt your health.

"Researchers found an association between skipping breakfast and having a 27 percent higher risk of dying from coronary heart disease or experiencing a heart attack," according to The Huffington Post. This held true even if you were an exerciser, had low blood pressure, didn't smoke or drink, and had an average BMI, and no other health-related heart risks

Even scarier, there was a link between the time you ate and the time you went to bed.  "Those who ate right before bedtime had 55 percent higher risks of coronary heart disease," The Huffington Po…

How You Sleep is More Than Skin-Deep

Forget everything you've heard about sleep.  Eight hours a night helps you fight bugs and viruses.  It will help you lose weight. It can be affected by snoring.

But now, in addition to how much you sleep, the quality of your sleep is even more important.  A new study has found how well you sleep can affect your skin "function," and aging.

According to a story at, the study found that "poor sleepers had increased signs of skin aging and slower recovery from a variety of environmental stressors, such as disruption of the skin barrier or ultraviolet (UV) radiation."

Now when I tell you who commissioned the study, you might have a few reservations.  It was Estee Lauder.

But you ignore the conclusions at your own risk.  "Our study is the first to conclusively demonstrate that inadequate sleep is correlated with reduced skin health and accelerates skin aging," quotes Elma Baron, MD, director of the Skin Study Center at UH Case Medi…

Who's Healthier, You or Your Car?

Who's healthier?  You or your car?

It's the theme of a cute new commercial, with the guy I adore (used to be on QVC) asking people all these questions.  (Wish he'd take off that baseball cap, but maybe he has no hair under it?)

The new question is, what's in better shape, you or your car.

Predictably, the folks all say their car, including the guy who says he needs a new wheel, but his car is doing great.

But what's the truth of this?  Do we take better care of our cars?  Sue Curry, PhD, recently blogged on at the Huffington Post that this is a matter not to be taken lightly.  While cars have gotten smaller and more compact, we've gone the opposite way.  She references Martin Becker, a renown "healthcare promoter," as she describes him, who facetiously noted that "we should weigh less than our cars."

But in the years since he said this, she reports, "Cars have become lighter and we all know what's happened to our weight."


Drunk Rats Help with Binge Drinking

When was the last time you saw a drunk rat?

Seriously.  Scientists are studying them to see if they can identify what in the brain makes them become alcoholics, well, compulsive drinkers.

A research team has "identified circuitry in the brain that drives compulsive drinking in rats, and likely plays a similar role in humans," according to

The scientists found neural pathways that run between the part of the brain associated with critical thinking and risk assessment, and another part that is "a critical area for reward and motivation," the article states. Medications do exist to target these areas of the brain, but this new discovery could possibly provide "an accelerated track to new treatments for compulsive drinking."

But don't think the rats had a wild party.  They were regularly given a liquid that was 20% alcohol.  But they also drank both unmixed alcohol "and alcohol mixed with extremely bitter quinine," newswise…

Get What You Pay For, Medically? Not Always

How many times have you researched doctors and hospitals when you have an illness?  I hate to admit it, but I've made the same mistake a lot of people have.  If the doctor, or surgeon, or procedure, costs more, the thinking is, she must be better.

Wrong.  According to The Washington Post's Jordan Rau, data collected recently for New York, Boston, Los Angeles and Washington "shows that an expensive charge for a joint replacement is no guarantee that the hospital is safer than one that lists a cheaper charge."

When you're diagnosed with cancer or heart disease or another life-threatening ailment, price may not always be at the top of your list of things to worry about.  But if you decide to consult a top-rated specialist, chances are, it's going to cost more.  But is the care truly better?

In fact, Rau reports, the Boston and Washington rates "show that the most-expensive high-quality hospital will replace a knee for less than the most-expensive hospitals …

Yes or No on Probiotics?

You've probably seen Jamie Lee Curtis (in her only slightly less amazing body) pushing yogurt with something called probiotics in it.

Now I'm a skeptic (stopped taking vitamins years ago) because I don't believe anything I read (or see) about miracle health cures.  Especially this.

But, according to, it's not exactly all smoke and mirrors.  It's all about bacteria, good bacteria. The Web site interviewed Dr. Eamonn Quigley, an expert in gut health, who heads the gastroenterology and hepatology division at Houston Methodist Hospital, and he had a lot to say about probiotics, mostly good.

No, probiotics are not a magic bullet, he told, "but those that contain live organisms may provide health benefits, like shortening the duration of a cold."  Another possible benefit? They can also help with common intestinal symptoms and decrease urinary tract infections in women, Quigley reports.

Now here's a winner: there's even some ev…

NYC Smoking Ban Celebrates 10 Years

It's weird how things happen.  Last night at a dinner party I was talking to a woman from Britain (after we got all the royal baby stuff out of the way) about what it used to be like in pubs and restaurants, before all the No Smoking laws went into effect.

And today in The Wall Street Journal, there's a story about the 10th anniversary of their enforcement in NYC.  The Associated Press goes on to say, "Few measures in Albany changed life in New York more."

Would you believe the number of smokers trying to quite during that time increased to 65%, according to Blair Horner, vice president of advocacy at the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the AP notes?

I'd have to agree.  I've never smoked (finally, I'm in the 1% of something!), but my mother did, and I hated the smell of smoke in the house and the ashtrays, and the cloud of smoke in bars when I was hanging out, looking for a mate.  The Brit remembered a couch that turned brown from all the s…