Showing posts from January, 2014

Are We Giving Ourselves Cancer?

Here's a horrifying fact.  We're giving ourselves cancer.  Or so says a New York Times op-ed.

Rita F. Redberg and Rebecca Smith-Bindman write that all the CT scans and MRI's and PET scans and full-body imaging we get for just about anything medical are assaulting our bodies with radiation, which, as we all know, can cause cancer.  (I had 6 1/2 weeks of radiation for breast cancer and I think about that all the time.)

"The use of medical imaging with high-dose radiation — CT scans in particular — has soared in the last 20 years," according to the writers. "Our resulting exposure to medical radiation has increased more than sixfold between the 1980s and 2006. . . The radiation doses of CT 
scans. . . are 100 to 1,000 times higher than conventional X-rays."

They give credit to the technologies for early diagnosis (which, I suppose, I certainly should be grateful for), but note "there is distressingly little evidence of better health outcomes associated wi…

Fish Oil Can Make Your Brain Bigger -- And You, Age More Slowly

I stopped taking fish oil -- and all other vitamins -- a couple of months ago, after hearing no one knows what goes into them, as they're not regulated.  But maybe I stopped too soon.  A new study has found that fish oil can help preserve brain cells.  And I've been missing some for some time.

People with higher levels of the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil may also have larger brain volumes in old age equivalent to preserving one to two years of brain health,according to  Shrinking brain volume is a sign of Alzheimer’s disease as well as normal aging.

But the goods news is that “These higher levels of fatty acids can be achieved through diet and the use of supplements, and the results suggest that the effect on brain volume is the equivalent of delaying the normal loss of brain cells that comes with aging by one to two years,” said study author James V. Pottala, PhD, of the University of South Dakota in Sioux Falls and Health Diagnostic Laboratory, Inc., in …

Being Fired is Better For Your Ego, Or Maybe the Company's

Here's an interesting fact: if you were fired for lack of performance, that hurts a lot less than being laid off.

Or so says a new study, according to 

A new study finds that corporate downsizing reduces managerial diversity, especially when layoff decisions consider workers’ position or tenure. But when layoffs are based on performance evaluations, managerial diversity remains intact — at least when it comes to white women and blacks, says the Wevb site.

“It seems that the more individualized process of evaluating each worker on his or her merits — rather than using blanket criteria such as position or tenure — creates awareness and accountability among executives and motivates them to think deeply and creatively about who they should keep during downsizing,” said study author Alexandra Kalev, an Associate Professor of Sociology and Anthropology at Tel Aviv University at “This outcome of performance-based downsizing is not only good for managerial diversi…

Anxious Children May Suffer All Their Lives

If you have an anxious child, chances are you've taken her to therapy, maybe even tried some meds.  But a disturbing new study has found that less than half of all kids treated for the condition get over it permanently.
Fewer than one in two children and young adults treated for anxiety achieve long-term relief from symptoms, according to the findings of a study by investigators from the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center and five other institutions, as reported by
“Our findings are encouraging in that nearly half of these children achieved significant improvement and were disease-free an average of six years after treatment, but at the same time we ought to look at the other half who didn’t fare so well and figure out how we can do better,” the Web site quotes lead investigator Golda Ginsburg, Ph.D., a psychologist at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center and professor of psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.  “Just because a child responds well to…

25, Married and What's It Good For?

Men, what's being 25 and married good for?  Not that!  It's your bones.  Scientists have found that one-two punch strengthens your skeleton.

According to, researchers found evidence in a recent study that men who married when they were younger than 25 had lower bone strength than men who married for the first time at a later age.

In addition, "Men in stable marriages or marriage-like relationships who had never previously divorced or separated had greater bone strength than men whose previous marriages had fractured, the researchers said. And those in stable relationships also had stronger bones than men who never married."

So does this mean you're doomed to dented bone if you don't have a partner in life? 

That, researchers don't seem to know, or why being hooked-up is so important to your health.  But the associations between marriage and bone health were evident in the spine, and alas, not the hip, possibly due to differences in bone compositi…

Exist Before You're Born? Children Say Yes

An amazing thing.  Children in a recent study said they believed they didn't have eyes or a head before they were conceived but that their soul -- their essence -- was around before they were even physically formed.

Boston University postdoctoral fellow Natalie Emmons studied both children who came from a background with no cultural references to religion (no school, no church, no TV) in remote Ecuador as well as an urban area near Quito where children did have access to such amenities.

Emmons found, according to, "Both groups gave remarkably similar answers, despite their radically different cultures. The children reasoned that their bodies didn’t exist before birth, and that they didn’t have the ability to think or remember. However, both groups also said that their emotions and desires existed before they were born."

Emmons says that, while the children generally reported that they didn’t have eyes and couldn’t see things before birth, "they often repor…

Can't Find The Right Word? Maybe Your Library's Too Full

I knew it!  I'm not nearing dementia with my inability to remember where my keys are or where I  left my glasses or OMG, I forgot to get Phillip!

I just have too much stuff in my brain.

Just as toddlers whose parents speak to them a lot tend to talk earlier because of all the words they hear (though I did get some pretty weird looks walking through Lord & Taylor and asking the infant Phillip what I should make for dinner), we folks of a certain age have our heads stuffed with all those words and the billion more of a lifetime.

Where is the room in our heads for all those words?

The NYT's Benedict Carey postulates that older minds may just be fuller minds. Carey attributes this idea to data mining, of all things.  

Based on theories of information processing, researchers in Germany "used advanced learning models to search enormous databases of words and phrases," he writes.  "Since educated older people generally know more words than younger people, simply by …

Weight Lifters and Athletes: Stay Away From D2 to Pump Up Your Muscles

Trying to bulk up?  Stay away from Vitamin D2.

A new study says that, contrary to popular teachings, the vitamin tears up your muscles after heavy weight-lifting.

According to, the study "showed that taking vitamin D2 supplements decreased levels of vitamin D3 in the body and resulted in higher muscle damage after intense weight lifting."

"This is the first time research has shown that vitamin D2 supplementation is associated with higher muscle damage after intense weight lifting, and thus cannot be recommended for athletes,” said Dr. David Nieman (Dr.P.H.), who directed the study, at

The study was designed to measure the effect of six weeks of vitamin D2 supplementation in NASCAR pit crew athletes and the effects on exercise-induced muscle damage and delayed onset of muscle soreness.

During the double-blind study, one group of athletes consumed 3,800 international units (IU) a day of a plant-based vitamin D2, the Web site reports. 

The researchers …

Broccoli May Not Be Good for Your Health, and Other Scary Fruit and Vegetable Facts

Could it be?  Broccoli, that source of vitamins and weight loss, on most children's nightly plates, that super cancer-fighter, could actually damage our health, instead?

A new study has found that fruits and vegetables may not be quite as good for us as once thought.  And we're not even talking about the pesticides!  But it seems some can lead to hypothyroidism (your thyroid slows down, making you fatigued, and gain weight -- and, worst of all, not able to lose it), or harm your teeth.  Even the great new wonder of the world, kale, has come in for some abuse.

Turns out this leafy green veggie is the one that lowers your thyroid, and so does broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables (think, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and collard greens). All the stuff we've been told to eat if we want to live to 100, or thereabouts.

And as for teeth? Writer Lecia Bushak says her dentist told her she'd be better off eating "chocolate and cola" rather than fresh vegetab…

Use Your Nose to Sniff Out Calories

Imagine this. You can lose weight by using your nose.

Researchers have found that humans can use smell to detect dietary levels of fat, according to 

As food smell almost always is detected before taste, the findings identify one of the first sensory qualities that signals whether a food contains fat. Innovative methods using odor to make low-fat foods more palatable could someday aid public health efforts to reduce dietary fat intake.

“The human sense of smell is far better at guiding us through our everyday lives than we give it credit for,” said senior author Johan Lundström, PhD, a cognitive neuroscientist at Monell at “That we have the ability to detect and discriminate minute differences in the fat content of our food suggests that this ability must have had considerable evolutionary importance.”

The reason?  "As the most calorically dense nutrient, fat has been a desired energy source across much of human evolution," the Web site reports. "…

Don't Sleep? You Can Get Cancer

Yet one more reason to feel stressed about not sleeping.

It can give you cancer.

Poor-quality sleep marked by frequent awakenings can speed cancer growth, increase tumor aggressiveness and dampen the immune system’s ability to control or eradicate early cancers, according to a new study, as reported by

The Web site notes that the study is the first to demonstrate, in an animal model, "the direct effects of fragmented sleep on tumor growth and invasiveness, and it points to a biological mechanism that could serve as a potential target for therapy." “It’s not the tumor, it’s the immune system,” said study director David Gozal, MD, chairman of pediatrics at the University of Chicago Comer Children’s Hospital, at “Fragmented sleep changes how the immune system deals with cancer in ways that make the disease more aggressive.” He adds, "(The gene) appears to be a lynchpin for the cancer-promoting effects of sleep loss. The effects of fragmented sleep th…

Numb to Gun Violence? Twenty Kids a Day, One Kid an Hour, Harmed or Killed By Guns

While we know way too many children and teens are killed by guns (last count: 11,000 people, many of them younger than 12, in 2013, according to Slate, which took up the accounting after Newtown), did you know that almost one child or teen an hour is injured by a firearm seriously enough to require hospitalization?

Michelle Healy at USA Today reports that a new study shows that six percent of the 7,391 young hospitalizations analyzed resulted in a death, quoting February's Pediatrics, released today.

"Every day, 20 of our children are hospitalized for firearms injury, often suffering severe and costly injuries, clearly shows that this is a national public health problem," Robert Sege, director of the Division of Family and Child Advocacy at Boston Medical Center and a co-author of the study, tells Healy.

I don't know about you but I have a horrifying thing to say.  I am becoming numb to all the mass murders and drive-by shootings of innocent children who just happen to …

Big News! Men Are More Forgetful Than Women!

Wow.  Imagine this.  Scientists have discovered that men are more forgetful than women.  According to Medical News Today, during an experiment testing memory, for eight out of nine questions, men had a harder time remembering the answers (probably the question they got right was, would you like a beer?).

And it doesn't matter how old you are.  If you're a man, you will never remember things as well as a woman.

Is it laziness, as some have suggested, or, as, often, in the case of my husband, convenience? Or is it really that our brains are just different?

Researchers did not delve into that, although they considered whether, since cardiovascular events like heart attack and stroke afflict more men than women, that could be it. But that turned out not to be the case, too.

Maybe it's just that, as moms, we have to know where the kids are, where they left their shoes, what time is dinner, what is dinner, visit the orthodontist, schedule teacher conference. Oh yeah.  And go to work…

Don't Have a Heart Attack at Night or on the Weekend

Did you know you have a better chance of dying from a heart attack if you have it at night or on the weekend?

A new study has found that "6,000 extra deaths a year" are a result of factors that occur after patients arrive at the hospital after regular business hours, according to Medical News Today. 

It may be because emergency treatment is slower after business hours or that there are less medical professionals on hand, or a host of many other reasons, but the odds are relatively good that, if you have a heart attack in the evening or outside business hours, you might well die.

In fact, if you arrive "after hours," your mortality risk is 5% higher than those who are treated during regular hours.  

The study also found that patients arriving with ST elevation myocardial infarction had a 15-minute wait before treatment for a stent to re-open their arteries, increasing their risk of death by 10-15%.  

Heart attacks are the number-one killer of both men and women in the U.…

Your Eyes Are the Key to Your Soul -- Well, Your Patience and Impulsiveness, Anyway

Quick.  How fast did you read this sentence? If it was less than a millisecond, you may be one of those -- like me -- who makes impulsive decisions.

Turns out, thanks to a new study, it's been found that the quicker you move your eyes, the less patient you are, according to

"Using a simple study of eye movements, Johns Hopkins scientists report evidence that people who are less patient tend to move their eyes with greater speed," the Web site reports. The findings, the researchers say, suggest that the weight people give to the passage of time may be a trait "consistently used throughout their brains, affecting the speed with which they make movements, as well as the way they make certain decisions"

Researchers set out to find why some people are willing to wait and others aren’t. I don't know about you but the second I see a line forming at a store, I want to get in it, even sometimes before I've made all the purchases I came for, just so I …

Suffer through the Flu -- No Meds -- So Your Loved Ones Don't Get It?

Great. Just what we needed to know.  Fever-reducing meds for the flu may actually spread it. 

"New research from McMaster University has discovered that the widespread use of medications that contain fever-reducing drugs may lead to tens of thousands more influenza cases, and more than a thousand deaths attributable to influenza, each year across North America," according to  And guess what?  The drugs they're talking about include ibuprofen, acetaminophen and acetylsalicylic acid.

“When they have flu, people often take medication that reduces their fever. No one likes to feel miserable, but it turns out that our comfort might be at the cost of infecting others,” the Web site quotes lead author David Earn, an investigator.

He explains that,because fever can actually help lower the amount of virus in a sick person's body and reduce the chance of transmitting disease to others, "taking drugs that reduce fever can increase transmission. We’ve discovered …

Looking for Good Help? Focus on EQ, not IQ

There once was something called EQ, or emotional intelligence -- how you get along with 

people, or adapt to changing circumstances.  It went away for a while, but now it's back.

Financial Post writer Ray Williams makes the case that "employers are better off looking for employees with a high emotional quotient (EQ) than intelligence quotient (IQ)," according to

That's because organizations often overlook this quality, preferring to view instead either education or  skills as predictors of success, Williams says at

But organizations underestimate the value and importance of empathy, consideration and even just listening, say experts.  I've worked at companies where executives blew through employees and never quite succeeded in the end. 

Williams wraps up his piece with this thought: "The qualities most likely to succeed in today's fast-changing economy -- in which people will likely go through multiple career changes as they …

Abolish the White Coats and Save Lives

We know them by their white coats. But with hospital-acquired infection(HAI) rates galloping out of control, with over tens of thousands of deaths per year, they may go the way of well, wikipedia.

A new study has found that doctors' white coats are great carriers of infection as they pass from hospital room to hospital room, according to 

“White coats, neckties, and wrist watches can become contaminated and may potentially serve as vehicles to carry germs from one patient to another,” the Web site quotes Mark Rupp, M.D., chief of the division of infectious diseases at the University of Nebraska Medical Center and one of the authors of recommendations issued by the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA), one of the world’s top infection control organizations.

Rupp acknowledges that there is not incontrovertible evidence that this is true but "Until better data are available, hospitals and doctor’s offices should first concentrate on well-known ways to…