Thursday, May 31, 2007

Deptression More Common in Women than Men

Women suffer more often from depression than men, and abnormal levels of their hormones are often the cause. There is data to show that low levels of the thyroid hormone, called T3, can cause depression. Any woman who receives thyroid hormone for having low thyroid function and is depressed should be given two thyroid hormones, not one. She should be started on both T3 and T4.

There is good data to show that women with low as well as high blood levels of the male hormone, testosterone, also are at increased risk for depression. One recent study shows that women who have blood levels of free testosterone below 0.4 ng/ml are at high risk for depression, as well as osteoporosis, lack of interest in making love, and an increase in total body fat. Like men, women suffer a progressive lowering of their blood levels of testosterone with a drop by 50 percent from age 20 to menopause at age 52. After menopause, a woman's levels of testosterone remain fairly constant over the years. Within 24 hours of having her ovaries removed, a woman's blood levels of testosterone drop by more than 70 percent. Just taking birth control pills markedly lower a woman's blood levels of testosterone because the estrogen in birth control pills shuts down the brain that produces FSH the hormone that causes the ovaries to produce testosterone.

High levels of testosterone also increase a woman's risk for depression. Women who have high levels of male hormones also often have excess hair on their faces and bodies, acne, loss of air on the top of their heads, lots of fat in their bellies, and cysts on their ovaries. These women also are at increased risk for being very aggressive. Higher male hormone levels are seen in women before and after giving birth, and may be responsible for post-partum depression. It has also been reported that depression in girls before they reach puberty and start menstruating is associated with an increase in male hormones.

Testosterone replacement therapy in women with low blood levels of that hormone, has been reported to protect them from getting fat. If you are a woman who suffers from depression, ask your doctor to draw blood levels of thyroid hormones called T3, T4 and TSH; and male hormones called testosterone and DHEAS. If your thyroid hormones are abnormal, you should be taking both thyroid hormones called T3 and T4. If your testosterone level is low, you may need that hormone. If it is too high, you probably have polycystic ovary syndrome ; you need to restrict bakery products, pastas, and sugar and take Glucophage to lower blood sugar levels. If your testosterone is low, you may need testosterone replacement. Journal reference; more on antidepressants

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Fatty Liver Can Be Treated with Diet Change

When doctors can't find a cause for abnormal liver tests, they often diagnose fatty liver, which if not treated, can cause permanent liver damage, but it usually can be cured with dietary changes and weight loss.

If your liver tests are abnormal, your doctor will ask you if you drank alcohol recently or take drugs. If your liver test do not return to normal after you avoid alcohol and drugs, you need blood tests for infections of the liver and a sonogram to rule out gall bladder disease or a tumor. If the sonogram shows a fatty liver, the odds are overwhelming that your body makes too much insulin and that you can be cured with a diabetes drug called metformin (Glucophage) and a diet that restricts refined carbohydrates and high-fat foods.

This condition affects three percent of young children and a higher percentage of adults. If you change your diet and still have abnormal liver tests, you need a comprehensive evaluation to find the cause. Journal references

HBA1C: A Better Test for Diagnosing and Managing Diabetes

Doctors used to use your fasting morning blood sugar level as a guide to managing diabetes. Now they depend far more on a test called Hemoglobin A1C, or HBA1C.
Eating raises blood sugar levels. If your blood sugar rises too high, sugar sticks to the surface of cells where it cannot be removed. The sugar is converted to a poison called sorbitol that damages the cell to cause heart attacks, kidney damage, blindness and other nerve damage.

Your fasting morning blood sugar level doesn't tell you if you are getting cell damage, but the Hemoglobin A1C test actually measures how much sugar sticks to cells. Once you start treatment, your doctor should check you once a month to measure your HBA1C. If it is high, you should change your diet and or your doctor should change your medication. When the HBA1C is normal, you are doing everything right. More on managing diabetes and preventing diabetes

Monday, May 28, 2007

Heart Attack Risk in Women Tripled by Trans Fats

A study from Harvard Medical School on almost 33,000 women in the Nurses' Health Study shows that eating a diet high in partially hydrogenated fats triples a woman's chances of suffering heart disease (Circulation, April 10, 2007). Researchers can tell how much partially hydrogenated fat a person eats by measuring its content in red blood cells. In this study, the women with high levels of partially hydrogenated fats in their red blood cells were far more likely to have high blood levels of the bad LDL cholesterol and low blood levels of the good HDL cholesterol.

Many manufacturers are eliminating trans fats from their products, but they are still found in many processed foods such as cookies, doughnuts, cakes, chips and fried foods. New York City passed laws banning restaurants from serving foods containing trans fat, and other cities are following their lead. When you shop, remember that nutrition labels can proclaim "zero grams of trans fat" if a single serving contains less than half a gram. That can add up to a lot of trans fats when you eat several servings. You can protect yourself by reading the list of ingredients on all packaged foods, and avoiding those that include the words "partially hydrogenated" before any type of vegetable oil. Tests for heart attack risk

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Stretching does not prevent muscle soreness

An article in the British Medical Journal shows that stretching before and after exercising does not prevent next-day muscle soreness or injuries. Researchers in Australia reviewed five studies, involving 77 subjects, on the effect of stretching on muscle soreness. Data from two studies on army recruits in training show that muscle stretching prevents one injury every 23 years. Yet most coaches think that stretching prevents injuries because most coaching instructions are developed by observation, not controlled studies.

Muscles and tendons tear because the force on them is greater than their inherent strength, so the prevention of injuries should be aimed at strengthening muscles, rather than stretching them. Stretching can make you a better athlete. Longer tendons allow a greater torque on a joint to generate more force to help you run faster, lift heavier, throw further and jump higher. Stretch to become a better athlete, not to prevent injuries. Journal reference; more on stretching

Friday, May 25, 2007

Cure Stage Fright with a Common Blood Pressure Pill

Many people sweat profusely because they are nervous about appearing before an audience. An Inderal pill taken one half hour before public speaking or any other high-pressure event can prevent the sweating, shaking and other effects of stage fright. Inderal is a beta blocker commonly used to control blood pressure; it is a safe and very effective way to get rid of even the worst stage fright. Check with your doctor.

Excessive sweating can be a sign of infection, stress or a decline in sex hormones, or it can be normal for you. When your body temperature rises, hot blood flows to your brain, which sends signals to increase the flow of blood to your skin and start you sweating. Your body temperature rises naturally when you exercise or have an infection. However, you can sweat without a high temperature when hormone levels drop. At the menopause, women lose most of their estrogen and when their temperatures rise, they sweat, even if the change is from below normal to normal. The same mechanism occurs when men lose their hormones, such as when they are being treated for prostate cancer.

You sweat the most under your arms and around your breasts, genitals and rectum. Many cases of excessive sweating can be controlled by applying products such as Drysol (20 percent aluminum chloride in alcohol) on your armpits and wrapping plastic wrap over them before you go to sleep If your armpits itch or burn, remove the plastic and wash the area with soap and water. This process reduces sweating for six to eight days. You can repeat the procedure when you start to sweat heavily again.

Most antiperspirants contain aluminum, which is the third most abundant element on the earth's surface and is safe for external use. Increased amounts of aluminum have been found in brains of people who have died of Alzheimer's disease, but all damaged tissue picks up heavy metals. The increased aluminum is the result of the damage, not the cause. No responsible studies have demonstrated any link between antiperspirant use and Alzheimer's, breast cancer or any other disease.
More on treatment of excessive sweating; journal references

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Systolic Blood Pressure More Important than Diastolic

You have two blood pressures: the systolic that measures blood pressure when your heart contracts, and the much lower diastolic reading that measures the pressure when your heart relaxes. When your heart contracts, it pushes a huge amount of blood forward to your arteries. Your arteries are supposed to act like balloons and expand to accept the blood and prevent your blood pressure from rising too high. Having plaques in your arteries stiffens them and prevents them from expanding when your heart contracts, causing your blood pressure to rise higher than normal. The stiffer your arteries, the higher your blood pressure rises. Intense pressure on artery walls can cause damage that provides places for even more plaque to accumulate. It's a vicious circle: high blood pressure continues to cause plaque buildup, which narrows the arteries and increases blood pressure even more.

The Framingham study has shown that the systolic (heart contraction) blood pressure is far more important than the diastolic (relaxation) blood pressure in estimating your risk for a heart attack or stroke. Diastolic blood pressure is a weaker predictor of your susceptibility for a heart attack. Your risk is increased further if you have high blood cholesterol, sugar or insulin levels; an enlarged heart; or if you are overweight. Over time, high blood pressure can cause serious damage to your cardiovascular system, kidneys and other organs.

Anyone with blood pressure over 120/80 should be on the DASH Diet. Your doctor will help you decide whether you should also use medication. Journal reference

Diabetes Prevention and Treatment: Eat Whole Grains

An article from the Framingham Study published in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that eating whole grains in place of bakery products and pasta lowers high cholesterol, lowers high blood pressure, and reduces body weight. Most important, this study shows that eating whole grains in place of bakery products and pasta lower blood insulin levels.

High insulin levels constrict arteries to cause heart attacks. High insulin levels stimulate the hypothalamus in the brain to make you hungry. High levels of insulin stimulate your liver to manufacture fat and high levels of insulin make you fat. Anything that lowers insulin levels helps you lose weight, lower high blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and prevent heart attacks, strokes, and diabetes.

When you eat foods made with flour, your blood sugar rises quickly. Whole grains are like capsules that release their contents very slowly. It takes about an hour to cook whole grains because of this tight capsule, and your body still has a difficult time breaking the capsule, so they are very slow to digest. Whole grains help prevent diabetes and obesity because they keep insulin levels lower. Journal references; more on whole grains and treatment of insulin resistance

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Endurance: What Athletes Can Learn from Sled Dogs

How can sled dogs run more than 100 miles a day for weeks on end, while humans couldn’t possibly recover from such abuse of their muscles? A study from Ohio State University shows why. How long you can exercise a muscle depends on how long you can keep stored sugar, called glycogen, inside that muscle. Muscles burn carbohydrates, fats and protein for energy during exercise. They get these sources from both the bloodstream and from the muscles themselves. However, when a muscle runs out of its stored sugar, it hurts, becomes more difficult to coordinate and requires far more oxygen than usual. So a limiting factor in how long you can exercise a muscle is how much sugar you can store in a muscle, how quickly you use it up, and how quickly you can restore sugar the sugar in your muscles.

Humans take a long time to restore muscle glycogen. Top marathon runners restore muscle glycogen in anywhere from a day to several days. This study shows that sled dogs can restore muscle glycogen almost as quickly as they are fed. They were able to restore more than 50 percent of their resting muscle glycogen after two consecutive 100-mile runs even when fed a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet. Humans could never replace muscle glycogen that fast.

The only way that you can teach your muscles to store more glycogen and preserve it better is to train by running (or cycling or swimming) lots of miles and doing long depletion runs taking more than three hours at least once a week. Doing too many depletion runs will delay recovery of muscle glycogen so that you will not be able to do the very fast short interval runs that teach your brain and muscles how to run faster. Journal reference; more on training to increase endurance

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Leaky Heart Valves are Common, Usually Harmless

One in ten Americans suffers from mitral valve prolapse and the vast majority have no symptoms and will never know that they have it. Valves are located in your heart to keep blood from backing up.

With aging, some of these valves can stretch and to close completely, so they allow a small amount of blood to leak backwards. This is usually harmless, but can be associated with an irregular heart beat or chest pain caused by a stretching of the muscles that hold the valves in place. Patients with mitral valve prolapse usually do not seek out medical help unless a doctor hears a murmur or click in the heart (85 percent), the patient suffers from chest pain (31 percent) or palpitations (40 percent), suddenly passes out (40 percent), feels excessively tired (22 percent) or is short of breath (10.5 percent). Mitral valve prolapse is hereditary for one patient in five.

When germs get into the bloodstream, they can stick to the rough edges of prolapsed mitral valves and cause an infection, so doctors recommend that people who have this condition take antibiotics whenever germs can enter their bloodstreams, such as during dental or other surgical procedures or when they have a cold. The vast majority of people with mitral valve prolapse do not need any treatment, but those who are bothered by irregular heart beats or chest pain are often given beta blockers, such as propranolol to control symptoms. Journal references; more heart health reports

Monday, May 21, 2007

Arthritis: Reduce Pain, Stabilize Joints with Exercise

There is a direct relationship between the amount of physical activity and arthritis symptoms, according to a study published in Arthritis Research & Therapy (March 2007). In this study, 4,780 middle-aged women (48-55) and 3970 older women (72-79) were followed for three years. Those who were most active had the lowest incidence of joint pains. This does not mean that exercise prevents arthritis, but it does show a relationship between an active healthy lifestyle and absence of joint pain. Regular exercise strengthens muscles to stabilize and protect joints.

If you suffer from arthritis, check with your doctor. If he agrees, you should be in a regular exercise program. Activities that use smooth motions protect joints, while sports that involve jumping, running or other hard forces can cause damage. The safest exercises for a person with arthritis are swimming and using an stationary bicycle. Start out pedaling at a slow easy pace with very little pressure on the pedals and try to work up to an hour a day. If you feel pain as you exercise, stop for the day and try again on the next day. More

Friday, May 18, 2007

Food During Exercise? Guidelines for Avoiding Fatigue

Fatigue during a workout or sporting event is usually caused by lack of water, salt or sugar. Most athletes in sports that last more than a couple of hours know that they should drink and take in some salt, but they also need a source of sugar.

When you exercise, you get your energy from sugar and fat stored in your muscles and sugar and fat in your bloodstream, and, to a lesser extent, from protein. At first you get more than 80 percent of your energy from fat and sugar stored in muscles. Usually at the start of exercise, almost 45 percent of the energy comes from stored muscle sugar. As you continue to exercise, you use up fat and sugar stored in muscles and get far less from these stores. After two hours of exercise, you have used up most of your stored muscle sugar (glycogen) and get less than 15 percent of your energy from that source. At four hours, your muscles have almost no stored sugar at all.

When your muscles are depleted of their stored sugar, they become difficult to coordinate and feel heavy and hurt. Your muscles can get some sugar from gluconeogenesis, a process in which your liver makes sugar from protein (branched chain amino acids), but that is not enough for all-out exercise. During intense exercise, you need a source of sugar. It can come from sugared drinks or any carbohydrate-rich foods. You can use special sugared exercise drinks, sugar gels, carbonated soft drinks, exercise bars or any food that contains sugar or flour. Fitness newsletter

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Antioxidant Supplements Harmful? How to Interpret the News

In 1956, Denham Harman at the University of Nebraska proposed that antioxidants would prolong life. He explained that the human body converts food to energy by stripping off electrons and protons from food in a series of chemical reactions that leaves extra electrons to attach to oxygen. Most of the charged oxygen combines with hydrogen to form water, but some sticks to the DNA in cells to damage them and shorten life. He proposed that antioxidants would prevent this and thus prolong life. A recent review of the world's scientific literature shows that he may be wrong. Researchers from Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark analyzed 68 studies involving 230,000 participants taking antioxidant supplements and found that beta carotene and vitamins A and E, given singly or combined with other antioxidants, shortened the lives of those who took them (JAMA , February 2007).

Current research shows only four possible ways to extend maximum lifespan: exercise, calorie restriction with adequate nutrition, and two chemicals: resveratrol and dichloroacetate (in experimental use only). All these enhance the mitochondria in cells so that they produce far fewer oxidants. None have been shown to extend life by increasing antioxidant production. Mitochondria are the furnaces in cells that turn food into energy. By increasing the size and number of mitochondria, these four factors make the engines far more efficient so that they burn fuel cleaner to produce far less reactive oxygen species. None have been shown to increase antioxidant production.

Taking large doses of antioxidants, such as the vitamins; beta carotene and vitamins A, C and E, produces high tissue levels of these vitamins that the body couldn't possibly be exposed to from food. This could interfere with normal chemical reactions and shorten your life. At this time nobody really knows whether taking antioxidant supplements prolongs or shortens life. More

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Most People Cannot Raise Their Metabolism with Exercise

Many people believe that exercise controls weight by increasing your metabolism so you burn extra calories all day long. A review of the world's literature from the University of South Australia in Adelaide shows that you have to be in very good shape to exercise vigorously enough to increase your metabolism. This means that most exercisers are not able to exercise hard enough to burn extra calories for a significant time after they finish exercising, so increased post-exercise metabolism does not cause most exercisers to lose weight.

Researchers monitor changes in metabolism by measuring how much oxygen your body uses over a period of time. The maximum amount of oxygen that you can use during exercise in a given time is called VO2max. To increase the amount of oxygen that your body uses after exercising, you must exercise at an intensity of at least 50 percent of your VO2max, which is too much for casual exercisers. You have to exercise very vigorously to increase your oxygen consumption and body temperature for more than a few minutes.

This study shows that if a person wants to increase his metabolism for from 3 to 24 hours, he must exercise for more than 50 minutes at 70 percent of his VO2max, or more than 6 minutes at 100 percent of his VO2max. You need to be very fit to be able to exercise at these levels. For most people, weight control depends on more on how long you exercise, and far less on the extra calories that you burn after you finish exercising. Journal reference; more on weight loss with exercise

Monday, May 14, 2007

Diabetes can be caused by excess fat in muscles

A fascinating review from Tufts University in Boston shows how excess fat stored in muscles causes diabetes (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, March 2007). Before insulin can do its job of driving sugar into cells, it must first attach on special hooks on the surface of cell membranes called insulin receptors. When excess fat is stored in muscles, the insulin receptors internalize so that insulin cannot attach on the hooks. This markedly increases the amount of insulin that is necessary to drive sugar into cells, and eventually huge amounts of sugar accumulate in the bloodstream to cause diabetes and damage every cell in the body.

Excess deposition of fat into muscles is caused by eating to many calories, not getting enough exercise and eating too much saturated and partially hydrogenated fats. Most cases of Type II diabetes are caused by a faulty lifestyle, not genetics, and are both preventable and curable with proper exercise and diet.

You can tell if you are at high risk for diabetes if you store fat primarily in your belly. Pinch your belly; if you can pinch an inch, you are at increased risk and should get a blood test called HBA1C. Having high blood levels of triglycerides and low levels of the good HDL cholesterol that helps prevent heart attacks also increases your risk for diabetes. When you eat sugar or flour, your blood sugar rises too high. This causes your pancreas to release insulin that converts sugar to triglycerides, which are poured into your bloodstream. Then the good HDL cholesterol tries to remove triglycerides by carrying them back into the liver, so having high blood levels of triglycerides and low blood levels of the good HDL cholesterol are both individual risk factors for diabetes.

High blood levels of insulin constrict arteries to raise blood pressure, so many people who have high blood pressure are also prediabetic. High insulin levels also constrict the arteries leading to your heart to cause heart attacks directly. People with insulin resistance have an increase in small, dense, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, which is more likely to cause heart attacks than the large, buoyant regular LDL cholesterol. High levels of insulin also cause clotting to increase your risk for heart attacks. You can help to prevent diabetes and heart attacks by avoiding sugar and flour, exercising and eating lots of vegetables. More on insulin resistance

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Shingles: Treat Immediately to Avoid Lifelong Pain

If you suddenly develop severe pain in a limited area on one side of your body, you may have shingles and need treatment immediately to prevent that pain from lasting for the rest of your life. It's called postherpetic neuralgia. If you have severe pain that is not caused by an injury and your doctor cannot find a cause, you should get a blood test for herpes zoster and start taking Famvir or Valtrex immediately to prevent the pain from becoming permanent.

The first time you get chicken pox, blisters form over most of your body. After a week, your immunity drives the chicken pox virus from your bloodstream, but it remains in your nerve roots for the rest of your life. One of every in six people who get chicken pox will have the virus escape from nerves many years later to cause painful grouped blisters on the skin over the infected nerve on one side of the body.

If you wait for characteristic blisters to form, it may be too late to prevent the pain from lasting the rest of your life. 50 percent of people over 60 who develop shingles, and are not treated, will suffer from post-herpetic neuralgia and have severe pain in that nerve for the rest of their lives, while fewer than 7 percent treated with acyclovir will suffer permanent pain. Cortisones offer little protection. If you develop postherpetic neuralgia, your pain can be treated with capsaicin (pepper) cream or anticonvulsant pills. One study reported a more effective treatment: methyl prednisone injected directly into the spinal fluid.

In May 2006, The US Food and Drug Administration approved a vaccine to prevent shingles, called Zostavax, for adults over 60. At this time we have no good data on its use in younger adults, and it is not clear how long immunity lasts. I recommend it highly because it can prevent this common cause of pain that can become lifelong. Zostavax should not be given to people with weakened immune systems, such as with AIDS, cancer therapy, diabetes and so forth. Journal references

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Maximum Heart Rate Formula May Not Apply to You

Many of the standard tests used to measure heart function and fitness are based on a MAXIMUM HEART RATE formula, that predicts the fastest your heart can beat and still pump blood through your body. Although this formula is the golden standard used today, it is not based on science.

In 1970, a good friend, Sam Fox, was the director of the United States Public Health Service Program to Prevent heart disease. He is one of the most respected heart specialists in the world. He and a young researcher named William Haskell were flying to a meeting. They put together several studies comparing maximum heart rate and age. Sam Fox took out a pencil and plotted a graph of age verses maximum heart rate and said it looks like maximum heart rate is equal to 220 minus a person's age. For the last 30 years, this formula has been taught in physical education and heart function course and has been used to test heart function and athletic fitness. In the 1960s, Sam Fox was very helpful to me when I was competing, planning and setting up running programs, but the whole concept of maximum heart rate and the formula that it is equal to 220 minus your age is ridiculous.

The formula is wrong because your legs drive your heart. Your heart does not drive your legs. Maximum heart rate depends on the strength of your legs, not the strength of your heart. When you contract your leg muscles, they squeeze against the blood vessels near them to pump blood from your leg veins toward your heart. When your leg muscle relax, your leg veins fill with blood. So your leg muscles pump increased amounts of blood toward your heart. This increased blood fills the heart and causes your heart to be faster and with more force. This is called the Bainbridge reflex that doctors are taught in their first year of medical school. The stronger your legs are, the more blood they can pump, which causes your heart to beat faster.

A pencil mark plotted on a graph during an airplane flight more than 30 years ago has been the accepted formula for maximum heart rate for more than 30 years and the medical community has accepted this dogma for more than 30 years. How to use a heart rate monitor

Friday, May 11, 2007

Avoiding Cholesterol in Foods Won't Lower Your Cholesterol

Avoiding foods that contain cholesterol will not return a high cholesterol to normal. Your blood cholesterol level is influenced far more by how many calories and how much saturated and partially hydrogenated fat you eat, than by how much cholesterol is in your food. Cholesterol is found only in foods from animals, such as meat, fish, chicken, dairy products and eggs. It is not found in plants. More than 80 percent of the cholesterol in your body is made by your liver. Less than 20 percent comes from the food that you eat. When you eat more cholesterol, your liver makes less.

Your liver makes cholesterol from saturated fats, which are found in most foods but are concentrated in meat, poultry and whole-milk dairy products. The saturated fat is broken down by your liver into acetone units. If you are not taking in too many calories, your liver uses the acetone units for energy, but if you are taking in more calories than your body needs, your liver uses these same acetone units to manufacture cholesterol. That explains why eating two eggs a day does not raise blood cholesterol levels in the average American. They are already taking in so much cholesterol from meat, fish and chicken and diary products, that when they take in more, they absorb less.

The average North American takes in 350 mg per day of cholesterol. If he takes in 26 mg per day, he absorbs 41 percent. When he takes in 188 mg cholesterol per day, he absorbs only 36 percent, and when he takes in 421 mg per day (the equivalent of two eggs), he absorbs only 25 percent. Some people absorb more than five times as much as other people at the same intake. So you lower blood cholesterol levels far more effectively by eating less food, less saturated fat and less partially hydrogenated fats than by avoiding foods that contain cholesterol. More on diet to lower cholesterol and blood pressure

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Chronic Stuffy Nose: Fungus May Be the Culprit

Chronic sinus infections associated with nasal polyps are incurable because doctors didn't have the foggiest idea what causes them. Nasal polyps are small finger-like, fluid-filled blisters, often associated with asthma and serious reactions to aspirin. Researchers at the Mayo Clinic found fungi in 96 percent of people with chronic sinusitis.

Allergy shots and antihistamines have never been shown to control the combination of chronic stuffy noses, nasal polyps, and sinus infections that do not vary throughout the season. Doctors treat this condition with cortisones that suppress the nasal discharge, headaches, and stuffy nose a little bit, but never cure the patient and may even set the patient up for a worsening of symptoms as the years pass.

The most common fungi are alternaria, penicillium, cladosporium, aspergillus, candida and fusarium. A sinus cat scan will tell whether a person has a sinus infection. If the cat scan shows fluid levels indicating a sinus infection, the doctor should order a fungus culture of the nose. If the culture is positive for fungi, the doctor should consider treatment with antifungal medication, even though there are no good studies to show the fungal medicines cure sinusitis, because the present treatment of cortisones works only in the short run, and shortens life by causing osteoporosis, high blood pressure and obesity. If the fungus infection is positive, the person should be treated with the appropriate anti-fungal medication such as Sporanox, Lamisil or Diflucan.

If your nose is stuffy during the pollen seasons in the spring and fall, check with an allergist. Allergy injections can help control your symptoms. If your stuffy nose started after puberty, you don't have allergies and your nose is stuffy 12 months a year, allergy injections usually are ineffective. Antihistamines and decongestant pills help to control your symptoms a little. Cortisone-type pills are highly effective but have side effects, such as obesity and osteoporosis. Cortisone-type nasal sprays are safer than the pills. Doctors are continuously searching for better ways to treat people with chronically stuffy and running noses.

Your nose is supposed to clean, heat and moisturize the air that you breathe. The inside of your nose is covered with a sticky mucous that traps dirt, pollen, mold and other pollutants and prevents them from reaching your lungs. Inside of each nostril are large ridges called turbinates that have large blood vessels in them. When the inner lining of one side of your nose fills up with pollutants, the blood vessels inside the turbinates enlarge and swell the turbinates so they stop air from entering that side of your nose and force you to breathe through the other side of your nose. Then small hairs called cilia in the lining of your nose sweep the mucous and filth toward your mouth where you swallow them and they pass from your body.

It is normal for you to breathe through one side of your nose and then the other. It is abnormal for the turbinates on both sides to swell at the same time and cause a stuffy nose. If your nose is stuffy in the spring and fall, you probably have an allergy and need allergy tests. If you have thick yellow or green mucous, you probably have an infection and need a culture and antibiotics. If you are exposed to irritants such as hair spray or smoke, that is probably the cause, and if your stuffiness is worse in the winter, the cause is probably breathing dry, cold air. If no cause is found, your doctor usually diagnoses vasomotor rhinitis which means that he doesn't have the foggiest idea what's causing your stuffiness and the only relatively safe and effective treatment offered today is daily use of a cortisone nasal spray such as Vancenase, Beconase or Rhinocort. More on stuffy nose, nasal polyps and fungus infections, plus journal references

Heart Attack Risk: What The Tests Tell You

If you want to learn your chances of suffering a heart attack, ask your doctor to draw blood for C-Reactive Protein (CRP), the good HDL and the bad LDL cholesterol, small low-density lipoprotein, Lp(a), homocysteine. He will also check your blood pressure.

We used to think that heart attacks were caused primarily by plaques accumulating in arteries because of high cholesterol levels. Now we know that the inner lining of an artery must first be roughed up before plaques form, and infections are the most common cause of damaged inner linings of arteries. C-Reactive Protein is a blood test that measures inflammation or the swelling that occurs in arteries before plaques form. So C-reactive protein is one of the best indicators that a person is headed for a heart attack.

Blood cholesterol levels are still good predictors of heart attacks. Your bad LDL cholesterol should be under 100. If you have had a heart attack, your LDL should be under 70. Having high blood levels of a subfraction of the bad LDL cholesterol called small LDL increases your risk for a heart attack.

Another test called homocysteine also predicts heart attacks. When your diet does not provide you with adequate amounts of the vitamins B12, pyridoxine and folic acid, blood levels of homocysteine rise. There is a correlation between high homocysteine and damage to arteries, but so far we do not understand the mechanism.

Lp(a) is a genetic disorder that causes clots to form and so is a cause of heart attacks, particularly in younger people (men under the age of 40 and women under the age of 60.)

A heart-healthy diet makes it possible for many people to control cholesterol and blood pressure without drugs. More

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Fat Belly, Large Bones, Irregular Periods: Check for PCOS

One of 20 North American women suffers from polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) that often causes obesity, large bones and muscles, hair to grow on faces and bodies, male-pattern baldness, acne, irregular periods. It is a common cause of infertility and it increases their chances of developing diabetes, heart attacks, strokes and uterine cancer. A study from Italy shows that polycystic ovary syndrome can be cured with the diabetic medication, metformin (Glucophage), and a low-refined-carbohydrate diet. We have known about this condition for more than 200 years, but only in the last few years have we have found a cause and cure.

Exciting research shows that drugs and diets to treat diabetes and drugs to block male hormones can protect these women from developing diabetes, heart attacks, obesity and masculinizing traits such as hair on their bodies, acne, and large muscles and bones and that progesterone can protect them from uterine cancer.

A woman is born with about 4 million eggs. In a normal woman, each month one egg ripens and pops off the ovary to travel into the uterus. Women whose eggs ripen, but do not pop off the ovaries, have polycystic ovary syndrome. Their high insulin and male hormone levels cause the ovaries to make male hormones that cause acne and dark body hair. Glucophage, Actos and Avandia are drugs that reduce insulin levels and therefore, lower blood levels of the male hormone, testosterone. So does a diet that favors whole grains and restricts foods made with flour or sugar, such as bakery products and pasta. Drugs that block male hormones also reduce masculinizing traits, lower cholesterol and help the eggs to pop from the ovaries, but drugs to treat diabetes may be more effective. These women also are at increased risk for developing uterine cancer, so they are often prescribed birth control pills that contain progesterone and should try to lose weight when overweight.

If you think that you may have this condition, get a sonogram of your ovaries. Even if you don't have cysts, you could still have PCOS. Then you should avoid all bakery products, pastas, sugar-added foods and drinks, and fruit juices; and eat root vegetables and fruits only with meals. Base your diet on a wide variety of WHOLE grains, vegetables, beans and other seeds. Also check with your doctor to see if you are a candidate for Glucophage before each meal. Journal references

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Protect Knees: Weak Quad Muscles Risk Cartilage Damage

Doctors have known for many years that having weak
quad muscles (in the front of your upper legs) increases risk for
damage to the cartilage in your knees. A study from Purdue
University shows that strengthening these muscles slows down
knee cartilage damage and may even improve knee function
(Arthritis & Rheumatism, October 2006).
The researchers placed 221 adults in their sixties and
seventies either on a program of strengthening their muscles in
their upper legs or just moving their knees in a series of range-of-
motion exercises. The subjects exercised three times per week
(twice at a fitness facility and once at home) for 12 weeks. This
program was followed by a transition to home-based exercise for
12 months. Older people weaken naturally with aging, but the
range of motion exercisers lost more strength than those who
exercised against progressive resistance. The strength training
helped retain joint space, signifying that this group had less loss of
cartilage.
The knee is like two sticks held together by four bands
called ligaments. Strength training stabilizes the muscles that
support the knee and helps to prevent loss of cartilage with aging.
People with knee pain should get a diagnosis from their doctors.
Most will be advised to do exercises that strengthen the knee,
such as pedaling a bicycle or performing knee strengthening
exercises that involve bending and straightening the knees
against resistance. People with knee pain should avoid exercises
that jar the joints, such as jumping or running. More: Why arthroscopic knee surgery is usually useless

Friday, May 04, 2007

Pre-Diabetes: Belly Fat Dangerous Even If You Are Thin

In Victorian times a large belly was a sign of prosperity and manliness, but now we know that having a lot of fat in your belly increases your risk for diabetes and heart attacks. People who store fat primarily underneath the skin in their bellies also store a lot of fat around their intestines and in their liver, It is dangerous to your heart to store a lot of fat in your liver.

When you eat, your blood sugar level rises. The higher it rises, the more insulin your pancreas releases to keep your blood sugar level from rising even higher. As soon as insulin does its job of lowering high blood sugar levels, it is grabbed by your liver and removed from the bloodstream. However, fat in the liver prevents liver cells from removing insulin from the bloodstream. Therefore, people who store fat primarily in their bellies also store a lot of fat in their livers, which prevents the liver from removing insulin, which causes you to have very high and prolonged blood levels of insulin.

You need insulin to prevent blood sugar levels from rising too high, but too much insulin constricts arteries to cause heart attacks. It acts on the brain to make you hungry. It acts on the liver to make more fat. It also causes the extra fat to be deposited in the liver, abdomen and underneath the skin in your belly, so you develop a beer belly. Extra fat in the liver causes a condition called fatty liver that eventually can send you into liver failure. This explains why storing fat primarily in your belly increases your chances of becoming diabetic or having a heart attack. More on insulin resistance; more on pre-diabetes

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Fructose is Not Better than Ordinary Sugar

Fructose is processed differently in the body than the far more common sugar, glucose. Glucose causes the pancreas to release insulin which drives sugar from the bloodstream into cells. Glucose causes fat cells to release leptin that makes you feel full so you eat less; it also prevents the stomach from releasing ghrelin that makes you hungry. On the other hand, fructose does not cause fat cells to release leptin and does not suppress ghrelin. This means that fructose increases hunger to make you eat more. Furthermore, the liver converts fructose far more readily to a fat called triglyceride, than it does with glucose. High triglyceride levels raise blood levels of the bad LDL cholesterol and lower blood levels of the good HDL cholesterol, which increases heart attack risk.

Large amounts of fructose appear to cause insulin resistance, impair glucose tolerance, produce high levels of insulin, raise triglycerides, and cause high blood pressure in animals. Not all of these studies have been replicated in humans, but there is every reason to believe that large amounts of fructose will have the same adverse effects. High-fructose corn syrup is found in almost all non-diet soft drinks and fruit beverages, and in a wide variety of processed foods. However, high-fructose corn syrup is no more significant as a dietary source of fructose than ordinary table sugar. It is only high in fructose compared to ordinary corn syrup.

Several recent studies show that drinking large amounts of soft drinks is associated with increased risk for obesity and that the extra gain in weight is not due just to the calories in the soft drinks. Calories consumed in beverages do not fill you up the way calories in solid foods do. High fructose corn syrup is the leading sweetener in the United States today, with 4.5 billion dollars worth sold each year. High-fructose corn syrup first appeared in the American market in 1966, and now the average American takes in 62.6 pounds per year. Check the list of ingredients in the foods you buy. More on refined carbohydrates

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Cholesterol-Lowering Drugs Can Cause Muscle Pain

Some patients with high cholesterol levels are afraid to take statins because off fear of developing side effects such as muscle pain. A study from Scripps Mercy Hospital in San Diego reviews the latest data on side effects of statins. This review found that statin- induced muscle damage is more common in Asians, people who exercise, have had recent surgery, have kidney, liver or thyroid disease, or have high triglycerides. The incidence of muscle pain and damage from statins is extremely low in non-exercisers, three to ten percent in those who exercise, and very high in competitive athletes.

Most athletes refuse to take statin drugs because they train by taking a hard workout that damages their muscles. Then they must take easy workouts until the soreness disappears and muscles heal. When statins prevent this muscle healing, the athlete must train at reduced intensity for a much longer period of time. Brand names of statins include: Altoprev, Crestor, Lipitor, Mevacor, Pravachol and Zocor.
Journal reference for this article; more on statin drugs; lowering cholesterol with diet and lifestyle changes