aspirinAnyone who's watched the excruciating process by which a new drug gains FDA approval knows that if garden variety aspirin, that mainstay of medicine cabinets everywhere, was up for review today, it would never make the cut. That's because aspirin is known to have a number of negative side effects, especially gastrointestinal bleeding. But now another study in JAMA is extolling the benefits of aspirin: Aspirin Use and Survival After Diagnosis of Colorectal Cancer.

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fluH1N1 Infection in Pregnancy

H1N1 infection in pregnant women seems to be associated with a much higher rate of mortality than any other group reported so far. That's according to a Lancet Infectious Disease study: H1N1 2009 influenza virus infection during pregnancy in the USA. In this relatively small number of women (34), 11 were admitted to the hospital and 6 of them died. So mortality was approximately 50% among those hospitalized with the flu.

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1-osteoporosisOsteoporosis is an increasing problem worldwide, largely as a consequence of many more people living long enough to develop the bone-thinning condition. Most concerning is the trajectory from the development of osteoporosis to bone fractures to nursing home care to death, delineated in many studies.

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Once again, two studies published in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association,
Relation Between Modifiable Lifestyle Factors and Lifetime Risk of Heart Failure and Diet and Lifestyle Risk Factors Associated With Incident Hypertension in Women establish that staying physically active, not smoking, choosing your food carefully, and avoiding weight gain are keys to a longer, healthier life. And then there's my personal favorite, judicious consumption of alcohol. Duh.

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pillcamCan Your Colon be Examined with a Pill?

Most of us know the recommendation by now: If you're at average risk for colon cancer, once you reach the age of fifty you should have a colonoscopy to screen for the disease, as well as precancerous lesions called polyps. But who wants to undergo this test? It's even less fun than mammography (an issue I can speak to), requires a day of preparation where it's almost impossible to leave the house, sedation and the need for a driver to provide transport home. Jokes abound about screening colonoscopy, and Katie Couric's courage notwithstanding, the majority of those eligible for screening choose not to have it.

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hair_122__02An Effective Treatment for Chronic Hair Pulling

Lots of people engage in repetitive behaviors; most of us eat on a regular basis for example. But some people engage in behaviors they repeat over and over again, sometimes resulting in personal harm, and over which they cannot seem to exert control. Such behaviors are then termed 'compulsive.' One such is trichotillomania, or chronic hair pulling. (The word itself isn't as bizarre as it sounds. Tricho always refers to hair, tillo to pull out, and mania, insanity.) Those who manifest trichotillomania will pull out their own hair, creating bald patches. But now a good news study in this week's Archives of General Psychiatry suggests an effective treatment.

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Is C-reactive Protein a Villain or an Innocent Bystander?

C-reactive protein or CRP is a blood marker of inflammation. First identified in the 1930s, CRP has been intensively studied in the hopes of imbuing it with some predictive power: the higher the CRP level, the higher the risk of cardiovascular disease would be one way of crystalizing a looked for relationship, with clear cause and effect the ideal. Sadly, such a relationship has had a bit of an on-again, off-again character, and in this week's JAMA, two studies further erode CRP's clinical utility.

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MediterraneanWhy Does the Mediterranean Diet Result in Longer Life?

We've all been hearing it for years: eat more like our Mediterranean cousins do (read that Greeks) and you'll live longer. Such a diet, dubbed the 'Mediterranean diet,' should include olive oil as the main oil consumed, lots of fruits and veggies, and wine, judiciously quaffed. But what exactly about this diet is most important in prolonging life? Investigators at Harvard took a stab at it and published their results this week.

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A New Do It Yourself Screening Test for Dementia

The British Medical Journal has reported a new self-administered screening test for Alzheimer's dementia: Self administered cognitive screening test (TYM) for detection of Alzheimer’s disease: cross sectional study. Just like so many other tests like HIV status, pregnancy, and blood sugar measurements, now people can take 15 or so minutes and in the privacy of their own home, determine if there's sufficient evidence of a problem to seek further evaluation.

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blood-zThe big story this week was a recommendation by an international body of experts, including the American Diabetes Association, to use a test called hemoglobin A1C, often abbreviated HbA1C, or even simply A1C, to diagnose diabetes.

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