Monday, January 31, 2011

Smoking may raise breast cancer risk

Women who smoke have an increased risk of developing breast cancer, especially if they become smokers early in life, a new study suggests.

But the added risk appears to be small, except among heavy smokers. Compared with women who had never smoked, those who were regular smokers for any amount of time had a 6 percent higher risk of developing breast cancer, the study found. Women who maintained a pack-a-day habit for at least 30 years had a 28 percent higher risk, however.

"I would not put [smoking] on the list of important risk factors, [but] when you look at the subgroup of heavy-duty smokers who start early and smoke for a long time, that's more serious," says the lead author of the study, Karin Michels, Ph.D., an associate professor of cancer epidemiology and ob-gyn at Harvard Medical School, in Boston. "That's when you pay closer attention."

Previous studies on smoking and breast cancer have had mixed results. Some have found that smoking increases risk, some have found it has no effect, and some have even linked cigarette smoking to a lower risk of breast cancer.

While cigarette smoke is a potent carcinogen, smoking also lowers levels of estrogen -- one of the primary fuels that drive the growth of breast cancer. "The reason why previous studies may not have found strong associations or any association could be because the two effects may cancel each other out," Michels says.
In the study, which appears in the Archives of Internal Medicine, Michels and her colleagues looked at 30 years of data on more than 110,000 women who were part of the government-funded Nurses' Health Study. In all, the study participants reported 8,772 cases of invasive breast cancer during that timeframe.

Although the increase in breast cancer risk associated with smoking was just 6 percent overall, some subcategories of women -- such as those who smoked before their first child was born -- were at slightly higher risk. (Having children at an early age is believed to protect against breast cancer, perhaps because of changes that occur in the breast tissue.)

"It's not surprising that the risk was so low, because breast cancer is driven by hormonal factors," says Joanne Mortimer, M.D., director of the Women's Cancer Program at City of Hope Cancer Center, in Duarte, California. "The risk for breast cancer seems to be in the hormone transition period between premenopause and postmenopause, when there are a lot of changes in hormone functions." (Mortimer was not involved in the new research)

In fact, women who smoked after menopause appeared to have a decreased risk of breast cancer compared with nonsmokers. Given that both menopause and smoking lower estrogen levels, this finding adds to the evidence that estrogen is a risk factor for invasive breast cancer, the authors say.

The findings, of course, don't mean that the considerable health risks associated with smoking should be overlooked, says Debra Monticciolo, M.D., a professor of radiology at Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine, in Temple.

Although smoking "is not going to be a major player in our assessment of risk for breast cancer," Monticciolo says, "there are lots of reasons not to smoke. I can't think of anything good to come from smoking."

Source: By Amanda Gardner,

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Evidence Suggests the Need for More Frequent Breast Cancer Screenings

A recent study calls into question a U.S. advisory panel’s latest breast cancer screening guidelines recommending that women to begin having mammograms at a later age and at less frequent intervals. Findings of a recent analysis conducted by researchers from the University of Colorado and University of Michigan suggest more frequent mammograms lead to more lives saved. The results of the new study were published in the February issue of the American Journal of Roentgenology.

The research team studied the same risk models used by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) prior to their issuance of new and controversial breast screening guidelines in 2009. However, the results of the new study yielded far different results than the analysis performed by the task force. The latest research found that annual mammograms beginning at age 40 save 65,000 more lives than do mammograms performed every other year on women 50 and older. By setting guidelines that recommend no routine mammograms for women in their forties, and also recommend that women in their fifties have mammograms only every other year, the task force ignored scientific evidence that more frequent mammograms save lives.

Dr. Mark Helvie of the University of Michigan Health System, who participated in the research, noted that the number of lives saved by more frequent mammograms “…is not a small difference.” In fact, according to the research team’s calculations, a woman who has a mammogram annually beginning at age 40 decreases her risk of dying from breast cancer by 71 percent. In comparison, if she chooses to follow the recommendations of the task force her risks are diminished by only 23 percent.

The task force guidelines instantly became the subject of much debate when first issued, as they directly contradicted the long-followed standard practice of recommending routine breast cancer screening begin at the age of 40. Although the new guidelines were intended to provide for less worry and expense for the female gender, breast cancer experts and advocates argued the new recommendations would cause confusion among women with the result leading to more breast cancer deaths. According to Helvie and colleague Edward Hendrick from the University of Colorado “the USPSTF chose to ignore the science available to them and overemphasized the potential harms of screening mammography, to the serious detriment of U.S. women who follow their flawed recommendations.”

Breast cancer is a serious killer. After lung cancer, it is the second-leading cause of cancer death among U.S. women and claims 500,000 lives annually worldwide. In addition, the disease is diagnosed in approximately 1.3 million globally each year. Women can protect themselves by participating in Breast Cancer Awareness and by getting active with a Breast Cancer prevention program that includes eating healthy and getting a sufficient amount of exercise.

Source: HealthNews By Drucilla Dyess

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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Mind-body: The connections in tears, sweat

Dr. Charles Raison, CNNHealth's Mental Health expert and an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University, writes regularly on the mind-body connection for better health.

My 82-year old-mom should be a poster child for the power of the mind. Wracked with a debilitating and progressive neurological condition that has made her barely able to stand, she nonetheless manages to lean on her walker and shuffle out to her car every Sunday morning, and then drive 30 miles to attend church. Not just any church, but the only New-Age type church within a hundred-mile radius that believes—what else?—that you can change reality through the power of positive thinking.

Those of us who do research in the field of mind-body medicine often seem to be not so different from my mom. Much of our work focuses on ways in which the mind can affect the body for good or ill. While we wouldn’t make claims as outrageously hopeful as my mom’s church, scientific studies increasingly demonstrate that the mind can indeed be very powerful in terms of health outcomes.
I’m as impressed by these findings as anyone, but am also something of a contrarian in the field. Our research group has spent the last decade studying exactly the opposite phenomenon, which is the remarkable power the body has over the mind. In this spirit, I thought I’d share two recent studies that really bring home the degree to which our minds can be influenced by physical factors completely beyond our conscious awareness
Have you ever noticed how many more words we have for visual experiences than for smells, despite the fact that of all the sense, smell can most powerfully remind us of good or bad times and places in our past? The reason for this is because smell is far more ancient and primitive than sight. As such it is especially likely to cause feelings and behaviors that we don’t recognize and don’t understand.

In the first study researchers showed women sad films and collected their tears. They also collected salt water after they’d dripped it down the same women’s faces. In a series of experiments they showed that even though men did not see the women cry, and even though they could not smell a difference between the tears and the salt water, these fellows had powerful unconscious reactions to the tears. When shown pictures of sexy women the men were not as stimulated after sniffing the tears and they produced less testosterone—the primary male sex hormone—after sniffing tears. Finally, studies have identified areas of the male brain that become active when shown sexually arousing images. When they showed these types of images to men in a brain scanner while sniffing the women’s tears, the male subject’s brains became less aroused when compared to the activity observed in the same men after smelling the salt water.

In a second study researchers collected sweat from men just prior to a first-time skydive and during regular exercise. Of course, the men were tremendously stressed out prior to the skydive as compared with a regular exercise period. Researchers then recruited other men and showed pictures to them while monitoring how their brain responded to the images. In one condition these men smelled sweat from the stressed out first time skydivers and in the other they smelled the exercise-induced sweat, while being completely unaware of which sweat came from where. Remarkably when smelling the stressed out sweat, the research subjects showed anxiety-like brain reactions to faces that seemed completely neutral to them while smelling the exercise sweat. This shows that just smelling the sweat of a nervous person can make our brains go on high danger alert.

So what are the take-home points in terms of our health and well-being? Don’t cry if you want to have sex and stay away from stressed-out people if you want to avoid feeling nervous yourself? I suppose so, but my interest in these types of studies goes deeper because they point to a way that mind-body science can help us live more balanced lives.

While most of us who are interested in the field have benefited from the proof it provides regarding how important it is to cultivate positive social relationships and emotional well-being, we can take these insights too far and get down on ourselves if we don’t meet our self-imposed (or sometimes culturally imposed) standards. In fact, the new mind-body also encourages us to accept our limitations with modesty, but without apology. We should have patience with ourselves when we feel nervous for no reason or when we are in a moment when sexual passion is called for but not available. After all, our conscious selves are only one small part of the far larger wholes that we are. Although often unaware of it, we are profoundly affected by all sorts of things registered in our bodies and ancient reptilian brains. But one of the surest ways to enhance conscious control of our lives is to recognize how much of what we are is invisible to us.

So the next time you find yourself anxious for no reason or sexually turned off when you should be turned on, stop for a moment and think of all the remarkable ways your strange behavior can come from parts of ourselves we don’t know. And cut yourself a break!

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Sunday, January 23, 2011

Eating a Big Breakfast May Add Inches to Your Waistline

Nutritionists have long advised that the key to a successful diet is starting the day off with a big breakfast. The theory holds that eating more at the beginning of the day allows for less food consumption later in the day. However, a new study conducted by German scientists suggests that a big breakfast simply boosts your daily calorie intake because you will likely eat the same amount of lunch and dinner no matter the amount of calories you consume at breakfast. The details of the study were recently published in the Nutrition Journal.
Although a good breakfast functions to jump-start the metabolism and promote calorie burn off, if you are looking to lose weight you will need to cut back on the amount of calories you consume in the morning. This is the conclusion of the team of German researchers led by Dr. Volker Schusdziarra of the Else-Kroner-Fresenius Center of Nutritional Medicine in Munich. The finding was true for both obese people and those being of normal weight.

The study involved 100 normal weight and 280 obese volunteers who wanted to lose weight. All 380 people were asked to keep detailed food diaries that would include all calories consumed over a 10-day period for the obese patients, and 14 days for the normal weight study volunteers.

A broad variation of calorie intake at breakfast was noted for the participants in both groups. An individual might consume a big breakfast on one day and skip breakfast entirely the next. Breakfast calories consumed ranged from 121 to 606 calories for obese patients, while they varied from 134 to 559 calories for participants of normal weight.

Although a big breakfast was shown to reduce the likelihood of late morning snacking for both groups, it had no impact on extra calories consumed by the end of the day. Participants in the study consumed an average of around 500 to 550 calories at lunch and dinner and the calories consumed at breakfast calories simply increased the daily total. Those people who ate a breakfast having about 400 more calories than a typical small breakfast had the tendency to eat around 400 more calories during the rest of the day.

Previous studies on the relationship between breakfast calories consumed and calories eaten throughout the remainder of the day have had mixed results. Some have shown that those who eat breakfast in general weigh less than those who don't, and others have suggested that eating a big breakfast leads to less calorie intake for the balance of the day. Still other studies have found that the higher the calorie intake at breakfast in relation to all meals combined, the lower the overall daily energy intake.

A healthy diet includes eating a nutritious breakfast, not a big one. Skipping breakfast for weight loss is not a healthy choice. Cutting back on the amount of calories consumed during the first meal of the day is the key. Among breakfast items consumed by study participants that boosted their calorie counts were fatty and sugary foods such as bread, eggs, sausages, butter and marmalade. Better choices would include foods with protein and fiber to help you feel full longer. Eat smaller meals totaling 400 to 500 calories and supplement your calorie intake with light snacks to keep hunger at bay.

Source: Healthnews By Drucilla Dyess

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Friday, January 21, 2011

Fast Facts About Malaria

Actor George Clooney announced on Jan. 20 that he had recently beaten his second bout of malaria, which he had contracted during a diplomatic trip to Sudan. His publicist told the Washington Post that he says his experience shows how access to medication can turn "the most lethal condition in Africa" into "a bad 10 days instead of a death sentence." Want to know more about the otherwise pervasive disease that is so uncommon among Americans? Some fast facts:

What is it?

Malaria is caused by Plasmodium parasites that are carried and spread from human to human by female Anopheles mosquitoes.

The World Health Organization (WHO) explains:
Transmission is more intense in places where the mosquito is relatively long-lived (so that the parasite has time to complete its development inside the mosquito) and where it prefers to bite humans rather than other animals. For example, the long lifespan and strong human-biting habit of the African vector species is the underlying reason why more than 85% of the world's malaria deaths are in Africa.
When transmitted to a new host, Plasmodium sporozoites travel to the liver to mature. Once in the liver, they differentiate and release daughter organisms called merozoites into the blood to infect red blood cells, within which they multiply further.

As the original host cells rupture, the parasites periodically invade fresh red blood cells, causing waves of symptoms like high fever, chills, diarrhea, vomiting, headaches and profuse sweating. The first symptoms typically emerge 10 days to 4 weeks after infection, but have been known to appear as early as 8 days or up to a year later.

With two types of malaria parasites, a dormant stage called hypnozoites can persist in the liver and cause relapses by invading the bloodstream weeks or years after infection. Untreated malaria can be fatal. It kills more than 1 million people each year, 90% in sub-Saharan Africa. The WHO reports that malaria accounts for 20% of all child deaths in Africa, and that one African child dies of the disease every 45 seconds. For more, see the WHO website.

Where is it?

Malaria is endemic to 108 countries. There are high rates of transmission in Southeast Asia, Amazonian regions of South America and many island nations in the South Pacific, including Papua New Guinea, as well as sub-Saharan Africa. Malaria was eradicated in the United States in the 1950s, but about 1,500 cases are reported in the U.S. each year, usually acquired during travel to malarial areas. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a useful map that shows the distribution of malaria infection.

How do you treat it?

Malaria must be treated immediately upon diagnosis. The type of treatment will depend on the species of malaria parasite, whether the patient has an uncomplicated or severe form of the disease, whether the patient is pregnant, and where the patient acquired the disease, which will tell doctors the likelihood of the parasite's drug resistance.
For details on treatment, see this detailed CDC guide.

How do you prevent it?

You can take anti-malarial drugs before and after traveling to areas where malaria is prevalent. Get a prescription well in advance, because treatment may begin up to 2 weeks before you travel, and continue for a month after your return.

Commonly prescribed drugs for people traveling to South America, Africa, the Indian subcontinent, Asia and the South Pacific include: mefloquine, doxycycline, chloroquine, hydroxychloroquine and Malarone (a combination of atovaquone and proguanil). The type of medication recommended will depend on the known drug resistance of the parasites in the areas you are planning to travel.

During your travels, you should use insect repellent, wear long sleeves and pants and use insecticide-treated bednets. For more, see the CDC's chart on the pros and cons of various anti-malarial drugs.

Which other bold-faced names had it?

Eight U.S. presidents including George Washington and John F. Kennedy have suffered from malaria. Washington contracted it in Virginia in 1749 and had five recurrent bouts on record. JFK contracted the disease while serving in the Navy during World War II, and Theodore Roosevelt returned from a trip to Brazil with the illness.

As far as modern celebrities go, in addition to George Clooney, the Washington Post reports that actor Jeremy Piven and CNN anchor Anderson Cooper have both suffered from the disease.

Source : Healthland By Meredith Melnick

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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

New Guidelines Released for Improved Care and Treatment of Stroke Patients

New recommendations for faster diagnosis of stroke and improved care of patients has just been released by The American Heart Association together with its sister organization, The American Stroke Association. The new measures encompass both ischemic stroke and hemorrhagic stroke and were devised with the objective of standardizing the level of care among stroke centers, while improving the quality of care received by stroke patients.

Studies have shown that rapid response in the diagnosis and treament of stroke victims is the key to saving lives. Stroke is a life-threatening condition involving the sudden death of brain cells. Of the two types of stroke, ischemic stroke accounts for 87 percent of all stroke cases and occurs as the result of an obstruction within a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain. Hemorrhagic stroke is caused by bleeding in the brain and occurs when a weakened blood vessel ruptures. There are two types of weakened blood vessels, known as aneurysms and arteriovenous malformations (AVMs) that commonly cause hemorrhagic stroke.

A study headed by Dr. Dana Leifer, associate professor of neurology at Weill Cornell Medical College and neurologist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center suggested new guidelines for achieving improved quality of care at stroke centers. Leifer and his colleagues developed the new measures after performing an extensive review of previously published papers regarding the most effective treatments and their outcomes among patients having suffered severe stroke.

The new recommendations include:
  • Tracking the percentage of ischemic stroke patients who are eligible to receive tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) and are treated with the drug within an hour of presenting at the hospital. (TPA is the only FDA-approved drug for the treatment of acute ischemic stroke in eligible patients).
  • Tracking the time from patient hospitalization to receipt of treatment to repair blood vessels when a ruptured aneurysm in involved.
  • Performing a 90-day follow-up to assess the outcomes for ischemic stroke patients having acute interventions, including tPA treatment.
It was noted by Leifer that “using the metrics as part of quality improvement efforts, over time hospitals should be able to improve the quality of the care that they give and improve patient outcomes.” Another life-saving guideline is to take steps for stroke prevention. Although there are some risk factors for stroke that cannot be controlled, such as age, gender, race and family history, there are many risk factors that can be controlled. Among these are physical inactivity, obesity, alcohol use, tobacco use and smoking, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. A good start for stroke prevention is to practice a heart-healthy lifestyle that includes getting a sufficient amount of exercise and eating a healthy diet.

Source: Healthnews.By Drucilla Dyess

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Sunday, January 16, 2011

Job Killing You? 8 Types of Work-Related Stress

Job stress can fray nerves, keep you up at night, and contribute to health problems such as heart disease and depression. “Chronic job strain can put both your physical and emotional health at risk,” says Paul J. Rosch, MD, the president of the American Institute of Stress. Finding the source of your stress is the first step to fighting it, but that’s easier said than done. Fortunately, experts have identified specific work situations that are likely to make your blood boil. Which one of these stressed-out workers do you resemble?

Overworked underling

The profile: You're busy from the time you get to work until the time you leave, but you have little freedom while you're there. You don't have much say over how you do your job or the types of projects you work on, and you're always on someone else's schedule.

The solution: These types of jobs—known as "high-demand, low-control"—tend to cause a great deal of psychological strain, says Peter L. Schnall, MD, an occupational stress expert at the University of California at Irvine.

Even if you can't make your job less demanding, finding ways to get more involved in decision-making will help ease the stress, research suggests.

Frustrated go-getter

The profile: You work your tail off, but you feel you don’t receive enough credit—or compensation. With lots of sweat (and maybe a few tears), you’ve made your bosses look good. Still, you haven’t received a raise, a promotion, or sufficient recognition.

The solution: These so-called "effort-reward imbalances" are a recipe for stress, especially among very driven people who are eager for approval.

Try discussing your career goals with your boss. You may not get the rewards you want right away, but you could gain some insight about how to improve your situation—and outlook.


The profile: You feel like you’re all alone, and not in a good way. If you require help or guidance, your boss won’t give it to you, and when you need to vent, you don’t have a trusted ally to turn to.

The solution: A good support system at work includes both practical support from your bosses (the resources and help you need to do your job well) and emotional support from colleagues. Too little of either could make you feel stranded on irritation island.

Work on communicating your needs, both practical and emotional. If you want your boss’s help, be as specific (and persuasive) as possible, and make connecting with co-workers a priority.


The profile: You deal with demanding and verbally abusive customers, but through it all you’re expected—no, required—to swallow your resentment and maintain a facade of professionalism, calm, and courtesy.

The solution: "When there’s a discrepancy between your internal state and the roles you’re expected to play at work, you experience what researchers call ‘emotional labor,’" says Dr. Schnall.

Ask your boss for advice or additional training on how to handle difficult customers without feeling demoralized. Doing your job without taking abuse personally will leave you feeling better about yourself.

Tech prisoner

The profile: Thanks to the Blackberry, cell phone, and laptop your company so generously provided, your boss can now reach you 24/7. You're constantly (if virtually) connected to the office, and your work and personal life are indistinguishable.

The solution: “Technostress is an important and growing issue,” says Dr. Rosch, who is also a clinical professor of medicine and psychiatry at New York Medical College, in Valhalla, N.Y.

To protect yourself from mental and physical strain, learn how to unplug (literally). Set aside blocks of time—between 9 p.m. and 8 a.m., say—when you turn your electronics off and focus on clearing your head


The profile: You’re terminally exhausted, both physically and emotionally, to the point where it becomes difficult to function. You feel as if you’re on the verge of a breakdown.

The solution: Although the word "burnout" is used loosely, the technical definition is severe exhaustion stemming from prolonged work-related stress. Burnout occurs most often in very charged, high-stakes work environments (such as ERs). But it can occur in just about any stressful job.

If you’re experiencing burnout, discuss it with a supervisor and explore whether you can take time off or even a leave of absence.

Bully target

The profile: Your boss insults you, gives you impossible deadlines, assigns you busywork just because she can, and dresses you down in front of your colleagues. Or you’ve seen her do those things to others—and you’re worried that you’re next.

The solution: Bullying isn't restricted to the playground; it appears to be on the rise in offices too. If you feel you're the victim of a bullying boss, you can try to mollify her. And if your co-workers share in your frustration, you can try confronting your tyrannical boss as a group. (There’s safety in numbers.) If that doesn’t work, document the bullying and raise your concerns with a superior or with human resources (HR).

Wronged victim

The profile: Work just isn’t fair. Your boss plays favorites, management decisions are mystifying and arbitrary, and employees are treated like children.

The solution: Workplaces that aren’t fair, transparent, and respectful lack what’s known as “organizational justice,” and they’re likely to have stressed-out employees. “Pretty much anytime an individual feels they are being dealt with differently or unfairly, it places potentially harmful stress on them,” says Dr. Schnall.

You only have so much control over the atmosphere at work. However, raising your concerns with a trusted superior or HR rep may leave you feeling less burned out—and less stressed.

Source: By Kristin Koch

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High Level of ‘Good’ Cholesterol Alone May Not Protect Heart

High levels of HDL cholesterol — the “good” kind — have long been thought to help protect against heart disease. But new research finds that having high levels of HDL cholesterol may matter less than how well the good cholesterol functions — that is, how well it works to rid the body of excess cholesterol.

HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol performs this clean-up by acting as a boat, removing unwanted cholesterol from cells called macrophages and transporting it to the liver, where the body can get rid of it. That helps prevent the cholesterol from getting stuck in the arterial walls, leading to the plaques that are a hallmark of heart disease, explained Dr. Daniel Rader, director of Preventive Cardiology at the University of Pennsylvania.

Low levels of HDL are strongly associated with an increased risk of heart disease, but the converse isn’t always the case. For years, experts were perplexed at why some of those with high levels of HDL cholesterol were still at high risk of heart attacks. In fact, a trial for torcetrapib, a drug that raised levels of HDL cholesterol, was halted in 2006 when it emerged that people taking the drug were at heightened risk of heart attacks and death.

That led researchers to surmise there might be something about the way in which a person’s HDL functioned that mattered more than HDL levels. In the study, Rader and his colleagues took blood samples and measured the thickness of the blood vessel walls in the carotid artery of the necks of 203 healthy adults. The carotid thickness indicates arterial plaque and heart disease risk, Rader noted.

Researchers then took the HDL from the blood and applied it to macrophages derived from mouse cell lines. In humans and mice, macrophages are white blood cells that swallow invading microbes as a front line of defense; they also engulf cholesterol, thus contributing to the formation of plaques and inflammation in the walls of the arteries.

Participants whose HDL cholesterol was less able to remove cholesterol from the macrophages tended to have a thicker carotid artery.“The function of the HDL was an even better predictor of the thickness of the carotid wall than the HDL level itself,” said Rader, the senior study author. The researchers term this function “cholesterol efflux capacity.”

The study is published in the Jan. 13 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. In a second experiment, the researchers measured the HDL function of 442 people who had undergone bypass surgery due to a blocked artery and 351 people without heart disease.

Those with heart disease had poorer HDL function than those without it, even after adjusting for traditional risk factors, the investigators found. “We found the people who had blockages had significantly less ability to promote cholesterol removal than those who had no blockages,” Rader said. “The measure of HDL function was a much better predictor of the likelihood of having blocked arteries than the measure of HDL cholesterol itself.”

That doesn’t mean high HDL is of no help, noted Dr. Robert Eckel, past president of the American Heart Association and a professor of medicine at University of Colorado. Generally, people with higher levels of HDL also have better function, Eckel said.

But the findings may help explain why some people with high HDL are still found to have heart disease.
“I see plenty of people who have heart disease but who also have high levels of HDL. So what is going on there? Why aren’t they protected? This study may suggest their HDL isn’t working properly to carry out its function,” Eckel said.

The converse may also be true: even someone with low levels of HDL may never develop heart disease because their HDL may work very well. “Just because someone’s HDL level was high, doesn’t necessarily predict their function is going to be high,” Rader said. “And just because their HDL is low, doesn’t mean their HDL function, or their ability to remove cholesterol, is low.”

Statins, a popular cholesterol-lowering medication, lowers levels of LDL, or “bad” cholesterol. When LDL is engulfed by macrophages, it generally gets stuck in the arterial walls, accumulates and forms plaques.
Statins do not effect HDL cholesterol levels, Rader said. There is no test available to the public for HDL function, nor is there likely to be one soon, Rader noted. He pointed out that researchers also don’t know what causes HDL cholesterol to function poorly in removing excess cholesterol, something that will be the subject of future research.

Source:, Daniel J. Rader, M.D., director, preventive cardiology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia; Robert Eckel, M.D., professor, medicine, University of Colorado, Denver; Jan. 13, 2011, New England Journal of Medicine

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Friday, January 14, 2011

The 51 Fastest Fat Burners


1. Catch the running bug. You'll continue to burn fat after your jog: People who run for at least four hours a week melt more calories than non-runners, even when they're not running, a Yale University School of Medicine study reports.

2. Crank it up early. Working out harder during the first half of your workout and taking it easier during the second burns up to 23 percent more fat than doing the opposite, according to a study from The College of New Jersey.

3 & 4. Go hard -- and make it quick. Staying at 80 percent of your max heart rate for 40 minutes can amp your metabolism for 19 hours afterward, research published in Obesity notes. And doing a shorter workout at 75 percent of your max aerobic capacity will give you a greater metabolic boost than sweating longer at 50 percent, a Colorado State University reveals.

5 to 7. Lift dumbbells ... slowly. More muscle equals mega metabolism boost. Strength training can help you trim major fat, research reveals -- and doing super-slow (versus normal speed) reps increases strength by 50 percent. Plus, using dumbbells activates more muscle fibers than using machines, explains Gregory Haff, Ph.D., an associate professor in the exercise physiology department at West Virginia University.

8. Speed up, slow down. Alternating bouts of high-intensity and low-intensity cardio has been shown to torch pounds.

9. Put on weight (literally). Wearing a weighted vest (about 10 percent of your body weight) while walking can boost your calorie burn by 8 percent.

10. Download Rihanna, not Brahms. Listening to up-tempo songs actually makes you run faster and harder than listening to slower-paced music, British scientists say.

11. Let kettlebells ring. Not only does working out with kettlebells build muscle, but doing it for 20 minutes burns as many calories as running at a 6-minute-mile pace for the same amount of time.

12. Keep it up. As few as 80 minutes a week of aerobic or weight training helps keep you from regaining belly fat after losing weight, according to researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

13. Add poles. Use Nordic poles while you walk, and you'll burn 20 percent more calories, says research from The Cooper Institute in Dallas.

14 & 15. Lift first, nix the rest. Doing strength training before cardio can torch more fat than cardio alone. And if you do one move after another without pausing, "you'll see more gains in strength and muscle mass," says Dr. Pierre Manfroy, M.D., consultant for the book "100 Ways to Supercharge Your Metabolism."

16. Add pounds. Lift heavier weights for fewer reps to make your workout more intense -- and burn more fat -- Manfroy says.

17. Try aromatherapy. Exercisers who inhaled strawberry and buttered-popcorn scents torched more calories than those who sniffed neutral odors, according to research from the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago.

18. Box yourself in. Wii boxing knocks out nearly twice as many calories as some other games, like Wii golf.

19. Kick it. Playing soccer not only torches more fat and builds more muscle than jogging, but it feels less tiring, Danish research reveals.

20. Stay in shape. Fit people have more fat-burning metabolites in their blood than couch potatoes do, scientists say.


22. Get more protein. Eating a protein-packed breakfast and lunch helps you burn more post-meal fat than if you eat lower-protein meals, according to Australian research.

23 & 24. Guzzle green tea -- or coffee. Downing five 5-ounce cups of green tea a day boosts metabolism, says Lyssie Lakatos, R.D., author of "Fire Up Your Metabolism." Two cups of coffee will also do the trick, one study shows.

25. Have an omelet. Eating two eggs for breakfast while dieting will help you trim more weight and body fat than if you ate the same amount of calories noshing on a bagel, scientists say.

26. Stay above 1,200 calories... "The average person's body goes into starvation mode if she eats fewer than 1,200 calories a day," says Eric Berg, author of "The 7 Principles of Fat Burning." "That's stress, and stress creates more belly fat."

27. ... and cut calories gradually. If you diet, don't trim more than 250 calories a day. Cutting calories too quickly slows your metabolism down, Dr. Manfroy says.

28 to 33. Munch on these. Almonds, cherries, yogurt, grapefruit, whole grains, and spicy foods have all been shown to torch fat.

34. Fuel up right. Eating a low-glycemic-index breakfast (such as muesli and peaches) will help you burn more fat during a subsequent workout than eating a high-glycemic-index meal (like waffles), researchers from the University of Nottingham reveal.

35. Think before you drink. Sipping as few as 90 calories' worth of vodka can slow your metabolism by 73 percent, one study shows.

36. Graze. Women who go without eating for long periods are more likely to have higher body-fat percentages than women who nosh more regularly, one study notes.

37. Dine like a Greek. Eating a diet rich in monounsaturated fat (think olive oil, avocados) can help trim both weight and fat, research published in the British Journal of Nutrition shows.

38. Stop gorging. Your body can only handle so much food at a time, so stick to 600 calories or less per meal to maximize fat-burning, says Leslie Cooper, co-author of "Flip the Switch: Proven Strategies to Fuel Your Metabolism and Burn Fat 24 Hours a Day."

39. Skip juice. Reaching for an apple instead of apple juice is not only better calorie-wise, but it'll also do a better job of boosting your metabolism, Dr. Manfroy explains.


41 & 42. Get C and D. Vitamin C can help you burn more fat, and D may help you lose fat, research notes. Aim for 400 to 500 mg of C and 800 mg of D a day.

43 & 44. Walk more (in denim). Researchers found that fitness-friendly offices (think treadmill desks, mobile headsets) helped people trim pounds and fat, as did wearing jeans to work, since dressing casual encourages you to move more. Wear comfy clothes when you can, pace while on the phone, and stand while chatting with co-workers.

45. Add fish oil (And work out). Taking 6 grams of fish oil per day and hitting the gym three times a week can help nix body fat, an Australian study reveals.

46. Work the day shift. Keeping nontraditional hours lowers levels of hormones that trigger satiety, increases blood glucose and insulin levels, and raises levels of the stress hormone cortisol (which can drive you to eat more), scientists say.

47. Nix the boob tube. Cut your TV time in half, and you'll burn more calories each day, research from the University of Vermont suggests.

48. Go mental. People who visualized themselves training a specific muscle boosted the strength in that muscle group, researchers found.

49. Eat a smaller dinner. Your body may not digest food -- and burn fat -- as efficiently if you down a huge meal right before bedtime, especially because your metabolism is slower while you sleep, Dr. Manfroy says.

50. Jump-start your morning. Wake up your metabolism -- and get fat-burning started -- by doing some sort of exercise within the first few hours of being awake, Cooper suggests.

51. Get your snooze on. Sleep for a solid 81D 2 hours instead of 51D 2, according to research published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, and you'll lose more fat. Sweet dreams!

Source: By Kate Ashford,

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Thursday, January 6, 2011

Study Links Obesity to Greater Pain, Weakness in Fibromyalgia Patients

Obese fibromyalgia patients suffer more severe symptoms such as pain, reduced flexibility and sleep disturbances than those of normal weight, a new study indicates. But the good news is that losing weight may bring a modicum of relief, other research suggests. Noting that pain issues are common in obese people, researchers from the University of Utah analyzed 215 patients with fibromyalgia, a chronic musculoskeletal pain disorder afflicting between 3 percent and 5 percent of Americans, most of them women.

Nearly half of the study participants were obese, and another 30 percent were overweight, with the obese patients experiencing much greater pain to the touch in lower body areas, according to the research. One of the cardinal features of fibromyalgia is extreme pain upon palpation of at least 11 of 18 so-called tender points across the body. The obese fibromyalgia patients were also more likely than the other study participants to have reduced physical strength, less flexibility in the lower body, a shorter sleeptime and greater restlessness when they did sleep, the study found.

Study author Akiko Okifuji, a professor of anesthesiology at the University of Utah’s Pain Research and Management Center, said several effects of obesity on the body may heighten fibromyalgia pain, including increased loading on joints and bones. “Both fibromyalgia and obesity are clearly big public health concerns. Both conditions seriously impact quality of life,” Okifuji said. “It’s very difficult to do effective weight management.if you have fibromyalgia. Clearly, if you can do effective weight management, it’s better for your overall health.”

Obesity is quite common among those with fibromyalgia, with previous research reporting that up to 50 percent of patients are obese and another 21 percent to 28 percent are overweight. The study, reported in the December 2010 issue of The Journal of Pain, said the poorer sleep quality affecting obese fibromyalgia patients appears to contribute significantly to their fatigue and pain. Obesity is also a risk factor for shorter sleep duration in the general population, according to the study.

Study participants had suffered from fibromyalgia for an average of 12.7 years and were an average of 45 years old, with a mean weight of 184 pounds. Only 47 of the 215 patients had body-mass indexes (BMIs) in the normal range, with four below normal. In addition to a tender point exam, the participants underwent a home sleep assessment and physical performance tests that included treadmill walking, leg raises, standing push-ups and range-of-motion flexes.

Vitaly Napadow, an assistant professor of radiology at Harvard Medical School who was not connected to the study, said the link between obesity and greater pain in fibromyalgia creates a “vicious cycle” because the pain poses a barrier to exercise, which could reduce weight. “I think the study was interesting in that it was a larger sample size than the authors studied in the past,” said Napadow, also an assistant in neuroscience at Massachusetts General Hospital. “It needs to be recognized that there are these subpopulations in fibromyalgia, and obesity is another burden that needs to be dealt with.”

Okifuji said study participants were not asked which condition they had developed first, obesity or fibromyalgia, but noted that each one is a risk factor for the other. Researchers also noted that the study did not determine causality and that its definition of obesity was based on the BMI, which doesn’t take into account age or ethnic differences. “I think the study ended up bringing up more questions than answers,” she said. Both Okifuji and Napadow said a multi-pronged approach to treating obese fibromyalgia patients, including medication, proper nutrition and exercise, needs to be incorporated to maximize symptom relief. Other research has suggested that weight loss may bring some relief from fibromyalgia symptoms, the researchers noted.

“If they’re not able to walk because of pain, (perhaps) we can devise upper-body exercise regimens . . . that are not difficult for them to do,” Napadow said. “That’s one kind of intriguing possibility.”

Source: By Maureen Salamon HealthDay Reporter

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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Experts claim to discover 'root cause' of male baldness

Experts say they have discovered what they believe is the root cause of male pattern baldness. It is not simply a lack of hair, but rather a problem with the new hair that is made. A manufacturing defect means the hair produced is so small it appears invisible to the naked eye, giving the classic bald spot or receding hairline.

The US team told the Journal of Clinical Investigation the fault lies with the stem cells that make new hair. It may be possible to 'cure' male baldness by restoring the normal function of these cells, the experts hope. Ultimately, they hope to be able to develop a cream that could be applied to the scalp to help the stem cells grow normal hair.

Using men undergoing hair transplants as guinea pigs, the University of Pennsylvania team compared hair follicles in bald patches and hairy areas of the scalp. Although bald areas had the same number of hair-making stem cells as normal scalp, there were fewer of a more mature type, called the progenitor cell. This difference means that hair follicles in bald patches shrink rather than disappear and the new hairs made are microscopic compared to normal hair.

Dr George Cotsarelis who led the research said: "This implies that there is a problem in the activation of stem cells converting progenitor cells in bald scalp. "The fact that there are normal numbers of stem cells in bald scalp gives us hope for reactivating those stem cells." Until now it has been unclear what the exact cause of male pattern baldness is, but experts believe the male hormone testosterone is involved and baldness also tends to run in families.


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