“Marijuana Pros and Cons as of 2019”Dec 30, 2018
Marijuana, or cannabis, was first used in Egypt 3,000 years ago and Britain’s Queen Victoria was also prescribed tincture of cannabis. Yet, the Food and Drug Administration has not deemed marijuana safe or effective in the treatment of any medical condition. But, this has not stopped the drive for its legalization. Twenty-nine states, plus the District of Columbia, have now made marijuana available for medical—and, in some states, recreational—purposes. Consequently, we have seen a sharp rise in marijuana use and this has prompted major public health concerns. So, what are the harms or health benefits of “pot.” Research has yielded results to suggest that marijuana may be of benefit in the treatment of some conditions, such as chronic pain, alcoholism and drug addiction, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and social anxiety, cancer, multiple sclerosis, and epilepsy. A large 2017 review found that marijuana, or products containing cannabinoids are effective at relieving chronic pain. Another 2017 review found that using marijuana may help people with alcohol or opioid dependencies to fight their addictions. But, other studies suggests that marijuana use actually drives increased risk for abusing, and becoming dependent on other substances. A review published in Clinical Psychology Review found some evidence supporting the use of marijuana to relieve depression and post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms.
“Cancer Linked to Infections”Dec 23, 2018
Almost 22% of cancer deaths in the developing world and 6% in industrialized countries are caused by chronic infections and most are known to be due to viruses. For example, hepatitis B or C virus are known to cause cancer of the liver, human papillomavirus (HPV) is linked to cervical cancer and helicobacter pylori bacteria increases the risk of stomach cancer. Even though the infections described here can raise a person’s risk of certain types of cancer, most people with these infections never develop cancer. The risk of developing cancer is also influenced by other factors. For example, infection with Helicobacter pylori (H pylori) bacteria might increase your risk of stomach cancer, but what you eat, whether or not you smoke, and other factors also affect your risk. The percentage of infection related cancer deaths is even higher in developing countries, but it is lower in the United States and other developed countries. This is partly because certain infections are more common in developing countries, and partly because some other risk factors for cancer, such as obesity, are more common in developed countries. Also, some infections weaken the immune system, making the body less able to fight off other cancer-causing infections. And some viruses, bacteria, and parasites also cause chronic inflammation, which may lead to cancer. Many of the infections that influence cancer risk can be passed from person to person, but cancer itself cannot.
“Coffee – Pros and Cons”Dec 16, 2018
Over half (55%) of the US population drinks coffee on a daily basis, at an average of about 2 cups per day. The U.S. spends $40 billion on coffee each year. But, is all this coffee affecting our health? Caffeine and other compounds in coffee have been shown to help you burn more calories, reduce cellular damage, aid in DNA repair, and provide anti-inflammatory effects. Coffee may even lower the risk of certain types of cancer. Yet, the American Academy of Pediatrics says caffeine has been linked to harmful effects on young people’s developing neurologic and cardiovascular systems. People are bewildered by confusing medical reports related to coffee. A Mayo Clinic study found that men who drank more than four 8 oz. cups of coffee had a 21% increase in all-cause mortality. Too much coffee can cause restlessness, wakefulness, and “the jitters.” In addition, too much coffee during pregnancy (more than 4 cups per day) has been linked with preterm births, low birth weights, and stillbirths. Coffee also raises the risk of bone fractures in women. A new study in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation found that people who drank a moderate amount of coffee (fewer than five cups per day) experienced a lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease, neurological diseases, type 2 diabetes and suicide. Surprisingly, those reductions may not be due to the caffeine in those magic beans. Coffee drinkers experienced the same beneficial effects whether they sipped full strength or decaf. Drinking coffee raises cholesterol and it significantly contributes to increased levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), and triglycerides.
“Vitamin D and Fish Oil of Little Benefit in Heart Disease, Cancer”Dec 09, 2018
More research is showing no significant benefit from vitamin D supplementation for the prevention of cardiovascular disease (CVD) or cancer and little benefit from omega-3 supplements. The Vitamin D and Omega-3 Trial (VITAL) is one of the largest randomized, placebo-controlled trials to examine these associations. The study comprised almost 26,000 participants. The two primary outcome measures were invasive cancer of any type and major CVD events, which was a composite of stroke, myocardial infarction (MI), and CVD-related death. Neither the participants who received vitamin D3 nor those who received 1 g of marine n-3 fatty acids (omega-3) per day showed a significantly lower incidence of either outcome over 5 years of follow-up. However, there was a 28% reduction in risk for myocardial infarction (MI) alone in the full group receiving omega-3 and a 77% reduction in MI risk among black participants in the omega-3 group. This may point to a very promising approach to reducing coronary risk among African Americans. But overall the results were not impressive with any of the primary findings and only showed marginal benefits in “sub-analyses or in secondary endpoints,” which are not reliable scientific evidence of benefit. Importantly, no significant adverse events occurred with either agent, including no increased risk for hypercalcemia with vitamin D and no increased risk for bleeding with omega-3. Jane Armitage, MD, University of Oxford, United Kingdom, noted that although this was a well-conducted and well-powered study with an ethnically diverse population and good follow-up, “it was robustly negative” overall.
“Should the Doctor Shake a Patient’s Hand?”Dec 02, 2018
Dirty hands can transmit many types of infection. If you think shaking hands is a friendly gesture, thing again. It is a well-known health hazard. Dirty hands can transmit infections such as noroviruses and salmonella that cause diarrhea and vomiting, rhinoviruses that can give you a cold, as well as the viruses that cause flu and chickenpox. Diseases that spread rapidly and can be fatal, such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Clostridium difficile, can also lurk on hands. The bugs can be transferred to surfaces and door handles for other people to share. So, should we keep our hands to ourselves? These days, hospitals and offices are oozing with indestructible bacteria and patients are trigger-happy with lawsuits over perceived offenses. When you shake hands with someone, you’re greeting dozens, if not hundreds, of species of bacteria. In one study, researchers found that the typical person’s hand has more than 150 distinct species of bacteria living on it. And the bacteria are diverse. The microbes on the other person’s hand are vastly different from the ones on your hand. Specifically, researchers found more than 4,700 different bacteria species among 102 human hands, with just 5 species shared among all participants—a commonality of only 13%. Even your right hand has only 17% of the same bacteria as your left hand, the researchers found. Surprisingly, the researchers also showed that the overall diversity of bacteria on individual hands was not significantly affected by regular handwashing. Either the bacterial colonies rapidly re-establish after hand washing or washing does not remove most bacteria found on the skin surface. Still, that’s no excuse to skip washing your hands.
“Five Things Harboring Germs in Hospitals”Nov 25, 2018
Surprisingly, many hospital surfaces are contaminated with germs and should not be touched. It turns out that there’s a body of research on the infectious nature of fomites (infection-harboring materials) in health-care settings. You may never look at a clipboard, stethoscope, faucet, clothing item or tie in the same way again. Canadian researchers discovered that patient privacy curtains found in hospital rooms become increasingly contaminated as days go by, and by day 14, nearly 90% harbored methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Five everyday hospital contaminated areas are as follows: 1) Patient privacy curtains; 2) Stethoscopes; 3) Tabletops; 4) Hospital linens; and 5) Neckties.
“Aspirin of Little Benefit for Heart Disease, Stroke”Nov 18, 2018
As of 2016, recommendations were for older Americans with a high risk of heart disease, to take low–dose aspirin every day to reduce their risk of a heart attack, prevent some cancers and cancer death, extend their lives and save the lives of hundreds of thousands of patients over the course of 20 years. By 2017, experts recommended that you should use daily aspirin therapy only after first talking to your health care professional, who can weigh the benefits and risks. However, after carefully examining scientific data from major studies, FDA had concluded that the data do not support the use of aspirin as a preventive medication by people who have not had a heart attack, stroke or cardiovascular problems, a use that is called “primary prevention.” In such people, the benefit has not been established but risks—such as dangerous bleeding into the brain or stomach—are still present. Caution is needed with blood thinners. When you have a heart attack, it’s because one of the coronary arteries (which provide blood to the heart), has developed a clot that obstructs the flow of blood and oxygen to the heart. Aspirin works by interfering with your blood’s clotting action. Care is needed when using aspirin with other blood thinners, such as warfarin, dabigatran (Pradaxa), rivaroxaban (Xarelto) and apixiban (Eliquis). As of 2018, three new large studies have been completed as follows: the ASCEND study, the ARRIVE study and the ASPREE study. In the ASCEND study, aspirin use was linked to a 12% drop in the rate of serious vascular events, but a 29% increase in the rate of major bleeding events.
“Certain Diets Can Reduce The Cancer Risk”Nov 11, 2018
Tragically, the overall incidence of cancer continues to rise. More than half of all people born in 1960 will develop cancer at some point in their lives. This new estimate replaces the previous figure, which predicted that more than one in three people would develop cancer. Still, many Americans remain unaware of the key risk factors for cancer, even though these risk factors can be reduced by making lifestyle changes. This is likely due to the fact that more people are surviving into old age, where cancer is more common. The old adage is that if you live long enough, you will get cancer. A 2015 study, in the British Journal of Cancer, reported that the lifetime risk of developing cancer is 53.5% for men and 47.5% for women. Compared with people born in 1930, that is an increase of 15% for men and 11% for women. So, we need to be aware that there are believed to be many ways to help prevent cancer. Smoking, inactivity, consumption of alcohol, diets high in red meat, diets low in vegetables and fruits, and consumption of processed meats are thought to increase one’s chances of developing cancer. Being physically active, staying a healthy weight, and eating a plant-based diet has the potential to prevent hundreds of thousands of cancer cases each year. A new study claims that a specific cancer-prevention diet that emphasizes more vegetables and physical activity, and less red meat and alcohol, reduced overall cancer risk as well as the risk for several types of cancer.
“STD Rates Are Soaring IN USA”Oct 28, 2018
After decades of declining STDs, in recent years we’ve been sliding backwards in the USA. “The United States continues to have the highest STD rates in the industrialized world,” said David Harvey, executive director of the National Coalition of STD Directors (NCSD). Harvey said STDs lead to $16 billion in preventable healthcare costs each year. Preliminary data indicate that rates of three sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) — Chlamydia infection, gonorrhea, and syphilis — hit an all-time high in 2017, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC said that the United States is on track to have 1.7 million cases of Chlamydia infection (up from 1.59 million in 2016), 555,608 cases of gonorrhea, and 30,644 cases of primary and secondary syphilis in 2017. Overall, that’s 200,000 more cases of the three reportable STDs than in 2016, and it’s the fourth year in a row that the United States has had a significant increase in those conditions. The early data indicate that from 2013 to 2017, the number of gonorrhea cases increased by 67% and syphilis cases nearly doubled. A significant number of the syphilis cases — 17,736 — were in men who have sex with men. The figures are alarming.
“Eight Glasses of Daily Water is Mythology”Oct 21, 2018
Everywhere, people are carrying bottles of water and taking frequent sips from them. Despite the seemingly admonition to “drink at least eight 8-oz glasses of water a day” (with a reminder that beverages containing caffeine and alcohol do not count), rigorous proof for this is missing. You don’t have to consume all the water you need through drinks. Americans get nearly 20% of their fluid intake from food. A 2002 study failed to find any scientific studies to support the eight, eight-ounce glasses (8 x 8) on a daily basis. Surveys of food and fluid intake on thousands of adults of both genders strongly suggest that such large amounts are not needed because the surveyed persons were not overtly ill. This conclusion is supported by published studies showing that caffeinated drinks (and, to a lesser extent, mild alcoholic beverages like beer in moderation) may be counted toward the daily total. However, large intakes of fluid, equal to and greater than 8 × 8, are advisable for the treatment or prevention of some diseases and certainly are called for under special circumstances, such as vigorous work and exercise, especially in hot climates.