Move On

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

A recent ode to the benefits of tennis by a 74-year-old writer caught my eye. Citing various classical authors, philosophers, and the gradual improvement of his game since his 20s, the author championed the power of vigorous sport on his writing and his mind. Riffing off a Robert Frost poem that ended “Here are your waters and your watering place. Drink and be whole again beyond confusion,” the author concluded: “The tennis court is my watering place where I drink and am whole again beyond confusion — at least for a couple of hours.”

As an aging tennis player myself, I found his essay in The Wall Street Journal’s opinion page uplifting as he described “tennis as a refuge from the racket of everyday life.” We all need some kind of healthy activity and discipline to allow us to shut down the grinding gears of our minds for brief periods and refresh it with the drink of stillness and the water of life.

The Physical Activity Council recently reported 28 percent of Americans over 6 get no physical activity meaning they are totally sedentary in the past year. This report is also included a sharp increase in inactivity for those over 65. These are unhealthy trends. Continue reading

A body in motion

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

In high school physics class, I learned from Sir Isaac Newton that a body in motion will stay in motion. The opposite is true and it is called inertia. The other day in clinic, I went in to see Dylan, a 12 year old. He didn’t look up or say hi to me as I came into the room as he was intently working his thumbs on a handheld device. His mother told him to be polite and say hello. He raised his head briefly, said, “Hi,” then back to the gaming thing. She shrugged apologetically and helplessly. I won’t dwell on how we should socialize the digital generation to learn polite human interaction, though it is quite relevant to bodies in motion.

Dylan’s complaint was a minor one and he basically came in needing a school excuse. It could have been a 5 to 10 minute visit but I noticed he was a bit chunky. In fact, his BMI at 29 was close to the obese range. At mom’s request, we ran a urine and blood test to make sure he wasn’t diabetic. He wasn’t, fortunately, at least not yet.

I asked Dylan what kinds of sports or other activities he liked to do. Mom motioned to me with both thumbs moving rapidly to mime the reality of his activity. Continue reading

Celebrate the virtues of olive oil

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

As a child, I had a generally negative experience with olive oil. My mom, who mostly cooked with Crisco, lard, bacon fat, and butter had a tiny pyramid-shaped bottle of cheap Pompei olive oil in her pantry.

I don’t know what she used it for in the usual spectrum of Polish cooking like maybe frying kielbasa in it, but I know I tasted it straight a few times and found it atrocious. Olive Oyle was also cartoon character as Popeye’s less than attractive, scrawny, screechy girlfriend. Over the years, though, I have developed a love relationship with the health benefits of Olive Oil. Not Popeye’s girl lest I get socked in the eye by the spinach-fortified sailor!

I am not alone as the American public has turned on to olive oil using 10 times the amount we used just 30 years ago. A 9 percent increase in use was reported just in the past year. This growth has come largely as a replacement for margarine. Still, the average Italian or Spaniard downs 10 times the amount of olive oil in a year than the average American. They consume 8-9 liters annually compared to our measly 0.4-0.8 liters annually. The Greeks, despite the constant news of financial crisis, are guzzling almost 15 liters a person per year. Continue reading

You’re more like your mother than you know

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Medical Discovery News

While the benefits of breast feeding have been well-documented, scientists were surprised to learn of another one: breast milk contains a mother’s stem cells that become a part of different organs of the baby’s body.

Breast feeding protects infants against infections early in life and reduces their risk of juvenile diabetes, heart disease and cancer as children. It also helps mothers lose weight after giving birth and lowers their risk of osteoporosis and uterine and ovarian cancer.

In addition, seven years ago scientists discovered the presence of mammary stem cells in breast milk. The mammary gland is unique in its ability to go through different stages in anticipation of producing milk, then a period of milk secretion followed by a return to the non-lactating state. All of this can occur as many times as necessary. This massive restructuring of the breast suggested the presence of stem cells. Continue reading

Cigars are no better than cigarettes

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Medical Discovery News

A common argument made by those who smoke cigars is that they are safer than cigarettes. However, several studies argue that this is not true.

Cigar smoking has increased dramatically in the U.S. Between 2000 and 2011, small cigar sales rose 65 percent and large cigar sales increased 233 percent. Americans smoked more than 13 million cigars in 2010, twice the number from 2000. About 13.4 million people age 12 or older smoke cigars. A cigar culture has arisen, with cigar bars or clubs, shops with walk-in humidors and magazines for those who consider themselves cigar connoisseurs. Their use among sports figures and celebrities has made it seem fashionable or sophisticated, a symbol of status or success.

The tobacco in cigars is cured and fermented to enhance the flavor, but this process also increases the amounts of harmful ingredients. Cigars come in three basic sizes, but the classic cigars are the large ones that contain more than half an ounce of tobacco, and some contain as much as an entire pack of cigarettes.

Just like cigarettes, cigars contain nicotine and can be very addictive. Most people who smoke cigars do not inhale, and therefore the nicotine is absorbed more slowly. However, cigar smoke dissolves more easily in saliva than cigarette smoke, enhancing the amount of nicotine absorbed. Smokers absorb one to two milligrams of nicotine out of the eight total milligrams in cigarettes. The large cigars contain anywhere from 100 to over 400 milligrams of nicotine, and the amount a person absorbs varies greatly depending on how long the cigar is smoked, how many puffs are taken, and how much smoke is inhaled. Second- and third-hand cigar smoke is dangerous, just like it is with cigarettes.

In one study, scientists measured the levels of two biomarkers for tobacco as well as arsenic and lead in over 25,000 cigar smokers. Cigar smokers had higher levels of these carcinogens than nonsmokers and equal levels to cigarette smokers. Overall, the study found that cigars are not safer than cigarettes. Cigar smokers are less likely to develop lung cancer than cigarette smokers, but they are at higher risks of developing other cancers.

Those who inhale while smoking cigars are more likely to develop laryngeal cancer, lung cancer, bladder cancer, pancreatic cancer and cancers of the tongue, mouth or throat than nonsmokers. Even those who don’t inhale the smoke directly still inhale the secondhand smoke and are at an increased risk of lung cancer. Cigar smokers are four to 10 times more likely to die from cancers of the mouth, larynx and esophagus than nonsmokers.

Cigar smoking also increases the risk of other diseases including emphysema, chronic bronchitis, heart attacks, gum disease and erectile dysfunction. One long-term study determined that cigar or pipe smoking costs people 10 years on average — they spent an extra five years in bad health and died five years earlier.

So before you take up cigars in an attempt to look cool, ask yourself if your image is more important than your health.

Professors Norbert Herzog and David Niesel are biomedical scientists at the University of Texas Medical Branch. Learn more at medicaldiscoverynews.com.

What is a health & wellness coach?

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Are you having trouble making changes in your lifestyle? Have you tried time and again to improve your diet, your exercise, your fitness, or sustain your motivation to change only to fall short? If so, you may benefit from a Health and Wellness Coach.

According to a recent expert panel consensus:
“Health and Wellness Coaches are professionals from diverse backgrounds and education who work with individuals and groups in a client-centered process to facilitate and empower the client to achieve self-determined goals related to health and wellness. Successful coaching takes place when coaches apply clearly defined knowledge and skills so that clients mobilize internal strengths and external resources for sustainable change.”

That’s a long definition and you might be asking why would I need a health coach and what can they do for me? Continue reading

MIND your diet for brain health

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

With increasing frequency, I have the unenviable task of informing a patient or their family members that they have dementia. Often, the patient themselves has not realized that they have problems other than occasional attention lapses, even though family members have observed major behavioral and memory problems.

Perhaps nothing creates so much anxiety among those of us who are growing older than the loss of our higher mental functions. The old term, senility, or even kindly tolerance of eccentric age-related forgetfulness has been overshadowed by the specter of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. These are among the leading causes of death in the elderly and contribute to loss of function, dignity as well as adding tremendous stress on families. I understand the challenges of these conditions from professional, personal, and family experiences.

Like most areas of medicine, prevention is the preferred way of approaching chronic problems. A recent study by Dr. Martha Morris of Rush University’s Internal Medicine and Nutrition departments in Chicago and published in the journal, Alzheimer’s and Dementia in March 2015, has garnered national media attention. Entitled “MIND Diet Associated with Reduced Incidence of Alzheimer’s disease,” this is one of the few prospective studies on neuroprotection and dementia prevention. In this study, the MIND diet was the active intervention in more than 900 participants 58 to 98 years old. The researchers followed these subjects for an average of 4.5 years and found that moderate adherence to the MIND diet may decrease Alzheimer’s disease risk. Continue reading

Stem cells help in battling diabetes

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Medical Discovery News

Diabetes may be common, but it’s serious business. Diabetes is repeatedly in the top 10 causes of death for Americans, killing or contributing to the deaths of 300,000 Americans in 2010. An estimated one in 10 people have it, but about one-third of them are undiagnosed. Diabetes costs the country $250 billion. But scientists are working on some good news for diabetics with the help of stem cells.

Type 1 diabetes is largely associated with children and represents about 5 percent of all diabetes cases. The more common form, type 2 diabetes, mostly affects adults and manifests when cells do not use insulin effectively so higher levels are needed, this is also called insulin resistance. Insulin is a molecule of protein, made and secreted by beta cells in the pancreas, an organ that regulates glucose levels in the blood.

Diabetes is a multifaceted disease that leads to a host of medical conditions and complications, such as high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, blindness, cardiovascular disease and kidney problems. Those with diabetes are two times more likely to die of a heart attack and one and half times more likely to die of a stroke. Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure, leading to transplants and dialysis. Almost 60 percent of lower extremity amputations are the result of diabetes. Continue reading

More Smoothies

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Smoothies are a great way to start your day and start your way toward getting the recommended 5 to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables (shoot for 30 percent fruits, 70 percent vegetables) we ought to consume daily for optimal health. So many of my patients and even our medical students eat less than that. It isn’t always convenient to have fresh fruits or vegetables around. Frozen produce works well though and keeping blueberries, spinach, mixed berries, tropical fruit mix, peaches, and the like in the freezer is a good way to ensure you always have plenty of superfoods around.

Here is one recipe, though you can play around with variations if you wish:

  1. Rinse a bunch of kale, about as much as you can grasp in one hand and put it in the blender or food processor
  2. Add some fresh spinach if you wish
  3. Put in one or two fresh avocados
  4. Squeeze in the juice of one or two lemons
  5. Add a couple scoops of whey or soy protein powder
  6. For extra flavor add some slices of turmeric root, ginger root, and/or a couple of garlic cloves
  7. Pour in sufficient organic apple juice to bring everything into a solution
  8. Blend and watch the amazing healthful Kelly Green colors arrive.

A cup of this is like 3 servings of veggies and fruit to start your day. In other words, a salad in a smoothie! Enjoy.

Here’s a fruit smoothie I have shared before but is back by popular demand:

  • 1 cup of frozen or fresh blueberries
  • 1 cup of cut mango, nectarine, peach, berries, or any fruit of your choice
  • 1 scoop of whey protein powder or soy protein powder
  • 1 scoop of ground flaxseed
  • High pulp orange juice
  • Blend to consistency desired

For a few more easy ways to get your daily fruits and veggies in, try any of the following: Continue reading

How to make summer outdoor meals safe for your family

Dr. Sally Robinson

Dr. Sally Robinson

Keeping Kids Healthy

Spring has arrived and after an extra cold winter, everybody is ready to get outside for some picnics, backyard barbecues, dips and cold, dressed salads. In other words, it is the season of rapidly spoiling food and food-borne illnesses.

Overall, the incidence of food-borne illnesses has dropped over the past decade. Much of this is due to food safety programs by the US Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration at the food production level.
Still, according to an article by staff writer Judith Rusk of the journal Infectious Diseases in Children, food-borne diseases cause 76 million illnesses, 325 thousand hospitalizations, and 5,000 deaths each year and are most dangerous in the young, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems. Continue reading