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

The birth of Ebola

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Medical Discovery News

For most Americans, the Ebola scare seems to have come and gone, but that doesn’t mean the outbreak is over in Africa or that we’ve seen the last of the virus, especially considering its history. Scientists believed that Ebola is relatively new as far as viruses go — only 10,000 years old. However, ancient animal bones show that Ebola appeared between 16 million and 23 million years ago, perhaps even earlier.

The Ebola virus was discovered in 1976 during two outbreaks in what was then called Northern Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) and southern Sudan. The outbreaks were actually caused by two different strains of the Ebola virus named Zaire and Sudan, with 90 and 50 percent mortality rates respectively. Since then, three other strains have been identified: Tai Forest, Bundibugyo, and Reston, which is the only one that doesn’t affect people. Overall, there have been 27 outbreaks, but the current outbreak that started in March 2014 is by far the worst, infecting almost 25,000 people and killing over 10,000, thereby making it the world’s first Ebola epidemic. 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

Participate in your own nutritional good health

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Perhaps no other topic is so widely debated, discussed, and as confusing as nutrition. One study confounds another. Long held sacred cows like cholesterol management in diet, eating eggs, artificial sweeteners, and so on seem to be slaughtered daily in the media and scientific journals. Daytime food shows have been so popular as we love to talk about, shop for, cook, and, of course, eat food. They often add to the noise and disinformation about nutrition and health. Nonetheless, they are closely watched as eating is the very human thing we all do. Once we have enough food to survive, we hope to make the right food choices to thrive.

We are increasingly discovering that food is more than calories. It is information. Our choice of foods alters our microbiome, the critically important bacteria in our gut. These affect everything from obesity, diabetes, heart disease, joint or other systemic inflammation, and even may be related to neurological conditions like Alzheimers’ disease and autism.

Genetics, long thought to be so crucial in our health is no longer destiny. It turns out that food we eat and the exercise we do alter the expression of genes we are born with. This process, called epigenetics, produces measurable and large outcome changes in our health destiny. Family history no longer needs to be a fate to await and endure but an inspiration to eat well, be active, and be cured. Continue reading

Marijuana use in teens is unhealthy

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

MEDICAL DISCOVERY NEWS

It is now legal to use marijuana (recreationally and/or medically) in more than 20 states and the District of Columbia, and as more places debate legalizing the substance, more people are asking about its consequences on human health. There are many myths and misconceptions out there, but this is what science has to say about the subject.

As with all substances, the health effects depend on the potency, amount and a person’s age. An independent scientific committee in the United Kingdom evaluated how harmful various drugs were based on 16 criteria and ranked heroin, crack cocaine and methamphetamine as the most harmful drugs to individuals using them, and ranked alcohol, heroin, and crack cocaine as the drugs that cause the most harm to others. Marijuana ranks eighth, with slightly more than one-quarter the harm of alcohol.

Short-term use is associated with impaired short-term memory, making it difficult to learn and retain information while under the influence. Short-term use also can impair motor coordination, interfering with tasks such as driving. The overall risk of an accident doubles if a person drives soon after using marijuana. In comparison, those with blood alcohol levels above the legal limit are five times more likely to have an accident, and the combination of alcohol and marijuana is higher than either one alone. Continue reading

When is your child too sick to go to school?

Dr. Sally Robinson

Dr. Sally Robinson

Keeping Kids Healthy

Most children get sick at some point during the school year. In fact, the average school-age child gets about 6 to 9 common colds per year. Many parents sometimes send their children to school sick and other children catch what they have.

Sometimes it is difficult for parents to tell if their child is too sick to go to school. It can also be hard for parents take off work, especially in single-parent households or families in which both parents work.

But it is extremely important to keep children home if they are sick because they can expose other children to whatever they have.

Here are some basic guidelines to help you decide whether or not to send your child to school if he or she is not feeling well: Continue reading