Newsletter 07/15/18 – Moods, Mind and Movie Nights

To my Patients and Friends,

I’m back with this week’s medical news summary… happy reading!

A movie night is as heart-healthy as a daily multivitamin (and way more entertaining!)

In a large meta-analysis (an analysis of multiple independent but related studies) that was recently published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, it was determined that taking a daily multivitamin (MVI) confers no cardiovascular health benefit (i.e., reduced risk of heart attack or stroke).  In fact, studies of daily MVI use have generally shown no significant health benefits of any kind.  Although the industry has done a remarkable job of convincing us that taking a daily MVI should be an essential part of a healthy lifestyle pattern, don’t believe the hype.  A daily MVI is no substitute for a healthy diet, and in the absence of specific nutritional deficiency states, we would all be better off saving our money for the movies (or your favorite charity).

Are some doctors too casual with genes?

A referral for genetic testing is much more likely for a woman diagnosed with breast cancer if her attending surgeon is familiar and/or comfortable with such testing, according to a new study published in JAMA Surgery.  Guidelines currently advise physicians to discuss genetic testing with breast cancer patients who are at high risk for carriage of certain genetic mutations, and about one third of patients do undergo such testing.  However, the study found that some surgeons were more apt than others to pursue genetic testing, even in patients with equivalent risk levels.

As in many areas of medicine, physicians’ attitudes and practices vary and can impact which treatment pathways are ultimately recommended for our patients.  This study serves as an important reminder that physicians are not infallible, and that patients should always feel comfortable advocating for themselves and probing for satisfactory answers when they aren’t otherwise forthcoming.

The brain-body connection

Harvard researchers have recently uncovered more evidence that nearly any type of exercise can benefit the brain as well as the body.  The study, just published in the journal Neurology Clinical Practice, determined that the impact of regular exercise on cognitive function was cumulative, and that, after a total of 52 hours of exercise logged over time (sounds like a lot, but not when it’s spread out over time), measurable benefits could be seen.  This was true for walking, cycling, weightlifting and yoga.  The researchers theorize that exercise promotes the production of specific proteins which positively affect thinking and problem-solving.  So it’s never too late to get up and start moving!

A heads-up on sports injuries

A recent study of football players published in the Journal of Neurosurgery  has found that relatively minor head injuries- even in the absence of a concussion diagnosis- can be associated with bio-markers in the blood that have traditionally been seen in patients who have sustained more serious traumatic brain injuries.  Although more studies are needed in order to definitively determine the significance of these findings, they may indicate that seemingly minor injuries may place players at risk for short- and/or long-term alterations in brain function.

And according to another study to be presented at the American Academy of Neurology Sports Concussion Conference in Indianapolis later this month, college athletes who do sustain a concussion face a greater risk of subsequent anxiety or depression if they also happen to have underlying attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).  Based on these findings, players with ADHD might benefit from closer monitoring after a concussion.

At the same conference, another presentation will demonstrate that repeated “heading” of a soccer ball may increase the risk of small but detectable alterations in gait and positioning.  As the father of an enthusiastic soccer player, I’m not quite sure what to do with this information… but it’s worth bearing in mind.

All work and no play

The potentially deleterious health effects of excessively long work hours has long been a topic of discussion in the medical literature (and in the community at large).  Now, a study of Canadian workers just published in the British Medical Journal Open Diabetes Research & Care has determined that women who work long hours are at increased risk for developing diabetes, even after adjusting for other factors including socioeconomic status, other work related exposures, high blood pressure and arthritis.  So although it may sound cliché (and perhaps easier said than done), striking a work-life balance is important for good health.

An eye-opener

Frequent coffee drinkers may be enhancing their chances for a longer life, according to a study just published in the Journal of the American Medical Association’s JAMA International Medicine.  According to this research, drinking even up to 8 cups of coffee a day can have health benefits.  This does not mean that people should start drinking excessive amounts of coffee with the expectation that their health will be improved as a result (and this may be especially true for pregnant women), but in the absence of any previous adverse effects related to caffeine (such as sleep difficulties or acid reflux), feel emboldened to enjoy that morning cup of Joe.

and for sleepy teens

Short sleep duration and inefficiency of sleep are associated with more obesity and increased risk for cardiometabolic problems (such as hypertension and high cholesterol) in adolescents, according to a new study recently published in the journal Pediatrics.   Discussions regarding sleepy teens abound, and medical evidence pointing to the detriments of poor sleep quality in our adolescents continues to accumulate (for instance, we already know about the impact of poor sleep quality on emotional health and cognitive function in this age group).  Unfortunately, these kids are increasingly overscheduled, so making accommodations to allow for adequate sleep can be very difficult.  Nonetheless, parents, coaches and school administrators ought to keep this important information in mind and get as creative as possible when building these kids’ demanding schedules.

Some environmental tidbits

Up to 14% of diabetes cases worldwide may be attributable to air pollution, according to this recent study published in The Lancet Planetary Health.

Occupational exposure to organic solvents (substances often found in paints and varnishes), may increase the risk of developing multiple sclerosis (MS) by up to 50%, according to a study recently published in the journal Neurology.

That’s all for now… be well.