Newsletter 08/10/18 – Smoked Meats and Smoky Rooms

To my Patients and Friends,

Here are the latest medical highlights… enjoy!

Contact sports in the news again

We’ve known for some time about the increased risk of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in athletes with a history of repetitive head impact (recall New England Patriots linebacker “Junior” Seau).  Unfortunately, that may not be the whole story.  A study recently found that athletes who participated in contact sports such as football, ice hockey or boxing for more than eight years were found to be over six times more likely to develop a particular brain disorder known as Lewy Body disease.  The report, recently published in the Journal of Neuropathology and Experimental Neurology, found that this subset of athletes were more likely than their counterparts to exhibit signs of this disease in older age.  Lewy Body dementia is a disease in which abnormal deposits (Lewy bodies) build up in the brain.  These deposits can lead to symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, dementia and mood disorders.

And a special note for female athletes: according to a study of brain images recently published in the journal Radiology, the white matter (nerve tissue) in women’s brains were more affected by heading a soccer ball than in men.  There is a growing body of research demonstrating that women appear to be more susceptible to the impact of heading in soccer… and this study adds to it.

Hydrating the brain

A patient was kind enough to share this interesting article, and I thought I’d pass it along.  According to research recently published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, dehydration (even if only mild) can be associate with cognitive changes and mood fluctuations.  So stay hydrated, particularly during these warm summer days!  A good rule of thumb: the darker the color of your urine, the more likely you are to be dehydrated.

The liver is in the news

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is the accumulation fat in liver cells caused by factors other than alcohol.  It is normal for the liver to contain some fat.  However, if greater than 5% to 10% of the liver’s weight is comprised of fat, then it is called a fatty liver, or steatosis.  In and of itself, NAFLD reflects a “standard American” lifestyle pattern and is often seen in association with insulin resistance, or prediabetes.  In rare cases, NAFLD can lead to cirrhosis of the liver, and ultimately liver failure or even liver cancer.  According to research recently published in the Journal of Hepatology, high consumption of red and processed meat is associated with NAFLD.  Traditionally, low-carbohydrate diets (often rich in meat and dairy) have been recommended to prevent metabolic diseases.  However, this current study indicates that meat should be eaten in moderation, and the type of meat and its preparation method should be wisely chosen.  As a general rule, I recommended a diet that is rich in whole food (unprocessed) plant-based foods.  Lean meats are preferred, and charring or burning should be avoided, as these cooking processes can be associated with increased inflammation and chronic disease such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

Teens and screens

You’re undoubtedly familiar (and perhaps fed up) with the seemingly endless dialogue regarding kids and screens.  Now, the American Heart Association has chimed in, issuing a statement about kids, recreational screen time, and long-term health.  According to recent estimates on sedentary behavior, kids between the ages of 8 and 18 years average over seven hours per day in front of screens for recreational purposes.  Although TV viewing is on the decline, overall use of screen-based devices has increased, and the researchers have expressed concerns about the increased risk for obesity in this age group as a result.  The rationale for their concerns: the sedentary nature of screen-based activities (obvious), the impulsive snacking that often occurs during screen time (less apparent), and the associated barrage of unhealthy food advertising (just plain insidious).  Additionally, they speculate that kids miss out on restorative sleep (as a result of increased blue light exposures), which can also contribute to weight gain.  Their advice: limit kids’ recreational screen time to 1 to 2 hours per day in order to decrease their risk for obesity.

Second-hand smoke

Researchers from the University of Cincinnati recently published some interesting findings related to second-hand  smoke exposure in the journal Pediatrics.   The study found that teens exposed to secondhand smoke for more than one hour per day are at increased risk for shortness of breath and difficulty exercising, coughing, emergency room visits, missed school days and decreasing overall health.  And even after someone quits smoking, toxic particles from tobacco smoke may linger on clothing, carpets and furniture for months or even years (i.e., thirdhand smoke), which can also increase health risks for those exposed.  In other words, if you smell it, it’s there… so don’t be shy about asking all those around you who smoke to take it outside (or better, to quit entirely).

West Nile

The first two human cases of West Nile virus in Connecticut for 2018 have been identified– one in Newington, and the other in Fairfield.  Please remember to take all proper mosquito precautions when outdoors.  For more information on West Nile virus, click here.

Don’t put off your next colonoscopy

According to a recent insurance database review, up to 70% of patients who died from colon cancer were not up to date with their screenings.  Although no screening protocol can prevent 100% of cancer deaths, this is study nonetheless shows how important it is to stay current with screening recommendations.  The American Cancer Society currently recommends that people who are at average risk of developing colon cancer begin screening at age 45.   For average risk patients who have had a normal colonoscopy, a 10 year follow-up is recommended.  However, certain abnormalities found on an initial colonoscopy may warrant a more frequent follow-up schedule, as determined by your gastroenterologist.  I would encourage everyone to stay current with these recommendations.

Don’t ignore postmenopausal bleeding

A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association has determined that 9% of women presenting with postmenopausal bleeding may be found to have endometrial cancer.  The good news, of course, is that most women with postmenopausal bleeding will not be diagnosed with cancer. However, it is important to not ignore this potentially important symptom.

A new healthcare model may be headed our way

In another recent Journal of the American Medical Association analysis, hospital-at-home (HAH) care may offer effective hospital-level care for certain patients who qualify.  Studies seem to demonstrate shorter recovery times, reduced hospital re-admissions or emergency room visits, and potential health care cost savings when compared with traditional hospital-based outcomes.  Although these data are based only on a pilot program at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai in New York and more studies are needed, at-home care may be the wave of the future for patients who require hospital-level services but who are not critically ill.  Stay tuned…

Regular exercise and mental health

Researchers at Yale University have found a strong correlation between exercise and improved mental-health, and the correlation was especially strong for those who had a previous diagnosis of depression.  The study, published in Lancet Psychiatry, emphasizes that, although any type of exercise can lead to improved mental health, extreme exercise can have a negative impact, and that moderate exercise (30 to 60 minutes 3 to 5 times per week) may be best.

Guys, are your undies too tight?

Style preferences aside, if the goal is pregnancy, then boxers maybe be ideal underwear for men, according to a new study published in the journal Human Reproduction.  These researchers found that subjects wearing boxer shorts had higher sperm counts than those wearing bikini briefs or other tighter-fitting underwear.  Scrotal temperature in human males should be lower than core body temperature for maximal sperm production and viability, the ideal temperature being 93°F.  I recall being told as a teenager not to sit on warm radiators for this reason, but this study demonstrates that it’s not just urban myth… so depending on your goals, dress accordingly, gentlemen!

For the jerky people out there

According to a study recently published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, certain kinds of cured meats (for example, beef jerky) were linked to higher risk for episodes of mania (racing thoughts, grandiose beliefs, elation or irritability, inappropriate social behaviors, excessive energy).  The connection has yet to be clarified, but researchers theorize that the brain may be impacted by the inflammatory changes that arise in the body in association with these foods.  So it looks like a Slim Jim a day will definitely not keep the doctor away.

That’s all for this week… have a nice weekend