To My Patients and Friends,
This was another busy week for medical researchers. Here are the highlights… I hope you find them helpful. Feel free to pass them along to friends and loved ones.
A prescription medication side effect you should bear in mind (pardon the pun)
A new study published Wednesday in the British Medical Journal has found that many commonly-prescribed medications can increase the likelihood of developing dementia. This is rather concerning, particularly for patients who take medications for depression or anxiety, Parkinson’s Disease or urinary incontinence. If you take one of these types of medications, this may be a conversation worth having with your physician.
… and over-the-counter doesn’t mean safer
Numerous anti-inflammatory medications are available both over-the-counter and in prescription form, including ibuprofen (examples of OTC brands: Motrin or Advil), naproxen sodium (example of an OTC brand: Aleve), celecoxib (prescription brand: Celebrex), and diclofenac (example of a prescription brand: Voltaren). These medications are commonly used, and they all share the same basic mechanism of action for the reduction of pain and inflammation. However, this enlightening piece from Harvard Medical School highlighting some of the more significant risks– especially stomach bleeding, kidney problems and heart attack– may make you think twice before popping that next pain pill. Pain management can be complex, but there may be other options, especially if you are at increased risk for heart disease. In addition to medications like Tylenol (which can be effective, although be careful not to exceed the recommended dosage) or prescription opioids (a notoriously slippery slope), alternatives worth considering include physical therapy, exercise and weight loss, and even mindfulness meditation.
Just in time for spring, there’s mixed news about the upcoming flu season
As this flu season (finally) winds down, here’s some news to keep in mind for autumn. As you may be aware, influenza vaccines for each season are formulated well in advance, based on predictions as to which strains will predominate during the upcoming season. The next vaccine will have an updated formulation accounting for a new H3N2 strain, but because of the viral mutations we typically see over the course of the traditional egg-based vaccine manufacturing process, this disappointing report from Clinical Infectious Diseases predicts that the vaccine’s efficacy may only be around 20%. However, there is hope: newer production methods have yielded vaccines that demonstrate improved efficacy. Read this fact sheet from the CDC regarding newer cell-based flu vaccines and ask your doctor, vaccine clinic or pharmacy if they plan to offer these cell-based vaccines in the fall.
On a happy note
Chocolate has made the news this week! We already know that dark chocolate can have a positive impact on heart health and sugar metabolism, but we now know more about some of its other potential health benefits. Two recent studies from Loma Linda’s School of Allied Health Professionals in California have shown that dark chocolate (at least 70% cacao) may have positive effects on stress levels, inflammation, mood, cognition and immune function. And another study published in JAMA Ophthalmology demonstrated that eating dark chocolate (72% cacao) leads to immediate, measurable improvements in vision.
So think about dark chocolate the next time you feel the need to satisfying that sweet craving. But remember- too much of a good thing may not be so good… so until studies prove that the benefits of pounding down gobs of chocolate outweigh the risks, moderation remains the key.
And finally, a rebuttal
In my last email, you might have taken note of Dr. Milton Packer’s somewhat cynical commentary on the inner workings of the pharmaceutical industry. This thoughtful counterpoint may add some balanced perspective.
A quick side note:
A number of people have asked if Matrix Personalized Medicine is a physician employer or large practice group. I would like you all to know that there is no larger entity; Matrix is (and will always be) a personalized, private practice. For those who are curious: I chose the name because it reflects the notion that we are all comprised of a complex matrix of systems… mind, body (in the form of a network of integrated organ systems) and spirit, all of which need to be attended to and nurtured in order to optimize health and wellness.
That’s all for now. Have a nice weekend!