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  HEALTH SENTINEL

Practical medical pearls



Soft drinks sales down; sparkling water up
As we have discussed a few times in this column since 1997, soft drinks are toxic, especially for children. They increase the risk for metabolic syndrome. Because of all the revelation in the various media of the dangers of soft drinks, cola or uncola, caffeinated or decaf, diet or not, are all unhealthy for us, people around the world are recognizing the problem and have switched to “water with fizz,” sparkling seltzer water, pure water that is healthier. In Europe this is known as “agua con gas.”
Anti-Cancer: Exercise and Veggies
Women who don’t smoke, and who eat vegetable-rich diet and exercise daily cut their cancer risk by 30%, reported the World Cancer research Fund International and the American Institute for Cancer Research. The studies also recommend the following habits to prevent chronic diseases: abstinence from tobacco; moderation in alcohol intake; limiting red meat, fat and salt; gaining not more than 11 pounds after age 18; exercising daily; eating five or more portions of vegetables and fruits daily. Eating salads loaded with meat or eggs or dressings with a lot of fats defeats the purpose. Salad with a little oil and vinegar is preferred.
Influenza Nasal Swab
This is a convenient and painless diagnostic test (nasal cotton swab) performed in the physician’s office for the diagnosis of Influenza A or B, the most common variety of the flu. When a patient comes in with high fever, nasal congestion, sore throat, cough, muscle aches, and the swab is positive, it is reassuring for the patient and the physicians that the symptoms are due to influenza and not something else more serious. All this is done within a few minutes in the office. This eliminates the need for a chest X-ray and other tests and expensive antibiotics.
Vagifem for feminine dryness
An estrogen tablet that is inserted into the vagina (with the aid of a pencil-size introducer) to treat and relieve vaginal dryness, which interferes with sex. Usually prescribed for post-menopausal women, Vagifem may also be used for any woman with this problem. Although it predominantly acts topically and is only minimally absorbed into the system, the tablet is not recommended for those with a history of phlebitis or blood clots in the legs, or history of stroke, heart attack, and cancer. This effective and welcome aid to feminine dryness must be used under a physician’s supervision.
Herbal drug for menopause
As a rule, I discourage the use of herbal medications which have not been scientifically proven to be safe and effective. But there is one which has been clinically used by many gynecologists and family physicians in many countries for the management of the distressing signs and symptoms of menopause, like hot flushes, mood swings, impaired sleep, headaches, irritability, etc. The drug is called Remifen, which is a plant derivative, Black Cohash. This is a non-estrogen compound that relieves menopausal/post-menopausal symptoms. Never start taking medications without consulting your physician, since any drug could have dangerous side-effects.
Veggies Combined
And talking about vegetables, a combination of broccoli and mushrooms have been found to have a more powerful cancer-fighting properties than when eaten alone. Studies suggest that certain nutrients, when combined, become more effective anti-cancer agents. Selenium (found in mushrooms, nuts, sunflower seeds) and Sulforaphane (broccoli, watercress and cabbage) are two such nutrients. Ginger has two anti-cancer compounds in it: 6-gingerol and 6-paradol. These substances help inhibit cell transformations that could lead to the formation of cancer. The higher concentration of these ingredients are found in fresh ginger. The fresher, the better. Once again, mother was right…all along. Veggies and fruits are good for us.
Helping Others Improves Longevity
A recent report of a 5-year study among older people revealed that those in the habit of helping others, providing support, love and care to friends or family were 60% less likely to die, compared to “unhelpful” people. This includes running errands, assisting in house chores, childcare, etc. It suggests that having a purpose and serving such objective are healthy for the body, not only for the soul. This, of course, is not limited to the older people only.
Dexa Scan for Bone Thinning
Osteopenia, a decreased in calcification and density of bone and characterized by thinning and weakening is very rampant. This predisposes the person, usually a female, to osteoporosis, and frequent bone fractures, which could happen spontaneously and become life-threatening. Daily exercises and drinking milk, taking calcium supplements, abstinence from cigarettes, by both genders, but more especially among women, will go a long way in the prevention of osteopenia and, eventually, osteoporosis. To detect osteopenia, DEXA scan, a bone scan, can be performed. As a person gets older, bone health becomes even more essential.
Alcohol No. 1 Cause of Breast Cancer
It is not a very well known fact, but alcohol is one of the major causes of breast cancer. Smoking is another frequent culprit. Twenty-two percent of breast cancer occurs before age 50 and 78% among those 50 years and older. Self-breast examination, once a week, or at least once a month, is highly recommended, and the gynecologist or attending physician could teach the patient the proper technique. Those with menstruation should wait about 5 days after the period before doing self-breast exam. For women 40 years and older, mammogram is recommended once a year. For those with a family history of (grandmother, mother, aunt or sister having) cancer of the breast, mammogram is also done once a year even if they are younger than 40.
Laughter Strengthens Immunity
Scientific studies have shown that laughter greatly improves our immune system. Listening to or telling jokes, living in an atmosphere of lightheartedness and pleasant moments make our body’s ability to ward off illnesses much stronger. The opposite – sorrow, anger, anxiety and gloom – lowers our general resistance. Controlling our anger and disappointments appropriately, as we try to solve our daily problems in a positive manner, is not only good for our mind and soul but for our general health as well.
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