Archive for September, 2015

Breast cancer options

pink

In many parts of the country the leaves are beginning to turn red and gold, but in a matter of days, the entire country will suddenly turn pink. No question about it—Breast Cancer Awareness month is a true marvel of brand marketing. (In doing research for this blog I even came across a porn website that wants to save boobs!) I sincerely believe that every person in the US over the age of 2 is fully aware of breast cancer. Great job! But, now what?

My hat is off to the diligent volunteers who have sponsored and participated in the fundraising runs and talked pro sports teams into wearing pink. I have an idea. Breast cancer options aren’t limited to minor variations in what we’ve been doing in the 40-year war on cancer. Can we possibly consider a different shade of pink? It’s just that I’m a bit discouraged that most of the charities that benefit from the pink revolution seem to continue using the money raised mainly for grants for pharmaceutical research. While benefits have been seen here and there, the effort has clearly not lead to “THE CURE” envisioned 30 years ago when the marketing campaign first began. (It was started by the American Cancer Society and the pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca.) Increased breast cancer awareness certainly has resulted in more screening. The increased screening has led to more women being treated. (Note: there is some controversy about the potential risks of over-treatment of non-invasive forms.) Breast cancer rates have declined over the years, but mainly because of a significant decline in smoking and a reduction in the use of unsafe hormone replacement therapies.

What if we turned a lot more attention to similar improvements in diet, lifestyle and environmental toxins that might help prevent all cancers? And, why not lend more support to research and education about natural ways to support treatments and achieve more of those Radical Remissions (Surviving Cancer Against All Odds) that Dr. Kelly Turner has been cataloging? An article in our library, Breast Cancer – 13 Preventive Steps, offers a baker’s dozen of postive ideas. (There are several other pages on cancer under the Library heading “Immune and Cancer.”)

We all want to know that our donations of hard-earned money are going to truly worthy causes. Charity Navigator is a valuable online resource where you can check charities of all kinds for their honesty and to see how much of the money raised goes to the ultimate goal rather than to more fundraising, overhead and salaries. (You might be surprised how poorly some of the well-known organizations rank.) I’d love to hear from readers who have found responsible organizations that support research on natural approaches to cancer. In the meantime, I have an idea how to make a donation that we know for sure will directly benefit a wonderful person you may even know.

Renee Smith is a delightful lady who volunteers to help manage the speaker stage at our Natural HealthFest events. She has been bravely and cheerfully fighting a breast cancer diagnosis that included a recommendation for ovary removal. Cancer treatment is expensive. Her friends, Renee’s Warriors, have started a fund to help. At this link you can offer encouragement or make a donation of any size. It will all help. (Note: the financial companies typically charge 2-5% to process the donation and the GiveForward site retains 5% to cover the hosting of the site.) Check out her page. If you would prefer to donate by check, you can mail it to Healthy by Nature at 3221 Independence Parkway, Plano, TX 75075 and we will deliver it to Renee. Thank you in advance for your support.

New blood pressure study

Blood pressure measuring. Doctor and patient.  Health care.

You have likely heard about SPRINT (Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial ), a new blood pressure study sponsored by the National Institutes of Health. Researchers studied what happened to the health of persons over age 50 when their blood pressure was managed at a much lower level (systolic at 120 mm Hg) than previously thought acceptable for that age range (140 mm Hg). The study was stopped early because preliminary data showed the lower target produced a roughly 33% drop in rates of cardiovascular disease and 25% fewer deaths. That sure sounds good at first, but this news may create what legislators often refer to as “unintended consequences”. That is because of what lawmakers also say about legislation—”the devil is in the detail”. Drug companies must be over the moon knowing that most likely anyone over age 50 will rush to the doctor and ask for a prescription for a blood pressure medication. However, doctors have not seen the actual data and many are concerned because don’t know the following facts:

  • Was the effect just as positive for subjects at the far end of the age range? Frequent radio guest John Young, MD said something like this on his free weekly conference call, “As we age, arteries become less flexible and it takes more pressure to get blood to the brain. If I try to get blood pressure down to 120 in my patients older than 70, they drop over and many will die.” This reminds me of a recent task force report that showed the cardio-protective benefits of low dose aspirin outweigh the risk of hemorrhage but only in persons in a specific age range (women 55-79 and men 45-79). For others the benefit did not justify the risk.
  • More than a dozen medications were included in the SPRINT study and the average was 2 medications per person to reach the 120 goal. Did some drugs or combinations work better and more safely than others?
  • The study also looked at kidney and brain function but those results have not yet been analyzed. What if lowering blood pressure in the elderly increased dementia?
  • What other factors were correlated with the results? For example, I don’t see that smokers were excluded. Did race matter? The study covered the whole US and Puerto Rico. Were the results less impressive in areas with more sun or more minerals in the soil?

Another study showed that a component of egg whites (a peptide) acts in a similar manner and about as effectively as a prescription medication for high blood pressure. Previous studies hinted at the same effect. No, these small studies don’t constitute proof, but on the other hand, unless you are allergic to eggs, the risk from eating them is pretty small.

The SPRINT study is a good example of why it is probably prudent to not jump right on the news of any single study, especially one that isn’t totally fleshed out. Check with your doctor. He or she can give you personalized advice tempered by past experience with other patients at your age and in your general health status.

That reminds me. Last week I talked about research showing that vitamin C mimicked some effects of exercise. That was just one study representing a small part of the puzzle, so I hope tht no one got the idea I was saying to stop exercising.

Coffee healthful or not?

Coffee

Like so many other subjects in health, coffee is not just black or white (and I don’t mean without or with cream). There is good news, bad news and shades of gray. (Maybe not 50 shades, but a lot.)

The GOOD news. We seem to love the taste, smell, energy lift and attitude adjustment from it. Coffee consumption has previously been linked to reduced risk of certain types of cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s. Caffeine is considered a fat burner. I decided to check in and see the current themes look like. Here are conclusions from some recent studies:

  • “Higher coffee intake may be associated with significantly reduced cancer recurrence and death in patients with stage III colon cancer.” Abstract.
  • In another study, cancer benefit was found, but 4 cups a day a linked to a 16% reduced risk of death from all causes and at the level of 3 cups, 21% less risk for cardiovascular risk. Abstract.
  • A change in the way the liver functions may help explain why coffee is associated with reduced risk of Type 3 Diabetes. Abstract.

The BAD news. Caffeine increases the stress hormone cortisol; can heighten anxiety; and raise blood pressure. It may cause cravings and affects brain signaling chemicals that might provide a lift that for some persons is followed by a letdown later. Depending on the efficiency of a person’s liver, even morning coffee can cause sleep interference for some folks. Depending on the efficiency of the liver, it can take up to 24 hours to fully clear caffeine from circulation.

  • Coffee has long been suspected as a factor in miscarriage, but there is little science to support that conclusion. Abstract.
  • Likewise coffee has been accused of adding to risk for birth defects. One study hinted at a connection to club foot babies among women drinking more than 3 cups per day. Abstract. Another study showed a slightly increased risk of a nasal defect when 3 cups per day were consumed before conception. Abstract.

Confusing Gray areas.

  • Regarding venous thromboembolism (VTE, blood clots that are a cardiovascular risk) a review of studies concluded something odd. Compared to those who didn’t drink coffee, those who drank 1-4 cups/day were at an 11% increased risk of VTE. However, those who drank more than 5 cups a day had a 25% decreased risk. Abstract.
  • Some worry about the acid nature of coffee. The beverage itself has a pH of 5.1 (neutral is 7 lower numbers are more acidic). Apples are 3.6. Most of the digestive tract is normally acidic, so coffee’s moderate acidity probably isn’t a concern. There is a more complicated process that takes place after coffee is metabolized. Some claim that coffee makes tissues It is assumed that minerals are then pulled from bones to buffer the acid in tissues. A study of postmenopausal Korean women did not show a negative effect of coffee on bone density. Abstract.

So, is coffee healthful or not? My advice: If you are a coffee drinker, buy the best organic fair trade brand you can and prepare it in a way that filters out the component cafestol which can raise cholesterol. Also, and this is key, don’t undo the good of the coffee by ordering it with a load of sugar. For example, a venti Starbucks Caramel Ribbon Crunch Crème Frappuccino® Blended Crème (I picked that because it sounded delicious) contains 82 grams of sugar. That is over 20 teaspoons of sugar! There are various beneficial substances in coffee, most of which are antioxidants. If you are not a coffee drinker, there are other sources of antioxidants such as green tea, veggies and super-fruit combinations like Fruit of the Spirit.


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