H.I.V. Research Marks New Territory

After nearly 30 years, researchers have come one step closer to finding a cure for H.I.V.  It was announced at an international AIDS conference that two H.I.V.-infected patients in Boston underwent a high risk bone-marrow transplant for blood cancers and are currently virus-free.  Each patient was given new bone marrow, which contained a rare mutation, known as delta 32.  Delta 32 creates CD4 cells, which lacks a surface receptor, called the “door”. This receptor is where the virus would normally enter an individual’s blood cells, but the mutated delta 32 gene prevents this action from occurring.  Questions still remain, including when to say an H.I.V. patient has been cured.  Although this is exciting and encouraging news within the medical community, only time will tell if this could be the answer to what so many have waited decades for.

To read the complete article, click here.

Are Heart Disease Patients Forgetting to Refill Medications?

A recent study published by The American Journal of Medicine looked at 20 different studies with over 376,000 people. Researchers looked at medications that could prevent or treat those suffering from heart disease and how many people actually took their medicines.

Researchers found that of the people who were taking medicines to prevent heart disease, only half continued to get their medications refilled over time, which is striking.

Even more striking is that of the people who had already suffered a heart attack, 1 out of 3 people stopped getting their medicine refilled over time.  The reason this seems so shocking to us is because we know that these medicines actually save lives.

What this shows us as physicians is the importance of communicating with our patients regarding their medications and making sure they understand the importance of continuing to refill prescriptions.

If you’re given a new medication for your heart, have a conversation with your physician about how long you’re going to be on this medicine and what your concerns are, it could save your life.

Are Cholesterol Lowering Drugs Causing Diabetes?

The New England Journal of Medicine published a meta-analysis of trials about statins, drugs that have been successfully used to lower cholesterol. But now the question researchers are asking is: Do they raise the risk of developing diabetes?

One study researchers looked at was called the Jupiter study. In this study there were 18,000 participants who did not have diabetes, but had similar cholesterol levels and certain CRP (C Reactive Protein) levels. They divided the participants into two groups; one group received statins and the other received a placebo.

Researchers found that the group who had taken statins had a higher risk of developing diabetes. However, that same group also had a lower rate of heart disease. Certainly a lower rate of heart disease is much more likely to prolong your life than just an elevated risk of diabetes, but on the other hand an elevated risk of diabetes can be a cause of concern for some people.

Since statins lower the risk for heart attacks, strokes and provide better vascularization for the heart, we would probably say the scale tips pretty strongly in favor of taking the statins. But for a person who has borderline cholesterol and is concerned about developing diabetes, it’s certainly a conversation you should have with your doctor about whether it is right for you.

Is Aspirin the Answer for Cancer Patients?

A study published in the Lancet Oncology Journals looked at whether aspirin could be beneficial for more then just heart disease. Their study focused on the possible benefits aspirin could have on preventing cancer or the spread of it.

Researchers found that aspirin may have short-term benefits in preventing cancer and may reduce the likelihood that cancers will spread to other organs by about 40 to 50%.

But there is a catch. You have to take the aspirin for 8 to 10 years before you see the benefits, so that’s a pretty big commitment.

Perhaps we should be recommending it for people who are at a higher risk because according to researchers the real benefit here is that aspirin is preventing some of the early spread and early growth.

This is really exciting news for us, but at the same time we do want to caution you. We want you to understand that not everybody needs to be taking aspirin because there can be negative side effects such as bleeding complications. If you believe this is something you could be a good candidate for, it is absolutely worth speaking to your doctor about.

The Importance of Genetics and Heart Disease

If you have had a parent who has suffered a heart attack before the age of 55, that means you are now at higher risk for heart disease. If you didn’t know that before, it’s important you take note of it now.

The American Journal of Cardiology did a study looking at 20,000 US male doctors over two decades to see how many of the men suffered a heart attack. The study showed that the men with the genetic risk factor had a slightly greater chance of having a heart attack.

Although there is nothing you can do to change genetics, there are other things you can control. Having a healthy lifestyle is extremely important, and even more so if you are already at risk for heart disease. The healthy habits researchers studied include: not smoking, exercising regularly, keeping a normal weight and drinking alcohol in moderation.

This may sound like common sense, but it’s always nice when we can tell you we have the research to prove that your lifestyle decisions really do affect your overall health.

Can Vitamins Help Protect Against Macular Degeneration?

Macular Degeneration, also known as age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is one of the leading causes of vision loss in older adults.  Over 7 million people suffer from macular degeneration and close to a million have an advanced form of the disease.

Macular Degeneration affects the macula, which helps to guide your central vision, allowing people to see fine details. People suffering from Macular Degeneration might see peripheral vision but will find it hard to see directly in front of them clearly.

Researchers in a recent study looked to see whether anti-oxidants such as Vitamin E and Vitamin C had any effect on Macular Degeneration. Researchers gave one set of patients 400 international units of Vitamin E and another set of patients received a placebo. Researchers then did the same thing with Vitamin C, where one group was given 500 mg of Vitamin C and the other group received a placebo.

Unfortunately, the study showed that neither vitamin had any protective effect against the vision disorder. This study indicates to us that we have no reason to recommend these vitamins to patients suffering from this condition.

Could your Teen be Abusing Painkillers?

The Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine published a study about teenagers’ use of pain killers including opioids. As you can imagine, this is a very scary topic for multiple reasons.

Researchers surveyed behaviors and attitudes of about 7,400 high school seniors from 135 different schools, both public and private. Their survey showed that 13% of students reported having used prescription painkillers for non-medical reasons, such as getting high or to relieve pain.

The teens in the study that were misusing the painkillers, were also more likely to smoke pot, smoke cigarettes and binge drink. This tells us that the teenagers engaging in misuse of painkillers may often engage in other high-risk behaviors.

This is extremely concerning for us, both as doctors and parents, because it suggests that a huge subculture exists where there is inappropriate use of painkillers and a lack of understanding about the dangers and risks involved.

One of the larger implications is the impact on long term health should they continue to misuse drugs.
The bottom line here is if you’ve got painkillers in your house for any reason, lock them up and count them on a daily basis and when you don’t need them anymore, get rid of them!

YOUR HEALTH Radio Shows of Interest

How Much is too Much Sitting?

The Archives of Internal Medicine published a study based in Australia looking at people who spent more than 11 hours a day sitting (watching TV, sitting at a desk, etc). They found that people who spent all those hours sitting were more likely to die of any cause during a 3-year period, compared to people with more active lives. 

Researchers studied 220,000 people in Australia over a three-year period. After three years, they discovered a little over 5,000 of those had died.

Researchers found that those who were sitting for at least 11 hours a day, were 40% more likely to die during the study than the people who sat less than 4 hours a day.  Researchers also found sitting showed affects on cholesterol as well.

One important thing to point out is it didn’t really matter whether these people were normal weight or overweight, if they spent time working out, healthy or had other sicknesses.  This sedentary lifestyle, with long periods of sitting, was truly damaging.

The take-home message  here is to take time NOW and reflect how long you sit during the day and find ways to be more active.

Bariatric Surgery a Cure for Diabetics?

Researchers publishing in the New England Journal of Medicine reported new research looking at bariatric surgery (weight loss surgery and diabetes).

The study, conducted at the Cleveland Clinic, found that patients with diabetes who underwent surgery for their obesity were over three times more likely to be able to gain control over their diabetes.

In fact, the results were so positive; it showed that after 3 months, the hemoglobin A1c test (a test that shows your average blood sugar control over a six to 12 week period) was less than 6%- this is virtually in the normal range of 4%-5.6%

What’s so unique and exciting about this study is that we’ve known bariatric surgery can help diabetics, but this study suggests that for a lot of obese patients it might actually cure their diabetes because of the significant amount of weight loss.

The other amazing thing here is that these kinds of results are greater then what we’ve seen with medications (and frankly most diets long-term).  So, if you’re currently obese and a diabetic, think about bariatric surgery and have a serious conversation with your doctor to see if this is a good option for you.

Is Acupuncture the Answer for IBS Patients?

The American Journal of Gastroenterology published an article that examined 10 different studies looking at Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and acupuncture. The goal of this study was to see what published research showed about the effectiveness of acupuncture on Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

After reviewing the different studies, researchers found that acupuncture seemed to work better than some medications for IBS. But when researchers looked at studies where there wasn’t actual acupuncture, but more a sham version where they put the needles in the wrong place, they didn’t see as much of a benefit to the IBS patients.
The studies that showed the most positive relationships between acupuncture and IBS, were the studies done in China. These studies were likely of a higher quality since acupuncture has deep roots there and has been practiced for over 2,000 years.

So the question we wondered was: were the lower quality studies showing this effect because people really believe it’s going to work and maybe the better quality studies didn’t have enough patients to prove that it would?
Either way, the bottom line here is that there just isn’t enough research yet. But if we were the patients and we were having trouble finding effective medicines, we would try it because there’s very little harm other than the cost of doing it.

So our suggestion to you is if it works for you and you can afford it, it’s not a bad thing.