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For September 24, 2020

  • The Perfect Pill
    The Perfect Pill

    How the humble aspirin came to be so hallowed

    It can halt a heart attack and stop a stroke. It may prevent certain types of cancer. Down two tablets after a foolish game of tackle football, and you'll probably be able to get out of bed in the morning.

    Although the active chemical in aspirin, salicylic acid, has been in use since Homer wrote The Iliad, the familiar white stuff has been around for only a little more than 100 years, ever since the German chemist Felix Hoffmann synthesized the substance into acetylsalicylic acid, to help ease his father's arthritis pain. When he saw that the drug also relieved headaches and reduced fevers, Hoffmann passed the word along to his boss, Friedrich Bayer, who soon started selling "aspirin," first as a powder, then as a pill.

    "Aspirin is as close to a wonder drug as you'll find in medicine today, but you'd never know it," says Dr. Charles Hennekens, a visiting professor of epidemiology at the University of Miami in Florida and one of the country's foremost aspirin researchers. "For the longest time, no one took it seriously because it was so common. My colleagues and I used to say that if aspirin were a prescription drug, cost twice as much, and were half as effective, it probably would have gotten more respect."

    Now, however, aspirin is getting its due. New research has identified a wealth of health benefits you can reap for a bit more than a penny per pill. Some of the ailments aspirin affects:

    ALZHEIMER'S DISEASE
    Preliminary studies on the elderly suggest that those who took aspirin regularly (four times a week or more) "have lower rates of cognitive loss and dementia," says Hennekens.

    ARTHRITIS
    Aspirin's famed anti-inflammatory properties shrink joints and tissue swollen by osteoarthritis or the more painful rheumatoid arthritis.

    CANCER
    Research has shown aspirin to inhibit the production of prostaglandins, hormone-like fatty acids that scientists believe may play a role in tumor growth. A long-term study of 90,000 nurses in the United States between 1976 and 1995 showed that those who took four to six aspirins a week were less likely to develop colorectal cancer than those who took fewer. Other research suggests that taking a standard 325-milligram aspirin tablet daily may lower your risk of dying from colorectal cancer by up to 50 percent. Also, preliminary findings associate aspirin use with reducing the risk of esophageal cancer by as much as 90 percent.

    FLU
    Aspirin is a tried-and-true fever reducer. What's not well known is that the drug can slow the development of all flu symptoms, especially achiness. "We're finding now that aspirin may have some important immune-boosting properties," says Hennekens.

    GALLSTONES
    Research done at India's Sanjay Gandhi Postgraduate Institute of Medical Sciences has shown that taking 350 milligrams of aspirin daily can improve gallbladder function and impede stone formation in people with gallstone disease.

    HEADACHE/MUSCLE ACHE
    Tension and migraine headaches and muscle injuries trigger the release of prostaglandins, which cause inflammation. Aspirin eases pain by blocking the production of these substances.

    HEART ATTACK AND STROKE
    Since the 1970s, doctors have known that aspirin can shrink inflamed blood vessels and act as an anticoagulant to help prevent the blood clots that trigger most heart attacks and strokes. If you have a history of coronary disease, the American Heart Association suggests you take an aspirin a day to ward off a heart attack (talk to your doctor first). Although no medical organization recommends that healthy people take aspirin as insurance against cardiac problems, there's good reason to think that such advice may be coming soon: In the U.S. Physicians Health Study, an ongoing survey of 22,000 male doctors, Harvard University researchers found that respondents who took an aspirin tablet daily reduced their risk of ever having a heart attack by 44 percent.

    Aspirin can even help save your life if a heart attack is in progress: At the first signs -- dizziness, shortness of breath, pain or heaviness in the chest, or pain that radiates to your neck or arms -- chew and swallow a regular aspirin tablet. Chewing the pill first helps speed the medication's absorption into your bloodstream, where it may stop a clot from forming or even help break up an existing one, says Hennekens. If you are unable to swallow, putting an aspirin under your tongue will have the same effect.

    By: Stephen C. George
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  • Weekly weightlifting improves elderly strength and performance
    Weekly weightlifting improves elderly strength and performance

    NEW YORK (Reuters Health) -- Lifting weights as little as once a week can increase strength and functional performance in individuals aged 65 to 79 years.

    In people over 65 years, resistance training "is now recognized as a safe and effective method for strength development and an important contributor to maintaining independence and enhancing physical capabilities," according to Dr. Dennis Taaffe from the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Palo Alto, California, and colleagues. Their report is published in the October issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

    The investigators assigned 19 women and 34 men to one of four 24-week regimens: three sets of eight muscle strength exercises once, twice, or three times weekly, or continuation of usual activity alone.

    All three exercise groups increased their muscle strength -- ranging from 37% to 42% during the 24-week program -- significantly more than the control group (4%), the report indicates. The exercise groups also experienced an increase in lean body mass compared with the controls without an increase in fat mass.

    Interestingly, the team found no difference among the three exercise groups for upper body, lower body, or whole body strength.

    As tests of physical function, the exercise groups all performed more quickly in rising from a chair and in toe-to-heel backward walking for 6 meters (nearly 20 feet) compared with the control group, according to the results.

    Thus, "participation in resistance exercise twice, or even once, each week achieves substantial strength gains similar to those accomplished in a standard 3-day per week program, and these gains are accompanied by improved neuromuscular performance," the investigators conclude.

    "As declining muscle strength and balance promote falls and fracture in older adults, we suggest that a high-intensity progressive resistance training program of only one session per week may prove useful in reducing the risk of falls and, hence, fracture," Taaffe and colleagues propose.

    Source: Journal of the American Geriatrics Society 1999;47:1208-1214.

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  • Some Guidelines When Choosing a Gym
    Some Guidelines When Choosing a Gym

    Join the Club

    (PHYS, September 1999) � You've heard that the guys are hunks and the juice bar is happening. Great, but that's no way to choose a gym. If health and safety are your prime considerations � and they should be � here are a few guidelines from Randy Delaney, director of personal fitness at World Gym in New York City:

    Proper ventilation. The air should feel cool and smell fresh, not like sweaty bodies.

    Good lighting. Incandescent bulbs are easier on the eyes than fluorescent.

    Enough room. A crammed layout is not safe. Or fun.

    Cleanliness. No stained mats or grubby bathrooms.

    Well-maintained machines. You don't have to be a mechanic to tell if benches are torn, cables seem worn, or free weights are haphazardly scattered around.

    A qualified staff. Employees should be certified by a nationally recognized organization like ACE (American Council on Exercise), ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine) or AFAA (Aerobics and Fitness Association of America). They should be helpful � and findable. One instructor can't monitor more than 30 people at once and the pool should always have at least one lifeguard. A new member should get a free orientation, but later on, it may be worth springing for a few sessions with a private trainer.

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  • Ergogenic Effects Of Creatine
    Ergogenic Effects Of Creatine

    By ELSEVIER, PARIS

    Objectives. - In the last few years many athletes and persons engaged in recreational sports activities have begun using creatine supplementation. Creatine feeding is possible by oral administration of creatine monohydrate. The objectives of this paper are to recall the mechanisms by which creatine might improve performance, to discuss the known effects of creatine supplementation on exercise performance, and to examine its side effects.

    Topics. - The rate of turnover of creatine for a 70 kg male has been estimated around 2 g/d. Creatine is partly supplied by the diet that provides I g/d through meat and fish. Recent studies have shown that ingestion of about 20 g of creatine monohydrate per day is able to modulate total muscle creatine, free creatine and phosphocreatine. The aim of this article is to provide an overview of recent knowledge on the effects of creatine supplementation on exercise performance. Many studies demonstrate that creatine supplementation has beneficial effects on performance of short-duration exercises, during repeated isokinetic or isometric contractions of the quadriceps muscle, jumping or high-intensity cycling exercises. The beneficial effects of creatine supplementation on performance capacity are strongly related to the efficacy of the treatment for enhancing muscle creatine pool. If is thus clear that phosphocreatine stores play a key role for ATP resynthesis during muscle contraction and recovery. The improvement in performance following creatine supplementation is dependent on the characteristics of the exercise. It has been suggested that human skeletal muscles have an upper limit for total creatine concentration. In contrast with sedentary subjects, in athletes and well-trained subjects who have high initial total creatine concentrations in skeletal muscle, only a slight improvement in exercise performances is expected. Taken together, the results of most studies published to date suggest that only performances of repetitive high-intensity exercise bouts are positively affected by creatine supplementation. During this type of exercise, the expected increase in total creatine contributes to the fast resynthesis of phosphocreatine during recovery. Until recently, it was well accepted that except for a slight increase in body weight, no adverse effects have been associated with creatine supplementation. However, a recent report described a clinical case of renal dysfunction that was associated with oral creatine supplementation.

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  • Physician Group Offers Health Tips For The New Millennium
    Physician Group Offers Health Tips For The New Millennium

    - By MEDICAL TRIBUNE NEWS

    nytss@nytimes.com

    The American Medical Association (www.ama-assn.org) has released its list of health tips for the new millennium. They emphasize eating right, avoiding weight gain, quitting smoking and handgun safety.

    The AMA predicted that obesity would become an even more serious problem for Americans in 2000 and also stated that ``tobacco use remains the leading preventable cause of death in America.''

    Dr. Richard F. Corlin, speaker of the AMA House of Delegates, and a gastroenterologist based in Santa Monica, Calif., said that getting Americans to quit smoking was one of the two most crucial issues for the next century. The second was the need for handgun safety, especially in households with children.

    Parents should ensure a safe environment for children and adolescents, the physician group advised. Suggestions included avoiding tobacco use around children, locking firearms out of kids' reach, keeping toxic poisons stored where they cannot be discovered, placing sleeping babies on their backs to help prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and ensuring car safety. The AMA also emphasized opening up dialogues with children and adolescents about avoiding smoking, drinking and drugs. Immunization was recommended as a crucial protective measure for the new century.

    Adults were also cautioned on their Internet use when seeking legitimate health information. Corlin stated that while patients were increasingly educating themselves about health issues _ something he found encouraging _ a great deal of information on the Internet ``is not valid. Be careful what sites you get your information from. Make sure it's from a scientific source,'' he said.

    Seniors were advised to exercise, manage cholesterol and metabolism through proper diet and medication, eat a diet high in fiber and low in fats and sugars, and recognize and seek treatment for depression, if necessary.

    Elderly adults and their caretakers should prevent dangerous falls by tacking down scatter rugs and clearing stairwells. Pay attention to heat stress, and avoid hot water accidents by making sure faucets are color-coded and handles are easy to turn. Caretakers should also learn to recognize signs of abuse in the elderly and report them to authorities when necessary.

    Many of the AMA's new initiatives were focused on preventive care. ``Preventive care is absolutely essential because many of the diseases that we're dealing with now have substantial asymptomatic faces before they begin to cause any difficulties,'' said Corlin. These include high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol and diabetes. ``Just because somebody's feeling well doesn't mean they don't have any health problems,'' he noted.

    ``The best way for individuals to begin improving their health in the Year 2000, and beyond,is by establishing a partnership with your physician to help you take charge of your health,'' according to the AMA.

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  • Hormone Induces Weight Loss
    Hormone Induces Weight Loss

    Injections of Leptin Shown to Curb Appetite in Young Girl

    (MSNBC Health, September 15 1999) � For the first time, injections of the hormone leptin have been shown to curb appetite and induce weight loss in a human, a new study says. Scientists caused a stir four years ago when they announced that leptin could evoke weight loss in mice, but until now, a direct role in human obesity had not been confirmed.

    THE FINDINGS by doctors at Addenbrooke�s Hospital in Cambridge, England, provide important clues as researchers try to decipher the genetic and environmental factors in obesity. The work could lead to medical treatments for some forms of the condition. Leptin is a protein produced by fat cells. It is supposed to signal the brain to stop eating, but the signal does not get through properly in some overweight people.

    The study published in Thursday�s edition of The New England Journal of Medicine involved a severely overweight 9-year-old girl who suffered from a rare genetic defect in which her body produced virtually no leptin. While the girl�s condition is uncommon, the researchers, led by Dr. I Sadaf Farooqi, believe the findings have implications for the general population.

    Obesity is a major source of illness and death, and is the most common nutritional ailment in the United States, according to the Minnesota Obesity Center. The new work involved a girl from a Pakistani family who was born with a leptin deficiency. She was so overweight, she got liposuction at age six to remove fat from her legs and allow her to move around. She was constantly hungry and became disruptive when denied food.

    In 1997, when the girl was 9 and weighed 208 pounds, doctors began administering daily injections of leptin. With the shots, her weight gain stopped abruptly. Her mother and doctor found that the girl began eating far less food than before, and stopped craving between-meal snacks. She began losing 2 to 4 pounds per month. After a year of treatment, she had lost 36 pounds, virtually none of it muscle and all of it fat.

    In addition, her level of physical activity increased 19 percent during the first 12 months of therapy. �Treatment of this 9-year-old patient with congenital leptin deficiency with recombinant leptin led to a sustained reduction in weight, predominantly as a result of a loss of fat,� said Farooqi.

    WON'T BE EASY

    In an editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Michael Rosenbaum and Dr. Rudolph Leibel of the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons said further research on leptin �may help to move us closer to an effective pharmacologic treatment of obesity.� But many factors besides leptin affect weight, and people should not conclude that leptin injections would make losing weight easy, they added.

    If anything, leptin might help some people stick to a diet by curbing their hunger and aid in keeping the weight off, Rosenbaum said. �The only thing that we know is that it decreases appetite in this child and in a mouse,� Rosenbaum said. �It�s not the be-all and the end-all to promote effortless weight loss.�

    Leptin is being tested in ordinary fat people as an appetite suppressant. Preliminary findings from one study indicate that it isn�t a miracle cure, but shows some promise when combined with diet and exercise. Dr. Richard A. Dickey, President of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, called the study �a great start,� adding that although doctors generally believe many factors are involved in human obesity, leptin is clearly important.

    �It�s very possible that this child is a clue to appetite control and weight gain across a large portion of the population,� he said. �I think that everybody�s excited about the role of leptin.�

    The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

    Read More...

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