Monthly Archives: June 2017

Healthy Foods for Your Eyes

Eggs

The yolk is a prime source of lutein and zeaxanthin—plus zinc, which also helps reduce your macular degeneration risk, according to Paul Dougherty, MD, medical director of Dougherty Laser Vision in Los Angeles.

Almonds

They’re filled with vitamin E, which slows macular degeneration, research shows. One handful (an
ounce) provides about half of your daily dose of E.

Beyond carrots

You’ve probably heard that carrots and other orange-colored fruits and vegetables promote eye health and protect vision, and it’s true: Beta-carotene, a type of vitamin A that gives these foods their orange hue, helps the retina and other parts of the eye to function smoothly.

But eating your way to good eyesight isn’t only about beta-carotene. Though their connection to vision isn’t as well-known, several other vitamins and minerals are essential for healthy eyes. Make these five foods a staple of your diet to keep your peepers in tip-top shape.

Leafy greens

They’re packed with lutein and zeaxanthin—antioxidants that, studies show, lower the risk of
developing macular degeneration and cataracts.

Citrus and berries

These fruits are powerhouses of vitamin C, which has been shown to reduce the risk of developing macular degeneration and cataracts.

Fatty fish

Tuna, salmon, mackerel, anchovies and trout are rich in DHA, a fatty acid found in your retina—low levels of which have been linked to dry eye syndrome, says Jimmy Lee, MD, director of refractive surgery at Montefiore Medical Center, in New York City.

How to Heal Pain

The bright sun, longer days and warm heat of summer seem to effortlessly pluck people outside for an activity-packed couple of months. It’s no surprise that this time of year offers the best weather for outdoor activities, pool parties, traveling and spending as much time out and about as we can. “Summer break” seems to not only apply to our school-aged children, but us as adults, as well. Though these summer months are most definitely an invitation to stay active, the extra physical demands can be tough on the back, especially if you’ve previously dealt with spine issues. In the spirit of staying back pain-free, while still enjoying this sunny time of year, here are some helpful ways to take care of your spine this summer.

For those people with back pain that’s worsened by cold weather, the warm summer months can signal relief, but for others, the change in temperature can be a factor that causes more pain. Increasing heat, humidity and barometric pressure over the summer months can be responsible for back pain “flare-ups,” even in the absence of activity. The easiest way to combat this weather-related pain is to stay indoors in an air-conditioned room to instantly cut out the heat and humidity. Though this option works, it may not be as convenient if you’re someone who likes being active outside. If this is the case and you can’t see yourself hiding from the summer rays, the next best bet is to use ice therapy. Applying ice packs will simultaneously help you cool down, reduce inflammation and soothe your achy muscles. Trade in the heating pad for 20 minutes of icing, remembering that the key is to achieve numbness in the irritated area, and repeat this several times each day (eight to 10 times during a 24-hour period).

Summer is the perfect opportunity for quick weekend trips or long relaxing vacations, but getting to your destination can pose a problem for your back. Long rides in cars, planes or trains with typically uncomfortable and unsupportive seats can do a number on your spine and posture. If you plan to be traveling for an extended period of time, bring a lumbar support pillow with you (or make your own out of a rolled-up blanket) and position it between the seat and your lower back to reduce the stress on your muscles. Traveling always equates to luggage, and handling those heavy suitcases with care can make all the difference. Always bend at the knees when lifting luggage (never at the back), avoid twisting while lifting anything heavy and hold your items as close to your body as possible. Ladies, purses can sometimes be the biggest culprits, so if you’re carrying a shoulder bag, switch sides frequently. And if something is just too heavy to lift, don’t hesitate to ask for help.

Our bodies are designed to move, which circulates the blood and keeps the muscles warm, and sitting in one position for too long starts to stiffen the muscles – making them more prone to pain or injury. If you can, pull over every hour during a road trip to get out of the car for a little walk and stretch out the back and leg muscles. On a plane, get up as often as you can (every 30 minutes to an hour is optimal) to walk back and forth down the aisle and get some stretching in, as well.

Along the same lines of getting up to stretch when you’ve been sitting too long is to sit down when you’ve been standing too long. This may sound like common sense, but you’d be surprised how many of us actually forget to take a break. With all the activity going on – whether that’s spending hours upon hours walking through an amusement park, losing track of time working in the yard or packing up and moving (a summertime chart-topper for many) – sometimes we have to remind ourselves to stop and rest, even for just a few minutes. Sit down, take a few deep breaths, drink some water and stretch. Taking multiple rest breaks combined with some deep stretching will keep the neck, back and leg muscles warmed up and flexible, as well as rejuvenated for the rest of the day.

Perhaps the most refreshing summertime spine health tip is to swim. You’re most likely to be near a pool this summer, so why not hop in and turn it into a workout? Swimming is an ideal exercise for low back pain because of its low-impact nature. It allows the back, leg and core muscles to be strengthened without applying much stress on the spine. Along with muscle strength, you’ll get cardiovascular benefits, as well, and all in a cool and rejuvenating atmosphere. While you’re out at the pool relaxing, supervising kids or getting your workout in, remember to always practice safety first. Never run through the pool deck, as the ground is slippery and one misstep can mean game over for your back. Likewise, avoid a traumatic spine injury by never diving into shallow water. If you’re unsure of the depth, definitely look before you leap.

The warmer months of the year can be chock-full of fun times and adventure, so don’t let spine troubles stand in the way. These tips will surely help you enjoy a happy, healthy and back-pain free summer.

Users of Cannabis Highly at risk for Psychosis

Psychotic illness occurs significantly earlier among marijuana users, results of a meta-analysis suggest.

Data on more than 22,000 patients with psychosis showed an onset of symptoms almost three years earlier among users of cannabis compared with patients who had no history of substance use.

The age of onset also was earlier in cannabis users compared with patients in the more broadly characterized category of substance use, investigators reported online in Archives of General Psychiatry.

“The results of this study provide strong evidence that reducing cannabis use could delay or even prevent some cases of psychosis,” Dr. Matthew Large, of the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, and co-authors wrote in conclusion.

“Reducing the use of cannabis could be one of the few ways of altering the outcome of the illness because earlier onset of schizophrenia is associated with a worse prognosis and because other factors associated with age at onset, such as family history and sex, cannot be changed.”

Psychosis has a strong association with substance use. Patients of mental health facilities have a high prevalence of substance use, which also is more common in patients with schizophrenia compared with the general population, the authors wrote.

Several birth cohort and population studies have suggested a potentially causal association between cannabis use and psychosis, and cannabis use has been linked to earlier onset of schizophrenia. However, researchers in the field remain divided over the issue of a causal association, the authors continued.

Attempts to confirm an earlier onset of psychosis among cannabis users have been complicated by individual studies’ variation in methods used to examine the association. The authors sought to resolve some of the uncertainty by means of meta-analysis.

A systematic search of multiple electronic databases yielded 443 potentially relevant publications. The authors whittled the list down to 83 that met their inclusion criteria: All the studies reported age at onset of psychosis among substance users and nonusers.

The studies comprised 8,167 substance-using patients and 14,352 patients who had no history of substance use. Although the studies had a wide range of definitions of substance use, the use was considered “clinically significant” in all 83 studies. None of the studies included tobacco in the definition of substance use.

The studies included a total of 131 patient samples.

Substance use included alcohol in 22 samples, cannabis in 41, and was simply defined as “substance use” in 68 samples.

Alcohol use was not significantly associated with earlier age at onset of psychosis.

On average, substance users were about 2 years younger than nonusers were. The effect of substance use on age at onset was greater in women than in men, but not significantly so. Heavy use was associated with earlier age at onset compared with light use and former use, but also not significantly different, the authors reported.

Substance users were two years younger at the onset of psychosis compared with nonusers. Age at onset was 2.7 years earlier among cannabis users compared with nonusers.

Acknowledging limitations of the study, the authors cited the lack of information on tobacco use and its association with earlier age at onset of psychosis, and the lack of data on individual patients inherent in all meta-analyses.

Despite the limitations, the authors said the findings have potentially major clinical and policy implications.

“This finding is an important breakthrough in our understanding of the relationship between cannabis use and psychosis,” they wrote in conclusion. “It raises the question of whether those substance users would still have gone on to develop psychosis a few years later.”

“The results of this study confirm the need for a renewed public health warning about the potential for cannabis use to bring on psychotic illness,” they added.

Alcohol Is Not The Main Killer of Drink

Older people who drink heavily don’t necessarily have to fear dying of liver disease, a researcher said.

In a population-based Dutch study, only a handful of heavy drinkers in an older cohort died of liver-related causes, according to Jeoffrey Schouten, MD, of Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

The major causes of death were cardiovascular disease and cancer, but not hepatocellular carcinoma, Schouten reported at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases.

On the other hand, the study confirmed previous studies that suggest light and moderate drinking is protective, Schouten said.

He and colleagues followed 3,884 residents of Rotterdam — all 55 or older at the start of the study in 1990 — for a median of 15.2 years, until they died or until Dec. 31, 2008.

The participants were stratified by their drinking level, with the aim of understanding the causes of death for those who drank heavily, as well as the links between all-cause mortality and alcohol consumption.

Every four or five years, participants went through cycle of examinations, including clinical studies and questionnaires on various aspects of their lives, such as alcohol consumption. The clinical exams included blood work, anthropomorphic measurements, and imaging studies.

The study included the following:

  • 1,398 non-drinkers
  • 1,144 light drinkers (less than one gram of alcohol a day)
  • 963 moderate drinkers (between 10 and 30 grams daily)
  • 379 heavy drinkers (more than 30 grams a day)

Over the study period, Schouten reported, there were 1,825 deaths: 556 from cardiovascular disease, 496 from cancers, and 773 from a host of other causes, including three from alcohol-related liver disease.

Among the 188 heavy drinkers who died, 28% died of cardiovascular causes and 34% of cancer, he said. But only three cases of alcohol-related cancers and no cases of liver cancer were reported.

Only two of the heavy drinkers, or 1%, died of alcohol-related liver disease, he said.

A multivariate analysis showed that light and moderate drinkers fared better than both non-drinkers and heavy drinkers in terms of all-cause mortality.

Schouten said previous studies have showed similar patterns, but they were limited because older people were under-represented.

He added that doctors can use the findings to discuss the major risks among older patients who drink heavily, such as cardiovascular disease and cancer, rather than liver disease.

The findings, while not surprising, have some implications for how doctors counsel older patients about their drinking, according to Mack Mitchell, MD, of UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, who was not part of the study, but who was one of the moderators of the session at which it was presented.

“Many people believe they should not drink alcoholic beverages above a certain age for health reasons,” he told MedPage Today, but the study showed that, “the mortality rate for those drinking in moderation was actually lower.”

So the message should not be to stop drinking but to stop drinking to excess, he said.

But for patients who remain heavy drinkers, he said, doctors can tell them that liver damage is the least of their worries — heart disease and cancer are the risks they should be concerned about.