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26 Jun 2019

Could We Be In the Final Days of Chemotherapy?

 

Chemotherapy was once a front-line tool that doctors used to combat various forms of cancer. Many patients who have successfully driven their disease into remission once used this treatment option to achieve success.

Chemotherapy was once a revolutionary idea. As research into the new cancer treatments progresses, medical sciences are finding that there are less toxic ways to drive cancer into remission for patients around the world.

New drugs and therapies are coming to the market in 2019 and beyond that target cancer just like chemotherapy did. There’s only one difference with these new treatments: they don’t destroy healthy cells in the same way.

A “New Normal” for Cancer Therapy

Decades of research into various cancers has given doctors and scientists a better understanding of how this devastating disease works. We are opening new doors that are leading to safer and better medicines.

This research has begun to make its way onto the treatment plans of patients who receive a new diagnosis of cancer.

The landscape of options that goes beyond chemotherapy includes targeted therapies like dabrafenib and Imbuvica, treating mutations of the BRAF gene.

Herceptin treats people with the HER2 gene mutation when breast cancer develops.

Gilotrif and Erbitux block EGFR, which acts as fuel for specific colorectal and lung cancers.

There are new classes of drugs which are changing the status quo for chemotherapy too. Checkpoint inhibitors, immunotherapies, gene therapy, and bispecifics all offer promising results.

This research has even led to vaccines that can help prevent specific cancers, natural killer cell treatments, and chimeric antigen receptor therapies. Some are already approved, while others are in the clinical trial stage.

What Is the Future of Chemotherapy?

Although chemotherapy is still a common way to treat several cancers, the writing is on the wall. New treatment options are coming, and this will help patients fight this disease without the debilitating side effects that chemo often brings.

This process will not happen overnight. There are still cancers for which chemotherapy is curative. The future of medicine will likely include the new classes of drugs and targeted chemo treatments to encourage higher survival rates for all cancers.

There is a darker side to chemotherapy that we must remember too. It often demands a tremendous emotional and physical cost that can negatively impact the quality of life for a patient and their family.

The side effects of chemotherapy, which can occur during or after treatment, are often challenging to endure. Even though there are medications which reduce the nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea that happen when fighting cancer, it still takes a toll on everyone involved.

Chemotherapy can also cause organ damage, or have secondary cancers which appear later in life, that these new treatments may be able to prevent.

Chemotherapy is not going away anytime soon. The positive impact it has me on cancer treatments over the past decades cannot be ignored.

We must also look to the future with the numerous new drugs and treatments that target specific cancers. Survival rates will continue to climb thanks to the research and development work that the world supports every day. 

21 Jun 2019

What Is the Med-Dairy Diet?

 

If you are struggling to follow the Mediterranean diet, then the Med-Dairy diet might be an option to consider.

This new take on the classic diet offers many of the same health benefits while making it more accessible to those who struggle to give up their favorite dairy items.

The classic Mediterranean diet allows you to eat yogurt and cheese, but not much else. The Med-Dairy diet gives you three servings of dairy each day to meet your calcium needs in ways that are beneficial to older adults.

These benefits occur while still improving cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and brain function.

What Are the Results of the Med-Dairy Diet?

The issue that many people face when trying to follow the Mediterranean diet is the lack of calcium which comes from the allowed foods. 

Following the Mediterranean diet can provide as little as 700 mg per day of calcium. That falls well short of the recommended 1,000 mg per day for the average adult. Teens are supposed to even consume more, with their intake recommended at 1,300 mg per day.

That’s why the Med-Dairy diet rethinks the inclusion of certain foods.

There are other foods which provide calcium in meaningful ways. Tofu, turnips, and sardines all help to supplement a person’s calcium intake when following the Mediterranean diet. The issue that some people face involves food scarcity.

Some people may not be able to access these fortified products to support a healthy calcium intake. That’s why the Med-Dairy diet becomes a feasible alternative. It offers a simple modification to a diet that is proven to work without creating significant changes to the individual health profile.

Should I Try the Med-Dairy Diet?

Before you start the Med-Dairy diet (or any other dieting plan), you should speak with your doctor about your intentions. There may be specific dietary needs that your physician wants you to follow to support your health that this eating plan may not provide.

The Mediterranean diet is one of the most studied diets in the world today. It offers the highest rates of efficacy for the overall reduction of heart disease in most people. This diet provides a positive impact on other chronic diseases too.

Dairy is not a huge factor in it, so switching to the Med-Dairy diet might make the transition easier for some people. It can also provide an alternative for those who may have allergies to the foods in the standard Mediterranean diet that offer calcium without requiring them to take an additional supplement.

The USDA currently recommends that each person receive three servings of dairy every day once they reach the age of eight years old.

Only one study of the Med-Dairy diet over an eight-week period, along with an eight-week washout time, has so far found that the two diets offer similar results. More research must happen to verify these results.

If you are struggling with the Mediterranean diet, however, this information can provide a source of hope for a healthier future.

19 Jun 2019

Is Dark Chocolate a Health Food?

You might’ve heard the advice that if you want to snack on some chocolate, you should avoid the milk-based varieties and stick with a dark chocolate product instead.

The candy companies would like you to believe that dark chocolate could be a health food product. Many physicians would argue that such a belief is too good to be true.

Although there are multiple health benefits which can come when you consume dark chocolate as part of your diet, there is also a layer of deception which can be found in the various reports which extol the virtues of this food.

Cocoa does deliver some health benefits. It just isn’t the popular health option many people make it out to be.

The Reality of Dark Chocolate

The cocoa found in dark chocolate is full of flavanols. These are chemical compounds which you can find in numerous fruits and vegetables too. They offer several antioxidant properties which benefit your heart.

Flavanols encourage the creation of nitric oxide within the inner cell lining of your circulatory system. This action improves blood flow, which can eventually lead to lower blood pressure. 

They may increase insulin sensitivity as well, which might be a way to fight off issues like diabetes or a future heart attack.

It is important to remember that dark chocolate should be a treat instead of a daily food product.

The number of flavanols varies from product-to-product, so you never really know how much you’re receiving when you eat a dark chocolate candy bar. Then there are the higher levels of sugar, saturated fat, and calories that could make a negative impact on your nutritional profile.

Moderation is the Key to Success

Dark chocolate does provide you access to essential minerals like copper, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc. The concern that some doctors have is that the amounts of these nutrients are rather small when you compare them to other foods.

You cannot rely on dark chocolate alone to improve your health. It offers a concentrated source of calories which can lead to other health issues, such as weight gain. Even with the notable health benefits that are possible, one must always eat this treat in moderation to experience the best possible results.

Even if you’re eating dark chocolate for the flavanols, the amount necessary to create a significant positive impact on your health is quite large.

You may need to consume an entire chocolate part that is 90% cocoa, which may create a calorie bomb that your eating habits cannot support.

Dark chocolate is still a candy product even with its potential to be supportive of good health. Labeling it as a health food could be considered irresponsible.

You must treat any news like this was a healthy amount of skepticism instead of jumping on the bandwagon and potentially harming your health. The evidence for dark chocolate to be part of your daily routine is currently unsubstantiated. That’s why there are no public health recommendations for it at this time.

Have it as a treat. Enjoy dark chocolate in moderation. Then practice other healthy habits, like getting daily exercise or limiting saturated fats. 

22 May 2019

Does Screen Time Alter a Child’s Brain?

 

Does a tablet or smartphone affect a child’s brain in negative ways? Early research suggests that this might be the case for some kids.

Children who use a screen of any type for a minimum of seven hours per day show signs of early thinning in their brain cortex when compared to kids who don’t use electronics for the same amount of time.

This thinning process could cause detrimental brain changes which adversely impact their cognitive abilities, perception, and memory.

That means the goal is to avoid both extremes when evaluating the use of electronics. Don’t force kids to give up their tablets or smartphones altogether because they offer the potential for learning. 

Avoid lengthy exposures to these devices as well.

Don’t Assume that Children Can Self-Manage Electronics

Although some children can manage their electronics use without supervision, most kids are unable to do so. They need to have guidelines set by their parents and teachers for how to appropriately manage technology.

Parents must be role models who show them that technology is a tool that doesn’t control a person.

Without these positive influences, children who have more than seven hours of screen time each day face an increased risk of depression, loneliness, and isolation.

These risks are in place for adults who have excessive screen time as well.

Age is also a factor to consider. Children below the age of three experience the negative impacts of excessive technology use more so than older kids. 

Because there is access to dozens of stimuli at the fingertips of kids, it teaches them how to process multiple actions simultaneously. This early exposure creates a higher risk of being unable to maintain a singular focus on specific subjects in their environment.

How to Limit Screen Time in Healthy Ways

The first and best way to limit screen time for children is to model that behavior yourself as a parent or mentor.

It Is helpful to create technology-free zones in your home as well. Establish rooms were no electronics are permitted, including phones and computers. One of the best places to start is the dining room, where you would reserve time there for family games, conversation, and meals.

Create specific times for your family where everyone needs to unplug from their electronic devices as well. You might think about spending the hour before bedtime doing something other than watching television or using a cell phone. Designate your dinner hour as a time to shut everything down. You might even consider a weekend detox from electronics to re-establish relationships.

Then take advantage of the parental controls which are on most devices. Parents often use this feature on computers and televisions, but then they don’t use the settings on a child’s phone. In today’s world, it is essential that parents and guardians be able to monitor what their kids are viewing and what they see online.

Talk with your family today about what the dangers of too much screen time can be for kids. When children understand the rules are in place for their health, then they are more likely to try following them. Implementing expectations without an explanation often leads kids to think that their parents are just being “mean.”

10 May 2019

6 Biggest Health Stories of 2018

 

There were plenty of stories from which to choose in health-related news throughout 2018 that could be one of the most significant stories of the year. 

From new diets and apps to the increased regulation of the e-cigarette market, these were the prominent health stories for the year.

#1. Women’s Health

Researchers have concerns that disease profiles seem to be rising in women faster than they are in men for certain conditions. COPD is at the top of the list, with the issue raised after the death of former First Lady Barbara Bush. It is the third-leading cause of death in the United States – and it was once known as a “man’s disease.” Over 7 million women are currently living with this health issue.

#2. Breast Cancer Developments

A February 2018 report warned that some breast cancer treatments could create future heart health issues for some women. They could damage heart cells, weaken the muscle, or create abnormal heart rhythms. Then in May, researchers noted that using a year’s worth of Herceptin to treat early-stage HER2-positive breast cancer may not be as necessary as one thought. Offering six months of this medication proved to be just as effective as being on the drug for 12 months.

#3. Type 2 Diabetes Surge

The CDC reported in September 2018 that over 30 million people in the United States have diabetes. There are another 7 million people who likely have this disease, but are not aware that they are suffering from this ailment. The longer someone goes undiagnosed, then the more severe their symptoms and future health problems may be. Diabetes can even raise your risk of developing most major forms of cancer. Researchers discovered that there might also be a connection between a lack of vitamin D, the development of gum disease, and type 2 diabetes.

#4. A Tough Flu Season

The H3N2 influenza strain rocked the country hard in 2018, creating regional shortages of anti-viral medication. Wait times in emergency rooms skyrocketed as people sought care for extreme symptoms. When the month of March came around, researchers announced that extra sunshine exposure could help to prevent the development of flu symptoms in ways that were similar to vaccinations and avoiding people who are sick.

#5. Opioid Issues

Over 40,000 people die of opioid overdoses is in the United States each year. That’s more than the fatalities which are attributed to motor vehicle accidents. Researchers in March released data that shows opioids are useful for short term pain relief, but they aren’t better in chronic situations than any other pain reliever. Opioids even offer more side effects that could become bothersome to some patients more than the pain they are trying to manage.

#6. E-Cigarette Crackdown

Using Juul and other e-cigarette products as a teen makes that person 4 times more likely to become a smoker when they are an adult. The issue with this product involves nicotine delivery. Teens receive much more of this addictive substance per dose when using e-cigarettes compared to traditional smoking products. The surgeon general announced in December that this situation requires an “all hands on deck” approach.

What were the health-related stories that stood out for you in 2018?