IFA News and Opinion
Issue Date:  January 1, 2008

Heavy salt use may increase ulcer risk

Here's another reason to limit salt in your diet. A new report given at the recent meeting of the American Society for Microbiology in Toronto indicates that diets high in salt content may increase risk of gastric and duodenal ulcers.

Researchers at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md., discovered that high salt concentrations in the stomach can trigger a genetic tendency for the ulcer-causing H. pylori bacteria that causes it to become aggressive.
Many Americans, including half of those over the age of 60, are infected with H. pylori. But only a small percentage of these people develop ulcers.

Previous research has shown that there is an association between the bacteria and dietary patterns. The study authors conclude that this is especially true for diets that include a lot of salt.

It is widely known that consuming a high level of salt creates a risk for high blood pressure, a serious condition that must be treated throughout life after diagnosis.

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Heart patients can exercise

If you have cardiovascular disease, your risk of a heart attack during exercise is somewhat greater than a healthy person's risk.

But The American Heart Association maintains the benefits of exercise far outrank the risk for almost everyone.

Experts say the physical activity must be done regularly and with an intensity matched to your cardiac health. Ideally, they recommend 30 minutes of aerobic exercise, such as walking, five days a week and two days a week of flexibility and strength training.

This is the best plan, but doing less is also beneficial if it is done regularly.

Kids aspirin OK if not coated

Aspirin helps to keep heart attack and stroke-causing blood clots from forming, but it increases the risk of stomach bleeding. So people often choose children's 81 mg aspirin tablets rather than the typical 325 mg tablet. Studies show this dose is just as effective as long as the tablet is not enteric-coated, which may limit absorption. The 81 mg aspirin also costs more.

As a stomach-saving alternative, doctors at Johns Hopkins suggest taking the common 325 mg aspirin every other day, which is just as protective. To help you remember if it's the day to take it, get a 7-day pill box and load it once a week.

If you think you are having a heart attack, chew a 325 mg uncoated aspirin for fast release into the bloodstream.

Dietary C and oral protection

Scientists at Harvard have discovered that vitamin C from oranges, other fruits, and vegetables can reduce your risk of oral cancer by half. The pill form of C and other vitamins showed no such protection during their 5-year study.

Oranges have 70 mg of C per serving. Other sources include green peppers, strawberries, tomatoes, broccoli, leafy greens, papayas, mangos, and some berries.

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Avoiding sleep apnea

Doctors reporting in Duke Medicine have found that simple lifestyle changes can reduce the incidence of sleep apnea. The goals are to help you breath normally while you sleep and to ease snoring.

They recommend sleeping on your side to keep your throat open, and avoiding alcohol, smoking (and medicines that make you drowsy) in order to keep your throat open.

If that doesn't work, a mask can be prescribed that gives continuous airway pressure to keep the throat open.

Be aware of MRSA infection risk

New statistics show that an estimated 94,000 people developed methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections in 2005. Most were patients in hospitals and nursing homes.

At the same time, 14,000 people contracted the same or a different strain in the community, say researchers for the Centers for Disease Control.

Since the early 1990s, doctors have seen increasing numbers of cases in the community, probably because of a growing resistance to antibiotics. Some antibiotics, however, still cure MRSA infections when used along with other treatments.

Doctors recommend taking common-sense precautions to prevent MRSA and any other infection.

  • Keep hands clean by washing frequently or using hand sanitizers.
  • Cover skin abrasions or cuts with a clean, dry bandage to prevent infection until the wound is healed.
  • Don't share soap or towels that have come in contact with skin.
  • Keep hands away from the nose.
  • Watch for what seems to be a spider bite or pimple that doesn't heal. If it becomes red and swollen or pus is present, see a doctor immediately.

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    Chocolate, nuts, cocktails

    It can seem that everything you like is bad for you, but recently there has been some good news in the area of the previously forbidden.

    If you've had a hard time avoiding chocolate, you can have it now. You still can't binge on chocolate, but a few squares have been shown to lower blood pressure, harden tooth enamel, and provide several important nutrients, says the Journal of the American Medical Association.

    People who are nuts about nuts can healthfully enjoy their treat as long as the nuts are not salted. All nuts have a positive effect on the heart, but macadamias, peanuts, and pistachios are best.

    Almonds are good for the bones and blood pressure. The selenium and vitamin E in Brazil nuts have special benefits for the prostate.
    Pecans may help to stave off cataracts and macular degeneration because of their high antioxidant levels, and walnuts have several benefits including promotion of serotonin, the feel-good chemical that fights depression.

    How about a cocktail? It's widely known that one drink a day is good for the heart. A new study appearing in Neurology shows that among people with mild cognitive impairment, a daily drink may slow the progress to dementia. For the rest of us, maybe it will help us remember where we put the car keys.

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    Staying Well - Cleaner towels

    Ever noticed that your bathroom towel has a musty smell? Steve Boorstein, host of the Web site clothingdoctor.com, says it's from mildew spores developing there. His recommendations:

  • Wash towels often. Traces of dirt and perspiration help mildew spores grow.
  • Don't crowd them in the washer. Towels need plenty of room to agitate,
  • Use the hottest washer cycle.
  • Add a booster such as 20 Mule Team Borax to boost the cleaning power.
  • Move towels from the washer to the dryer immediately.
  • Add bleach to a load of whites to kill germs and mildew in the washer.

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  • Put more fiber into your diet

    New studies show that fiber benefits more than the digestive tract. It prevents weight gain, and it reduces blood pressure and type 2 diabetes risk. The best advice: eat whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and beans every day.

    The Institute of Medicine recommends eating 14 grams of fiber for every 1000 calories we consume, typically about 20 to 35 grams a day.

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    This sneak thief can be arrested

    This thief doesn't lift your wallet or abscond with the silverware. This "sneak thief" can steal your vision. More than 2.2 million Americans aged 40 and older have glaucoma. Most of them are unaware of their condition because there are no early symptoms.

    That number is projected to increase to 3.3 million by the year 2020

    Primary open-angle glaucoma progresses without a clue until the condition reaches an advanced stage. As increased eye pressure damages the optic nerve, the patient begins to lose peripheral vision. If left untreated, tunnel vision develops and eventually all sight is lost.

    Though optic nerve damage occurs with high intraocular pressure, it can also occur with normal or even below-normal eye pressure.

    Glaucoma can’t be cured, and damage caused by the disease can’t be reversed. But with treatment, glaucoma can be controlled. Eyedrops, oral medications and surgical procedures can prevent or slow the damage. An annual test is recommended.

    The only good thing about glaucoma is that it can be diagnosed with an instant, painless test done by your eye doctor or optician.

    Ophthalmologists have more sophisticated testing methods, which are usually used when the results of the first tests are questionable.

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    FDA considers a new drug category

    Presently, the Food and Drug Administration has two drug categories: prescription and over-the-counter (OTC). It could soon add another: behind-the-counter (BTC) drugs, a drug class found in Europe and Canada.

    BTCs would be available without prescription, but you would have to ask for them. Canadian pharmacists say many such medicines, however, are old or rarely used products.

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    Pap test could be replaced

    The Pap test has reduced U.S. cervical cancer deaths in women by 70 percent over the last six decades.

    A new test could be even better. It detects the presence of human papilloma virus (HPV), which causes almost all cases of cervical cancer. It screens for 13 cancer-causing HPV types.

    HPV infection usually clears on its own, but women who are persistently infected with it are at risk for cervical cancer.

    Though the new test detects 94 percent of pre-cancers as opposed to 53 percent detected by the Pap smear, the American Cancer Society recommends that both tests be taken annually by women over age 29.