IFA News and Opinion
Issue Date:  June 1, 2005

New Test for Alzheimer's

The inability to identify 10 everyday smells, from smoke to soap, can be used to predict Alzheimer's disease. The smell test is as effective at diagnosis as a memory test and better than a brain scan. Doctors at Columbia Presbyterian Medical center say scientists have long known that the brain's smell center is hard-hit by Alzheimer's.

The inability to identify smoke tops the list in the test, followed by menthol, leather, lilac, pineapple, soap, strawberry, natural gas, lemon, and clove.

Effective Ankle Replacements

A new study shows that the benefits of surgery to replace the ankle with a prosthesis significantly outweigh any risk involved.

Presently, people with arthritis in the ankle try wearing special shoes or an ankle brace to immobilize it. If the pain remains severe or movement is restricted, they may turn to fusion surgery which restricts movement even more.

Doctors at the University of Iowa say replacement, using a device called the Agility Total Ankle System, is effective for many years. At an average of nine years following surgery, more than 90 percent of patients reported they were satisfied with the ankle replacement. The surgery also appears to slow down or reverse arthritis elsewhere.

The ankle works best in older, less active light-weight people who are less likely to put a lot of physical stress on the joint.

Artificial Spine Disc Approved

The Food and Drug Administration has approved the first artificial spinal disc for use in the U.S. It treats pain associated with degenerative disc disease. Called Charite (shar-ee-TAY), it can replace a damaged intervertebral disc.

More than 200,000 Americans now undergo spinal fusion every year. Many could use this alternative treatment. Spinal fusion can add pressure to discs surrounding the fused segment, often leading to additional back surgery.


3 Steps Can Reduce Cancer Risk

The goal of Cancer Control Month is to remind us of the various cancer risks we can control. These are three things you can do.

1. See your doctor for a health review and summary of preventive tests that are recommended for your age group and sex. A colonoscopy, mammogram, or a PSA test could be recommended. Make an appointment to have tests. Be sure to keep it.

Get serious and follow the doctor's advice about general health issues such as weight control and diet.

2. Create a plan for exercise. If you don't exercise now, you only need 10 or 15 minutes a day to start. Make a point of putting activity into your life: walk up stairs; park farther away from work and the store; work in your yard. Get back to your favorite sport. Tennis and swimming are good choices.

3. Put cancer-fighting foods into your diet. Nutritionists at Ochsner Clinic in New Orleans recommend:

Apples. Eat one the usual way or put chunks in salads or slices in sandwiches.

Berries. Add them to smoothies or top your breakfast cereal with berries. Blueberries are highest in antioxidants.

Artichokes. They have more antioxidants than other vegetables. Chop an artichoke heart into tomato sauce or a green salad.

Potatoes. Russets have the highest antioxidant count, but it's mostly in the skins. Eat them baked or into soups.

Oregano, cinnamon, and cloves. Spices that are high in antioxidants.

Nuts. Pecans have the highest antioxidant count. Crush and add them to chicken or fish before baking.

Beans. Small red beans are best, but all dried beans fight free radicals.


Correct Your Medical History

Insurers share parts of your medical history with one another, but what if their information is wrong? You can get a free report showing what's in your file.

People who apply for certain kinds of life and health insurance give insurers permission to send their personal information to a central clearing house. Other insurers can then access it.

Cancer treatments or chronic conditions like diabetes would appear in the database. So might a history of reckless driving or risky activities like skydiving. Information usually stays on the record for seven years.

According to the MIB Group, of the 9,000 people who checked their records last year, about 400 found errors.

Thanks to the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act, you can get a free copy of your report once a year by calling (866) 692-6901


STDs on the Rise

It's time to take a good look at your infection protection. A new report from the American Social Health Association shows that one in four Americans, and up to half of adults under age 25, will become infected with a sexually transmitted disease at some point in their lives.

In a survey of about 1,200 people, many of whom considered themselves "very knowledgeable" on STDs, almost half said they don't use any protection. They are prime candidates for AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.

Reduce Risk of Gallstones

Harvard researchers say a high consumption of nuts, including peanuts, lower the risk of gallstones by 30 percent. Those who lowered their risk ate five or more ounces of nuts per week.

The data came from the Health Professionals Followup Study of 51,529 male American dentists, veterinarians, optometrists, osteopathic physicians, and podiatrists.

The unsaturated fat in nuts keeps cholesterol levels in bile low. When there's too much cholesterol in bile, it can crystallize and form gallstones.

Another Dark Chocolate Benefit

Doctors at Athens Medical School found that the polyphenol flavonoids in dark chocolate stimulate the production of nitric oxide, a substance that dilates arteries. Eating a 3.5 ounce bar of extra dark chocolate can increase blood flow for three hours, the researchers say.

Other studies show that eating 3 ounces of dark chocolate a day could lower blood pressure, say the editors of Prevention.

Exercise and Save Your Brain

A new study by the National Institutes of Health shows that exercise can help keep your mind sharp. The researchers say couch potatoes are 2.5 times more likely to develop dementia than people who exercise regularly.


Whole Grains Give Needed Power

When the armies of Alexander the Great went into battle, they subsisted on crude wheat cakes. Ancient Chinese emperors fed their troops a ball of brown rice each day. Centuries later, John Wayne and his group ate "corn dodgers" on the trail in "True Grit."

History holds many stories of whole grains sustaining people when they didn't have time to cook. Whole grains can still do the job. Fortunately, they are available in more tasty forms.

Edible grains include wheat, barley, corn, millet, oats, rice, rye and many others. Nature constructs them alike. Each particle in an outer bran layer contains nearly all the fiber. The germ layer is richest in nutrients.

Today, we know that whole grains give us much more than fiber for sustained energy. The American Cancer Society is urging us to return to an era when the staff of life was more likely to be brown than white.

Studies show that those who eat whole grains are less likely to develop colorectal, stomach, and endometrial cancers and heart disease. The plant chemicals they contain include lignans, flavonoids, and many healthful acids.

Whole grains are good sources of vitamin E, an important antioxidant, and all grains are well endowed with minerals including zinc, selenium, copper, iron, manganese, and magnesium. The minerals are thought to protect cells against oxidation damage.


Ride a bike!

If the nice summer weather doesn't make you want to get out and ride your bike, think of what bicycling can do for you. It's good for your heart, wallet, stress level, waist line, sex life, and muscle tone. It could save your life.

Bicycling could reduce the obesity epidemic, which results in 300,000 premature deaths each year. The American Cancer Society says obesity increases the risk of cancer.

  • It's convenient. Over 22 percent of motor vehicle trips are less than one mile long. Half of the working population commutes five miles or less.
  • In addition to helping you lose weight, bicycling can reduce stress and increase feelings of well-being. It increases the body's release of endorphins.
  • Bicycling may be able to reduce the impact of aging on the brain say doctors at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. To feel good and get healthy, ride a bike. Ride a bike to work!


    You Can Die of a Broken Heart

    The New England Journal of Medicine reports that a sudden emotional shock such as the death of a loved one can cause serious heart problems or death. In one case, the shock was caused by a surprise birthday party.

    The cardiologists blame stress hormones that included adrenalin, which the patients were producing. In each case, they found stress hormone levels up to 34 times as great as normal levels and two to three times as great as those typically seen during severe heart attacks.

    The doctors say "broken-heart syndrome" is reversible provided the initial shock isn't too great.

    Meningitis Shots for Students

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is urging all college freshmen living in dorms to get vaccinated for bacterial meningitis.

    The bacteria cause infection in the fluid surrounding the spinal cord and brain.

    Those most at risk are first-time students living in dormitories, smokers, people exposed to passive smoke, those who have had a recent upper-respiratory infection, people with weakened immune systems, and people who share utensils and drinking glasses.

    Symptoms include high fever, headache, stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to bright light, confusion, and sleepiness.

    Cancer is Now the Top Killer

    Cancer has surpassed heart disease as the top killer of Americans under 85 according to the American Public Health Association and the American Cancer Society. Deaths from both are falling, but improvement has been more dramatic for heart disease. The main reason cited is that there are fewer smokers.

    The top causes of death were cancer, followed by heart disease, injury, lung disease, stroke, diabetes, influenza, kidney disease, Alzheimer's disease, suicide, and liver disease in that order.



    >By all means, marry; if you get a good wife, you'll become happy; if you get a bad one, you'll become a philosopher. - Socrates (B.C. 469 - 399)

    Beware the lollipop of mediocrity. Lick it once and you will suck forever.

    Questions and Answers

    Q: I am starting classes tomorrow and am worried because I won't know anyone. What do you think I should do?

    A: Just think ,everyone there that is starting new is feeling the same way. In one week, you will know each other enough to be comfortable and in two weeks, you will have friends.

    Q: Great refresher. This is a great certification test and I have been coaching collegiate sports for 12 years!

    A: Thank you for your comments. Keep up the great work.

    Q: When doing crunches on the ab machine, how much weight should I be using in order to firm and trim and flatten my waistline. I do not want to build a lot of muscle. Thank you.

    A: It is better to do less weight and more reps. Try to use a weight that allows you to do at least 20 reps and three to four sets.