IFA News and Opinion
Issue Date:  June 1, 2009

Benefit of prostate test questioned

Two large studies show that, statistically, the prostate cancer screenings given to millions of men have little or no effect on whether patients will die from the disease.

The 15-year studies of some 240,000 men also create questions about whether early detection of prostate cancer does more harm than good. The treatments for early prostate cancer can leave men impotent and incontinent.

Many men with borderline high prostate-specific antigen (PSA) tests undergo unneeded biopsies. That could change with a new blood test that identifies levels of the prostate cancer antigen-2 (EPCA-2). It appears to give a more accurate picture of cancer present in the body, say doctors at Johns Hopkins University.

Some scientists for the American Cancer Institute feel that many prostate tumors don't need to be cured. Half of them grow so slowly that they never cause any harm. Treating harmless tumors doesn't help these men, since their lives were never at risk, but treatment can hurt them, the doctors say.

Dartmouth Medical School's H. Gilbert Welch, who worked on the study, says about one in 1,000 men who have prostate cancer surgery will die in the hospital. Half of those who have the surgery are left with impaired sexual function and a third suffer impaired urinary function.

Doctors at Washington University School of Medicine advise men with a life expectancy of less than 10 years to skip the (PSA) test entirely. They are likely to die of something else before a tumor would cause them any harm.


Heat-related illness can be deadly

Statistics for the 2000s aren't in yet, but in the previous decade, an average of 371 people per year died of heat-related illnesses.
People suffer heat exhaustion or heat stroke when their bodies can't cool themselves enough by sweating. Body temperatures can rise rapidly. A very high body temperature can cause brain damage, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In addition to heat, humidity is a factor, because sweat won't evaporate fast enough to allow the body to cool.

At highest risk for heat-related illnesses are children up to age four and the elderly. Also at risk are the obese, people with a fever, and those who have dehydration, heart disease, sunburn, poor circulation, or drinking alcoholic beverages.

Heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke if not treated. It causes extreme fatigue, muscle aches, nausea and fever. There may be rapid pulse, clammy skin and vomiting. Those with symptoms should move to a cooler place and drink lots of liquids. If not recovered within 30 minutes, they should go to the emergency room.

Heat stroke can be fatal. If treatment is delayed, the death rate is up to 80 percent. With treatment, only 10 percent die. Symptoms include body temperature that can reach up to 110 degrees, confusion, racing pulse, convulsions and loss of consciousness.
Symptoms can develop over several days or strike during a single burst of strenuous activity.

Call an ambulance. While waiting for it, get the person out of the heat, cool him by fanning with a towel or newspaper, sprinkle him with water, and elevate the feet to direct blood back toward the head. If the person is conscious, offer fluids.


If you will be working or exercising in a hot environment, the CDC says:

Pace yourself. Start slowly and pick up the pace gradually.

If your heart begins to pound and you are short of breath, stop all activity. Get into a cool area or at least into the shade. Rest, especially if you are light-headed or confused and feel faint. Drink liquids.

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Chuckles Corner

Prevent blood clots in the legs by moving around on long trips

By this time, you probably know that you need to move your legs occasionally when you are on a long airplane flight.

If you don't, you risk getting blood clots in your legs, a condition known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT). It can happen to anyone, but is more likely to happen to anyone who normally has faster blood clotting.

Other DVT risks include taking birth control pills, a family history of blood clots, and being very overweight.

Long periods of continuous sitting encourage their formation, but long car rides or train rides can be just as hazardous as a long airline flight.

Major surgery such as hip or knee replacement, surgery to the pelvic area, or trauma to the leg or pelvis area put you at a high risk for blood clots.

DVTs are often hard to detect, but almost all cause symptoms eventually. They include swelling in the ankle area of the affected leg, leg pain that starts in the calf and can feel like a cramp, and redness or warmth over the affected area and fever.

To test for a DVT, ultrasound imaging is usually the first step. It's safe and widely available.

If you suspect that you have a blood clot, always have the situation investigated as soon as possible. Sometimes fragments will travel to the lungs, cause a pulmonary embolism and block blood flow, which can be fatal.

Seek emergency medical care if you experience shortness of breath, sharp chest pain when you inhale or cough, cough up blood, or feel lightheaded or dizzy.


B vitamins help to prevent macular degeneration

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of blindness in people over age 65

Now, doctors at Harvard's Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston have found that taking a combination of B vitamins in earlier years can reduce the incidence of AMD by one-third.

After seven years of taking B vitamins (B6, folic acid, and B12), the 5,000 women with AMD risk factors (ages 40 and older) had the lower risk.

Though only women were in the study, the finding could also apply to men.

Other than taking the B vitamins and avoiding cigarettes, no other preventive measures have ever been found.

Prevention is important because there is no cure.

Statins for healthy people?

Studies funded by the makers of the statin drug Crestor show that those who took the drug lowered their C-reactive protein (CRP) levels and LDL cholesterol levels. The researchers, however, concluded that 95 patients would have to be treated with Crestor for two years in order to prevent one heart attack or stroke.

CRP is a heart-disease risk. Doctors at Johns Hopkins Medical Centers say it's too soon to recommend statins for people who don't have high cholesterol. And it's too early to recommend CRP testing for all adults.

A CRP test can be helpful to people with borderline high cholesterol and one other risk factor, such as smoking, hypertension, or a family history of heart disease.

Generic Fosamax available

The popular osteoporosis drug Fosamax (alendronate) is now available in its generic form. It is a bisphosphonate drug. Other bisphosphonates include Boniva and Actonel, neither of which is available as a generic.

Fosamax and Actonel are taken once a week. Boniva is taken once a month.


Avoiding foot problems

Corns and calluses are common foot problems. Corns are smaller and develop on the tops and sides of toes. Calluses form on the sole of the foot or heel.

The usual causes are ill-fitting shoes. Changing to comfortable shoes can often make them go away because the rubbing that causes them is eliminated.

Nonmedicated corn or callus pads cushion them from friction, allowing time for them to diminish in size.

Gradually rubbing calluses with a pumice stone will reduce their size. Never try to shave down a callus. Cutting into it could lead to infection.

Rum raisin monkey bread: the company-perfect breakfast treat

Tired of pasty-tasting pastries or stale-too-quick Danish? Monkey bread, a proven satisfier for hungry guests, is a breakfast treat for both adults and children.

Breakfast pastries were made at least as far back as medieval times. The word comes from the Old English paest, meaning paste. The first quiche, considered a pastry, was created by the Romans.

The French and Austrians perfected their own sweet treats, the British became famous for scones, the Danes for Danish, and the Germans for breakfast stollens.

This recipe, a variation of sugar and cinnamon monkey bread, is created by adding rum-marinated raisins.

Rum raisin monkey bread

1 cup raisins
3 ounces dark rum
1 stick butter, melted
1 can of flaky refrigerated grand biscuits
1 cup of white sugar or Splenda
1/4 cup of cinnamon
1 cup of brown sugar.

Soak the raisins in the rum and refrigerate over night.

Mix the granulated sugar and cinnamon in a bowl. Cut the biscuits into pie-shaped quarters. Coat them with the sugar mixture.

Grease a deep cake pan or bundt pan with cooking oil. Line one layer of the pieces like an inter-locking jigsaw puzzle in the pan.

Pour half the melted butter evenly over the layer. Sprinkle some of the sugar mix over the buttered layer and place the raisins on the top.

Arrange a second layer of the dough pieces on top of the raisins and pour the remainder of the butter over it, and the brown sugar over all.

Bake at 400 degrees for ten minutes, reduce heat to 350 and bake 15 minutes or until top layer is crusty.

Serves six to eight.

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Aerobic activity can add 12 years to your life

Taking a brisk walk or working in the garden can make you feel good now, but doing aerobic exercise every day could turn back the clock on aging by 12 years.

According to a report in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, vigorous walking for an hour a day five days a week can increase your maximal oxygen intake by as much as 25 percent in just three months. For seniors, that could also mean years of independence.

The University of Toronto reviewed 30 studies on the relationship between aerobic activity, aging and maximal oxygen intake, known as VO2max. Marathon runners have a rating of 80, while the average 40-year-old man with no endurance training might score 35 to 40. Women averaged 5 points lower.

With age, VO2max declines about 5 points per decade. At 18 points for men and 15 for women, a person is likely to lose functional independence.

Aerobic activity such as vigorous walking can slow or reverse the decline. The longer you keep at it, the greater the gains in turning back the loss.

The intensity of the exercise can speed up gains in VO2max.


Problems with energy drinks

Most energy drinks contain tons of caffeine, sugar and herbal supplements such as taurine. It's OK to drink one as long as it has about the same amount of caffeine as a couple cups of coffee and about the same amount of sugar as a can of soda.

Many contain much higher amounts plus other substances. They can cause faster heartbeat, irritability, nervousness, nausea and sleep problems.

Ingesting the massive amounts of caffeine in two or more energy drinks can trigger abnormal heart rhythms.

If consumed along with alcohol, when you are dehydrated, or consumed quickly before a sporting event, they are dangerous. Fainting or a heart attack could occur, say doctors at the Mayo Clinic.

Young adults' health

A report from the National Center for Health Statistics shows the health of young adults age 18 to 29 has not improved in the last 15 years. In some areas, such as obesity, they are less healthy.
One-third are obese and another third are overweight. Many don't exercise.

Some 30 percent do not have health insurance, and almost a third of young men are smokers. One quarter of them admit to binge drinking once a month in the past year.

Most young adults appear to be healthy now, but the long-term effects of their habits could cause problems later.