Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Stress Eraser (StressEraser): Is It For Real?

I've only recently heard of the device called the Stress Eraser (StressEraser), which claims to help alter a person's breathing in order to reduce stress. The Stress Eraser Web site says that it can reverse the effects of "ergotropic tuning," which it says is "a biological process that changes the way the nerves in your body respond to stress." The idea is that their device can give a person feedback on how to adjust his or her breaking to reduce ergotropic tuning, and thus stress.

Although I'm not familiar with this device, it reminds me of another device that claims to help lower blood pressure by helping the user adjust breathing rate. That device, called the RESPeRATE®, is a small, portable electronic device that guides the user to lowering the number of breaths they take per minute, which is said to lower blood pressure naturally. The RESPeRATE Web site has positive comments from the Mayo Clinic and from Dr. Andrew Weil. According to their Web site, the RESPeRATE breathing exercises work by "relaxing the constricted muscles surrounding the small blood vessels, allowing the blood to flow more freely and yielding a significant and lasting reduction of blood pressure." RESPeRATE has been approved by the FDA.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Tay-Sachs Disease: Symptoms, Treatment, Prognosis

Tay-Sachs disease is a fatal genetic neurological disorder that usually develops in children (and rarely in adults in their 20s or 30s). While babies can seem to develop normally at first, but then mental and physical abilities deteriorate over time. Eventually the child loses sight, hearing, and the ability to swallow; muscles atrophy; and paralysis results. There is no cure or treatment.

Tay-Sachs disease involves a problem with the storage of lipids (fats) in which harmful amounts of a particular fatty substance accumulates in tissues and nerve cells in the brain.

An article from the U.S. National Institutes of Health discusses what happens in Tay-Sachs disease, how it progresses, symptoms, treatment of symptoms, and prognosis.

Another article, from the National Human Genome Research Institute, offers a list of frequently asked questions about Tay-Sachs disease. And examines Tay-Sachs screening, who's at risk, prenatal diagnosis, and more.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Uremic Poisoning: Causes and Symptoms

The kidneys are one of the main gatekeepers responsible for ridding the body of waste, and when they don't function properly a person can end up with uremic poisoning. And uremic poisoning is much more than just a kidney problem, because kidneys that aren't functioning properly can allow toxins to build up in other organs of the body, potentially creating a deadly situation if not noticed and treated quickly.

Uremic poisoning and related kidney problems can result from food poisoning and other illnesses even years after the those illnesses have come and gone, scientists have said in speaking to the Associated Press. The article notes that "E. coli and certain other foodborne illnesses can sometimes trigger serious health problems months or years after patients survived that initial bout." And with food poisoning cases being seem more often, researchers are concerned about the possible long-term health risks these people may face.

The article mentions cases of high blood pressure, kidney damage, and even complete kidney failure as long as 20 years after a person suffered from the initial illness.

The Web site of the American Association of Kidney Patients has an article explaining the symptoms of uremic poisoning, detailing the signs a person may notice when uremic poisoning affects the brain and nervous system, digestive system, heart and lungs, skins, etc.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Did Ambien Play a Role in Heath Ledger's Death?

While it's not yet known what killed actor Heath Ledger, the cause is suspected to be an overdose of one or several medications. Police said what medications were found by his side when they discovered his body on Tuesday, including sleeping and anxiety drugs. Police on Wednesday reported finding a rolled-up $20 bill in the room, but said no illegal drugs had been found. Ledger had said in interviews that he had been taking the sleep medication Ambien, one of the most widely prescribed sleep drugs.

He said that some of the grueling acting roles he had taken on, including in the upcoming Batman film and in "I'm Not There," left him sleeping only a couple of hours a night.

Ambien (the trade name in the U.S. for zolpidem) has come under closer scrutiny in some countries for some unusual side effects that have been documented, including bizarre episodes in which people taking Ambien got out bed and drove their cars, prepared food, and even had sex while partially asleep. These people were usually not able to remember doing these activities once they woke up.

In addition, some cases of hallucinations have been experienced with some sleeping drugs, and of course any such drug can be dangerous when taken along with other medications, depending on the type of drug and the dosage taken.

Did Ambien play a role in Heath Ledger's death? It's too soon to tell, but it's possible that some kind of mix of drugs in the wrong combinations or the wrong dosages was at least a contributing factor in his death.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Coffee Drinking Can Double Miscarriage Risk, Study Says

There are new questions about the safety of drinking coffee during pregnancy, with a new study finding that even two cups a day potentially doubling the risk of miscarriage. What this new research means for expectant women is not clear however: some doctors say pregnant women should avoid caffeine, while others say caffeine in moderation is OK.

According to an article on MSNBC, "the connection has been controversial, with some experts arguing that the research didn't account for morning sickness. The nausea and vomiting of morning sickness, caused by elevated hormones, is generally a sign of a reduced risk of miscarriage — and also can lead women to stop drinking their usual coffee or other caffeinated drinks." There was a concern that if women reduced their caffeine intake, it would create the impression that caffeine was associated with miscarriage.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Morgellons Disease, a Baffling Skin Disorder

Morgellons disease is one of those mysterious disorders that is so odd that experts don't even agree that it's a disorder at all. Some believe it is a distinct disease, others think it's part of an existing group of disorders, and others aren't sure it exists... or if it does, that it's in the imagination of the sufferer.

In Morgellons disease a patient experiences lesions on the skin, extreme itchiness, and a crawling sensation on or under the skin. Some patients have had fibers (which may be different colors) growing out of their skin.

The CDC announced January 16th that it was launching a study to investigate Morgellons disease.

An article on the Mayo Clinic's Web site answers some questions about Morgellons disease, including signs and symptoms, what researchers know about the disorder, why Mogellons is controversial, and how to manage the condition.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Zestra, the Female Arousal Drug

The over-the-counter drug Zestra has been called the "female Viagra," but it's hard to tell how effective it is. An article in MedicalNewsToday from November says that a study has shown promising results, but I'm not familiar with that publication, and there probably need to be further studies done. However, Zestra has been on sale in many drugstore chains so you would assume that at the very least it's not harmful. Whether it really performs as claimed is something for the consumer to judge .

Unlike Viagra, Zestra is a topical liquid that is applied during foreplay. According to the article mentioned above, Zestra "provides desire, arousal, and sexual satisfaction benefits for a broad, generalized group of women with sexual difficulties."

Vytorin and Zetia: Answers for Consumers

A new study shows that the much prescribed cholesterol-lowering drug Vytorin doesn't slow the buildup of plaque in arteries any more than do cheaper statin drugs. This is the latest study sure to sow confusion among consumers taking these drugs, and their doctors, along with the Vioxx controversy and other recent episodes concerning pain drugs.

The study looked at whether a combination of Zetia and Zocor works better than Zocor by itself.

A USA Today article yesterday features a Q&A with two noted cardiologists, which helps to explain the situation. Vytorin itself contains a statin: Vytorin is a combination of two drugs, Zetia and Zocor, a popular statin. (Lipitor is another widely used statin, and one of the most-prescribed drugs in the world).

An entry in the Wall Street Journal's health blog examines the specifics of the study and the implications of the findings, that Zetia doesn't do anything to enhance Zocor.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Hereditary Sensory and Autonomic Neuropathy

Hereditary Sensory and Autonomic Neuropathy, often abbreviated as HSAN, refers to as many as six different degenerative disorders of the nervous system that involve loss of feeling, particularly in the hands and feet.

HSAN is a rare genetic condition caused by the abnormal functioning of the sensory nerves that control responses to pain and temperature, according to an article in WebMD. In one type of HSAN, HSAN 1, sufferers may have a lack of sensation in their extremities, and may be unable to sweat from those parts of their body unless their body temperature becomes dangerously high.

Sufferers from other types of HSAN may have the opposite problems: they may have pain shooting up through their legs, and they may find that they sweat excessively.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

2008 NBC4 Health and Fitness Expo at the Washington Convention Center

If you'll be in the Washington, D.C. area this weekend, here's an even you'll want to check out. It's the 15th annual NBC4 Health and Fitness Expo, which will take place at the Washington Convention Center on Saturday and Sunday, January 12th and 13th. The Expo is FREE and takes place both days from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The 2008 NBC4 Health and Fitness Expo features everything from exhibitions from health-food companies to exercise equipment, as well as demonstrations on cooking, exercise, belly dancing, and much more; plus free health screenings and product giveaways.

You can climb a rock wall, take some shots at an indoor soccer field (for kids), even try out golf and skiing indoors.

Check the Web site for video clips on bone health, prostate exams, kidney disease screening, weight loss, and more.

The cooking demonstrations including everything from Caribbean chicken salad to gumbo, gluten-free snacks, and even chocolate mousse.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Veganomicon: A Book of Recipes from the Post Punk Kitchen

"Veganomicon": the word sounds like the name of a convention or or a disease or something, but it's actually a vegan cookbook. In fact, the book's subtitle calls it "The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook."

A big claim? Maybe so, but authors Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero are pretty well known in the world of vegetarian and vegan cooking. They run the Web site and TV show Post Punk Kitchen and between them have written other cookbooks including "Vegan with a Vengeance" and "Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World." (As you can tell by these titles, the authors bring a sense of humor to their subject.)

One review of "Veganomicon" notes that the recipes are open to adaptations, so readers can include animal products if they wish.

The New York Sun has a good article reviewing "Veganomicon" and several other vegan and vegetarian cookbooks.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Oprah Goes Green

Buying "green" products isn't just for people who want to "save the planet." There's growing evidence that environment-friendly products such as detergents and cleaners made without harsh, toxic chemicals are not only better for the planet, but are healthier for us to have around the house.

Oprah Winfrey got the religion of green products on her show of Friday, January 4th. The show looks at one family that has made a number of changes in its life to go green, surveys some of Oprah's own green products, discusses products and resources that can make it easier to go green, and offers a "Going Green 101" crash course to show what families can do today.

Oprah covers some of the major brands of green products, including Seventh Generation and Shaklee. She also tells how to get a starter kit from Shaklee, with savings of 33 percent on the Shaklee Healthy Home pack and 15 percent off other Shaklee products.

Considering how many powerful toxic chemicals are ingredients in today's cleaning and household products, going green can make a lot of sense.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

HPV Vaccine Succeeds Beyond Expectations

The new vaccine for human papilloma virus (HPV) has been about 100% effective in preventing that disease. But the HPV vaccine has turned out to have effects in preventing other diseases, too.

This video and slide show from Medscape looks at the success of the HPV vaccine.