Archive for Health & Exercise

Can’t shed those pounds and inches despite all your best intentions?

Remember that really junk science stuff about how we only use x-y-z percent of our brain. Well, besides being just that – Junk Science – we now have evidence that at least a few parts of our brain are hiding in waiting (or is that weight-ing???) as part of an on-going conspiracy to make some people fat.

Can’t shed those pounds and inches despite all your best intentions? Blame it on your anterior cingulate cortex and the medial orbitofrontal cortex — brain areas that have been implicated in an addict’s urge to use drugs.

Weight loss informationResearcher Ashley Gearhardt, a clinical psychology doctoral student at Yale University and her team studied 48 women with an average age of 21 whose body mass ranged from lean to obese. Subjects completed a research questionnaire that included statements like “I find that when I start eating certain foods, I end up eating much more than I had planned.”  Subjects rated how closely the questionnaire statements, which were based on an established assessment tool for measuring drug addiction, matched their own experience.  Functional magnetic resonant imaging (fMRI) studies were also completed to allow researchers to understand how subjects brains’ responded to the anticipation and consumption of chocolate milkshakes and a tasteless solution

The researchers found that the brains of subjects who scored higher on the food-addiction survey exhibited brain activity similar to that seen in drug addicts, with greater activity in regions of the brain responsible for cravings and less activity in the regions that curb cravings or urges. And, both lean and obese subjects who scored high in the test for food addiction showed the same brain activity indicative of addiction. The researchers reported that simply seeing images of a milkshake triggered brain activity in the anterior cingulate cortex and the medial orbitofrontal cortex — brain areas that have been implicated in an addict’s urge to use drugs.

And more food, diet and anti-obesity news:

Before the Idaho Potato Commission sues me for defaming their spuds’ collective reputation, let me be the first to declare that extra-large, well-baked Idaho potatoes – with crisp skins and garnished with my homemade pesto sauce – are a culinary delight.

But (Isn’t there always a but!), a new study in the June 23, 2011 edition of the New England Journal of Medicine puts a big part of the blame for American obesity at the feet of extra servings of potatoes – French fried, mashed with butter, boiled, baked or crispy chips. (BTW, I know potatoes have eyes, but can they have feet?)

The Harvard University based researchers tracked the lifestyle choices of more than 120,000 health professionals from around the country for at least 12 years. They found that participants gained an average 0.8 pounds a year – 16 pounds over 20 years.

While potatoes have been certified as “heart healthy” by the American Heart Association and good sources of Vitamin C, several B vitamins, and minerals including iron, potassium, phosphorus and magnesium, individuals who ate an extra serving of French fries every day gained an average of 3.4 pounds over a four-year period. An extra serving of potato chips each day added an average of 1.7 pounds every four years.

Problem is that, while taters might be great food if we eat them raw, pack on sour cream or butter or fry ‘em. Ooooooops! Besides, those tubers prompt a quick spike in blood-sugar levels and cause the pancreas to go into overdrive attempting to bring levels back down to normal. While the blood sugar levels spiral down, many individuals experience hunger, resulting in snacking. And this cycle can result in significant weight gain, pancreatic fatigue, and, in the worst cases, the development of Type 2 Diabetes.

And, those taters can hold a lot of calories: 278 in a large backed potato even before you pile on any of the good stuff or 500-600 calories in a serving of French fries

But to be fair to the poor potato, it’s not the only cause of American obesity. Every additional sugary soft drink per day represented an additional one pound per year and extra servinvg of red and processed meats were just under that. And, consuming an extra alcoholic drink equaled close to half a pound more every four years and extra glass of 100 percent fruit juices each day  packed on almost one-third of a pound over four years.

Posted in: Addiction, Health & Exercise

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Levamisole found in cocaine causes dying flesh

“Cocaine is God’s way of telling you your making too much money.”

Robin Williams.

Now, your flesh being eaten away and the risk of having your ear fall off may be God’s way of telling you ‘”Cocaine is just plain stupid and really, really dangerous.”

Oh, and just in case you did not learn this already, your dealers – everyone from Mexico or Columbia to the guy on the corner – only wants your money, even if it means you get a skin eating infection.

That appears to be the summary of research by Dr. Noah Craft, a dermatologist with Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute, and reported in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.

Levamisole found in cocaine“It’s probably quite a big problem, and we just don’t know yet how big a problem it really is,” notes Craft, referring to his study of six cocaine users recently plagued by dark purple patches of dying flesh – a problem that appears to be national.

Craft has joined an increasing number of physicians across the country who havelinked rotting skin to levamisole-tainted cocaine. The damage appears several days after using cocaine because of an immune reaction that attacks the blood vessels supplying the skin. It’s simple: Without blood, the skin suffocates and starves, turns blue and black and necrotic.

According to an April 2011 report by the U.S. Drug Administration, 82 % of seized cocaine contains levamisole, which is used as a filler probably because it acts on the same brain receptors as cocaine and might enhance or extend the drug’s euphoric effects – on the cheap until your ear or cheeks start to die. Levamisole is a veterinary antibiotic normally used to deworm cattle, sheep, and pigs.

“We don’t know who is this is going to happen to,” reports Dr. Lindy Fox, the University of California, San Francisco, dermatologist who first connected the gruesome lesions on cocaine users to levamisole. Researchers are not yet able to determine why some levamisole users are more at risk than others. However, Fox reported once seeing a photo of a man whose entire body, face included, was black with dying flesh. Even after the drug has cleared the body, levamisole may leave scars.

In addition, levamisole also prevents the cocaine user’s bone marrow from producing infection-fighting white blood cells. “Rich or poor, black or white,” anyone who uses cocaine is at risk, according to Craft. “It’s a bit like having HIV. About 10 percent of those patients will die from severe infections. They may be walking around like a time bomb.”

Posted in: Addiction, Health & Exercise

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Major cause of student injury due to blackout drinking

It’s the worst nightmare of parents of any college student: The middle-of-the-night phone call reporting that College Student Son or Daughter is in a hospital emergency room on the other side of the country.

And an article in the June 27, 2011 on-line edition of the journal Injury Prevention points to a major cause – students drinking to blackouts.  The report, an analysis of data from the College Health Intervention Project Study (CHIPS), surveyed 796 undergraduates and 158 graduate students at four universities in the US and one in Canada between 2004 and 2009. The analysis indicated that memory blackouts are a significant predictor of future alcohol-related injuries among college drinkers after adjusting for heavy drinking episodes.

One or two blackouts make it much more likely that a student will suffer an alcohol-related injury in the future. Blackouts frequently follow short-duration, heavy drinking binges – as few as three or four shots as many as ten or more in 60 to 90 minutes and often on an empty stomach. In the Injury Prevention study, more than half of the undergraduates reported experiencing a blackout sometime in the last 12 months; 7% had more than six. The overall prevalence of alcohol-related injuries was just over 25 percent and the risk was the same for men and women.

Of special importance was the finding that the more alcohol-related blackouts a student experienced, the greater the risk of accidental injury – one or two blackouts increased the risk by 57 percent; students with at least six blackouts were nearly three times as likely to suffer an injury.

“It may be easier for a student to dismiss general health warnings on excessive alcohol drinking harms than to refute that his extreme alcohol drinking is causing impairment in brain function, ” the authors of the report noted.

“Blackouts are distinctively different from passing out,” notes Francis J.(Skip) Flynn, Psy.D., director of clinical services for Brain Training Centers of Florida and an addiction counselor. “Both can be extremely dangerous. Students tend to pass out after extended periods of drinking; they think they’re just ‘going to sleep it off.’ Unfortunately, passing out after consuming too much alcohol may result in cardio-pulmonary failure and death,” explained Dr. Flynn.

Effects Of Alcohol On The Brain“Generally, students who blackout have been ‘pre-gaming’ – consuming quantities of alcohol in short periods of time before going to a party, football game or even going out drinking. They tend to lose the ability to recall recent events because high concentrations of alcohol alter nerve cell communication in the hippocampus region of the brain, which affects memory formation,” explained Flynn. “In short, events that occur during a blackout never get into memory and will never be recalled. In this state, students often completely lose track of how much they have consumed, where they are, or how to keep themselves safe.”

In the study, students 18 to 20 years old, “sensation seekers, and those reporting the most heavy drinking days reported the highest numbers of blackouts. Male problem drinkers reported consuming just under 82 drinks during the previous 28 days, while female problem drinkers consumed just under 59 drinks.

“When we remember that the ‘drinking mentality’ of underage drinkers is ‘I have to drink as much and as fast as possible because I don’t know when I will be able to drink again,’ these results make absolute sense to 18, 19 and 20 year olds, but not to their parents and school officials,” observed Flynn.

“Obviously, as much as ‘helicopter parents’ might want to, parents can’t watch over their away-at-school children every minute of the day, but they should be aware and take reasonable precautions. Parents have an obligation to check students’ credit card accounts for indicators of alcohol use; they should establish firm rules regarding alcohol abuse – one medical crisis, shame on you, a second crisis and you’re home for a year,” said Flynn, who, lectures to college student audiences across the US and Canada about preventing alcohol and drug abuse problems.

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A good night sleep proves critical for healthy marriage

A “good night’s sleep” is proving more critical that many of us ever thought; it may be critical to the preservation of a marriage and can potentially keep inches off your waist.

When it comes to the ever-important world of sleep and the differences between men and women, here’s just one example of the fact that sometimes life really isn’t fair: If hubby tosses and turns, it doesn’t appear to affect the marriage but, if she’s rollin’ in the rack, it may critically affect the relationship.

At least that’s the report of Wendy M. Troxel, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, at the 25th Anniversary meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies, June 11–15, 2011, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Effects Of Sleep Deprivation“We found that wives’ sleep problems affect her own and her spouse’s marital functioning the next day, and these effects were independent of depressive symptoms,” reported Troxekl. “Specifically, wives who took longer to fall asleep the night before reported poorer marital functioning the next day, and so did their husbands

The sleep issues – episodes of waking after sleep onset and total sleep time – of 32 “healthy” married couples were followed for ten night using electronic diaries to measure the quality of marital interactions and measured against the sleep data. The study concluded that insomnia could negatively impact a marriage.

The results show that when wives take longer to fall asleep at night it predicted their husbands’ reports of less positive marital interaction the following day. But the opposite results – husbands taking longer to fall asleep and negative impact on the marriage – did not materialize. strife.

The authors pointed to their results as proof that insomnia can be a warning sign for marital strife. “These results highlight the importance of considering the interpersonal consequences of sleep and sleep loss,” Troxel said.

Two studies presented at the Minneapolis meeting show that being sleepy can affect our desire for carb-heavy goods.

In a study of 262 high school seniors who answered surveys on sleepiness, carb cravings, and depression, researchers discovered that as daytime sleepiness became more acute, so did a craving for carbs. Teens who had extreme daytime sleepiness had a 50% higher chance of also “jonesing” for carbs. In addition, participants who were very depressed were nearly three times more likely to crave carbs.

“This study is important given the rising epidemic of obesity among teens as well as increasing metabolic syndrome and diabetes among young adult populations,” said Mahmood Siddique of the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Jersey, in a news release. “This study highlights the importance of diagnosing sleep deprivation as a risk factor for obesity among young adults. Those who are depressed and sleep-deprived may be at special risk for obesity.”

In a second study, researchers found that sleeplessness adds to the attraction for rich, delicious foods. Twelve men and women age 19 to 45 underwent functional MRI studies while looking at pictures of high- and low-calorie foods, as well as images or rocks and plants, which served as study controls. Subjects were also surveyed about the intensity of their daytime sleepiness.

While looking at photos of high-calorie foods, subjects who reported higher levels of daytime sleepiness showed less activity in their brain’s prefrontal cortex; the prefrontal cortex is where decision-making takes place – the advantages and disadvantages of an anticipated event are weighed and social controls and inhibitions are exercised.  While researchers are not certain that being overly tired will result in downing an entire bag of potato chips or a plate of brownies, they noted that additional studies may be warranted. “Given the chronic level of sleep restriction in our society, such relationships could have epidemiologic implications regarding the current increase in obesity in westernized countries,” noted study co-author study William Killgore of Harvard Medical School

Posted in: Health & Exercise, Sleep Issues

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Hospital Caused Halucinations

My father kicked me out of his will.

Three times!

On the same day!

An example:

Dad: “What? You can’t stand up and shake hands with Mr. B? Where are your manners?

Me: “I’d be happy to, but I just can’t see him.”

Dad: “That’s it. You’re out of the will.”


Dad: “Get some bug spray and kill those ants on the wall [of his hospital room].”

Me: “Sure! Just one problem. I can’t see them.”

Dad: “That’s it. You’re out of the will.”

Now, a June 21, 2010 New York Times article, “Hallucinations in Hospital Pose Risk to Elderly” provides insight into my father’s bizarre behavior: “Hospital delirium.” After almost a month of treatment with immunosuppressants, he developed a low-grade pneumonia and a normally mild fever had the effect of baking his brain – producing auditory and visual hallucinations.

“Disproportionately affecting older people, a rapidly growing share of patients” hospital delirium “affects about one-third of patients over 70, and a greater percentage of intensive-care or postsurgical patients,” The Times reported.

According to Sharon K. Inouye, MD, MPH, the early recognition and treatment of delirium in older adults has been shown to save seniors’ lives and money and may also lower older people’s risks of permanent cognitive impairment. Addressing a May 2010 meeting of the American Geriatrics Society, Inouye noted, “Delirium may provide the unique opportunity for early intervention and prevention of permanent cognitive damage.” Inouye is the 2010 recipient of the AGS’s Edward Henderson State-of-the-Art Award in recognition of her seminal research into delirium and functional decline in hospitalized older adults and has published more than 140 scientific papers on delirium – an acute, temporary cognitive disorder characterized by relatively rapid onset and variable symptoms including difficulty maintaining attention.

The AGS reports, “Common and often overlooked delirium causes significant morbidity and mortality in older hospitalized patients.”

And, according to The Times – and my father’s experience – hospital delirium appears to have a wide range of “triggers: infections, surgery, pneumonia, and procedures like catheter insertions, all of which can spur anxiety in frail, vulnerable patients. Some medications, difficult for older people to metabolize, seem associated with delirium.” Other triggers may involve disorienting changes like periodically waking patients to conduct medical tests, isolation, changing rooms, and being without eyeglasses or dentures. Antidepressants, antihistamines, sleeping pills and drugs for nausea and ulcers may also serve as triggers to hospital delirium.

And, as the Times pointed out, “Even short episodes can hinder recovery from patients’ initial conditions, extending hospitalizations, delaying scheduled procedures for surgery, requiring more time and attention from staff members and escalating health care costs.” In addition, unless it is quickly diagnosed and corrected, delirium may results in patients being placed in nursing homes and rehabilitation centers.

Most significantly, however, Dr. Inouye reports that older delirium sufferers are more likely to develop dementia later and 35 to 40 percent die within a year.

The Times cited the findings of Dr. Malaz A. Boustani, a professor at the Indiana University Center for Aging Research, that noted that elderly patients experiencing delirium were hospitalized six days longer and placed in nursing homes 75 percent of the time – five times as often as those without delirium; and nearly one-tenth died within a month.

On a personal note, the Times article hit home. Shortly after his initial hospitalization, my father developed full-blown delirium; because his children kept careful watch over his care, it was quickly diagnosed and corrected. Nonetheless, shortly thereafter he developed two massive aneurisms and it appears a leak in one of these caused his death – 18 days after his delirium first developed.

Francis J. (Skip) Flynn, Psy. D.
7740 Southwest 52 Avenue
Miami, Florida 33143
(305) 271-0973

Posted in: Anxiety, Health & Exercise

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