Category Archives: Men’s Health


Aspirin Did Not Reduce Heart Disease Deaths

aspirin_2945793kDaily low dose aspirin did not reduce heart disease deaths but did reduce nonfatal heart attacks

Instead of the old adage about an apple a day, many doctors advise their patients to take an aspirin a day to prevent heart attacks. Which may be good advice. But new research suggests that aspirin may not keep patients from dying of a heart attack.

Aspirin is thought to decrease the risk of death from a heart attack because it keeps blood clots from forming. This new study from Japan found no difference in the death rate between patients who took a daily dose of aspirin and those who did not. 

Patients in the aspirin group had a 2.77 percent death rate. Those in the non-aspirin group had a 2.96 percent death rate – not a significant increase.

A research team led by Yasuo Ikeda, MD, of Waseda University in Tokyo, studied 14,464 patients from 1,007 clinics in Japan. The patients had high blood pressure, diabetes, or high cholesterol and triglyceride levels all risk factors for heart disease. The study included men and women aged 60 to 85.

Dr. Ikeda and team split the patients into two groups. One group received a daily dose of 100 milligrams of aspirin. The other group did not receive aspirin. The patients continued to take their regular medications.

The study authors followed the patients for five years. At the end of the five-year period, a review committee stopped the study because there was no evidence that aspirin was effective in reducing the death rate from heart attack or stroke.

The researchers found that an equal number of patients 56 died in each of the two groups.

Dr. Ikeda and team found that the aspirin group did, however, see a decreased risk of a nonfatal heart attack. Aspirin also reduced the risk of transient ischemic attacks, or TIAs. TIAs occur when the blood supply to the brain is temporarily reduced.

In the aspirin group, 114 patients had a stroke that did not cause death. In the non-aspirin group, that figure was 108. In the aspirin group, 20 patients had nonfatal heart attacks compared to 38 patients in the non-aspirin group.

Patients on aspirin were more likely to have bleeding that required hospitalization or blood transfusions. Patients who took a daily dose of aspirin were more likely to report stomach problems like stomach pain, heart burn or nausea.

The study was published Nov. 17 in JAMA and presented at the American Heart Associations Scientific Sessions 2014 in Chicago.

J. Michael Gaziano, MD, of Brigham and Womens Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston and an associate editor for JAMA, and Philip Greenland, MD, of the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago and a senior editor for JAMA, commented on the study in the Nov. 17 issue of JAMA.

Drs. Gaziano and Greenland said that, although the study did not provide evidence that aspirin reduced the death rate from heart disease, there are still times it should be used.

Patients who have a high short-term risk of a heart attack or stroke should receive aspirin, they said. Those who undergo certain medical procedures with a risk of heart attack or stroke should also receive aspirin.

Low-risk patients, however, should not take aspirin because of the risk of bleeding, the editorial authors wrote.

Drs. Gaziano and Greenland said that this study “adds to the body of evidence that helps refine the answer to the question of when aspirin should be used to prevent vascular events. Decision making involves an assessment of individual risk-to-benefit that should be discussed between clinician and patient.

Patients should not take daily aspirin (brand names Bayer, Ecotrin and Fasprin) unless advised by their doctors to do so.

The Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare and the Waksman Foundation of Japan funded the study. Bayer Yakuhin provided the aspirin used in the study free of charge. Dr. Ikeda and several other study authors received funds from medication manufacturers such as Bayer, which manufactures aspirin.




Coffee May Reduce Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

coffeeType 2 diabetes risk decreased in patients who drank caffeinated coffee and those who drank decaf

Coffee drinkers may have one more reason to brew another pot. Coffee might prevent type 2 diabetes, according to a research roundup published for World Diabetes Day.


The report found that patients who drank coffee had a decreased risk for type 2 diabetes.

Caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee appeared to have similar effects, the researchers found.

The new report from the Institute for Scientific Information on Coffee (ISIC) included data from several past studies. According to the report, people who drank 3 to 4 cups of coffee a day were 25 percent less likely to develop type 2 diabetes than people who drank 2 cups or fewer.

Past research found that people who drank coffee were less likely to develop type 2 diabetes. Those who drank up to 7 cups of coffee a day were 50 percent less likely to develop diabetes than those who drank 2 cups or fewer, the new study found.

For each additional cup of coffee patients drank, they saw a 7 to 8 percent decrease in their risk of type 2 diabetes. Whether the coffee that patients drank had caffeine didn’t appear to affect the results.

The ISIC report also noted that diabetes risk increased by 17 percent in people who decreased their coffee intake by 1 cup per day. People who increased their coffee intake by 1 cup per day, however, had an 11 percent lower risk of diabetes within the next four years.

Even the time of day patients drank coffee may have an effect on diabetes risk. In one study included in the report, French women who drank coffee at lunch were less likely to develop diabetes than those who drank coffee at other times.

Past research on whether caffeine played a part in coffee’s potential effect on diabetes risk has produced conflicting results, however. The report authors called for further study on this topic.

Type 2 diabetes is a chronic disease in which the body cannot properly process the hormone insulin. Insulin regulates blood sugar. Diabetes can cause heart disease, blindness and kidney failure. Coffee may reduce blood sugar levels, according to the ISIC report, but more research is needed to confirm this effect. Coffee may also affect hormones that regulate insulin, the report authors noted.

Coffee may also improve liver function, which is necessary to keep blood sugar stable. The researchers were not sure exactly what components of coffee might decrease the risk of diabetes.

Too much caffeine can cause patients to have trouble sleeping or make them feel anxious or nervous. Patients should talk to their doctors before making large changes in their caffeine intake.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 29.1 million people in the US have been diagnosed with diabetes. An additional 8.1 million have diabetes but have not been formally diagnosed, the CDC estimates. Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the US.

In time to mark World Diabetes Day on Nov. 14, ISIC released this annual report on research related to coffee and type 2 diabetes Nov. 13.

ISIC is a nonprofit group. Members include seven of the major European coffee companies: illycaff, Mondelz International, Lavazza, Nestl, Paulig, DE Master Blenders 1753 and Tchibo. ISIC supports independent research on coffee and shares research results.




Are we trading Gluten for something more dangerous?

LUPIN-jpgWe all know about gluten allergies, but did you know manufacturers of gluten free products could be substituting one allergen for another? There’s something in your food that could be even more dangerous, even deadly for certain people. The U.S. government is so concerned about lupin, they are putting out a warning.

15-year-old Orion has had a peanut and tree nut allergy nearly all his life. His mom, Kelley Lindberg said, “When he was about 18 months old I gave him his first peanut butter and jelly sandwich and he immediately began to break out in kind of a hive around his face.” But just as they were about to head to Europe, his mother was alerted to another potentially serious allergen called lupin. Orion was allergic to that, too. “I was not expecting to be going to Italy where he would be allergic to an ingredient in pasta and pizza,” Lindberg said.

While lupin has been used in european products for years, now it’s making its way to the United States as a flour alternative in gluten free foods. The problem is, many people don’t know it is a legume from the same plant family as the peanut. Dr. David Stukus is with the Allergist, Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America and told us, “I’m a board certified allergist and immunologist and I wasn’t aware of the allergenicity of lupin until recently. So, I think that most Americans and most people with other type of food allergy may not be aware of this.” Stukus says the risk is very serious for some people. “There are case reports of people having severe life-threatening anaphylactic reactions to lupin. Both people who have a history of pre-existing peanut allergy and others who are eating peanut just fine.”

Other symptoms of a lupin allergy include hives, swelling of the lips or face, GI distress, respiratory issues, even cardiovascular collapse. The food and drug administration recently put out a statement on its website and is currently monitoring complaints. “With the growth of the gluten free market , we’re going to see more products with lupin in them coming into this country,” according to Stefano Luccioli, Senior Medical Advisor with the FDA.

While in Europe, lupin is required to be listed on food products as a potential allergen, right now the us only requires that it be listed as an ingredient. Many are asking is it time for a change here? “It’s a little early to think that lupin is a significant cause of allergen in the United States to actually put an allergy warning on there,” according to Stukus. “However, people who have pre-existing food allergy, especially peanut allergy, should be aware to read labels.” Orion’s mom reads labels, but she is still concerned. “What worries me is that we will do it like Europe does and start blending it into regular flours, not just keeping it for a gluten free market but blending it into regular flours,” Lindberg said.

We contacted the Grocery Manufacturers Association to get its take on whether brands should voluntarily call out lupin as a potential allergen on products. The association declined to comment, saying its views are in line with those of the FDA. The FDA wants to stress that for the majority of people, lupin is considered a safe and nutritious food. It’s only a problem for those who are allergic. To read the full statement from the FDA regarding lupin, click here. 




Allergic to Penicillin? You’re Probably Not

PenicillinMost people who think they are allergic to penicillin in fact are not, researchers said Friday. It’s something doctors have suspected for a long time, but the researchers say they were surprised by just how many people weren’t allergic to the antibiotic: it was 94 percent of them.

Dr. Thanai Pongdee, an allergist at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida and colleagues tested 384 people who said they were allergic to penicillin. Tests showed 94 percent of them were in fact, not allergic.

“These patients were scheduled to undergo orthopedic, general surgery, neurosurgery–any type of surgery you can think of,” Pongdee told NBC News. “We probably expected a little over half of people would not be allergic based on the time frame when they were initially determined to be allergic, but it ended up being a much higher proportion than that.”

It’s good news for the patients, who can get cheaper, more generic penicillin-based drugs such as amoxicillin or related drugs called cephalosporins. These antibiotics generally cause fewer side-effects than other antibiotics, and they allow doctors to save the other drugs for penicillin-resistant infections.

“There are two issues: these patients are put on other antibiotics which be less effective and potentially have more side-effects,” said Dr. James Sublett, a family allergist in Louisville, Kentucky who is incoming president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI).

“The other is cost. A very commonly used substitute, for example Levaquin, is seven to eight times more expensive for a 10-day course than a similar course of generic Augmentin, a penicillin drug.”

People usually believe they are allergic based on a reaction in early childhood that they cannot even remember, says Sublett, but that they were told about.

“A patient will say, ‘My mom told me when I was 3 years old (that) I had a reaction to penicillin. And they’re going 30 years without being retested,” he said.

“We knew that the majority of people who list penicillin as an allergy actually aren’t allergic when they are reevaluated, so if you can determine they are not, you can avoid using more toxic and more expensive antibiotics,” Pongdee said.

It’s an important issue. The more widely an antibiotic is used, the more likely resistant “superbugs” are to develop – and that’s bad for everyone. While allergies are a serious matter, it’s a relief to know they are not as common as feared. “One of the first questions a patient is usually asked is ‘Are you allergic to any medications?’” Pongdee said.

The research, being presented at the annual meeting of the ACAAI, showed that it didn’t matter how severe a person’s first reaction to penicillin was. They usually outgrew it.

“It doesn’t happen very often that a health care provider challenges the presumption that the patient is still allergic. Many don’t realize that this is something a person may lose over time,” Pongdee said.

“Some don’t realize there is really good allergy testing for penicillin,” he added. “It’s a skin test. It takes about 30 minutes to do.”



brown fat

Health experts say ‘brown fat’ can help people manage their weight

brown-fat-is-a-beneficial-type-of-fat-that-burns-glucose-to-make-heatWe all have it and we all want less of it: body fat. But health experts say there is one type of body fat that is good for your health.

“When you think of obesity or excess body weight or body fatness, that’s the additional storage of white fat,” said Dr. Daniel Smith, assistant professor in UAB’s department of nutrition sciences.

But brown fat is an entirely different animal.

“Instead of a storage capacity it has a capacity to burn lipid,” said Smith.

However, whether it’s enough to actually burn white fat and reduce your waist line is still up for debate.

“I think that’s the million dollar question people need to answer,” said Smith.

Smith believes part of the problem is that the people that need to burn the most calories are also typically the ones with the least amount of brown fat.

Thinner people typically have more of the tissue around their shoulders and neck. However in heavier set people, brown fat is not as prevalent.

“So trying to target a tissue that maybe doesn’t exist as much, is a little bit of a hard thing to do,” he said.

So how do you make more brown fat? It might be as simple as standing out in the cold.

Since the tissue helps to generate the body’s heat, a person can produce more of it by exposing themselves to colder temperatures for an extended period of time.

“Its kind of like if you have a house and it’s getting cold. Well you’re going to turn on the thermostat to keep things warm,” said Smith.

As for whether the activation of brown fat will lead to serious weight loss or simple weight control, Smith says that’s something scientists continue to look at it.

“Question is can you turn it back on in those people and actually get a metabolic benefit,” he said. “Twenty years from now will we actually have a package way to use brown adipose tissue to help control our body weight and our metabolism.”




Choosing the right flu vaccine for your family

26659299_BG1With flu season around the corner, Consumer Reports says it’s best to be vaccinated as early as possible.

You can walk into any pharmacy these days and get a flu shot. It’s worth it, says Dr. Sheila Nolan, to avoid the agony of the flu.

“You’re really on your back flat. You have high fever, body aches, muscles aches, severe headaches,” Dr. Shelia Nolan.

How effective is the vaccine?

“The vaccine prevents illness about 80 percent of the time for those under 60 and about half the time for those over 65. But even if you do get sick after the vaccine, your symptoms are usually milder,” Nolan said.

For the broadest protection, Consumer Reports says consider the new quadrivalent vaccine over the standard trivalent type.

“The trivalent vaccine protects against three strains of the flu virus, and the quadrivalent vaccine protects against four. But if that one isn’t covered under your insurance policy, you’ll have to pay about $38 out of pocket,” Dr. Orly Avitzur.

For children ages 2 to 8, the FluMist spray is better protection than a shot. They may need a second dose a month later.

“The nasal spray is made of a weakened but still active live virus. So it shouldn’t be given to people with a poor immune system or their caregivers, pregnant women, or anyone over 50,” Avitzur said.

If you do feel the flu coming on, ask your doctor within the first day or two about prescribing anti-viral drugs. Consumer Reports says if taken early, drugs like Tamiflu and Relenza can ease flu symptoms and reduce complications like pneumonia.



Alabama health officials prepared if Ebola spreads in the U.S.

26683203_BG1Health officials are working to protect you from the deadly Ebola virus.

A Liberian national visiting family in Dallas, Texas was diagnosed with the disease. Federal health workers are there tracking people who may have been exposed to the man who has it.

“Ebola is real. It’s here,” said Albert White with the Alabama Department of Public Health.

White said it’s possible more cities in the U.S. will see Ebola cases and he says Alabama is ready.

“Hospitals, especially large hospitals like UAB, Huntsville and DCH in Tuscaloosa, we all have had meetings will all the people involved who may be treating or taking care of someone with Ebola,” said White.

“There’s not expected to be an outbreak in the U.S.,”  said Dr. Stephen Russell, Associate Professor of Internal medicine at UAB.

Dr. Russell says to keep the disease from spreading, people who might have been exposed need to see a doctor.

He also says patients must be asked an important question.

“The main thing we’re doing differently is to ask that travel history question,” said Dr. Russell.  “Have they been to West Africa? And if someone has a fever and that travel history, it’s very important they get immediate care.”

Dr. Russell said Alabama health officials have a preparedness plan in place to screen patients who may be exposed, treat them and prevent infections from spreading.

He stressed that at this point, the public should not be worried about Ebola.

“But they should be all the more vigilant, all the more aware that infectious diseases of any  type can easily  spread,” said Dr. Russell. “If we don’t wash our hands, protect ourselves if we are sick and beware of those around us who are also sick.”

Dr. Russell wants people to know it’s very hard to contract the Ebola virus.

He’s said it’s not spread through the air.  You have to come in contact with an infected person’s bodily fluids to get it.



Ban indoor use of e-cigarettes, U.N. health agency says

EcigJoining a number of other health agencies, the United Nations’ World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday recommended that countries regulate electronic cigarettes and ban their use indoors until studies prove that “vaping” is harmless to bystanders.

WHO also urged its 194 member states to ban the sale of e-cigarettes to minors, and also ban or minimize advertising and promotion of the devices, the Associated Press reported.

According to the U.N. agency, e-cigarette sales have already grown into a $3 billion market worldwide. And regulation “is a necessary precondition for establishing a scientific basis on which to judge the effects of their use, and for ensuring that adequate research is conducted and the public health is protected and people made aware of the potential risks and benefits.”

The announcement comes a day after the release of similar recommendations by the American Heart Association (AHA). The cardiologists’ group urged that e-cigarettes be subject to the same laws that apply to tobacco products, and they recommended that the U.S. government ban the marketing and sale of e-cigarettes to young people.

The AHA also called for thorough and continuous research on e-cigarette use, marketing and long-term health effects.

“Over the last 50 years, 20 million Americans died because of tobacco. We are fiercely committed to preventing the tobacco industry from addicting another generation of smokers,” Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association, said in an association news release.

“Recent studies raise concerns that e-cigarettes may be a gateway to traditional tobacco products for the nation’s youth, and could renormalize smoking in our society,” Brown said. “These disturbing developments have helped convince the association that e-cigarettes need to be strongly regulated, thoroughly researched and closely monitored.”

The recommendations were published Aug. 25 in the AHA journal Circulation.

“E-cigarettes have caused a major shift in the tobacco-control landscape,” statement author Aruni Bhatnagar, chair of cardiovascular medicine at the University of Louisville, said in the news release.

“It’s critical that we rigorously examine the long-term impact of this new technology on public health, cardiovascular disease and stroke, and pay careful attention to the effect of e-cigarettes on adolescents,” he urged.

The AHA noted that a recent study found that youth exposure to e-cigarette advertising rose 250 percent from 2011 to 2013, and now reaches roughly 24 million young people.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration needs to immediately implement promised measures to regulate the marketing and sales of e-cigarettes, the AHA said.

“In the years since the FDA first announced it would assert its authority over e-cigarettes, the market for these products has grown dramatically,” Brown said. “We fear that any additional delay of these new regulations will have real, continuing public health consequences. Hence, we urge the agency to release the tobacco deeming rule by the end of this year.”

The AHA also wants states to include e-cigarettes in smoke-free laws, but only if changes to include the devices won’t weaken existing laws.

While some research suggests that the use of e-cigarettes to help smokers quit may be as or more effective than nicotine patches, there is no evidence to show that e-cigarettes are an effective first-line smoking cessation treatment, the statement said.

Proven methods of helping smokers quit should be tried first. But if they fail, doctors should not discourage the use of e-cigarettes by patients who want to use the devices to try to quit smoking, the AHA said.

“Nicotine is a dangerous and highly addictive chemical no matter what form it takes — conventional cigarettes or some other tobacco product,” AHA President Dr. Elliott Antman said in the news release.

“Every life that has been lost to tobacco addiction could have been prevented,” Antman said. “We must protect future generations from any potential smokescreens in the tobacco product landscape that will cause us to lose precious ground in the fight to make our nation 100 percent tobacco-free.”