Sunday, Dec 16 2012 



“ It is dangerous to be sincere unless you are also stupid. ”

— George Bernard Shaw


Biggest Road Risk for Seniors Isn’t Driving Thursday, Dec 13 2012 

by Carole Jackson>, Bottom Line Health

Let’s say that I asked you this question: Are senior citizens at greatest risk of dying from a car-related injury while walking, riding in the passenger seat of a car or driving?

If you’re like me, then your guess would be driving. It’s just part of being human—as we age, our eyesight and reflexes (and maybe even our mental focus) all diminish…and those are all vital for something as risky and difficult as driving.

Well, a new British study found that seniors are actually in most danger while walking.

How is that possible? I spoke with the researcher to find out…


A research team lead by Jonathan J. Rolison, PhD, analyzed all fatal injuries reported by police in Britain between 1989 and 2009 that were classified as “road traffic fatalities.” Meanwhile, the UK National Travel Survey had estimated the number of excursions—whether as a driver, passenger or pedestrian—made each year by individuals age 21 and up. When the researchers combined these two sets of data, they were able to calculate the risk that an individual would be fatally injured for each excursion. Here’s what they found…

When it came to both driver and passenger fatality rates, people age 70 and older had a higher rate than people who were considered “middle-aged” (between 30 and 69). But the rate of the older set was about equal to that of the youngest set—people between ages 21 and 29.

When it came to the pedestrian fatality rate, however, seniors were far more likely to die than people in any other age group—and they were far more likely to die as pedestrians than while driving or sitting in a passenger seat.

“In other words, seniors shouldn’t just be cautious about driving and riding in passenger seats in cars—they should also be cautious while walking,” said Rolison. “Walking is riskier than they might think.”


Anyone who is elderly should be extra careful while walking on or near roads. Seniors typically walk more slowly than younger individuals, and they more often misjudge the speed of approaching vehicles—often due to declining hearing and/or sight. “These things compromise their ability to safely cross streets,” said Dr. Rolison. And because they are usually more frail and susceptible to injury than younger people, they should cross streets only at designated crossing areas, ideally when no cars are in sight. It’s best for them to choose crossing areas that have timers if their neighborhood has any, because those will ensure that seniors have a particular amount of time to safely cross.

Source: Jonathan J. Rolison, PhD, a psychology lecturer at Queen’s University, Belfast, Ireland. His study was published in Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

The Vitamin That MS Patients Need Wednesday, Dec 12 2012 

by Carole Jackson>, Bottom Line Health

People with multiple sclerosis (MS) want to do everything possible to prevent the autoimmune disease’s uncomfortable and disabling consequences, including weakness, numbness, blurred vision and bladder problems.

What’s wonderful is that recent research has found that consuming more of a certain nutrient found in foods and supplements might slow the progression of the disease.

I talked to the study’s lead author, Ellen Mowry, MD, to find out more about this vitamin and how much of it exactly might help my readers who are living with MS…


The nutrient in question is vitamin D.

Dr. Mowry and her colleagues analyzed people with MS during a five-year period. They gauged their blood levels of vitamin D from all sources—sunlight, foods and/or supplements. (Patients weren’t told to consume specific amounts of vitamin D.) Researchers used MRI scans on the patients to look for two particular types of lesions in the brain—new T2 lesions and gadolinium-enhancing lesions. These lesions indicate that MS is advancing—the development of lesions in MS patients is associated with long-term disability.

Dr. Mowry and her team found an intriguing association—the higher the level of vitamin D in the blood, the lower the number of both types of lesions. Each increase of 10 nanograms per milliliter of vitamin D in the blood was linked to a 15% lower risk for new T2 lesions and a 32% lower risk for gadolinium-enhancing lesions.

Researchers also tracked the progression of disability in patients and found that the higher the levels of vitamin D, the less disability a person would subsequently have.

This doesn’t mean that consuming more vitamin D will definitely prevent MS from progressing (this study did not show cause and effect—only an association with blood levels), but there’s a chance that it could.


Curious to know how much of the vitamin MS patients may want to take, I asked Dr. Mowry and Daily Health News regular contributor Andrew Rubman, ND, founder and medical director of the Southbury Clinic for Traditional Medicines in Connecticut, to address this question.

They both said that beyond getting vitamin D through foods and sunlight, people with MS often need to take an additional 2000 IU to 4000 IU of the vitamin each day in supplement form. (Keep in mind that not all experts agree yet on what is optimal. Plus, vitamin D may interact negatively with certain drugs and exacerbate certain health conditions. So check with your doctor before taking any vitamin D.)

Both also advised having your blood levels of vitamin D measured by your doctor before starting supplementation. This way, if you have MS, you can see whether your measurement falls between the 40 and 60 nanograms per milliliter that Dr. Mowry counsels her MS patients to shoot for. You can then adjust your vitamin D dosage to reach that range.

Sources: Ellen Mowry, MD, assistant professor of neurology, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore. Andrew L. Rubman, ND, founder and medical director, Southbury Clinic for Traditional Medicines, Southbury,

The Screening Tests That Most Men Miss Friday, Dec 7 2012 

by Carole Jackson>, Bottom Line Health

If you’re a man, then there’s a good chance that you take your health for granted. Now hold on a second, I don’t mean to insult you — you are probably great at many things, but odds are that going to the doctor isn’t one of them. A new study from the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute in Tampa, Florida, shows that men are much less likely to get screened for cancer than women — and that’s a major cause for concern, because men have higher cancer death rates than women.

According to the most recent statistics from the CDC, three of the top five most commonly diagnosed cancers in men are prostate, colorectal and skin. And they’re all ones that the American Cancer Society (ACS) says that men should be screened for. For most men, colorectal and prostate screenings should start at age 50 and skin exams at age 20, but the ACS suggests talking to your doctor about your personal risk factors to determine the most appropriate age. How many have you been screened for recently?

To discuss the startling Moffitt finding in more detail, I called study coauthor Jenna L. Davis, MPH, research coordinator in the department of health outcomes and behavior at the center. The study results were published on November 8, 2011 in American Journal of Men’s Health.


Researchers examined data from a large-scale, random phone survey of approximately 1,150 adults in New York City, Baltimore and San Juan, Puerto Rico. The selected cities provided wide geographic, racial and ethnic representation, Davis explained. Most participants were between the ages of 30 and 59, and 35% were men.

In their analysis of answers, Davis and her team found that…

  • Roughly the same percentage of men (67%) and women (66%) believed that cancer screenings successfully detected cancer all or most of the time.
  • Even though they had the same faith in screening, 41% of men said that they had never had any type of cancer screening — compared with just 5% of women. This may sound hard to believe, since PSA tests (prostate screenings) and occult blood stool testing for colorectal cancer are typically included in a man’s annual physical. Davis said that these results could be due to the fact that men have had cancer screenings but simply didn’t realize that the tests were being performed — or, perhaps more likely, it’s because many men simply skip annual physicals.
  • When asked about their willingness to undergo screening for the following cancers — skin, lung, oral, stomach, colorectal, liver and blood (leukemia) — men’s responses indicated that they were less willing than women when the question was put in a general way. But, interestingly, when given specific details about the screening process, they became slightly more willing than women. Of course, you can’t judge willingness just by what people say, so it could have been that men wanted to appear willing — which is a far cry from actually getting yourself to the doctor for a test!


I asked Davis about why men aren’t getting screened as much as women are. She speculated that there are numerous reasons for this. Besides the fact that prior research has shown that men are less likely to go to the doctor than women, there’s an awareness problem. Media coverage tends to focus more on women’s cancers than men’s cancers. Even national government agencies promote greater cancer awareness among women — Davis noted that the National Institutes of Health has long had an Office of Research on Women’s Health, but it’s still working on one for men.

But what’s even more intriguing is Davis’s hopeful secondary finding — the silver lining is that once men learn some specifics about cancer screenings, they say that they’re more willing to go get screened than when they have only general information about the screening. So men — listen up! According to Davis, here’s how to be more informed, so you’re more motivated…

  • Go to the doctor at least once a year. The more regularly you see your primary care physician, the less likely you’ll fall behind on screenings and the more questions you can ask to ease any fears.
  • Learn more about cancer screening. Check out ACS’s cancer screening guidelines, which include recommendations for men of all ages, so you know when to get tested for what.
  • Advocate for your health. If your doctor does not perform certain screenings that the guidelines above recommend, speak up and ask why.


Jenna L. Davis, MPH, research coordinator, department of health outcomes and behavior, H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute, Tampa, Florida.

Go Ahead…Be Bored. Thursday, Dec 6 2012 

by Carole Jackson>, Bottom Line Health

I never thought that I would see an entire book written about the concept of boredom — let alone find it interesting! But I certainly did. The recently published Boredom: A Lively History made me realize how underrated it actually is. Between e-mailing, texting and updating Facebook statuses… working anywhere and everywhere on laptops… and responding to endless phone calls, it seems like no matter where we are, we fill every minute of our free time. And that leaves precious few moments to simply daydream, which helps our creative juices flow. In today’s busy, wired world, slowing down and carving out moments for ourselves is more important than ever. To discuss the latest findings, I called the author, Peter Toohey, PhD, a professor of classics at the University of Calgary in Canada.


Dr. Toohey explained to me that research increasingly supports the notion that daydreaming — just like dreaming at night while you sleep — is actually a dynamic period for the brain. For example, in a recent study done by the University of British Columbia in Canada, investigators placed a group of students in functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanners and asked them to push a button when numbers appeared on a screen — a mindless, routine task that would give them an opportunity to daydream. After the exercise was over and researchers looked at the fMRI brain scans, they found that the parts of the students’ brains that are associated with complex problem-solving had actually been highly active during episodes of daydreaming.

In other words, while you are bored and daydreaming, you are unknowingly working your way through puzzles that are bothering you, such as figuring out the perfect theme for your child’s birthday party or discovering exactly what to say to your mother-in-law that will prevent her from spending the whole week with your family but won’t insult her. “Sometimes the most useful ideas and solutions come to us when we are trying the least hard,” said Dr. Toohey.


Of course, there are times when concentration is key. Dr. Toohey wouldn’t recommend daydreaming while, say, driving, rushing to meet an important deadline or having a heart-to-heart conversation with your spouse. But there are ways to create space for yourself — dull moments during which it’s perfectly acceptable to let your mind wander.

I don’t know about you, but for me technology — as great as it can be — is often the biggest obstacle. So I’m going to try unplugging myself from all of my various devices (yes — that means the phone, the computer and the TV!) for about 30 minutes a day. Instead, I’m going to go for a walk or a bike ride, whittle a stick or knit a scarf, which will hopefully allow my thoughts to drift off into whatever direction they like.

I know what you’re thinking — it sounds boring. It gives us an uncomfortable feeling when we think about cutting off communication and facing silence. But, ironically, when we’re less wired, our brains’ batteries seem to recharge, so why not give it a shot?


Peter Toohey, PhD, professor of classics, faculty of arts, University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Dr. Toohey is author of Boredom: A Lively History (Yale).