Testing It Up » February 2010

Monthly Archives: February 2010

Early Disease Detection

Study Lends More Credence to Use of Stents for Prevention of Stroke

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A study that compared two ways used to clear fatty plaque from carotid arteries was presented on Friday at a meeting in San Antonio that discussed stroke medicine, according to a feature on The Wall Street Journal.

The ten-year study, called CREST, was federally-funded. It indicated that the use of stents, which is a less invasive option when compared to surgery, is just as effective as the latter “in terms of safety and effectiveness.” The procedure, which necessitates a shorter stay in the hospital, is said to be restricted by the federal Medicare program “to patients with previous stroke symptoms and who are at high surgical risk”.

stentThe article wonders whether the results of this study may become the catalyst for a change in this prevalent ruling and pave the way to making the stenting procedure a reimbursable option for a wider variety of patients and cases.

One of the investigators involved in the study, L. Nelson Hopkins (chairman of neurosurgery at the State University of New York at Buffalo), said that “If you properly train to do this procedure, the two procedures are equal.”

Stents look like small, tubular scaffolding. In a previous post, it was mentioned that stents were inserted to reopen the clogged arteries of former President Bill Clinton.

The study looked into the cases of more than 2,500 patients, and of this population about half did not suffer any symptoms; they were also said to have benefited equally from stents and surgery. Every year, though, there are only 30,000 procedures involving carotid-stent placement over 100,000 carotid operations.

New York Health Screening

Health & Wellness

Weigh In on the F-Factor Diet

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We have often heard about the X-factor – that one of a kind something that is all but impossible to define. In the world of diet and nutrition, there is another alphabet-related factor that seems to be making waves: the F-factor.

The F-Factor diet is the “star” of a book written by Tanya Zuckerbrot, MS RD. Nutritionist Denise Reynolds writes about her take on the book via a review on EMaxHealth.com.

F-Factor DietThe F in F-factor is not as abstract as the iconic X in the X-factor. F stands for fiber, which is the central ingredient to what is essentially a weight-loss plan. Denise Reynolds sums up the F-Factor Diet as follows: “The F-Factor Diet is based on the idea that the intake of high-fiber foods help to promote the feeling of fullness and reduces appetite. Fiber takes longer to digest, so essentially the longer one is full, the less they will eat and therefore lose weight.”

Reynolds also points out that in addition to giving one a feeling of fullness, fiber can also help control blood sugar levels. A diet that is rich in fiber does not create the same glucose increase that is created when one eats refined carbohydrates that eventually leads to excess weight gain. The fact that it also helps “keep hunger at bay” means that one is not prone to eating in excess.

The foods recommended in the F-Factor diet are as follows: brown rice and whole wheat bread; fruits, vegetables, legumes and nuts; and lean proteins such as chicken and broiled salmon.

Pregnancy & Fertility

Understanding Sperm Count and Sperm Motility

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Semen analysis, or sperm count testing, is part of a couple’s fertility work-up procedure. Semen analysis is easier and safer as compared to female fertility tests. These sperm tests are usually done to measure the amount and the quality of sperm that is present in a male’s ejaculate. Semen analysis usually takes note of these characteristics: sperm count, motility, morphology, volume, fructose level and PH.

Sperm Count

spermSperm count testing measures the concentration of sperm present in a man’s semen. For a normal reading of sperm in one ejaculate, there should be at least 20 to 40 million sperm per mililiter present. Anything less than 20 million sperm, is considered as oligozoospermia, which is a condition of low sperm count.


Motility is described as the ability of the sperm to move. The patient can have a normal sperm count, but still be unable to fertilize because of his sperm’s poor motility. However, if a patient’s sperm count is relatively high, there is a great chance that it might not play a factor. There are four motility grades where the sperm are classified accordingly:

• Grade 4: Progressive Motility – strongest and fastest swimmers capable of travelling in a straight line

• Grade 3: Non-Linear Motility- sperm moves forward but tends to travel in a curve or crooked motion

• Grade 2: Non-Progressive Motility- sperm does not move forward despite rapid movement of their tails

• Grade 1: Immotile- sperm fail to move at all

If ever there are abnormalities in the results, the following step includes finding the source of the abnormality and, if possible, correcting the problem. There are also fertility treatments that can be recommended if ever the problem cannot be readily corrected.

Pregnancy & Fertility

Let’s Talk About Male Infertility

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Infertility refers to the inability for conception. Male infertility is often related with obstruction in the reproductive system, chronic illness, sexual dysfunction and hormonal disorders. The male fertility process involves the creation of healthy and mature sperms and getting the sperm to the female’s mature egg. These are the common causes of male infertility:

Sperm Count

spermsThis is a major factor in a male’s fertility. The normal count of a healthy male is in between 35 to 200 million sperm per mililiter of semen. An infertile man could have a significantly lower count or none at all. Common causes of low sperm count among men are listed as follows:

• smoking – significantly decreases sperm count and motility
• anabolic steroid use – known to cause infertility and testicular shrinkage
• malnutrition and anemia
• chronic alcohol abuse
• exposure to environmental hazards and toxins such as pesticides, lead, paint, radiation, mercury, benzene, boron and heavy metals

Physical Problems

Male infertility can also be caused by sickness and physical conditions. Hormonal disorders can also disrupt a male’s ability to produce healthy sperms. These problems either disrupt sperm production or interfere with the pathway through which the sperm travels. Here’s a list of conditions you should be aware of:

• variocoele – a condition that causes reduced sperm count and abnormal sperm development which causes infertility

• damaged sperm ducts – this happens when men are unable to transport sperm from their testicles to the penis due to blockages

• torsion –  an extreme swelling inside the scrotum that affects the blood vessels that feed the testes; permanent testicular damage that cause infertility is a common result if it is left untreated.

Pregnancy & Fertility

Quick Guide in Preparing for Pregnancy

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Getting pregnant is a very huge step that married couples take. Couples take months, even years of planning and preparation before they undergo this life-changing decision, getting their minds and bodies ready for the huge responsibility of raising a child. Here’s a quick list of things that might help you in the process of preparing for pregnancy.

Get a Health Check

Pregnancy can be a very stressful thing for both the couple’s bodies. It is best to check if you and your partner are medically healthy. This is crucial because you need to consider your future child’s health. Your child’s future is in your hands.

pregnancyIf there is a history of medical conditions on either side such as diabetes or heart conditions, you should let your physician know about it. Pregnancy can be very stressful to your wife’s heart and this can be very dangerous for both mother and child. Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can be passed on to your baby during pregnancy, so it is important you undergo a full check up before you plan on conceiving.

Avoid Stress

Stress has been known to have an effect on blood pressure, hormones and the menstrual cycle. If you are attempting to have a baby, try to relax and eliminate stress in your life.

Get Clean

If you and your wife are into vices such as smoking and drinking, then you should get clean now. Not only are these vices dangerous to your body, it poses many threats to your baby. Smoking, taking drugs and drinking greatly diminishes the chances of getting pregnant and can lead to premature birth, birth-defects and miscarriages.

Early Disease Detection Health & Wellness Pregnancy & Fertility

Fight Folic Acid Deficiency

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Folic acid deficiency is one of the most common conditions of anemia to both men and women. It is a condition caused by an abnormally low level of B Vitamins in the body which are needed for the creation and repair of cells.

Folic acid is a vitamin that is crucial to the production of new cells in the body, particularly Red Blood Cells (RBC). Since the body does not store very much of folic acid, it is necessary to include it in our day-to-day diets. Developing folic acid deficiency can also be a result of a person’s age, alcoholism, illness, smoking, stress, taking of birth control pills, anticonvulsant therapy and other medications.

folic acidPregnant women should particularly monitor their intake of folic acids in their diets. Pregnancy causes folic acid reserves in the body to be used for the growing baby. It is important to take the necessary measures to make sure there are enough vitamins to sustain this development. Folic acid deficiencies in pregnant women sometimes cause complications for the baby like spinal cord-related condition such as spina bifida.

Symptoms of folic acid deficiency include fatigue, pale skin, rapid heartbeat or palpitations, sore tongue, headaches and diarrhea. It is encouraged that you eat raw or lightly cooked vegetables daily to maintain your folic acid levels, as well as taking folic acid supplements. Women who are pregnant or planning to get pregnant should have regular medical visits and take sufficient prenatal vitamins.

You can also include everyday foods to your diet for preventive measures. Good sources of folic acid in everyday foods are green leafy vegetables, mushrooms, oatmeal, soy and red beans, peanut butter, wheat germ and liver meat.

Early Disease Detection

Dolphins Provide Insight Into Diabetes

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Dolphins may be able to provide a bit of information regarding diabetes. According to a feature on The Times Online, scientists in the United States found out that dolphins also develop a form of type 2 diabetes; the only difference is that they can naturally handle it better than we do, such that having the condition is “not normally harmful.”

dolphinThe study was led by Stephanie Venn-Watson, a veterinary epidemiologist at the US National Marine Mammal Foundation, who described the bottlenose dolphin as “an important, natural and long-lived model for insulin resistance and diabetes, a disease that accounts for 5 per cent of human deaths globally” during the conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Diego. She says further: “It is our hope that this discovery can lead to novel ways to prevent, treat and even cure diabetes in humans while also benefiting dolphin health.”

Apparently, dolphins also develop a form of insulin resistance that is not unlike diabetes in humans. In the case of dolphins, this state can be turned on and off when appropriate. It is suggested that if researchers determine how the dolphins can switch the condition off before it becomes harmful, a cure for type 2 diabetes may be developed.

Venn-Watson made it clear, however, that the research was not suggesting that dolphins be turned into lab animals, realizing that there may be ethical concerns. She said that looking into the genetic code and physiology of the dolphin, which can be done through blood and urine samples, can “provide important clues to the biology of diabetes”.

Early Disease Detection Pregnancy & Fertility

Ovarian Transplant Patient Able to Conceive Naturally!

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For anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer, the usual expectation is that one will undergo toxic cancer treatments. This is what Stinne Holm Bergholdt of Denmark had to go through when she was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma five years ago. She was subjected to multiple chemotherapy sessions that put her into early menopause and underwent surgical removal for the rest of the tumor. Before going through chemo, however, part of her right ovary – her only remaining ovary as her left one had already been removed due to a cyst – and froze it, according to a feature on WebMD.

pregnantDoctors then transplanted six thin strips of ovarian tissue to what remained of Bergholdt’s right ovary in December 2005, and it began to work again. They then performed in vitro fertilization; Bergholdt became pregnant and gave birth to a daughter in February of 2007.

While a second child was most certainly not out of the question, doctors had expected that they would need to perform another IVF procedure to accomplish that. This was shared by Claus Yding Andersen, MD, a professor in human reproductive physiology at the University Hospital of Copenhagen. Bergholdt, who is incidentally also a doctor and is a co-author of the paper, went back to Andersen’s clinic in January of 2008 fully expecting that the will need to undergo more IVF treatments in order to conceive again.

She did not have to, however, as she was already pregnant. Bergholdt had conceived her second child naturally – and gave birth to another daughter that September.

Health & Wellness Home Health Hazards

Study Looks Into Hospital-Acquired Illnesses

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Ideally, the hospital is the go-to place for people who would like to get better. Various reports, however, share the results of a study which indicate that hospitalization also has its dangers. It is a chicken-and-egg situation that may leave us, the ordinary citizens, wondering: do we think of the possible risks first, or the possible gains?

hospital bedA study conducted by the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics and Policy at Resources for the Future indicated that hospital-acquired diseases such as pneumonia and blood poisoning account for about 48,000 patient deaths in hospitals, according to a post on the New York Daily News.

According to the feature, the study is the first of its kind. Hospital-acquired illnesses is said to be an ever-worsening problem in the United States and its associated costs are contributory to what was termed as “the spiraling cost of health care in the United States.”

Ramanan Laxminarayan of Resources for the Future gave the following comment: “In many cases, these conditions could have been avoided with better infection control in hospitals.” The study stated further that a fifth of patients who contracted blood infection sepsis after surgery eventually died.

The study involved the examination of hospital discharge records of 69 million patients who were hospitalized in various U.S. hospitals between 1998 and 2006. Anup Malani of the University of Chicago, who also worked on the study, gave the following comment to Reuters: “In some cases, relatively healthy people check into the hospital for routine surgery. They develop sepsis because of a lapse in infection control and they can die.”

Chicago Health Screening

Early Disease Detection

Former VP Dick Cheney Suffered Mild Heart Attack

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After former President Bill Clinton, former Vice-President Dick Cheney was hospitalized due to heart problems, although there was no report that Cheney had to undergo a procedure to clear a blockage to the heart (known as angioplasty), according to a report by The Associated Press.

Like Clinton, Cheney has had a long battle with heart disease, a condition that his whole family has dealt with for decades, according to political consultant Mary Matalin, who is a friend and former counselor to Cheney.

dick cheneyThe former Vice-President had experienced chest pains on Monday, and lab results indicated that he had suffered a mild heart attack. This was revealed by spokesman Peter Long. As of Tuesday, Cheney is reportedly “feeling fine,” and he may be sent home from the hospital in a day or two.

According to the report, this is the fifth heart attack suffered by Cheney since age 37; he is now 69 years old. He underwent a bypass surgery in 1988, and had undergone two angioplasties after that. A bypass procedure is said to last for about a decade before a clog may recur.

Cheney also had a special pacemaker implanted in his chest in 2001, and doctors had to use electric shock to restore normal rhythm to his heart in 2008.

Cheney was admitted to the George Washington University Hospital where he underwent a stress test as well as heart catheterization, as revealed by a statement from his office.

While a mild heart attack is considered as unable to do much damage to the heart muscle, the article mentioned that “cumulative ones add up.” Interventional cardiologist Dr. William O’Neill, the executive dean for clinical affairs at the University of Miami School of Medicine, commented: “We know he’s got bad heart function to start. Any degree of loss of heart tissue is going to impair his heart function more.”

Miami Health Screening