Here’s a fun little calculator that estimates your expected life span, based on your BMI, driving record, exercise and smoking habits, and so forth. It’s from Northwestern Mutual, the life insurance people. (I have no business association with them.)

Click here for link

I don’t have detailed information on the calculations used, but the initial page suggests that actuarial data was used to model the outcomes. Give it a try and see how your habits influence the numbers…

Thanks to Chuck Cooper for showing me this!

More bad news for fans of tanning beds….

Another study shows a significantly increased risk of melanoma – the worst kind of skin cancer – in users of tanning beds.

Click here for CNN story. (link)

What will be interesting is whether or not the FDA will put restrictions on the use of tanning beds, particularly for teenagers, given the findings of multiple studies. They may even consider an outright ban on tanning beds, given their carcinogenic potential.

Oh, did I mention that tanning makes you look old before your time? Yup – those UV rays also destroy the elastic fibres in your skin, in addition to pigmentation and textural changes.

“Pale: it’s the new tan.”

A new study, published Friday in the British Medical Journal, suggests that the widely-used cholesterol lowering medications known as statins may cause side effects such as a higher risk of liver, kidney, muscle and cataract problems, and patients who take these medicines should be monitored for side-effects.

The study analyzed data on more than two million people aged 30 to 84 in Britain who were prescribed various statin drugs, such as Zocor, Lipitor and Crestor over six years.

They found that, if your risk of heart attack was high – more than 20% over a ten year period – that statin medications were beneficial. For example, for every 37 women high-risk women treated with statins for five years, you would prevent one case of cardiovascular disease. For men, treating 33 men would prevent one case of cardiovascular disease.

However, for every 10,000 high-risk women treated with statins, there would be 74 extra patients with liver dysfunction, 23 extra patients with acute renal failure, 307 with cataracts and 39 with a muscle weakness condition called myopathy, the researchers said.

The findings were similar for men, except there would be 110 extra cases of muscle problems, known as myopathies. Men seem to have a higher risk than women for this problem. For every 91 high-risk men treated with statins, 1 case of myopathy was seen in the study.

After stopping treatment, the risk of cataract returned to normal within a year in men and women, the risk of acute renal failure returned to normal within 1-3 years in men and women, and liver dysfunction within 1-3 years in women and from three years in men.

Bottom line: Like any treatment, statins are not free from the possibility of adverse events. When they are used for patients at significant risk of heart disease, who are most likely to benefit from their use, the advantages appear to outweigh the risks. Do not take statin medications as a preventative measure unless you have factors that put you into the high risk group.

A quick comment: as this site has become more popular, I now get quite a few comments from people about the various articles.

While I’m happy to post reader comments that are relevant to the original story, please don’t SPAM me by putting in links to other commercial sites. Those just get automatically deleted.

Thank you!

It’s 50 years old (as of Sunday, May 16, 2010) – and still just as cool as ever.

The first laser was fired up 50 years ago, by a clever researcher named Theodore Maiman, at the Hughes research labs (now Raytheon) in California. Despite getting a laser working first, Maiman didn’t get his name on the patent for the laser – that went to Charles Townes, who had been also working on the project over at Bell Labs, and was the inventor of the “maser” – microwave laser, if you will – and who had previously described how the maser could be adapted to work with visible light. Townes later shared a Nobel Prize in Physics for his contributions to the development of the laser.

Today, the laser is ubiquitous – whether it’s in the price scanner at the grocery store, your DVD & CD player, your fibreoptic communications networks, laser printer, or a rock and roll light show, it’s mainstream technology.

In our plastic surgery office, lasers play a helpful medical role, zapping veins, removing unwanted hair, and resurfacing skin.

Even Albert Einstein, who first conceived of the theoretical possibility of lasers and masers back in 1917, would be amazed!

 

Here’s a nice summary of sensible dietary recommendations, courtesy of the CBC News website and nutritionist Andrea Holwegner.

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Nutrition plays a major role in reducing many of the risk factors for heart disease. Making healthy eating choices is not only important to keep your blood cholesterol levels and blood pressure healthy, it greatly influences your ability to manage a healthy weight and protect against diabetes.

1. Boost your intake of omega-3 fats. These fats improve heart health by making the blood less “sticky”, which reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke. Omega-3 fats also lower cholesterol. The best sources of omega-3 fats are fatty fish, ground flax seeds, walnuts, and canola oil.

2. Choose healthy unsaturated fats. Unsaturated fats found in olive oil, nuts, seeds, avocados and fish are healthy fats that are good for us. Be sure to include a moderate amount of these in your diet, as they lower your “bad” or LDL-cholesterol.

3. Increase fibre-rich foods. Fibre found in whole grain breads, bran cereals, beans/legumes, and fruits/veggies help to reduce cholesterol and keep you feeling full longer. Soluble fibre, which is especially high in bran cereals containing psyllium, can help to reduce cholesterol levels when you eat it regularly.

4. Slash trans fats. Trans fats (shortening, hydrogenated vegetable oils) are found in some margarines and many packaged foods such as cookies, cakes, frozen meals, deep fried foods, and fast foods. The food label can help you determine how much trans fats are in a particular food. Aim to reduce or even eliminate trans fats from your diet since they not only increase the “bad” LDL-cholesterol but they also reduce the “good” HDL-cholesterol in our body.

5. Reduce saturated fats. Saturated fats increase the “bad” LDL-cholesterol in our body which negatively affects our heart health. To reduce your intake of saturated fats limit heavily marbled meats, remove the skin on poultry, and consume less butter, margarine and high-fat dairy foods.

6. Eat less simple sugars & refined grains. Sweets, soda drinks, desserts and many refined foods such as white bread and low-fibre grains can increase your triglycerides, and contribute to extra calories and lead to weight gain. These foods can also contribute to higher blood sugars if you have diabetes.

7. Watch alcohol consumption. While 1-2 glasses of wine per day has been found to be beneficial for your heart, you should be aware that excessive alcohol can increase your triglyceride levels, contribute to high blood pressure and also increase your overall calorie level and lead to weight gain. If you choose to drink, do so in moderation.

8. Reduce your calories (if you are overweight). Reducing your calorie intake can help you to lose weight if you are overweight. Research suggests that many people see a drop in their cholesterol levels, blood pressure and blood sugars by even losing a few pounds.

9. Cut down on salt. I don’t think it is any surprise that most of us eat much more salt than required for health. Most of our salt comes from ready-to-eat, processed/packed foods, eating out, canned foods, and condiments. Limiting dietary sodium intake to 1,500-2,300 mg per day is recommended if you have high blood pressure. Remove the salt shaker from your table and be sure to read labels and choose lower sodium foods.

10. Learn about the DASH diet. The DASH (dietary approaches to stop hypertension) diet has been shown in research to lower blood pressure significantly. This eating plan emphasizes plenty of fruits, veggies, low-fat dairy foods, and reduced saturated fat. The DASH diet also includes whole grains, fish, poultry, and nuts and is low in red meat, sweets, added sugars, and sweetened beverages typical in North American diets.

Well, it was a very exciting weekend for political junkies.
The president’s healthcare plan passed the House, by an oh-so-narrow 217-212 margin. So, the Senate-approved (initial) bill will become law as soon as the President signs it.What does this mean for you & me?Well, some of the details will depend on what happens with the upcoming reconciliation process. Some tax changes, like the 10% tax on indoor tanning treatments, begin immediately; others don’t kick in until 2014.

Changes that would occur this year include:
– Dependent children could remain on their parents’ health insurance plans until age 26.

– Some senior citizens would get more help paying for drugs in Medicare.

– People with health problems that left them uninsurable could qualify for coverage through a federal program.

Here are some other resources you can read to start digesting the many changes, and start thinking about how it will affect you and your family.
1) Wall Street Journal (link)
2) Kaiser Family Foundation comparison charts (link2)

If you don’t yet have a family physician, you may want to work on establishing a relationship with one, before things get too crowded.

We all think of Vitamin D as “the sunshine vitamin”, something that’s good for your bones and as a supplement in milk. It turns out that this humble vitamin may have a whole lot more going for it.

A number of scientific studies have been looking at the links between Vitamin D deficiency and various disease states, and the results are quite startling.

Low or deficient Vitamin D levels have been found in association with:
– obesity & pre-diabetes,
– heart disease and stroke,
– metabolic syndrome,
– high blood pressure,
– elevated cholesterol,
– neurodegenerative diseases, such as MS and Parkinson’s
– certain forms of cancer,
– seasonal affective disorder (SAD),
– some autoimmune diseases.

Now, before you get too excited, association is not the same as “the cause”. It’s like saying red paint is found in association with fast Italian sports cars…it doesn’t mean that the paint makes the car go faster, right? Similarly, taking supplements has not yet been proven to bestow these health benefits…but the linkage is extremely interesting. Many experts now feel that the recommended daily dose of vitamin D should be increased, but opinions vary on what the new level should be.

Studies are now underway, however, to investigate this very point – and in particular, whether vitamin D supplementation (2000 units per day) can result in measurable health benefits.

If there is a causal connection, Vitamin D supplements, which are cheap, widely available, and have few side effects, could be a big player in health optimization.

Nice write-up also in the New York Times (link)

I’d like to recognize the humanitarian efforts of one of my longtime friends, Dr. Paul Vanek. Paul, who is a double-boarded plastic surgeon and general surgeon, and I trained together in Plastic Surgery, at the University of Michigan, more than a few years ago.

When the earthquake struck Haiti, Paul knew what he had to do. He called CNN, and found about a medical relief team called Project Medishare. Leaving his practice and family in Ohio, Paul flew to Haiti, with 2 nurses and an aesthesiologist and joined the effort….and started to work.

His background in trauma surgery came in handy, as he dealt with infections & abscesses, major limb issues, crush injuries and the like – all in very primitive conditions, with the most basic of equipment. According to Paul, it was more basic than TV’s “MASH” series. What they didn’t have in equipment, they improvised. For 8 days, the surgical team slept on the ground, ate MRE’s, and operated day and night on the injured multitudes who needed help, until they ran out of supplies.

That’s heroic.

You can read about Dr. Vanek’s work with project Medishare here, or in numerous local papers (link)

Paul is humble about his role in the experience. Ever philosphical, he is now back at home in Ohio with his family, and is grateful for life’s blessings. He’s continuing to raise money for Project Medishare and the Haiti relief effort.

Well done, my friend!

RealSelf
Plastic Surgery In Florida