The new medicine: Muscle strength

Staying healthy in your older years requires more than just aerobic exercise. Strength training is vital for maintaining muscle mass and bone health. That’s because by age 70, most of us have lost a quarter of our muscle strength. Working all the major muscle groups is important, but older adults should focus on strengthening the muscles around the hips and pelvis, as well as the large leg muscles (hamstrings and quadriceps), especially if you have knee arthritis. The most common workout options include weight machines and free weights. (Locked) More »

Ask the doctor: Is coconut oil good for you?

Coconut oil is getting attention for its health properties. It raises HDL, the “good” cholesterol. However, it has lots of saturated fat, which can raise LDL (or “bad”) cholesterol, so you’re better off with vegetable oils. (Locked) More »

Best way to get your calcium

Several recent studies have found an increased risk of heart attack among people taking calcium supplements. Dr. JoAnn Manson, chief of preventive medicine at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital, questions the link and notes that such risks haven’t been found with calcium-rich foods. She recommends that you get most of your calcium from food sources if possible. Good sources of calcium include milk, cheese, yogurt, soy products, sardines, canned salmon, fortified cereal, fortified juices, and dark leafy greens such as kale and collard greens. Read food labels to help you reach 1,000 mg of dietary calcium a day. (Locked) More »

Reduce Parkinson's symptoms

Researchers now have better evidence that deep brain stimulation (DBS) improves the motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease over the long term. A study in the June 20 issue of Neurology found that DBS reduced the symptoms for up to three years after implantation. DBS uses a surgically implanted medical device similar to a pacemaker to deliver electrical stimulation to areas of the brain that control movement, areas affected by Parkinson’s disease. DBS helps some symptoms very quickly, such as tremor. It also helps involuntary movements called dyskinesias. DBS helps rigidity and walking ability too, but the effect is slower. (Locked) More »

Prevent pain from computer use

Holding a tablet computer too low in your lap can force the vertebrae and the muscles in your neck to bend forward too much, causing strain and even injuries to muscles, nerves, tendons, ligaments, and spinal discs. However, a new study from the Harvard School of Public Health finds that viewing a tablet on a table, propped at a steep angle in a tablet case, reduces neck strain and potential pain. You should also change your sitting position every 15 minutes. When using a laptop or desktop computer, sit up straight with your head level and the top of your monitor just below eye level. More »

Dark chocolate protects arteries?

Dark chocolate isn’t just a tasty treat; it may also be a good way to help prevent cardiovascular disease over the long term. Specific flavonoid compounds in dark chocolate keep the lining of the arteries more reactive to stress and changes in blood flow. This can also help lower blood pressure. However, dark chocolate is high in calories and saturated fat, so be sure to limit your intake to one or two ounces of chocolate per day. (Locked) More »

Breakthrough breast cancer drug

Some new hope for women with late-stage HER2-positive breast cancer: a new drug shows remarkable results in treating the disease. T-DM1 seeks out HER2 proteins on cancer cells and delivers chemotherapy directly to the cells. It can shrink cancer throughout the body significantly for about a year, giving women their lives back without serious side effects. T-DM1 doesn’t cause the usual hair loss, nausea, and diarrhea. T-DM1 is being fast-tracked for approval by the FDA and is expected to be available to women with advanced HER2-positive cancer by early 2013. (Locked) More »

Yet another risk of heart failure

Heart failure can be a difficult diagnosis to accept, since the disease can lead to significant health complications and poor quality of life. And while depression is more common in women with HF, a new study finds that the severity of the depression is much greater in men with HF. There is also growing evidence that depression can worsen heart disease. Depression may cause a person to stop taking medicine, exercising, or eating properly, which may hurt heart health. So depression after a diagnosis of HF can lead to a downward spiral. That’s why it’s so important for depression to be recognized. (Locked) More »

Dilated eye exams are critical

If you’re not getting regular dilated eye exams, you may be risking vision loss. The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) is urging everyone to have these exams, which allow physicians to see clearly into the back of the eye. This is critical to prevent vision loss, which can be irreversible. The AAO recommends that by age 65 you have a dilated eye exam every one to two years, or as directed by an ophthalmologist. You can also protect your eye health by taking care of your overall health—for example, by eating a well-balanced diet and watching your cholesterol and blood sugar. (Locked) More »

Build a better skin barrier

Dry skin can be a problem during the winter. The air is dry inside because of heating, and outside because of a lack of humidity, and that takes moisture out of your skin. Dry skin can lead to itching, flaking, and even infection in severe cases. Moisturizing is key to keeping your skin hydrated. Use an oil-based cream after washing your hands or taking a bath or shower, and before going outside in the cold, dry air. (Locked) More »

What you should know about: Statins

Two recent studies add to the debate about the use of statins, which are drugs that lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or “bad”) cholesterol levels and lower risk of heart attack and stroke. One study suggested that the guidelines for statin therapy be revised to include even people at low risk for a vascular event. The other study counters recent concerns that statins can be associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. The issue comes down to risks and benefits, but people with established cardiovascular disease involving plaque buildup in the arteries should be on the drugs. (Locked) More »

Colorectal cancer genes identified

A huge new study has identified many new genetic changes that appear to be involved in causing colorectal cancer. Each of these newly identified genetic changes is a target for drug therapy. (Locked) More »

ACE inhibitors may lower pneumonia risk

A recent study found an additional benefit to angiotensin-converting–enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, which help relax blood vessels and can help lower blood pressure. Researchers found that ACE inhibitors are also associated with a significant reduction in pneumonia risk. (Locked) More »