Men's Health Archive

Articles

Unexpected benefit for digoxin?

Most medications have potentially harmful side effects, such as stomach upset with aspirin. A team from Johns Hopkins and Harvard universities found what looks to be a beneficial side effect for digoxin — lowered risk of prostate cancer. Digoxin, which was originally extracted from the foxglove plant, has been used for decades to treat heart failure and some heart rhythm problems.

Using an automated system, the researchers tested the ability of nearly 3,200 compounds to halt the growth of prostate cancer cells. Digoxin was one of the top five. As a real-world check, the researchers looked at nearly 48,000 men in the ongoing Health Professionals Follow-up Study. Those who had routinely taken digoxin were 24% less likely to have developed prostate cancer over the 20-year period of the study (Cancer Discovery, published online April 3, 2011).

Pot for the prostate?

Long before scientists learned to manufacture synthetic medications, folk healers relied on natural compounds derived from plants. Even today, herbal compounds are heavily promoted as "dietary supplements" and are widely used in various forms of alternative, or complementary, medicine. Although scientific studies that demonstrate benefit for plant-based supplements are few and far between, some compounds have become the building blocks of important mainstream medications. One example is acetylsalicylic acid, better known as aspirin; it's a synthetic chemical patterned after the salicylates in the extract of willow bark used by Hippocrates to treat pain and fever, some 2,400 years ago. Other examples include the malaria drug quinine, derived from cinchona bark, and the cancer drug paclitaxel (Taxol), which comes from the Pacific yew tree.

Cannabis sativa is another plant that has found medicinal and ceremonial uses in many parts of the world since ancient times. Think of it by its common name, marijuana, and you'll recognize it as a highly controversial plant indeed. On the one hand, its mind-altering properties have made it an extremely popular drug of abuse. At the same time, advocates of medicinal marijuana tout its ability to relieve pain, combat chemotherapy-induced nausea, and treat glaucoma, among other things.

Gaining weight? Beware potatoes—baked, fried, or in chips

Potato chips and potatoes (baked, boiled, and fried) were the foods most responsible for weight gained gradually over four-year periods among 120,000 healthy women and men in long-term studies. Other key contributors included sugar-sweetened beverages and red and processed meats. On the flip side, yogurt, nuts, whole grains, and fruits and vegetables were linked to weight loss or maintenance. Potatoes may be a “perfect food” for lean people who exercise a lot or who do regular manual labor. But for the rest of us, it might be safer for the waistline to view potatoes as a starch—and a fattening one at that—not as a vegetable.

Smoking may increase risk of prostate cancer recurrence

The findings were presented at the American Urological Association annual meeting in May 2011.

Is sex exercise? And is it hard on the heart?

At some time in his life, nearly every man gets exercised about sex. And as many men get older, they wonder if sex is a good form of exercise or if it's too strenuous for the heart. These questions may sound like locker room banter, but they are actually quite important — and they have solid scientific answers.

Treadmill vs. mattress

To evaluate the cardiovascular effects of sexual activity, researchers monitored volunteers while they walked on a treadmill in the lab and during private sexual activity at home. In addition to 13 women, the volunteers included 19 men with an average age of 55. About three-quarters of the men were married, and nearly 70% had some form of cardiovascular disease; 53% were taking beta blockers. Despite their cardiac histories, the men reported exercising about four times a week, and they reported having sexual activity about six times a month on average.

Medical memo: Cholesterol and prostate cancer

Ask men about their top health worries, and most will put cholesterol and prostate cancer high on the list. That's understandable, since unfavorable cholesterol levels contribute to heart attack and stroke, the first and fourth leading causes of death in America, and prostate cancer takes about 32,000 lives a year. Still, while most men understand the link between cholesterol and cardiovascular disease, few suspect a link between cholesterol and cancer. Research is beginning to change that.

Early worries

Back when scientists were nailing down the relationship between high cholesterol and heart disease, they were also raising concerns that although low cholesterol levels could protect the heart, they might increase the risk of cancer. Indeed, a series of population studies from the 1980s reported a higher incidence of cancer in people with low cholesterol levels. This research also sparked worry about cholesterol-lowering drugs, which was heightened when the first statin was released in 1987.

Gay men more vulnerable to drops in quality of life after prostate treatment

For the first time, a study measures the impact of prostate cancer treatment on the quality of life of gay men.

Surprising findings on omega-3 fats, trans fats, and prostate cancer risk

A new study challenges the conventional wisdom that heart-healthy omega-3 fats from fish, walnuts, and other sources are good for the prostate and that artery-damaging trans fats are bad for it. Suzanne Rose, editor of Harvard Health’s Annual Report on Prostate Diseases, explains.

Surprising findings on omega-3s, trans fats, and prostate cancer risk don’t warrant a change in diet

Study finds that men with the highest blood levels of omega-3s were more likely to develop high-grade prostate cancer than those with the lowest levels, and that men with the highest blood levels of trans fat were less likely to develop the disease than those with the lowest.

Two-way street between erection problems and heart disease

Paying attention to heart health can be good for a man's sex life.

Trouble getting or keeping an erection can be an early warning sign of heart disease, much as heart disease can signal a man's current or future sexual problems. When either one appears, the other is likely to be lurking nearby.

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