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Health

According to an on-line survey by the National Headache Foundation, when headache sufferers were asked which environmental factors trigger their condition, the most common responses included:

  • Intense smells or odors (59 percent)
  • Altitude or barometric pressure changes
    (52 percent)
  • Temperature fluctuations (50 percent)
  • Bright or flickering lights (50 percent)

Headaches are a widespread but treatable disease

Imagine suffering from chronic headaches for more than ten years and still not have found an effective treatment. According to a recent on-line survey conducted by the National Headache Foundation, 59 percent of respondents indicated that they have experienced headaches for more than a decade. Fifty-three percent have ten or more headache days per month.

A significant paradox exists, as 63 percent of headache sufferers use over-the-counter medications to treat their headache condition; yet 67 percent of survey respondents state that OTC medications are not effective in relieving their headache pain.

“These numbers convey that people with headaches are suffering needlessly. The take-away message is that headaches are treatable and there are many options available,” notes NHF executive director Suzanne Simons. “It is important to make an appointment with your health-care provider to specifically discuss your headache problem if it is impacting your quality of life.”

According to the findings of the NHF survey, 68 percent of survey respondents awaken in the morning with sinus congestion. Slightly more than half (53 percent) use OTC medications to treat their sinus condition, but only 51 percent believe they are effective. Facial pressure, fatigue, and congestion are the most frequently reported symptoms. These symptoms may account for the common misdiagnosis of migraine as sinus headache, which is a relatively rare condition.

Among those headache sufferers who reported being diagnosed with allergies (63 percent), the most common allergens were animal dander, mold, dust, and pollen. Nearly 65 percent reported that the onset of their allergies would trigger a headache.

The National Headache Foundation, founded in 1970, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to serving headache sufferers, their families, and the health-care providers who treat them; promoting research into headache causes and treatments; and educating the public to the fact that headaches are a legitimate biological disease and that sufferers should receive understanding and continuity of care.

For more information on headache causes and treatments, visit www.headaches.org or call 1-888-NHF-5552 (Mondays through Fridays, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. CST).


New developments help people with Diabetes

Every year, more than thirteen thousand young children are diagnosed with type 1 (or juvenile) diabetes, a chronic autoimmune disease in which a person's pancreas stops producing insulin, a hormone that enables people to turn food into energy.

“Knowing the symptoms of type 1 diabetes is critical because the disease can be mistaken for more common illnesses, such as the flu,” said Dr. Richard Insel, executive vice president of research for JDRF. “Knowing the warning signs can change a life.” These symptoms may occur suddenly as: extreme thirst; frequent urination; sudden vision changes; sugar in urine; fruity, sweet, or wine-like odor on breath; increased appetite; sudden weight loss; drowsiness, lethargy; heavy, labored breathing; and stupor or unconsciousness.

Diabetes is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States and costs our nation over $132 billion per year. In addition, diabetes is a leading cause of adult blindness and end-stage kidney failure, and reduces longevity by approximately fifteen years. The disease is particularly serious for women, making them more prone to an early death due to stroke and heart disease and causes high-risk pregnancies and birth defects. Unlike type 2 (adult-onset), type 1 diabetes is neither preventable nor correctable.

For more information on type 1 diabetes, you may visit www.jdrf.org.


The Mediterranean secret is out

—CAROLINE J. CEDERQUIST, MD
We can stop wondering. It looks like an olive a day is really what keeps the doctor away, or the oncologist, at least.

While I’ve often lauded the virtues of the Mediterranean diet, and cited its many apparent health benefits, I’ve had to acknowledge that scientists hadn’t really put a collective finger on what it was about that diet that makes it so good for us.

But at least where cancer prevention is concerned, now they have. It seems the oleic acid in all that olive oil suppresses cancerous cell growth.

When I talk about the Mediterranean diet, that’s “diet” with a small “d.” I don’t mean some fad or hotly marketed weight-loss program, but rather, just the array of fresh fruits, vegetables, seafood, whole grains, olive oil, nuts, beans, and a little vino that is the traditional fare of Mediterranean folks.

With that sort of fare, you can see easily enough why it would generally be a pretty healthy way to eat. The Mediterranean diet is strongly associated with extended life span and reduced risks for mortality from any cause, as well as reducing the risks for heart disease and cardiovascular problems, obesity, and even breast cancer.
But scientists just didn’t know why.

Now a team at Northwestern University says it’s the oleic acid in all that olive oil.
Yep. Every time you shake a little extra virgin on your salad or dip a piece of antipasto in it, you’re practicing a bit of very specific preventive medicine. It appears that oleic acid suppresses the function of oncogenes, the genes that cause regular cells to mutate and grow into tumors, instead of what they’re supposed to be.

About a million women every year are diagnosed with breast cancer, which accounts for about 1.6 percent of all female deaths annually worldwide.

And there’s an oncogene called HER-2/neu that is found in about 30 percent of all breast-cancer patients. Dr Javier Menendez, of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, said his team has determined that oleic acid blocks the action of the HER-2/neu oncogene.

In controlled studies of breast-cancer cells Menendez and his team explored just how it is that oleic acid worked on those cells. They were able to determine that oleic acid regulates the HER-2 oncogene, considered the most significant in breast cancer. While important advances in early detection mean that the prognosis for most discovered breast cancers is very good today, breast-cancer patients with HER-2/neu tumors suffer from an aggressive form of the disease, and don’t have as positive a prognosis.

But the olive-oil discovery may offer a double benefit for these women. Menendez’s team also found that oleic acid not only suppressed the action of the oncogene but it also improved the effectiveness of a popular breast-cancer drug called Herceptin. Even though oleic acid works against the oncogene in a different way than Herceptin, it nevertheless enhanced the drug's own effectiveness.

That’s not the only new look into Mediterranean eating lately. While all that work was underway focusing on oleic acid, another recent study of Europeans aged seventy to ninety found that those who stuck most closely to the Mediterranean diet had a 23 percent lower chance of dying during the ten-year period of the study.

Now, these were folks who were on in years to begin with, much like the demographic of Southwest Florida. Anything that could offer a 23 percent differential in death rate at that age deserves a little respect.

But the news only gets better. When they combined that diet with a little exercise, participants in the European study found they lowered their risk another 35 percent. And a moderate alcohol intake lowered it yet again, by another 22 percent.

Now this isn’t license to go out and fill up on olive oil and Chianti. Please note that this was moderate alcohol intake, and the folks were participating in these studies with controlled portions and limitations on their choices.

If you’re going to try to start eating Mediterranean, you can’t just load all these excellent foods in on top of whatever you’re already eating. And pouring olive oil over it won’t help either. You have to make a trade-off, because even if the olive oil itself is beneficial, too much of a good thing usually means diminishing returns on its benefits. Olive oil is still very high in calories and weight gain is a risk for anyone who isn’t reasonable and prudent.

Remember that if you’re trying to maintain a healthy weight, it’s a zero-sum game. If you’re going to add something in to your regular diet, even something very good, something else has to go so that you can keep your overall calorie counts level.
So by all means, bring in the olive-oil dip for those sliced veggies, but simply put away the mayonnaise.

Caroline J. Cederquist, MD, is a board-certified family physician and bariatric physician (the medical specialty of weight management). She specializes in lifetime weight management at the Cederquist Medical Wellness Center, her Naples, Florida, private practice. For more information, visit www.DietToYourDoor.com. Dr. Cederquist is the author of Helping Your Overweight Child—A Family Guide, which is available at DrCederquist.com, Amazon.com, or by calling toll-free 1-800-431-1579.

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