Dec
26
2015

Coffee Could Be A Lifesaver

Coffee could be a lifesaver. But coffee has long been a subject of heated discussions. It has been praises or condemnations. Researchers designed many studies in the past; some showed health benefits, some did not. A new, larger study was done by the Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, MA to re-examine this issue for both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee.

Here is the study showing why coffee could be a lifesaver

Mortality was determined among 74,890 women in the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS), 93,054 women in the NHS 2, and 40,557 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study after a medium follow-up of 22.5 years. 19,524 women and 12,432 men died during that time period. Ming Ding is a doctoral student in the Harvard School of Public Health department of nutrition and was the lead author of the study that was published in the medical journal “Circulation”. She pointed out that in the past there were confounding problems: although many studies had shown that both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee consumption lowered the risk of cardiovascular disease, the results in many studies were blurred. Studies often did not distinguish between smokers and nonsmokers; so a beneficial effect from coffee drinking was wiped out by the cardiovascular risk from smoking.

Ding’s studies took this into account and also other confounding factors like how much sugary soda pop people were drinking and whether or not they were eating well. In addition they normalized for other factors that could interfere like drinking alcohol and eating red meat.

Results of the coffee study

Without normalizing for the factors mentioned above the study results were as follows. Study participants had less than a cup of coffee and three cups a day had a 5% to 9% lower risk of dying than those who drank no coffee. Those who drank more than three cups a day did not see any benefit.

However, when the researchers removed all the confounding factors and compared the various groups again, the following emerged:

  • Less than 1 cup of coffee per day: 6% lower death rates than non-coffee drinkers.
  • 1 cup to 3 cups of coffee per day: 8% lower death rates.
  • 3 to 5 cups of coffee per day: 15% lower death rates.
  • More than 5 cups of coffee per day: 12% lower death rates.

Both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee reducing mortality rates

Ming Ding was associated with another research paper that had shown that coffee drinkers have a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease. She found that both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee reduced the risk of getting diabetes later.

When asked about what would be responsible for the reduced death rates with coffee consumption, Ding explained. “There are at least two known chemicals in coffee, namely lignans and chlorogenic acid. They both could reduce inflammation and help control blood sugar. Also, both could help reduce the risk of heart disease”.

Although there seems to be a linear response up to 5 cups of coffee consumption, above 5 cups this linear relationship disappeared. The researchers could not explain whether coffee consumption reached a saturation point, whether there was yet another obscure confounding factor or whether there were detrimental effects on the adrenal glands with too much coffee consumption.

Other findings like decreased suicide rates with coffee consumption

Another finding was that it did not matter whether the coffee contained caffeine or was caffein free. The results were identical.

Many other studies did not have the large numbers to show whether or not coffee without caffeine was as effective in preventing heart disease.

Finally, there was another peculiar finding; suicide rates were down by 20% to 36%, if a person drank at least one cup of coffee per day. But if a person consumed less than 1 cup of coffee per day the suicide rate was 36% higher than the control group with no coffee consumption. This is a rather peculiar finding, particularly for the consumption of less than 1 cup of coffee. But other studies have also shown a decrease in suicide rates with coffee consumption.

No effect on liver and prostate cancer

Previous studies had shown a reduction in liver and prostate cancer. But after the removal of confounding factors this study did not show any effects on cancer causation. Cancer death rates also did not show a reduction with coffee consumption.

Discussion

The Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, MA produced high quality nutritional studies for decades. But this study is particularly important, because it is so large giving it more statistical power; secondly, the observation time of an average of 22.5 years is longer than most coffee studies in the past. The investigators also removed the noise (called confounding factors). This helped to accomplish the objective of the study and they ended up with a very meaningful result.

Apart from saving lives by drinking coffee, diabetes and heart attack rates lower as well

The important findings were that both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee have the same effect of saving lives. Perhaps you want to drink not more than 5 cups of coffee per day. That lowers your risk of premature death by 15%. What counts is the effect of lowering the rate of diabetes and heart attack rates. This is most likely responsible for the risk reduction. At least this was the opinion of the chief investigator. The study showed that coffee consumption did not lead to a reduction in cancer rates.

I sleep better when I drink decaffeinated coffee. So for me the notion that decaffeinated coffee had the same effect as regular coffee was important.

Coffee Could Be A Lifesaver

Coffee Could Be A Lifesaver

Conclusion

Here is a study that is large enough, went long enough, and showed decisively that coffee can reduce the death rate. Both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee showed the effect of reducing the death rate. The mortality reduction was by 15% up to 5 cups of coffee per day. This finding was true for both males and females. Coffee seems to also reduce the suicide risk by a mechanism that has not yet been determined. Do you want to live 15% longer than your previous life expectancy would have been without coffee? Then you may now have your coffee and enjoy it!

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May
21
2014

Forty Percent Of Premature Deaths Can Be Prevented

A new report from the CDC (Center of Disease Control) in the US has revealed that up to 40% of premature deaths could be prevented by simple lifestyle changes. As this link shows every year about 900,000 premature deaths occur in the US, which are due to 5 major diseases that in the opinion of the CDC can be prevented by 20 to 40%. Here are the diseases that kill: cancer, heart disease, COPD/emphysema, stroke and accidents/injuries. These conditions were responsible for 63% of all deaths in the US in 2010.

Let’s discuss each of these conditions and how one could lower the risk of dying from them.

1. Cancer:

The Framingham Heart Study has shown that smoking and cancer are closely related. Smokers who quit can significantly reduce their risk of getting cancer. We also know that exercise and prophylactic supplements like fish oil and vitamin D3 have cancer preventative effects.

Antioxidant supplementation that included beta-carotene, vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin E daily or on alternate days for 1 to 12 years, along with selenium supplementation reduced the incidence of cancer of the esophagus, colon, pancreas, stomach or the liver. Insulin resistance due to sugar and starch overconsumption is causing cancer, particularly breast cancer, colorectal cancer and endometrial cancer. I have discussed this in a recent blog.

Pollution has been linked to increased lung cancer risks as discussed here.

2. Heart disease:

Heart disease can be caused by several factors in combination. Lifestyle issues are important: Smokers need to quit smoking as the Framingham Heart Study has shown more than fifty years ago that smoking causes heart attacks. Obesity and diabetes also contribute significantly to the risk of heart disease. Often these are connected to faulty nutrition, which is another lifestyle issue that comes to mind when too much sugar and starchy foods are taken in; your liver will convert these into fatty acids, triglycerides and elevated, oxidized LDL cholesterol, which gets deposited under the lining of the arteries. A lack of exercise adds to this problem as a lack of exercise lowers the protective HDL cholesterol and fat is deposited under the lining of the arteries. Start exercising and your protective HDL cholesterol will rise, your total cholesterol to HDL ratio will lower to healthier levels and your risk for hardening of the arteries and for getting a heart attack will fall. If you have diabetes, it is important that you manage your blood sugars well; this means that if you inject insulin, you want the blood sugar tests to be within the normal range and the hemoglobin A1C values to be below 5.5%. Poorly controlled diabetes is an important cause of heart attacks and strokes. High blood pressure is also an important cause of developing heart attacks and strokes. It is important to control your blood pressure by taking blood pressure lowering pills and also by exercising regularly. Exercise seems to send a signal to relax the blood vessels thus lowering the blood pressure, which in turn prevents heart attacks.

Forty Percent Of Premature Deaths Can Be Prevented

Forty Percent Of Premature Deaths Can Be Prevented

 

3. COPD/emphysema:

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or emphysema is mostly caused by chronic exposure to cigarette smoke from smoking. The earlier you can quit, the better your chances that your breathing will not be the limiting factor when you age. But it is also important to avoid exposure to other noxious gases, such as from welding and from exposure to pollution. This may involve a decision to move to a less polluted area. Or it might involve a job retraining. Those who are suffering from COPD can be helped to a certain extent by a portable oxygen tank with nasal prongs.

4. Stroke:

As mentioned before, quitting smoking, controlling high blood pressure and controlling blood sugar, if you suffer from diabetes have been shown to stabilize your blood vessels including the ones that supply your brain. The key is to prevent hardening of the arteries by a healthy lifestyle. Exercising and keeping your weight under a body mass index of 25.0 have been shown to be effective stroke prevention. Healthy nutrition as indicated above under “heart disease” is equally important for stroke prevention. Go green (eat more vegetables, consume more green smoothies), cut down grains, sugar and starchy foods and you will live longer without strokes and heart attacks. Remember, what’s good for your heart is good for your brain!

5. Unintentional accidents/injuries:

Wearing helmets when bicycling, wearing seat belts when driving in a car, avoiding risky behaviors are all measures that save lives. One factor stands out in all of this: if you drink too much, you run the risk of being involved in unintentional accidents or injuries. People may not like to hear this, but your brain lacks the natural inhibitory impulses when you are under the influence of alcohol, so you become more daring and you may not pay attention for the split second that could have prevented an injury or accident. People react very differently to alcohol. Some people feel inebriated after only ½ a glass of wine or beer whereas others can drink more before they make mistakes. The best is to be sober when you drive, ski, use power tools or walk in traffic. Even climbing ladders requires a clear mind!

Conclusion:

As the CDC said 20 to 40% of premature deaths (deaths that occurred before the age of 80) could have been prevented, if the above-mentioned recommendations were followed. Let me rephrase this: 180,000 to 360,000 premature deaths every year in the US before the age of 80 could have been prevented! Curative medicine cannot help with these statistics as a heart attack or stroke has happened when it has struck you. Cancer and end stage lung disease are similar conditions that you are suddenly faced with when they occur and unintentional accidents just seem to happen. This is where the importance of prevention can be seen, because these little baby steps every day are adding up to something formidable, a force to be reckoned with. Be part of the solution, think prevention!

More information on:

1. Cancer mortality: http://nethealthbook.com/cancer-overview/overview/cancer-mortality-rate/

2. Higher vitamin D3 intake lowers mortality from heart attacks, strokes, cancer, fractures due to osteoporosis: http://nethealthbook.com/news/higher-vitamin-d-levels-associated-lower-risk-mortality/

Last edited Nov. 8, 2014

Mar
01
2014

Smoking Remains A Health Hazard

Recently new statistics came out that show that 48.8 million people in the US (19% of the population) still smoke. 22 % of the population are male, 17% female. Smoking is responsible for 20% of all deaths in the US (1 in 5 deaths). It is interesting to note that in the older age group (above the age of 65) only 8% are smoking, but 22 % of the 25 to 44 year old group is smoking. Among the American population Native Americans have the highest percentage of smokers (32% are smokers). 10% of Americans of Asian descend smoke. Blacks, Whites and Hispanics are placed in between them and the American Indians. Finally, people who can least afford it (who are below the poverty level) have the highest percentage of smokers (29% smoke) while 18% of people above the poverty level smoke. Education seems to have a protective effects when it comes to smoking: of the least educated group of people 45% are smokers while only 5% with postgraduate education smoke.

Effects of cigarette smoke on the body

As this link shows the concoction of various ingredients in the smoke of cigarettes causes various parts of the body to react differently to these chemicals. Here is a rundown of diseases caused by smoking cigarettes.

1. Lung cancer: This is the most common cause of death in women who smoke, more common now than breast cancer. 90% of lung cancers in women are due to smoking. The same was true in males, but as a group they now smoke less than in the past.

2. Other cancers:  cervical cancer, kidney cancer, pancreatic cancer, bladder, esophageal, stomach, laryngeal, oral, and throat cancers are all caused by smoking. Recently acute myeloid leukemia, a cancer of the bone marrow has been added to the list of smoking related cancers.

3. Abdominal aortic aneurysm: As cigarette smoke destroys elastic tissue, it is no wonder that the loss of support of the wall of the aortic artery leads to the development of large pouches, which eventually rupture with a high mortality rate due to massive blood loss.

4. Infections of lungs and gums: Smokers are prone to infections of the lungs (pneumonia) and of the gums (periodontitis).

5. Chronic lung diseases: emphysema, chronic bronchitis, asthma.

6. Cataracts: lack of perfusion of the lens leads to premature cataract formation.

7. Coronary heart disease: hardening of the coronary arteries, which leads to heart attacks, is very common in smokers.

8. Reproduction: reduced fertility in mothers, premature rupture of membranes with prematurely born babies; low birth weight; all this leads to higher infant mortality. Sudden infant death syndrome is found more frequently in children of smoking moms (Ref. 1).

9. Intermittent claudication: after decades of smoking the larger arteries in the legs are hardening and not enough oxygen reaches the muscles to walk causing intermittent pausing to recover from the muscle aches. If it is feasible a cardiovascular surgeon may be able to do a bypass surgery to rescue the legs, often though this is not feasible and the patients lower legs or an entire lower limb may have to be amputated.

10. Others: osteoporosis is more common in smokers; poor eye sight develops due to age-related macular degeneration that sets in earlier and due to tobacco amblyopia, a toxic effect from tobacco on the optic nerve; hypothyroidism is aggravated by smoking and menopause occurs earlier.

Smoking Remains A Health Hazard

Smoking Remains A Health Hazard

What happens in the lung tissue in smokers?

Ref. 1 gives a detailed rundown of the changes in the lung tissue as a result of exposure to cigarette smoke. The various components of cigarette smoke lead to an activation of special white blood cells, called monocytes that after stimulation turn into tissue macrophages. In addition neutrophils (regular white blood cells) also get stimulated. Between them they produce cytokines and chemokines and the neutrophils secrete elastase that digests elastic tissue in the lungs. Breakdown products of the elastic tissue serve as a powerful stimulus to the immune system to mount an autoimmune response. After some time of being exposed to cigarette smoke the immune system considers part of the lining of the lungs as foreign and cytotoxic lymphocytes attack the lining of the air sacs (alveoli). Lung specialists consider chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD or emphysema) to be an autoimmune disease (Ref.1).

The sad part is that when this condition has progressed far enough, even quitting smoking may be too late to stop the autoimmune disease by itself as the body has been sensitized and the immune system is convinced that the altered lung tissue should be attacked. Add to this that carcinogenic substances and toxins in cigarette smoke damage the DNA of all cells and the energy producing mitochondria, and the stage is set for the combination of chronic inflammation and the release of free radicals to cause all of the diseases mentioned above.

Quit smoking still important

It is extremely important to quit as soon as possible to avoid the full-fledged sensitization of the immune system against ones own lung tissue. Studies have shown that 36% of survivors of heart attacks will successfully quit, 21% of healthy men with a known risk of cardiovascular disease will quit when asked to do so and 8% of pregnant women will quit. When a physician examines a patient in the office and asks a smoker to quit smoking 2% of these smokers will respond and still not smoke 1 year after this doctor’s visit. This may not sound like much, but it is an encouraging effect. Perhaps the most important fact is what I mentioned in the beginning of this blog: the least educated group of people smoked the most (45%) while the most educated people smoked the least (5% of people with a postgraduate education). My hope is that the Internet and other educational media will contribute to education to convince people how important prevention is.

Pharmacological assistance to quit smoking

Nicotine replacement therapy can involve any of 2- and 4-mg nicotine polacrilex gum, transdermal nicotine patches, nicotine nasal spray, the nicotine inhaler or nicotine lozenges. Discuss with your doctor what may be best in your case. Typically one of these products is used for 3 to 6 months.

Bupropion is an antidepressant with a nicotinic acetylcholine receptor affinity. Bupropion is useful to help with the withdrawal from nicotine addiction, which occurs in depressed or non-depressed people. It strictly has to do with the stimulation of the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor.  Typically the dose is 150 mg of a sustained released bupropion tablet per day for 7 days prior to stopping smoking, then at 300 mg (two 150-mg sustained-release doses) per day for the next 6 to 12 weeks. 44% quit at 7 weeks versus 19% of controls. A newer nicotine partial receptor stimulator, varenicline, has been compared to bupropion. It was slightly more effective in helping people to get off cigarettes. Varenicline is started at a dose of 0.5 mg per day for 3 days, then 0.5 mg twice daily for 4 days, followed by a maintenance dose of 1 mg twice daily. If nausea is a problem, lower doses can be used. Varenicline has been approved for a 3-month period with an option of a second 3-month period, if relapse occurs. Discuss with your doctor what is best for you.

According to Ref. 1 a combination therapy of bupropion and nicotine patch was more effective than either one alone.

Will power, hypnotherapy

Hypnotherapy to quit smoking has been popular, but is not as effective as it is often claimed. Will power, measured by the “placebo” response is quite effective given the fact that nicotine is very addictive and yet 19% in the placebo group were able to quit on their own. According to Ref. 1 varenicline treatment for 12 weeks produced abstinence for 9 to 52 weeks and was compared to bupropion and placebo. The abstinence rates were 23%, 15%, and 10% for varenicline, bupropion, and placebo. This means that will power was still 2/3 as effective as bupropion and 43% as effective as varenicline. Don’t underestimate will power!

Conclusion

The best scenario is to never start smoking. The second best is to quit as soon as possible. Unfortunately, the third scenario of continuing to smoke is still very prevalent worldwide. I have seen the damage done first hand in practicing medicine, which motivated me to never smoke. But I am aware of the difficulties of quitting because of the highly addictive nature of cigarette smoking. Where is the support from governments on this? The problem is that the government benefits from taxation of cigarettes. Nevertheless it is laudable that there are government sites through the CDC to help you quit smoking.

At the end we are all responsible for our own health. If you are presently smoking, psych yourself up for the day that you will quit. Quitting means that you are deciding actively to live longer. Studies have shown that it takes often several attempts before you eventually quit successfully.More information on some of the topics mentioned:

1. Lung cancer and other cancers: http://nethealthbook.com/cancer-overview/overview/epidemiology-cancer-origin-reason-cancer/

2. Heart attack: http://nethealthbook.com/cardiovascular-disease/heart-disease/heart-attack-myocardial-infarction-or-mi/

3. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: http://nethealthbook.com/lung-disease/chronic-obstructive-pulmonary-disease-copd/

Reference

1. Mason: Murray and Nadel’s Textbook of Respiratory Medicine, 5th ed.© 2010 Saunders

Last edited Nov. 7, 2014

Oct
05
2013

Fighting Back Against The Flu

Every year there is concern about the upcoming flu season. Mostly the discussion centers on the composition of the latest flu bugs and what type of strains would be included in the latest vaccine recommended. The first flu case of the season has just been reported in a child. Here I am going to review what you can do to minimize your probability of getting the flu, or if you get it, how to minimize the severity of the illness.

The immune system

We know for some time that the antibody-mediated immune system is what helps overcome flus. The body’s immune system produces antibodies against the flu via T-helper cells that recognize the glycoprotein (hemagglutinin) of the flu virus and pass a signal on to B cells (bone marrow derived lymphocytes), which in turn are turned on to produce a lot of antibodies (Ref.1). These protect you from future flus of this type. If you have pre-existing antibodies that fit the bug in circulation you are OK ,and you will usually not get the disease.

The factors that protect you from the flu

However, there are many other factors that support your immune system. I will discuss the most important factors in more detail here.

1. We do know that vitamin D3 strengthens the immune system. I would recommend 1000 to 2000 IU per day in the wintertime, but up to 4000 IU or 5000 IU per day during an active epidemic would be reasonable. There is less flu when people are taking Vitamin D3 supplements.

Influenza A was reduced in school children supplemented with 1200IU of vitamin D3. This study recommended higher doses of 2000 to 7000 IU of vitamin D3 per day; but it also stated that as a precaution serum vitamin D levels should be monitored (technically it is serum 25-hydroxy-vitamin D levels that are measured) to avoid vitamin D toxicity. Normal levels are between 40-70 nanograms per ml. Toxic levels are above 100 nanograms per ml. Your family doctor can order a serum 25-hydroxy-vitamin D level for you.

2. Eating fruit and vegetables is important for maintaining a healthy immune system. In a randomized study from Belfast, UK elderly volunteers (82 of them, aged 65 to 85) were assigned to either eat 2 portions or 5 portions of fruit and vegetables per day over 16 weeks. At 12 weeks into the trial both groups received a Pneumovax II vaccination, and the antibody response was measured at the end of the 16th week of the study.  There was a significant increase in antibody binding capacity to pneumococcal capsular polysaccharide in the 5 portion fruit and vegetable group compared to the 2 portion group that had no such increase. The authors concluded that there is a measurable improvement of the immune system when an older population increases their fruit and vegetable intake.

3. Avoid stress, because stress has been shown to weaken the immune system. This review shows that the immune system is weakened by the stress response via the elevated corticosteroid hormones (the stress hormone ACTH stimulates cortisol release from the adrenal glands). The stress of social isolation is also contributing to the weakening of the immune system in older people.

Fighting Back Against The Flu

Fighting Back Against The Flu

4. Exercise moderately and your immune system will get strengthened. Over exercising should be avoided as too much cortisol is released from your adrenal glands, which is toxic to lymphocytes thus weakening your immune system.

5.  Socializing is good for you as studies have shown that you live 2 ½ years longer. This study here is from Connecticut, but other studies confirmed this as well.

6. Make love. The endorphins that are released in the process stimulate the immune system.

7. Take probiotics, because they help your gut flora to stay normal. A normal gut flora promotes a stronger immune system as the Peyer’s patches (clumps of immune cells) in the gut wall are intimately linked to the immune system. In this way probiotics indirectly support your immune system.

8. Avoid smoking.  Smokers have more upper and lower respiratory tract infections than non-smokers. Here is information that explains this as well.

9. Get enough sleep. The circadian rhythm of your hormones ensures that your hormones function at their optimal level. Melatonin from the pineal gland is important in triggering the circadian rhythm, but melatonin itself supports the immune system as well. Your adrenal glands need resetting overnight so that cortisol is secreted according to your stress level, not too much and not too little. Overstimulation from performance sports, grief reactions, car accidents, injuries etc. lead to a surplus of cortisol and weakening of the immune system.

10. Take your flu shot (but without thimerosal) every year, but take it as a single shot (without thimerosal as a preservative). This CDC link explains that single shot flu vaccines are available without thimerosal. I recommend this type of flu vaccine. The central nervous system is extremely sensitive to nanograms of mercury, and it is for this reason that I would not buy into the argument of the CDC that one should not be concerned about safety of thimerosal. The newest for this flu season is the quadrivalent (or four-strain) flu vaccine, which is now available in pharmacies throughout the US.

11. Vitamins and supplements support your immune system, particularly vitamin D3. DHEA, which is available over the counter in the US stimulates antibody production when the flu vaccine is given, particularly in the elderly, in other words DHEA strengthens the immune system Vitamin C is known to support the immune system and is rapidly depleted in those who suffer from any viral infection. There are other nutrients that are useful to stimulate your immune system.

12. Consider herbs: Echinacea, Siberian ginseng, Asian and American ginseng, astragalus, garlic, and shiitake, reishi (also called “lingzhi mushroom”) and maitake mushrooms have all been shown to stimulate the immune system with negligible side effects.

13. Wash your hands, particularly when there is a flu going around. Door knobs for instance are known to keep live viruses for 2 to 8 hours, so washing your hands will reduce the amount of virus you are exposed to.

Conclusion

There is no single solution to prevent the flu, but we can all minimize our exposure to the virus and strengthen our immune system. Although it is wise to get a yearly flu shot to boost your immune system (without thimerosal as a preservative) just before the epidemics come around, this alone is not as good as combining the non-specific factors mentioned here with it. Particularly vitamin D3 (2000 IU to 4000 IU per day) and the old stand-by vitamin C (1000 mg to 2000 mg daily) will stimulate your immune system. Spice up your dinners with mushrooms that stimulate your immune system (maitake, shiitake, reishi mushrooms). Go to bed early enough to allow your circadian hormone rhythms to be reset overnight as you sleep. This will stimulate your immune system (from melatonin and DHEA of your adrenal glands).

More info on the Flu: http://nethealthbook.com/infectious-disease/respiratory-infections/flu/

References:

1. Long: Principles and Practice of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, 4th ed. Prevention. Vaccine. © 2012 Saunders

Last edited Nov. 7, 2014

Jul
27
2013

Flossing and Brushing Saves Your Heart

It was not until about the mid 1990’s when it became apparent that gum infections and severe tooth decay could cause inflammation in the blood measurable by using the CRP marker (C-reactive protein). As this link shows Dr. Joseph Muhlestein at the University of Utah demonstrated in 1996 that chronic gum infection could cause a heart attack. He isolated the bacterium Chlamydia pneumoniae in 79% of patients undergoing coronary bypass surgery, while samples from heart transplant patients isolated this bacterium in only about 5%. The new thinking was that bugs that multiply in diseased gums could migrate into the blood and cause platelets from the blood to clump together and block coronary arteries causing heart attacks. Harvard University researchers have confirmed this. In the past it was known that a bad tonsillitis with an aggressive bacterium, Streptococcus viridans, could cause subacute endocarditis, a dangerous infectious disease of the heart valves, which can be responsible for sudden death in younger persons. Neglected cavities in teeth can also harbor this bacterium. Another study in 2009 showed that two particular strains of bacteria in infected gums, Tannerella forsynthesis and Preventella intermedia, were associated with an increased risk for heart attacks; but it was more the overall burden of bacteria in the infected gums than the specific bacteria strains that mattered most.

Flossing and Brushing Saves Your Heart

Flossing and Brushing Saves Your Heart

 

Preventing heart disease by brushing and flossing

With this background it is easier to understand that we need to take good care of our teeth and gums, if we want to maintain good health. As a start most people should see their dental hygienist (who usually works in a dentist’s office) twice a year. The dental hygienist will probe the depth of gingival pockets with a periodontal probe. A normal depth measures up to and including 3 mm. Deeper pockets than that usually indicate that the patient did not floss regularly. One needs to floss at least once per day, better twice per day and it should not bleed after flossing (initially when a person flosses for the first time the gums tend to bleed a bit).

The hygienist will do scaling of plaques on the tooth enamel. Any cavity that is detected will be brought to the attention of the dentist. At the end of the scaling procedure fluoride is applied, which puts a coating on the tooth surfaces to prevent tooth decay.

When deeper pockets (6 mm or more) are detected a trial of subgingival root brushings has shown to have a very beneficial result within only 14 days.

Periodontal pockets were improved and bacterial counts of periodontal infections were shown to have improved as well.

Oral care and cavity prevention in the population

It has been accepted for quite some time that a combination of brushing and flossing are the best methods to control dental plaque, which is the precursor for cavities.

In order to test the knowledge of adults in families with small children these authors from the School of Public Health of the Maryland University investigated Maryland’s adult population knowledge regarding caries prevention. It turns out that there were deficiencies in knowledge about the prevention of dental caries and the importance of fluoride to create strong, decay resistant enamel.

A randomized, prospective study is planned in Hong Kong which will start teaching oral hygiene to kindergarten children aged 3 and will be reinforced several times later to instill good dental hygiene behaviors into these children’s health routine as outlined in this link. Not only is it important to teach brushing and flossing, but also food habits with cutting down on sugary and starchy snacks as these foods make the saliva acidy promoting caries producing bacteria in the plaque.

This English study shows that a primary school based caries prevention program reduced caries by 35% when sugar intake was limited in the interventional group and brushing of teeth was done twice per day along with flossing.

An addition to flossing for those with narrow tooth intervals or those with braces is a waterpik system. This can be used to clean food residues from the spaces between your teeth and from gum pockets. Flossing once or twice per day is still needed to remove plaque to avoid tartar build-up. Before bedtime it is advisable to floss first, then use a waterpik, then use your electric toothbrush with a fluoridated toothpaste. During the day use the waterpik after meals followed by brushing with an electric toothbrush with non-fluoridated toothpaste.  Water Picks are also called “water flossers”; they are easier on your gums.

Other measures helpful in preventing tooth decay

Xylitol is a natural sweetener originally derived from birch. Sugarless gum often is sweetened with Xylitol. This study has shown that chewing Xylitol containing gum can effectively reduce caries. This paper describes that the increased saliva production from chewing gum provides a slightly alkaline environment for teeth. This helps to clear out sugar faster from the oral cavity after a meal, inhibits bacterial growth, neutralizes the pH in plaque that is on the acidy side after sugar consumption. The authors concluded that chewing Xylitol gum is a useful addition to the other known preventative measures of dental decay prevention, such as brushing and flossing teeth.

The techniques the dentist is using to treat plaque and dental decay have been refined by a new technique describe in this Australian publication as a minimum intervention caries prevention program.

The four methods used in minimum intervention dentistry are described here.

1. Recognition: to recognize potential caries factors early through lifestyle factor analysis and saliva testing.

2. Reduction: alter the diet and lifestyles to increase the pH of the saliva, which will reduce the risk factors for caries.

3. Regeneration: to arrest and reverse minimum lesions at the earliest stage. Use agents such as fluorides and casein phosphopeptides-amorphous calcium phosphates to achieve this.

4. Repair: when a cavity is present, a technique of “conservative caries removal” involves using bioactive materials to allow healing of the dentine layer of the tooth.

Reduction of cariogenic bacteria

I already mentioned above that alkalization of saliva by chewing Xylitol gum could significantly help prevent tooth decay. It does so by raising the pH, while chewing on sugary foods or starchy foods lowers the pH (making it more acidy). Growth of caries producing bacteria, which are called “cariogenic bacteria” is stimulated by acidy saliva and inhibited by alkaline saliva. For this reason people whose diet consists of a lot of vegetables and greens will have more alkaline saliva and are less prone to develop cavities. The worst foods to get cavities are sugar in its many disguises and starchy products (candies, bread, rice, potatoes, pasta, bagels, cookies, cakes).

What can cause bacteria from the mouth to appear in the blood? One common condition is periodontitis, which is a chronic inflammatory condition of pockets of the gums around the teeth. This originates from neglecting your teeth and not flossing. Smokers are more afflicted by this as well. Dental procedures called scaling and root planing are often done for chronic periodontitis. This study from January 2013 shows that there is about the same amount of bacteria that leak into the blood following these procedures when compared to flossing.

Sometimes a dentist will recommend using a short-term antibiotic to reduce the leakage of bacteria into the blood, particularly with people who have heart valve problems or had porcine heart valve replacement in the past. This publication from 2009 also describes that dental flossing causes bacteria to be shed into the blood (bacteremia).

Conclusion

Dental self-care should be taught to children at an early age to educate them to brush their teeth twice a day and floss them at least once per day. At the same time they need education what causes cavities in terms of food intake and that fluoride can help make teeth more cavity resistant. They should avoid sugar in pop, candies and cookies etc. Parents best teach by example! Regular visits to the dentist’s office will safe money on the long term. Regular scaling by a dental hygienist every 6-month will remove plaque from which cavities develop when bacteria thrive in them and produce acids that affects the enamel. Minimum intervention dentistry discussed above (4 methods used) can prevent your teeth from decaying. Regular flossing will keep your gums healthy and reduce the colonization of the mouth with bad, cariogenic bacteria. With all this in place you likely will keep your teeth for a long time and not need dentures or tooth implants because of lost teeth. At the same time you will prevent your immune system being overwhelmed by mouth bacteria, which could have lead to a heart attack had you neglected your teeth. As mentioned in the beginning, a CRP blood test is a useful tool to rule out chronic infection.

More information on:

1. Tooth decay: http://www.nethealthbook.com/articles/dentistry.php#Tooth_Decay

2. Heart attacks: http://nethealthbook.com/cardiovascular-disease/heart-disease/heart-attack-myocardial-infarction-or-mi/

Reference: http://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/features/your-guide-gum-disease

Last edited Nov. 7, 2014

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Oct
01
2008

Overuse Of Tanning Can Point to Addiction

The use of indoor tanning facilities and tanning beds has become popular over the years. Many individuals use tanning in preparation for a vacation in sunny climates, but an overwhelming number flocks to tanning booths in order to preserve this summer tan. Despite all cautioning from dermatologists, tanning salons have their steady clientele. While the occasional use may be no reason for alarm, steady usage sheds a different light on the”artifical sun”.
Tanning dependence has been found to be common in young adults, as a survey of 400 college student revealed. The behavior can be predicted by certain demographic and behavioral variables. Initially the motivation for tanning is the enhancement of appearance, but often those who use tanning facilities frequently report that it contributes to enhance their mood and help with relaxation and socializing. There was also a disregard for warnings about health risks of the practice. Dr. Carolyn Heckman, PhD of Fox Chase Cancer Center in Cheltenham,Pa. and her colleagues reported that these behaviors are commonly reported by individuals with other types of dependencies. In this respect excessive use of tanning has similarities to other behavioral disorders such as obsessive compulsive behavior and eating disorders, which has given it the nickname “tanorexia”.

Overuse Of Tanning Can Point to Addiction

Overuse Of Tanning Can Point to Addiction

The population profile showed that most of the tanning dependent individuals were female, and the highest group was white with a medium skin type, as opposed to fair and darker skinned individuals. Those who were doing the most sunbathing in summer and had the highest rates of sunburn also were the most tanning dependent. They were also the ones who used the least amount of sun protection. Smokers had the highest level of tanning dependence, whereas obese individuals had the lowest one. The highest proportion showed up in the female population. Males did not seem to be that interested in tanning.
The research is relevant for health professionals when it comes to teaching patients about skin cancer prevention and education about sun protection. It also points to possible relationships to other addictive disorders.

More information about skin cancer: http://nethealthbook.com/cancer-overview/skin-cancer/

References: 1. http://www.skincancer.org/content/view/317/78/ 2. Am. J. Health Behav. 2008;32:451-64

Last edited November 5, 2014