A teacher from Australia claims his 5-6 can a day habit of Energy Drinks blistered and peeled his tongue.

Dan Royals shared a picture of it on Facebook warning others to get off the caffeinated drink habit.

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He wrote, “Found out it’s the chemicals in these drinks that are causing it… it literally eats away at your tongue.”

To me it appears he has “geographic tongue” a response to stress, acidity, spicy foods, or no cause at all.  The tongue condition itself is benign but could signify other serious health issues.

Energy drink health risks (as explained below) can include:

  • abnormal heart rhythms
  • teeth loss
  • diabetes
  • tremors
  • mood disorders
  • miscarriages
  • and more…..

Energy Drinks Can Rot Your Teeth

A 21-year-old student in England dropped out of school when his dentist found a mouth full of rotten teeth due to his energy drink habit.

Vinnie Pyner of Margate, England, told SWNS that he would drink 6 cans of Monster Energy drinks a day to get through school.  Eventually his teeth cracked and when he finally showed his mom, she rushed him to the dentist who said it was the worst case of tooth decay she had ever seen.

FOX News reported he had 24 filings and dentures to repair his front teeth and will soon return to college.

Teeth can rot easily when exposed to energy drinks due to their acidity and sugar content.  The protective enamel gets eroded and is irreplacible.  Moreover people may choose these drinks over healthier options such as water or milk, putting them at higher risk of dental disease.

Years ago, Demi Moore confessed on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon that she lost two of her teeth. The 56 year-old actress cited stress as the reason.

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Stress could be a factor, however, that would mean all of us would lose our teeth before senior year high school.

What came to mind was a previous report on Moore’s diet.

In 2012, the actress was hospitalized and multiple rumors surfaced as to what caused her collapse.  Some reported an energy drink addiction, some cited anorexia, some said it occurred after inhaling the gas from a whip cream canister.  Witnesses reported seizure like activity.  According to Daily Mail,

A source told Radar: “She collapsed after having an epileptic seizure… she has not taken care of her health at all lately and has lost a ton of weight.”  “Demi is in getting treated for anorexia, as well as other issues that caused her seizure.”

After she recovered, it was revealed that her diet included: “Red Bull for breakfast. Red Bull for lunch. Red Bull for dinner, with a lettuce leaf and a tablespoon yes a tablespoon of tuna fish thrown in… That’s it.” as reported by Light987.com.

 

According to Medical Daily, Moore had been drinking energy drinks for over 10 years.

Three energy drinks a day in the company of a poor diet could wreck havoc on one’s health. But what about teeth?

In 2012 a study from the Southern Illinois University School of Dental Medicine found the acidity of energy drinks to damage tooth enamel, thereby increasing risk of cavities.

Earlier this year, a 28 year old man from New Zealand, who allegedly drank three cans of energy drinks a day, lost multiple teeth and suffered from severe gum disease.

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JOSH MCKEE AND HIS XRAY DEMONSTRATING MULTIPLE TEETH LOST/MARION VAN DIJK

Energy drinks provide little in the type of nutrition gums and teeth require.  Our jaws, gums and teeth were designed to chew, face a variety of forces, and then get washed down with water and our own saliva to avoid damage from non-neutral pH compounds.  A balanced diet, with food we need to chew, low on sugar and acidity is just what the human mouth needs.

Other causes of teeth loss (edentulism) include:

  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • Poor dental hygiene
  • Periodontal (gum) disease
  • Heart Disease

So not only is it important to brush, floss, water pick and see one’s dentist regularly, but taking care of one’s non-dental health can be just as crucial to keeping our pearly whites.

Energy Drinks Can Increase Risk of Heart Attack Within 90 Minutes

 

A study from the University of Texas finds the consumption of energy drinks to have negative effects on the cardiovascular system by narrowing blood vessels that carry oxygenated blood as soon as 90 minutes.

Vessels that supply the heart, which may already be narrowed due to atherosclerosis, could narrow even more.

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Moreover the restriction of blood flow to vital organs implies the brain may not receive the optimal circulation it needs.

How dangerous are energy drinks?

The study was conducted by scientists who looked at the endothelial lining of blood vessels in 44 healthy non-smoking students and found within 90 minutes of drinking a 24 oz energy drink the vessel dilation dropped from 5.1% in diameter to 2.8% in diameter.

The study was conducted by scientists who looked at the endothelial lining of blood vessels in 44 healthy non-smoking students and found within 90 minutes of drinking a 24 oz energy drink the vessel dilation dropped from 5.1% in diameter to 2.8% in diameter.

Now energy drinks contain various levels of caffeine, as explained below.  But they also contain taurine, sugar, vitamins and other ingredients. This study did not look specifically at caffeine but energy drinks, so the authors can’t specify what’s the culprit.

Demi Moore – Maybe Energy Drinks Caused her Tooth Loss

Last year, however, a South Carolina high school student collapsed in class and later died from allegedly consuming an energy drink.  The coroner’s report, revealed cited caffeine as the cause.  The caffeine induced a cardiac arrhythmia, abnormal heart rhythm,  and 16-year old Davis Allen Cripe tragically died within an hour.

What’s shocking is the amount of caffeine he ingested was not very high.  According to Richland County Coroner Gary Watts, Cripe drank, within a two-hour period, a large Mountain Dew, an energy drink, and a cafe latte from McDonalds. The teen had no medical problems or family history of heart issues.

A large Mountain Dew contains 54 mg per 12 fluid oz.  So a 20 oz drink would be close to 100 mg caffeine.

Energy drinks, depending on the brand, contain approximately 80 mg of caffeine per can.

A cafe latte from McDonalds, medium size, contains 142 mg of caffeine.

This in total would equal approximately 320 mg of caffeine ingested within a two-hour period.

The lethal dose of caffeine in adults range from 150-200 mg/ kg body weight.  So a 70 kg adult could consume a toxic level of caffeine at 10 grams (10,000 mg).

So 320 mg of caffeine is well below the toxic level.  But what caffeine could do could be the more dangerous part.

Caffeine has been known to induce arrhythmias.  It’s a stimulant, hence it can affect the heart’s electrical conductivity that manages the organ’s pumping  action.  Once the electricity is disrupted, the heart muscle fails to have a predictable, rhythmic stimulation, hence cannot pump effectively.

Caffeine also causes vasoconstriction, so blood flow to the heart could be compromised, potentially inducing a heart attack.

In 2014, researchers from Barcelona found energy drinks to be linked to rare cases of heart attack and arrhythmia.

A cup of coffee averages 95mg of caffeine whereas an energy drink contains 80mg.  But the latter is consumed much quicker than a hot cup of Joe that needs to be sipped, hence the consumer takes in a larger load of caffeine in a shorter amount of time.  This could be too much too fast for the heart.

The following is a chart of average caffeine content in common drinks:

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IMAGE FROM BUSINESS INSIDER

IN 2016 we learned that a 50-year old man with hepatitis C went into acute liver failure after drinking 4-5 energy drinks a day for a period of a three weeks. The culprit appeared to be the Niacin content in each energy drink (200%RDA) that accumulated over the days and became toxic to the liver.  Although this is the first time we’ve heard of this severe a hepatic side effect, energy drinks are not foreign to being hazardous to one’s health.

So what’s in an energy drink?

Depending on the brand, ingredients can include the following:

Carbonated water

Sugars such as sucrose, glucose or high fructose corn syrup

Caffeine

Guarana extract- an energy supplement also high in caffeine

Taurine – an amino acid that has health benefits but could strain the kidney

Vitamins B 2, 3, 6 and 12 (and Vitamin A and C in some brands)

Sodium

and multiple other ingredients and additives (Ginkgo Biloba, Ginseng, etc. depending on the brand)

Why are energy drinks dangerous?

Energy drinks have been known to cause a variety of issues:  anxiety, insomnia, restlessness, caffeine withdrawal, a rise in blood sugar…. to name a few.

However the focus of energy drink risks has been on the heart.  One study from the Mayo Clinic found blood pressure and adrenaline to rise after drinking an energy drink.  In 2011 a case report looked at two teenage boys who went into atrial fibrillation, a deadly heart rhythm. In 2015, doctors blamed energy drinks for a 25 year old man’s heart attack.

We’ve learned that caffeine, though innocent-appearing in coffee and tea, can be deadly not only as a result of quantity but the administration of it.  A cup of coffee may have the same amount of caffeine as an energy drink (assuming the Guarana extract isn’t adding more to the total caffeine dose). But a hot cup of coffee is sipped slowly, whereas an energy drink served cold or at room temperature is usually chugged.  The huge bolus of caffeine may be too quick-too-much for the body to digest and distribute slowly.

The high sugar content of energy drinks could put one at risk of diabetes.  And with the recent case of acute liver failure, we are reminded that ingredients of energy drinks could at high doses cause hepatitis (inflammation of the liver).

Additionally, this week we learned that mixing alcohol with energy drinks, a popular party ritual, caused brain changes in mice similar to those caused by cocaine.

I can’t convince everyone to reach for a piece of broccoli rather than an energy drink when in need of a boost, but at the very least we should deter use by children and teens, and educate those with vulnerable hearts, blood pressure, diabetes, kidney and liver issues that an energy drink may not be the wisest beverage choice.

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Daliah Wachs is a guest contributor to GCN news, her views and opinions, medical or otherwise, if expressed, are her own. Doctor Wachs is an MD,  FAAFP and a Board Certified Family Physician.  The Dr. Daliah Show , is nationally syndicated M-F from 11:00 am - 2:00 pm and Saturday from Noon-1:00 pm (all central times) at GCN.

 

 

Published in Health
%PM, %02 %851 %2019 %19:%Apr

How to Uber and ride share safely

As kids we were taught to never approach a stranger, and to NEVER get in the car of a stranger.  Yet with ride sharing services exploding over the last few years we’ve let our guard down.  And the kidnapping and murder of a 21-year-old college student who jumped into the back seat of a car, whom she thought was an Uber diver, shed light on how we as a society need to remind ourselves of stranger danger. So here are some safety tips when considering ride sharing…

 

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  1. Always travel in groups. Single riders are more at risk of kidnapping, so avoid being at risk of being outnumbered by having more of your friends with you.
  2. Reconfirm your ride before you enter the car. Make sure its the exact car the ride sharing firm stated was coming your way.
  3. Wait for your ride indoors or next to people you know. Some Uber drivers may run late and you don’t want to be vulnerable standing alone outdoors.
  4. Backseat is preferable as assaults can happen the front seat,

    but be aware that the driver could have control of child safety locks preventing you from leaving the vehicle.

  5.  Review the driver’s ratings before entering the vehicle as bad reviews could be a red flag.
  6. Don’t give the driver your credit card or any personal information as ride sharing services handle the transaction for you in an encrypted manner.
  7. Allow your friends and family to track your ride. This is a feature offered by many ride shares.
  8. Track your own ride using GPS. If the driver goes off the beaten path to get to your destination that could be a red flag.
  9. When in doubt, stay out. If something doesn’t see right, don’t get in the car.
  10. Call 911 the second you think something is wrong.

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Daliah Wachs is a guest contributor to GCN news, her views and opinions, medical or otherwise, if expressed, are her own. Doctor Wachs is an MD,  FAAFP and a Board Certified Family Physician.  The Dr. Daliah Show , is nationally syndicated M-F from 11:00 am - 2:00 pm and Saturday from Noon-1:00 pm (all central times) at GCN.

 

Published in Health

A synthetic alcohol, named Alcarelle, or “Alcosynth,” has been shown to give one the same effects of alcohol without the nasty hangover the next day.

Dr. Professor Nutt, apparently has been working on this for decades, as a PhD student since the early 1980’s.  The synthetic alcohol is slated to hit the market in 5 years.

He told the Guardian:

We know where in the brain alcohol has its ‘good’ effects and ‘bad’ effects, and what particular receptors mediate that – Gaba, glutamate and other ones, such as serotonin and dopamine.

“The effects of alcohol are complicated but … you can target the parts of the brain you want to target.”

Alcohol stimulates GABA, a neurotransmitter that can reduce activity of nerve cells making one sluggish.  Alcohol also inhibits glutamate which is an excitatory neurotransmitter. But the euphoric feeling one gets may be caused by alcohol’s stimulation of dopamine.

Hence if a drink that acts as ethanol, isn’t actually alcohol, side effects such as drowsiness, stomach upset and liver disease could potentially be bypassed.

Professor Nutt has not revealed the ingredients of his concoction but some resources cite it may be a benzodiazepine derivative, although last year he denied the rumors of using the Valium-like chemicals.

What is a hangover?

It’s a constellation of symptoms that occur post-partying…..and include headache, muscle ache, nausea, anxiety, moodiness, wanting to avoid light and loud sounds, eye redness, thirst and dizziness, though some hangovers may have many more symptoms.

They could be caused by a variety of factors:

  • Dehydration – alcohol isn’t the best choice to replace lost fluids during a night of dancing, plus it causes increase in urination
  • Low blood sugar – caused by lack of good nutrition over the last 12 hours and enhanced by drinking alcohol
  • Poor sleep – let me guess, you didn’t get a good nice, cuddly, deep sleep for 9 hours once you came home
  • Irritated stomach lining – alcohol tends to do that and ticks off the pancreas as well
  • Acetaldehyde – a chemical converted from alcohol that has been postulated to make you feel nauseous and achy, either during its breakdown in the liver or after its metabolism
  • Cytokine production and release – seen in inflammatory states and can make you achy

Other theories suggesting lactic acid build up, withdrawal from drinking the night before, and congeners that are compounds that vary in alcohol types (red wine vs vodka).

So how can you cure your hangover?

Water

Hydrate people, hydrate.  Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it makes you urinate more and lose valuable fluid and salts. Water is the easiest, most tolerable, cheapest way to hydrate. Take it slow so you don’t vomit.  And not scotch and water.  Just water….

Eat something

An empty stomach is an irritable one.  While most sources say eat a “greasy breakfast,” I would recommend balanced breakfast with protein. Give the stomach acid something to chew on but make it easily digestible.  Remember the alcohol irritated your gut so you need to go easy on it. Baby steps, but healthy baby steps

Exercise

Take a short, brisk walk.  The adrenaline gets the blood pumping and can help with the headache.  The cool air outside will feel good when you inhale and some endorphins will release. This may help with your headache.

Drink some Sprite/Sports Drinks

Chinese researchers back in 2013 found Sprite to be the best hangover cure and even though we don’t have many other studies to back it up, the sweet and bubbly it provides makes your head and tummy feel better.

Sports Drinks add the salts you lost from alcohol’s diuretic features. Though many of us don’t like the taste, those who do find it a nice way to hydrate.

What is “hair of the dog?”

Originally it was a treatment to ward off rabies.  One would, after being bit by a dog, put a piece of dog hair on the wound.  A treating fire-with-fire strategy. It later was used for hangovers.  Treating a hangover with a chaser of alcohol was supposed to elevate moods and lessen the withdrawal.  To date there is not enough scientific support to recommend hair of the dog.

For next time, how do you avoid the dreaded hangover?

Want to avoid a hangover?  Here’s how:

Firstly, try to avoid getting drunk.  Set your limits and stick to it.

Secondly, drink plenty of water throughout the night and once you get home.

Finally, don’t drink on an empty stomach to “speed up the buzz.” Your empty gut will absorb alcohol quicker so eat a good nutritious meal prior to partying.

Avoid popping anti-inflammatories or Tylenol once you get home because your stomach and liver are already irritated from the alcohol and this may make matters worse. But if any of the above “cures” don’t help, you may need to use these as a last resort.

 

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Daliah Wachs is a guest contributor to GCN news, her views and opinions, medical or otherwise, if expressed, are her own. Doctor Wachs is an MD,  FAAFP and a Board Certified Family Physician.  The Dr. Daliah Show , is nationally syndicated M-F from 11:00 am - 2:00 pm and Saturday from Noon-1:00 pm (all central times) at GCN.

Published in Health

WSB radio reports hundreds of experts have signed a UN and WHO petition to warn against the cancer risks and medical dangers of AppleAirPods.

The EMF (electromagnetic frequency) radio waves emitted from the Bluetooth technology has been proven to cause health effects in “living organisms.”

And with its close proximity to the human skull, scientists are nervous.

WSB reports:

NOT ONLY DID THE PETITION MENTION CANCER, IT ALSO SAID NEUROLOGICAL DISORDERS AND DNA DAMAGE HAVE BEEN LINKED TO EMF EXPOSURE AS WELL.ALTHOUGH HIGH LEVELS OF EMF CAN GENERATE HEAT, CAUSE BURNS AND AFFECT CELL GROWTH IN HUMANS, SCIENTISTS HAVE NOT DETERMINED THE IMPACT OF LARGE AMOUNTS OF RELATIVELY LOW-LEVEL EMF EXPOSURE, PRODUCED BY DEVICES LIKE THE AIRPODS.
ALTHOUGH HIGH LEVELS OF EMF CAN GENERATE HEAT, CAUSE BURNS AND AFFECT CELL GROWTH IN HUMANS, SCIENTISTS HAVE NOT DETERMINED THE IMPACT OF LARGE AMOUNTS OF RELATIVELY LOW-LEVEL EMF EXPOSURE, PRODUCED BY DEVICES LIKE THE AIRPODS.
AND DESPITE THE WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION’S (WHO) GUIDELINES FOR THE LEVELS OF EMF THAT DEVICES ARE ALLOWED TO EXPOSE, THE SUPPORTERS OF THE PETITION DO NOT THINK THE RECOMMENDATIONS ARE GOOD ENOUGH.

Study Finds Link Between Cell Phones and Cancer

A study from the National Institutes of Health last year reported “clear evidence” that cell phone radiation may be connected to cancer of the adrenal glands and brain.

Tests were performed on mice and rats, using much higher levels of radiation than humans are exposed to. However, only the male rats demonstrated increase risk of brain tumors.

The study performed by Dr. John Bucher and colleagues at the National Toxicology Program (NTP) in North Carolina tested radio frequency radiation (RFR) used in 2G and 3G cell phones. The minimum amount of radiation given to the mice would be considered the maximum amount of radiation federal regulators allow on humans. The maximum amount of radiation given to the mice was 4X higher than the maximum allowed in humans.

Hence this was a study that looked at extreme conditions that the average human is not exposed to. However, they cite “clear evidence” that the radiation incited tumors in the rats.

For more on the study see here.

Now in August of 2018, a large study from the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) in Spain, however, found no clear evidence of brain tumor risk with cell phone use.

Researchers in this study looked at 9000 people from seven different countries, having a range of occupations, and interviewed them on their occupational electromagnetic frequency (EMF) use. Sciencealert.com reports 4000 of these patients had brain tumors (glioma and meningioma) and were compared to the other 5000 who didn’t.

The good news is they did not find a correlation between those who sustained a brain tumor and those with high EMF exposure. However the bad news is they found only a small percentage of those studied actually would be deemed to have “High EMF” exposure hence leaving us still questioning if too much cell phone exposure is still risky.

Study author Javier Villa states, “Although we did not find a positive association, the fact that we observed indication of an increased risk in the group with most recent radiofrequency exposure deserves further investigation,” and suggests, “we shouldn’t worry for now, but we do need to focus future efforts on making sharper tools to analyse any hypothetical risk.”

What do cell phones emit?

Cell phones emit radio waves. These are a form of non-ionizing radiation that provides an energy source through radio frequency.  Ionizing radiation is emitted by xrays, cosmic rays, and radon, and have been linked to cancer as it is a high frequency, high energy form of electromagnetic radiation.  Non-ionizing radiation include radio waves, microwaves, visible light, UV light, infrared, and lasers.  Although UV radiation may cause skin cancer, the other sources are deemed less dangerous than their ionizing radiation counterparts.

Can cell phone use cause cancer?

One of the more recent studies unveiled in May of 2016 reported cell phone radiation caused brain tumors in mice.  Rats exposed to the radiofrequency radiation for 7-9 hours a day, seven days a week, were more prone to develop the malignant gliomas as well has tumors in the heart.  This study was not intended to be translated to human risk, but of course it made headlines and scared us silly.

Prior to this, in 2011, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified cell phone use and other radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as “possibly carcinogenic to humans”.

However, multiple studies have been done, as descriptively outlined by the National Cancer Institute, and are assuring us that there is no imminent danger by our daily use of cell phones.  The NCI also provides recommendations from the CDC, FDA, and FCC stating not enough evidence exists to establish a link between cell phones and cancer.

Can cell phone radiation injure our body’s cells?

Although arguments continue over cell phone radiation causing cancer, it has been proven that heat is given off. Many people complain their ear gets hot after lengthy cell phone use and studies have yet to determine if cell  phone heat can cause oncogenic changes in cells.  They’ve studied if the radiation affects metabolic activity, and a team led by Dr. Nora Volkow, head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, found visible brain activity changes on the side the cell phone was being used. They recommended after this study keeping the cell phone away from the body and using a lower radiation emitting phone.

So now what?

We wait and see. My suggestion is to not overdo it with our phones. Use the speaker setting when practical so as to not consistently hug the phone to your skull. Take breaks in between lengthy calls. Text when appropriate to minimize exposure as well.

The following has been recommended for both children and adults:

  • Keeping the phone away from the body
  • Reducing cell phone use when the signal is weak
  • Reducing the use of cell phones to stream audio or video, or to download or upload large files
  • Keeping the phone away from the bed at night
  • Removing headsets when not on a call
  • Avoiding products that claim to block radio frequency energy. These products may actually increase your exposure.

Or do what I do when I talk to my mother, hold the phone 3 feet away from my head.  I can still hear her…..just fine……

 

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Daliah Wachs is a guest contributor to GCN news, her views and opinions, medical or otherwise, if expressed, are her own. Doctor Wachs is an MD,  FAAFP and a Board Certified Family Physician.  The Dr. Daliah Show , is nationally syndicated M-F from 11:00 am - 2:00 pm and Saturday from Noon-1:00 pm (all central times) at GCN.

Published in Health

The 78 year-old iconic game show host has revealed last week that he has Stage 4 pancreatic cancer, vowing  to “fight this” deadly malignancy.

However, in an interview with Business Insider, he admitted to having a Milky Way and diet soda for breakfast every day, “A Diet Coke or a Diet Pepsi or a Diet Dr. Pepper,” especially on taping days.

A Stage 4 is given to cancer that has spread to other parts of the body.

Each year over 55,000 Americans are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, whose 5-year survival rate is 5%.  Older individuals who are healthy can do as well as those who are younger when diagnosed with advanced stage of the disease.  However some sources cite the median survival time is between 2 and 6 months if the cancer is diagnosed at a late stage.

What are the risk factors for pancreatic cancer?

Known risk factors for pancreatic cancer include:

  • Older individuals
  • Male (though women are affected as well)
  • Diabetes
  • Alcohol use
  • Chronic pancreatitis
  • Genetics
  • African-American descent
  • Ashkenazi Jewish descent
  • Obesity
  • High fat diet
  • Hepatitis B
  • H. pylori infection
  • BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations
  • Can Diet Soda CAUSE Diabetes.

Artificial sweeteners have been linked to diabetes and diabetes is a risk factor for pancreatic cancer.  Their relationship to pancreatic cancer, however, still remains controversial.

 

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Daliah Wachs is a guest contributor to GCN news, her views and opinions, medical or otherwise, if expressed, are her own. Doctor Wachs is an MD,  FAAFP and a Board Certified Family Physician.  The Dr. Daliah Show , is nationally syndicated M-F from 11:00 am - 2:00 pm and Saturday from Noon-1:00 pm (all central times) at GCN.

Published in Health
%PM, %07 %939 %2019 %21:%Mar

Medicare for all: Reality or fantasy?

Senator Bernie Sanders during the 2016 Presidential Election called for a single payer system to cure our healthcare woes. Now Democratic contenders for the 2020 election are calling for the same. Some voters are salivating at the thought, tired of high insurance premiums and deductibles. Others are cringing at the idea of the government running our healthcare system. Yet most are confused and want more details. So let’s break it down.

What is Medicare?

Medicare is the health insurance offered by the federal government for those over 65 and with disabilities. According to medicare.gov they breakdown medicare as the following:

Medicare is the federal health insurance program for:

  • People who are 65 or older

  • Certain younger people with disabilities

  • People with End-Stage Renal Disease (permanent kidney failure requiring dialysis or a transplant, sometimes called ESRD)

The different parts of Medicare help cover specific services:

Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance)

Part A covers inpatient hospital stays, care in a skilled nursing facility, hospice care, and some home health care.

Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance)  

Part B covers certain doctors’ services, outpatient care, medical supplies, and preventive services.

Medicare Part D (prescription drug coverage)

Part D adds prescription drug coverage to:

  • Original Medicare
  • Some Medicare Cost Plans
  • Some Medicare Private-Fee-for-Service Plans
  • Medicare Medical Savings Account Plans

These plans are offered by insurance companies and other private companies approved by Medicare. Medicare Advantage Plans may also offer prescription drug coverage that follows the same rules as Medicare Prescription Drug Plans

Medicare Advantage (also known as Part C) is an “all in one” alternative to Original Medicare. These “bundled” plans include Part A, Part B, and usually Part D.

What is Medicare For All?

Originally suggested by Senator Bernie Sanders, Medicare for All would essentially allow all Americans to qualify for Medicare. According to Unitedmedicareadvisors.com:

Medicare for All promises to cover numerous healthcare products and services, including the following:

  • Inpatient and outpatient health care services

  • Preventative, emergency, and nonemergency health care services and treatments

  • Primary and specialty healthcare, including palliative and long-term care

  • Care for vision, hearing, and oral health problems

  • Mental health and addiction services

  • Prescription medication

  • Medical equipment and supplies

  • Diagnostic tests

The concept sounds nice but Medicare doesn’t currently cover many of the above such as hearing aids, dental exams, and long-term care.

How would Medicare For All be subsidized?

Unitedmedicareadvisors.com reports the following:

MEDICARE FOR ALL, ESTIMATED TO COST AROUND $1.38 TRILLION A YEAR, WOULD OPERATE WITH FUNDING FROM THE FOLLOWING SOURCES:
  • $630 BILLION FROM A 6.2 PERCENT INCOME-BASED PREMIUM PAID BY EMPLOYERS
  • $210 BILLION FROM A 2.2 PERCENT INCOME-BASED PREMIUM PAID BY HOUSEHOLDS MAKING MORE THAN $28,800
  • $110 BILLION FROM PROGRESSIVE INCOME TAX RATES FOR AMERICANS WITH YEARLY EARNINGS OVER $250,000
  • $92 BILLION FROM TAXING CAPITAL GAINS AND DIVIDENDS IN LINE WITH EMPLOYMENT INCOME
  • $15 BILLION FROM LIMITING TAX DEDUCTION FOR AMERICANS WITH YEARLY EARNINGS OVER $250,000
  • $21 BILLION FROM A NEW RESPONSIBLE ESTATE TAX APPLIED TO THE HOMES OF AMERICANS INHERITING MORE THAN $3.5 MILLION
  • $310 BILLION FROM SAVINGS AS HEALTH-RELATED TAX EXPENSES BECOME OBSOLETE

Unfortunately, tax hikes on employers could lead to price hikes and less employment.

So the concerns I have are Medicare doesn’t currently cover what Medicare for All is touting and the expense may be underprojected.

Moreover many healthcare providers do NOT take Medicare so access can be an issue.

However, until premiums and deductibles go down, and more Americans become insured, plans such as this will gain attention and popularity.

 

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Daliah Wachs is a guest contributor to GCN news, her views and opinions, medical or otherwise, if expressed, are her own. Doctor Wachs is an MD,  FAAFP and a Board Certified Family Physician.  The Dr. Daliah Show , is nationally syndicated M-F from 11:00 am - 2:00 pm and Saturday from Noon-1:00 pm (all central times) at GCN.

Published in Health

As we turn the bend during the second semester of the school year we begin to face challenges. For many of us the material seems insurmountable….maybe we perceive it as such, or maybe teachers realize they are falling short and rush to get all the information in before the school year ends.

Either way, students feel stressed, overwhelmed and many times unable to catch up. So what do you do when you find the material to be TMTH (too much to handle)?

You don’t have to learn EVERYTHING

Firstly, realize that you don’t have to learn everything. Remember, the professor can’t test on EVERYTHING. So don’t go at a packet, slide deck or book with the attitude that you have to know everything.  Find the Titles, the main point in the paragraph that follows, and any supporting info that seems to buttress the main point. Careful with your use of highlighting if you’re tired and burning out because you’ll start to highlight everything.  Which brings us to….

Have a study buddy

Two heads are better than one. Sometimes three…but more than that may be distracting. What you thought was important in class or on a sheet of information can be confirmed or denied by another student.  Moreover everyone has strengths and weaknesses so find one who can compliment you and help you discern what’s important to know.

Be direct…ask the teacher

Rather than guessing, take 15 minutes to meet with the teacher to get an idea of what they find imperative to learn/know for the test. But don’t go into their office asking “will this be on the test?” I would be direct, honest, but humble by asking:

  • “All the information you gave us is very important. What do you suggest we concentrate on?”
  • “I find myself wanting to memorize all the information you gave us due to its importance, but is there a better strategy?”
  • “I want to do well on the exam and not over-concentrate on the part of the material that will not be tested as it could take time away from my learning the other material that you want us to know.”
  • “I would really appreciate any advice you can give on how to approach the material being tested.  I enjoy your class and want to accurately demonstrate the effort I’m putting in to succeed in your course.”

Now, many times the professor will oblige.  But if not, you need to indirectly determine what he/she is going to test. This brings us to…..

Watch for the “Brush Over”

How was the material given?

If your professor brushed over it quickly in class, it could mean they don’t find it crucial enough to test or ….they don’t completely understand the material themselves. Most likely this will not be tested.  However, if he/she brushed over it because it was given in a previous lecture, then its open game.

Demonstrations of the brush over include:

  • Skipping over to the next slide
  • Skipping over to the next sentence
  • Speaking quickly and less slow with regards to a certain subject matter
  • Speaking vaguely over the subject matter
  • Looking down and away when discussing the subject matter when he/she usually gives direct eye contact during lectures
  • Moving the laser pointer to an earlier point as he/she reinforces it.

Know your professor

Are they big on testing if you paid attention in class or knowing the information that’s necessary to succeed? Are they a jerk and will pick the most esoteric piece of content from a 1000 word slide or will they focus on main points? Get an idea on what makes them tick.

A test is a game

For some institutions the exam is to test competency. These are the most clear-cut, fair tests and to me, make the most sense. If, for example, in medical school one is studying poor lung function and what a spirometer discerns, the inventor and history of the tool will most likely not be tested.  Keep in mind, your professor has bosses and they have bosses, so your competency reflects on them.

For other institutions it may be at the professor’s discretion.  So you need to feel out each teacher and see what they’re all about. If they are big on class attendance and will weight the test towards those who showed up, expect questions on content that was highlighted in class. And if they are big on seeing if you paid attention, you will be tested on something they impressed upon you sometime during lecture. So during the lecture watch for the following:

  • Long pause after finishing a point on a slide
  • Eye contact when delivering the content
  • Reiterating a point twice
  • The key word the professor stresses with his laser pointer

So after you’ve done your “homework,” how do you tackle your studies?

Map out your strategy

Your time is divisible so grab a calculator and aliquot into equal periods. Make sure you have extra sessions included for breaks and catch up sessions. Or you can use a calendar that is already compartmentalized on which to create your timetable.

Clean your desk!

A nice clean, crisp desk with plenty of pens and highlighters helps energize one more than cluttered paper. Moreover have a second work space you can go to when you get sick of working at your desk.

Prioritize

Now this is easier said than done. Some will put their hardest classes on their study calendar first, some the easiest. There are pros and cons to both. What I suggest is alternating difficult and easy subjects. You need the start of your day and initial power hours knocking out the difficult material, but then the easier classes will boost your confidence and sometimes energy.  So one option could be:

  • Study block 1:  Tough subject
  • Study block 2:  Easy subject
  • Study block 3:  Medium subject
  • Hour 4:  Review
  • With breaks, of course, in between.

Take real breaks!

You should design two types of breaks: Short and Long.

Your short break should be no shorter than 10 minutes. During the break you must do the following:

  • Get up and stretch
  • Drink water
  • Eat a small snack
  • Go to the bathroom
  • Listen to some music, dance, phone a friend

Your long break should be no shorter than 45 minutes. During these breaks you can:

  • Eat a regular meal, if due, and drink plenty of fluids
  • Take a small nap
  • Take a shower – helps refresh and energize
  • Check social media – stick to your time limit though!
  • Watch a 30 minute episode of your favorite sitcom
  • Exercise such as going for a run

Identify signs of burnout

If you’re “going through the motions” of studying and feel “burnt” you won’t be absorbing the material and subsequently you’ll be wasting precious hours. You must identify burnout by looking for the following:

  • Apathy
  • Exhaustion
  • Poor sleep when you get done in the evening
  • Negative attitude towards school and others
  • Procrastinating your next study block
  • Being irritated
  • Feeling empty
  • Low energy
  • Thinking about quitting

How to avoid burnout

When studying you’re classwork it’s difficult to avoid the boredom and stress, but the following may help:

  • Study with friends
  • Mix up your study sessions with videos and flash cards if reading gets overwhelming
  • Watch a short funny video to get you laughing
  • Take regular breaks
  • Make sure you’re eating and sleeping well

Remember, we’ve all been there and school is supposed to be challenging. Stay on course and get help if you need such as a tutor.  We all make it to the finish line….even if we’re a little bruised up when we get there.

 

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Daliah Wachs is a guest contributor to GCN news, her views and opinions, medical or otherwise, if expressed, are her own. Doctor Wachs is an MD,  FAAFP and a Board Certified Family Physician.  The Dr. Daliah Show , is nationally syndicated M-F from 11:00 am - 2:00 pm and Saturday from Noon-1:00 pm (all central times) at GCN.

Published in Opinion

It’s tax season and most of us are hoping to shave a few bucks off our tax bill. Well, many are not aware of the deductions that are available when it comes to medical expenses.

If you spent over 7.5% of your adjusted gross income on unreimbursed medical expenses during 2018, you may be able to deduct what you spent over this 7.5%, according to the IRS.

So, for example, if you make $100,000 a year, 7.5% would equal $7,500.  So let's say you spent $10,000 on medical expenses, subtract the 7.5 % ($7,500) from $10,000, and the remaining $2,500 is tax-deductible.

But the expenses made can also include those of your spouse, children and dependents. Combined, these could qualify you for descent deductions.

Publication 502 breaks down what services or items you purchased in 2018 that are tax-deductible and which are not.  Here’s a brief summary:

Tax Deductible Items:

  • Abortion (legal)
  • Acupuncture
  • Alcohol and Drug Treatment
  • Ambulance Service
  • Annual physicals
  • Artificial Limbs
  • Artificial Teeth/Dentures
  • Bandages – so supplies for wounds, burns, nose bleeds  
  • Birth Control Pills
  • Home Improvements
    • under the “Capital Expenses” section, the IRS states the following:
    • You can include in medical expenses amounts you pay for special equipment installed in a home, or for improvements, if their main purpose is medical care for you, your spouse, or your dependent. The cost of permanent improvements that increase the value of your property may be partly included as a medical expense. The cost of the improvement is reduced by the increase in the value of your property. The difference is a medical expense. If the value of your property isn’t increased by the improvement, the entire cost is included as a medical expense.

    • Certain improvements made to accommodate a home to your disabled condition, or that of your spouse or your dependents who live with you, don’t usually increase the value of the home and the cost can be included in full as medical expenses. These improvements include, but aren’t limited to, the following items.

      • Constructing entrance or exit ramps for your home.

      • Widening doorways at entrances or exits to your home.

      • Widening or otherwise modifying hallways and interior doorways.

      • Installing railings, support bars, or other modifications to bathrooms.

      • Lowering or modifying kitchen cabinets and equipment.

      • Moving or modifying electrical outlets and fixtures.

      • Installing porch lifts and other forms of lifts (but elevators generally add value to the house).

      • Modifying fire alarms, smoke detectors, and other warning systems.

      • Modifying stairways.

      • Adding handrails or grab bars anywhere (whether or not in bathrooms).

      • Modifying hardware on doors.

      • Modifying areas in front of entrance and exit doorways.

      • Grading the ground to provide access to the residence.

  • Transportation (Uber, Taxi, Bus ride to medical office/lab/hospital)
  • Mileage (18 cents a mile for trips to medical office/lab/hospital)
  • Breast feeding/pump supplies
  • Medications that were prescribed by a provider
  • Hearing Aids
  • Insurance Premiums
  • Oxygen
  • Contact lens/glasses
  • Crutches
  • Service animal – and most of their expenses
  • Lodging and Meals when going to out-of-town medical facilities
  • Nursing home
  • Nursing expenses
  • Pregnancy tests
  • Wigs
  • Wheelchairs
  • Vasectomies
  • and the list goes on

Unfortunately the following cannot be written off:

  • Gym memberships
  • Cosmetic surgery (unless for reconstruction after cancer or trauma/disfigurement)
  • Dance lessons – despite using it for weight loss
  • Funeral expenses
  • Maternity clothes
  • Insurance premiums that were covered by the employer
  • Over the counter medications and supplements
  • Teeth whitening

So review the list and see what you can apply to your 2018 itemized deduction worksheet.  But make sure you have your receipts and logging of car mileage…. and start keeping track this year as well!

 

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Daliah Wachs is a guest contributor to GCN news, her views and opinions, medical or otherwise, if expressed, are her own. Doctor Wachs is an MD,  FAAFP and a Board Certified Family Physician.  The Dr. Daliah Show , is nationally syndicated M-F from 11:00 am - 2:00 pm and Saturday from Noon-1:00 pm (all central times) at GCN.

Published in Health
%PM, %20 %880 %2019 %20:%Feb

Mexican scientist cures HPV (kind of)

Mexican researchers had a major breakthrough in treating HPV (Human Papillomavirus), the most common sexually transmitted disease. In fact, the CDC states that almost 80 million Americans are infected with HPV with approximately 14 million people becoming newly infected per year. Those are just the numbers in the U.S. alone.

 

What exactly is HPV?

 

HPV is a group of more than 150 related viruses, named for the warts (papillomas) some HPV types can cause. Some other HPV types can lead to cancer. According to the CDC website:

 

“In most cases, HPV goes away on its own and does not cause any health problems. But when HPV does not go away, it can cause health problems like genital warts and cancer.

Genital warts usually appear as a small bump or group of bumps in the genital area. They can be small or large, raised or flat, or shaped like a cauliflower. A healthcare provider can usually diagnose warts by looking at the genital area.

 

HPV can cause cervical and other cancers including cancer of the vulva, vagina, penis, or anus. It can also cause cancer in the back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils (called oropharyngeal cancer). Cancer often takes years, even decades, to develop after a person gets HPV. The types of HPV that can cause genital warts are not the same as the types of HPV that can cause cancers.”

 

According to, El Universal, a popular Mexican newsite, a research team at Mexico’s National Polytechnic Institute led by Eva Ramon Gallegos, was able to eliminate HPV in dozens of patients using a non-invasive photodynamic therapy. Which makes us all ask, what is photodynamic therapy? Well, according to cancer.gov:

 

“Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a treatment that uses a drug, called a photosensitizer or photosensitizing agent, and a particular type of light. When photosensitizers are exposed to a specific wavelength of light, they produce a form of oxygen that kills nearby cells.”

 

Sounds like science fiction to me but whatever works! Anyway, according to Ramon’s study, the team was able to eliminate HPV in 100 percent of patients that had no premalignant lesions and in 64.3 percent of subjects with lesions.

 

Now, I know that viral headlines all across the internet screamed the HPV has been cured but, um - not so fast. There are over 100 different kinds of HPV. Some cause health problems, some do not. Some, but not many, cause cancer. One of the reasons cancer is so hard to cure is because each type of cancer will require a completely different cure. Something that cures cervical cancer, for example, will probably not cure breast cancer. And something that cures type 6,11,16 and 18 (most of the problematic HPV types) types of HPV might not work on other types of HPV.

 

As pointed out by Liz Highleyman, the editor in chief at www.cancerhealth.com in her A Cure for HPV, not so fast…, there are too many forms of HPV to claim they have all been cured. Highleyman notes the Mexican  research only focused on two types of HPV. So, while the research is good news, it’s not exactly a full cure. From her article:   

 

It’s not clear how photodynamic treatment might eliminate HPV infection, which would seem to require some type of antiviral therapy. But there’s clearly something going on.  

Despite the unanswered questions raised by the recent reports, the findings from the Mexican study are good news for people with HPV-associated dysplasia. Photodynamic therapy is well tolerated and noninvasive. Using PDT instead of surgery to remove precancerous tissue could help preserve function in people with anal lesions and the ability to carry a pregnancy in women with cervical lesions.

 

The news also presents an opportunity to promote HPV vaccination. The new Gardasil 9 vaccine protects against several of the most common cancer-causing HPV types (16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52 and 58) and two wart-causing types (6 and 11). It is recommended for girls and boys around age 11 or 12, before they become sexually active. However, the FDA recently approved the vaccine for women and men up to age 45, meaning people who were not vaccinated as teens or young adults may still be able to benefit.”

 

Okay. So perhaps “cures HPV” is too strong a statement. But things seem to be heading in the right direction!

Published in Health
%PM, %17 %871 %2019 %19:%Feb

Allergy season may start early this year

Multiple states are bracing for “early” allergy seasons.

We still have a month left of winter yet grass is sprouting, leaves are growing and flowers are blooming.  Add just having a wetter winter and warmer-than-normal temperatures to the mix and this is the perfect recipe for an early allergy season.

Allergy season usually begins with the start of Spring in March.  Yet many may start their symptoms as early as February if they are allergic to what’s blooming.

Tree pollens start first in January and then taper off in April.  Grass pollen starts to rise in February and March.   Finally weed pollens join the party by the Spring and extend through the Summer and Fall.

Here are your questions answered:

What are allergies?

Allergies are the result of the immune response to a foreign particulate that our body senses.  One could be allergic to pollen, dust, dander, food, insects, mold, metals, transfused blood, grafts, medicine and anything the body senses as a foreign intruder.  Even though these may be individually harmless, a hypersensitivity reaction occurs as a result of their intrusion into the body.  IgE antibodies find the allergen (intruder) and activate mast cells in the tissue and basophils in the blood.  When these cells get activated, they release substances to help protect the body, including histamines, leukotrienes, and cytokines. These help the body attempt to sneeze and cough the allergen out, wall off the antigen, signal more antibodies, or produce tears and nasal secretions to flush it out.

What are symptoms of seasonal allergies?

Symptoms of allergies could include any or a combination of the following:

  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Runny nose
  • Eye watering
  • Red Eyes
  • Itchy eyes
  • Itchy skin
  • Rash
  • Itchy throat
  • Fatigue
  • Congestion….. to name a few.

How do they differ from a cold?

Colds may have very similar symptoms to allergies.  However they are different.

The common cold is caused by a virus.  When one gets infected by the virus they may feel malaise, fever, and achy.  This does not occur with allergies.

Moreover, nasal secretions from allergies are usually clear.  In a cold, the mucous could be thicker and with color.

The same holds true with sputum.  During an allergy the cough may have little to no mucous and if so, be light-colored.  Thick mucus could be a sign of an infection.

An allergic sore throat will seem more dry and scratchy.  A sore throat from a cold is more uncomfortable and less easy to soothe.

Allergies may persist or be cyclical.  Cold symptoms will usually subside after a few days and rarely persist longer than 10 days.

Can allergies lead to a cold?

Yes and no.  Allergies should not in and of themselves cause an infection. However they may make one more vulnerable for a virus or bacteria to take over. Hence a bronchitis, sinus infection, or pneumonia could uncommonly follow an asthma attack.

Are seasonal allergies dangerous?

As stated previously, if one is susceptible to colds, an allergic attack could make them vulnerable. Moreover if one suffers from asthma, an allergy attack could incite an asthma attack.  Very rarely would we see a life threatening anaphylaxis to an allergen such as pollen.

Allergy season is here: What are the worst offenders?

How can we prevent and treat allergies?

Avoiding, or decreasing exposure to the allergen is key.   We suggest the following:

  1. Be aware of your local weather and pollen counts.  If the weather begins to warm and regional vegetation is blooming, allergy season may be upon you sooner than you know.
  2. Avoid outside pollen from coming into your house.  Avoid the urge to open all the windows during Springtime as wind will bring the pollen in.
  3. Clean your air filters.  Replace air filters frequently and consider using HEPA Filters
  4. Wash off pollen from your hair and clothes before you sit on the couch or jump into bed.
  5. Close your car windows when you park.
  6. “Recirculate” the air in your car
  7. Discuss with your medical provider if you are a candidate for medications such as antihistamines, nasal corticosteroids or leukotriene antagonists.  
  8. If you suffer from respiratory illnesses or a chronic medical condition, discuss with your medical provider if you need to start your allergy medication before allergy season hits. Some of these medications may take a couple of weeks to reach therapeutic levels.

How can I find my local pollen counts?

Local tree, ragweed and grass pollen counts can be obtained here.

 

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Daliah Wachs is a guest contributor to GCN news, her views and opinions, medical or otherwise, if expressed, are her own. Doctor Wachs is an MD,  FAAFP and a Board Certified Family Physician.  The Dr. Daliah Show , is nationally syndicated M-F from 11:00 am - 2:00 pm and Saturday from Noon-1:00 pm (all central times) at GCN.

Published in Health
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