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New method for treating pancreatic cancer on the cards

Posted by on Dec 21, 2013 in Apollo Health Blog | Comments Off

New method for treating pancreatic cancer on the cards

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British researchers have developed a new method for treating pancreatic cancer which enables the body’s immune system to attack and kill cancer cells. The method developed by the researchers at the Cambridge University’s Cancer Research Institute uses a drug to break down the protective barrier surrounding pancreatic cancer tumours, enabling cancer-attacking T cells, a type of white blood cells, to enhance the immunity.

The drug is used in combination with an antibody that blocks a second target and improves the activity of these T cells, a Cambridge University press release said on Friday.

Pancreatic cancer is the eighth most common cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide. Tumour removal is the most effective treatment but it is suitable for just one in five patients. ‘By enabling the body to use its own defences to attack cancer, this approach has the potential to greatly improve treatment of solid tumours,’ Professor Douglas Fearon, who leads the research, said.

How often should diabetics use a glucometer to monitor blood glucose levels?

Posted by on Dec 21, 2013 in Apollo Health Blog | Comments Off

How often should diabetics use a glucometer to monitor blood glucose levels?

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If you are a diabetic, or have a family member who suffers from the disease, you must know the pain that goes with constantly checking one’s blood glucose levels. Although, keeping a tab on one’s glucose levels at regular intervals is important, there is something as too much checking. We asked Dr Rajiv Kovil, leading diabetologist, about how often and why one should check their blood glucose levels.


Checking one’s blood glucose using a glucometer is known as SMBG (Self Monitoring of Blood Glucose). This is where a person monitors their blood glucose level using a portable device known as a glucometer in the comfort of their home. This machine takes a small drop of blood, collected on glucometer strip (a strip of paper specially designed for the device) and checks it for the amount of glucose in the person’s body. Dr Kovil says, ‘SMBG (Self Monitoring of Blood Glucose) is tool to find out a patient’s glycaemic variability. It should be used to guide patient and his/her doctor.’

How often should one check their glucose level?

The frequency of the checks vary, depending on the type of diabetes one suffers from.

Type 2 diabetics

According to Dr Kovil, ‘A type 2 diabetic should measure his/her glucose levels once before a meal and once two hours after a meal. This should be done on different days at different times, also known as scattered checks’. These checks help your doctor know how well your body is responding to a particular medication, and if any  changes in the dosages are required. It also gives him/her a fair idea about how your body is coping with the disease and if you are at any further risk from associated conditions like heart disease, eye disorders and vascular disorders.

Type 1 diabetics

In the case of type 1 diabetics, Dr Kovil says, ‘Such diabetics should have a 7 point check, before and after meals, along with a 3 am reading.’ A 7 point check is where the person checks their glucose levels over a varying period of time, and the doctor can plot a graph of how well the person is doing on their current insulin replacement therapy. It is also a good way to know how well their body is tolerating the earlier dose of insulin and how much they need as their next dose.

 Gestational diabetics:

According to Dr Kovil, ‘In women suffering from gestational diabetes, SMBG must be done before meals and 1 hour after meals. Since this is when one’s blood sugar levels are likely to be the lowest and highest respectively.’ Therefore, monitoring one’s level is essential to the health of the mother and baby.

For those with unstable diabetes:

Dr Kovil says, ‘For those suffering from brittle diabetes (unstable diabetes) along with Type 1 diabetes,  should use the CGMS (Continuous Glucose Monitoring System) of monitoring their blood glucose.’  ‘Unlike traditional meters that provide a one-time snapshot of one’s blood glucose levels, continuous glucose monitors (CGMSs) measure one’s glucose levels  every few minutes. This system is essential for people suffering from this kind of diabetes since they need to keep a tab on their blood glucose levels at all times.’ Explains Dr Kovil.

Finally, don’t keep pricking your fingers whenever you deem fit. Instead, just follow instructions based on the type of diabetes you suffer from, and you should be on your way to well managed diabetes and not to mention less sore finger tips.

Hear! Hear! Before It’s Too Late…

Posted by on Dec 20, 2013 in Apollo Health Blog | Comments Off

Hear! Hear! Before It’s Too Late…

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While most of us know that loud noise can damage the ears, very few of us are aware that a host of other situations too can affect the delicate mechanism that makes hearing possible. Foreign objects or sudden blows can damage the eardrum, resulting in temporary, or in some cases, permanent loss of hearing.Causes And Prevention Of Ear Damage
Inserting Objects: One of the most common causes of ruptured eardrum and other ear damage is putting an object into the ear. All too often, people use the earbud in an attempt to completely clean the wax, or to relieve an itch. Most of the time it’s best to just Before It’s Too Late… leave earwax alone. It’s in your ear for a good reason: to trap dust, bacteria, and other particles that might cause injury, irritation, or infection.

  • Refrain from using buds. Ears are self-cleaning for the most part.
  • Jaw movements, when you eat and talk, eventually push wax to the outer ear, where you can easily remove it by wiping with a damp piece of cotton.
  • If earwax is truly bothering you, have a doctor remove it for you.
  • Steer clear of using over-the-counter drops to soften wax until you check with a doctor. If the problem is something other than earwax, the drops may exacerbate it.

The old folk wisdom about not putting anything in your ear smaller than an elbow, though exaggerated, isn’t such bad advice!

Loud Noise: Loud noise can harm hearing by damaging the sensitive, tiny hair cells in the inner ear. Certain conditions can make these hair cells even more sensitive than usual. During aerobic exercise our blood diverts from our ears to our legs, arms, and heart. This altered blood flow makes the hair cells more vulnerable to noise. Thus, many fitness experts warn that you double your risk of permanent hearing loss when you jog while wearing headphones with loud music, or dance to blaring music at a rock concert.

The solution is obvious: Stop the noise and use protective devices including acoustic earplugs or muffs.

Swimmer’s Ear (Otitis Externa)

This condition can crop up when bacteria nestle in the outer ear canal that is warm and moist. Being in the water a lot also tends to wash away the natural oily, waxy substance that normally lines and protects the ear canal. Bacteria can then get the upper hand, and cause infection. Water can also be left over in your ear after taking a shower. Poking around with a bobby pin or cotton-tipped swab can scratch the delicate skin in the ear canal and break down the barrier against bacteria, resulting in an outer ear canal infection also called otitis externa. Resist the urge to scratch; that will make the problem worse. To prevent infection:

  • Don’t let the water sit in your ear.
  • Shake the water out after a shower or swim.
  • The best way to dry the ear is to roll the corner of a soft cotton handkerchief and use it to mop the canal.
Middle Ear Infection (Otitis Media)

Middle-ear infection (known medically as otitis media) is the most common illness in babies and young children. The outer ear is connected to an aircontaining space called the middle ear. The air pressure in the middle ear is equalized more than one thousand times a day, every time you swallow, through the eustachian tube, which also carries fluid away from the middle ear.

Due to a cold or an allergy, the eustachian tube swells and air isabsorbed by the lining of the middle ear, creating a partial vacuum, and fluid seeps from the lining of the middle ear. Bacteria or viruses infect the stagnant, warm fluid in the middle ear. To prevent infection:

    • Keep your child away from other kids who have infections.
    • Take care of nasal allergies and teach your child to blow the nose gently.
    • Do not expose your child to cigarette smoke.
    • Avoid giving a bottle of milk or formula to a baby who is lying on his or her back, because the nutrient-rich liquid can flow into the eustachian tube during swallowing and pool there, creating a breeding ground for infectious organisms. Prop the child’s head up on pillows.

Earphones, Headphones and Cellphones!Sounds over 140dB can cause pain, and prolonged exposure to noise over 85-90dB can result in permanent hearing loss. There are certain preliminary studies that say that people who use cellphones for more than an hour can develop hearing loss in the long term.
If you experience fullness or warmth in the ear where the phone is constantly used, it is probably time for a checkup with your doctor!

Meditation can help you overcome addictions

Posted by on Dec 20, 2013 in Apollo Health Blog | Comments Off

Meditation can help you overcome addictions

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Rehabilitation therapies that use meditation are likely to have a higher success rate when it comes to helping trying to overcome addiction. This is the conclusion of a new survey of animal and human studies by a computer scientist who used a computational model of addiction, a literature review and an in silico experiment.

The findings of the survey — by computer scientist Yariv Levyof the University of Massachusetts Amherst, neuroscience researcher Jerrold Meyer, and computer scientist Andrew Barto — has been published in the latest issue of the journal Frontiers in Psychiatry.

‘Our higher-level conclusion is that a treatment based on meditation-like techniques can be helpful as a supplement to help someone get out of addiction. We give scientific and mathematical arguments for this,’ said Levy, who was a doctoral student when he undertook the survey.

According to Levy, the survey aimed to use learnings from existing animal and human studies to better understand addiction and seek new approaches to treatment.

The researchers explored the allostatic theory, which describes changes in the brain’s reward and anti-reward systems and reward set points as substance misuse progresses. They used two existing computational models, one pharmacological and a more behavioural-cognitive model for the study. The allostatic theory says that when someone takes a drug he or she stresses the reward system and it loses its equilibrium state.

‘We smoke one cigarette and go out, come back in again, and out with another cigarette, always trying to return to equilibrium,’ Levy says. ‘The reward system tries to change its structure with neural adaptations to get back to equilibrium. But if I continue to smoke, even with such adaptations, I can’t make it back. Equilibrium is broken as long as I continue to smoke.’

As the reward system is stressed, the anti-reward system steps in and says, ‘I’ll try to help,’ and the person enters what is known as an allostatic state. Other brain structures are affected by the addictive substance, impairing the addict’s evaluation of drug use compared to other reinforcers, Levy said.

To bind the two theories and test how they could work together in silico, the authors follow three virtual case studies, each representing a different trajectory of allostatic state during escalation of cigarette smoking.  ‘This investigation provides formal arguments encouraging current rehabilitation therapies to include meditation-like practices along with pharmaceutical drugs and behavioural counseling,’ the authors wrote.

What is arrhythmia and why it is a cause for concern

Posted by on Dec 19, 2013 in Apollo Health Blog | Comments Off

What is arrhythmia and why it is a cause for concern

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 December 19, 2013 at 1:49 pm


When your heart ‘skips a beat’ it might not be just a sign of excitement or nervousness, it could actually mean much more than that. Our heart beats a hundred thousand times a day – and that’s when it beats normally. There are times when the heart beats either too slowly, or too fast, or irregularly leading to a condition called arrhythmia.

Extremely common in today’s day-and-age, one of the most common symptoms of this condition is a fluttering feeling in the chest or neck.

Heartbeat facts

A normal heartbeat ranges from 60 to 100 beats per minute while at rest, but in conditioned athletes, it may be as low as 60 beats per minute. This number may go up or beyond 100 beats if you are exercising.

If you are not a conditioned athlete and your heartbeat is less than 60 beats per minute, you are probably having arrhythmia called bradycardia. In the same way, if you are at rest and your heart rate is greater than 100 beats a minute, the arrhythmia is called tachycardia.

If this fluctuation in the heart rate is severe or lasts long enough — so that it affects how well the heart works — the heart may not be able to pump enough blood to the body. Leading you to feel tired, lightheaded or may make you pass out.

Heart anatomy

Know your heart

Your heart is like a well-oiled machine, it is divided into a left and right side by a muscular wall called the septum, and each section performs its own unique function.

Each side has two chambers – the upper one called the atrium and the lower one called ventricle. The atrium and ventricle are connected by a valve called mitral valve. This valve acts as a one-way portal, allowing blood to pass from the atria to the ventricles, and then closing to prevent back flow of the blood.

The blood picks up oxygen in the lungs and reaches the left atrium from where it is sent to the left ventricle and then to the body.

The cells use the oxygen and send the deoxygenated blood back to the right atrium. It then sends it to the right ventricle and from there into the lungs. This process is repeated non-stop while you live.

Heartbeat 101

The atria and ventricles work together as a team to pump blood through the heart. A heartbeat is the pumping action that moves blood into the heart and out of the heart. It is triggered by special tissue, called the sinus node. This acts like a pacemaker for the heart and sends electrical impulses, causing the atrium to contract. Another cluster of cells in the region between the atrium and ventricle slow down the electrical signal giving sufficient time to atrium to pass the blood into ventricle. Finally, the signal reaches another group of specialised cells that tell the ventricle to contract. So, one heartbeat is a collection of all these signals. Now imagine that happening non-stop for the rest of your life!

Recognise arrhythmia

Arrhythmia is fairly subjective and so are the symptoms. That being said, the common symptoms of arrhythmia are, bradycardia (slow heartbeat), tachycardia (fast heartbeat), or fluttering, shortness of breath, chest pain, lightheadedness or dizziness, fainting or feeling faint.

One might feel these symptoms intermittently and it might not mean that something is gravely wrong, but if these symptoms occur suddenly and frequently, you should see a doctor immediately.

More serious forms of this condition are:

One of the most deadly types of arrhythmia is ventricular fibrillation. Here, the ventricles begin to quiver instead of pumping blood. Because there is no effective heartbeat, blood pressure drops drastically cutting off blood supply to the organs leading to collapse and cardiac arrest. Death ensues if the person does not get medical attention immediately.

Another type is atrial fibrillation, which occurs when there is arrhythmia in the atrium. It’s a common type of arrhythmia where the electrical impulses becomes uncoordinated making your heart beat as fast as 300 times per minute. Atrial fibrillation can also be dangerous as the blood pools in the atrium because it doesn’t pump all the blood into the ventricle. This causes a blood clot (thrombus) to form. The clot can break off and travel to another part of the body leading to severe complications like a stroke.

Another complication of atrial fibrillation is heart failure. It occurs when the heart can’t pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs. Fatigue, shortness of breath, and fluid retention are common symptoms of this condition.

Know the triggers

Certain cardiovascular disorders such as CAD (coronary artery disease), cardiomyopathy, high blood pressure, a previous heart attack, and a recent heart attack, can all lead to arrhythmia. Apart from that, arrhythmia can also be caused due to diabetes, hyperthyroidism, stress, alcohol and drug abuse, smoking, certain medicines, dietary supplements and herbal treatment, air pollution and electric shock.

The steps to diagnosis

Before treating your arrhythmia, the doctor will first ask about any triggers you might have like heart disease or thyroid problem. After that he/she will try to find out where the arrhythmia starts in the heart and whether it’s abnormal through some diagnostic tests such as and ECG(electrocardiogram), Holter monitorecho electrocardiogramstress test where you will be asked to exercise on a treadmill or stationary bicycle while your heart activity is monitored), tilt table test (where you are asked to lie flat on a table and the table is then tilted as if you were standing up. Your doctor will observe how your heart responds to the change in angle) and electrophysiological testing and mapping (where your doctor will insert catheters in various parts of your body. At the tip of these catheters are electrodes that will collect information about your heart’s electrical impulses).

Getting better

The method of treatment will depend on your age, if you have any pre-existing conditions, your family history, medications you might be taking, as well as the severity and symptoms of your arrhythmia.

There are a number of treatment options:

  • Your doctor will ask you to make lifestyle changes that will keep your heart healthy. You may be advised to eat heart-healthy foods, exercise regularly, increase physical activity and cut down on stress, alcohol and caffeine.
  • You may be advised to have certain medication, that when taken exactly as per prescription can help prevent heart attack, stroke, and prevent the progression of coronary artery disease. There are 4 types of medicines to treat arrhythmia: anti-arrhythmic drugs such as lidocaine, propranolol, etc. calcium channel blockers such asamlodipine and diltiazem beta blockers such as acebutolol and metoprolol to decrease heart rate anticoagulants or blood thinners (in addition to other medicines) such as aspirin and warfarin to make it harder for the blood to clot and to prevent stroke.
  • Apart from the medication, there are minimally invasive methods such as cardiac ablation which can treat many types of arrhythmias. The procedure destroys or ablates specific cells in your heart that cause your arrhythmia.
  • In case you suffer from atrial fibrillation, defibrillation is a procedure for you. In this, a mild electric shock is given to the heart to re-establish normal contraction rhythms of the heart.
  • Implantable devices such as pacemaker for bradycardia and implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) for ventricular arrhythmias may also be used for treatment.
  • Apart from all this there are surgeries to help ease your troubles, namely the maze procedure (here a number of incisions are made on the walls of the left and right atrium. These incisions form scar tissues that disrupt the uneven electrical impulses) and coronary bypass surgery.

Some arrhythmias may be life-threatening if not treated right away, so do not ignore your symptoms even if they seem harmless. Let your doctor be the judge of it.

Eye Allergy (Allergic Eye Disease)

Posted by on Dec 19, 2013 in Apollo Health Blog | Comments Off

Eye Allergy (Allergic Eye Disease)

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Eye allergy facts

  • Most allergic eye conditions are more irritating than dangerous.
  • Allergic or vernal keratoconjunctivitis may result in scarring of the cornea and visual problems.
  • Itchy eyes are probably allergic eyes.
  • Topical antihistamine/decongestant preparations are effective and safe for mildly itchy, red eyes.
  • Patanol, a topical mast-cell stabilizer, is a safe, highly effective, long-acting treatment.
  • Topical steroids should be used with caution and under the supervision of an ophthalmologist.
  • If in doubt, seek medical advice sooner rather than later.


Eye allergy introduction

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The eyes are the windows to the soul because they reflect our state of mind. This certainly can’t be true if our eyes are red, swollen, watery, and itchy from an allergic reaction. Severe allergic eye symptoms can be very distressing and are a common reason for visits to the allergist, ophthalmologist, and even the emergency room. Occasionally, severe eye allergies cause serious damage that can threaten eyesight.


What causes eye allergies?

Eye allergies usually are associated with other allergic conditions, particularly hay fever (allergic rhinitis) and atopic eczema (dermatitis). The causes of eye allergies are similar to those of allergic asthmaand hay fever. Medications and cosmetics can play a significant role in causing eye allergies. Reactions to eye irritants and other eye conditions (for example, infections such as pinkeye) are often confused with eye allergy. Any kind of irritant, whether environmental, infectious, or manmade, can cause symptoms consistent with eye allergies.

Eating Habits That Cause Diabetes

Posted by on Dec 16, 2013 in Apollo Health Blog | Comments Off

Eating Habits That Cause Diabetes

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Diabetes due to unhealthy eating habits is becoming a common crisis among urban dwellers. With multinational companies promoting ready-to-eat processed food and their range of fast food range, people are getting addicted to a lifestyle that is prone to high risk of diabetes.

The most troubling phenomena of this trend are youngsters, in some cases children, becoming obese. Obesity is a major health hazard that leads to diabetes and other chronic heart diseases that plague people with unhealthy eating habits.

It has been established that the onset of diabetes can be prevented if our food habits are corrected.

Eating High Glycemic Index (GI) Foods, foods that are turned quickly into glucose are high GI foods, tend to create extreme spikes in the blood sugar levels. These include, white bread, pasta, carbonated drinks, refined flour baked items etc,. Consuming such foods on a regular basis exposes people to high risk of diabetes.

Saturated fats found in dairy and animal products are pro-diabetic. These are also referred to as trans-fats and are found in heavy quantities in packaged, fast food items. Red meat, dairy products and foods containing semi-hydrogenated oils are unhealthy.

Diabetes is essentially the inability to maintain uniform sugar levels in the body. Hence, irregular eating habits due to stressful and busy lifestyle increase risk of diabetes.

Habits such as skipping breakfast results in imbalance of sugar level in your body resulting in sugar cravings and hunger pangs.

Avoid raw milk due to infection risks: pediatricians

Posted by on Dec 16, 2013 in Apollo Health Blog | Comments Off

Avoid raw milk due to infection risks: pediatricians

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Pregnant women, babies and kids should not drink raw or unpasteurized milk, a group of pediatricians said.

Because of infection risks, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Committee on Infectious Diseases and Committee on Nutrition also said sales of unpasteurized milk, cheese and related products should be banned in the U.S.

Pasteurizing kills bacteria that can be present in raw milk. It involves heating the milk to at least 161 degrees Fahrenheit for more than 15 seconds and then rapidly cooling it.

“It’s kind of like riding in a car with seatbelts,” Kathryn Boor said. “If you’ve got the opportunity for a safety barrier, which would be pasteurization, why wouldn’t you use it?”

Boor studies food safety at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, where she is also the dean of Agriculture and Life Sciences. She was not involved in the new report.

At least 97 percent of dairy products consumed in the U.S. are pasteurized, the committees wrote in Pediatrics, the journal of the AAP.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration prohibits shipping raw milk for human consumption across state lines, but its sale is still legal in many states. Raw milk can carry bacteria such as E. coli and Salmonella from sick animals or contact with manure, for instance.

Still, some groups promote raw milk based on studies suggesting it is tied to a lower risk of allergies and asthma.

Boor said those studies looked at children who also spend a lot of time outside and working on farms – kids who are probably different in many ways from those who drink pasteurized milk and live in the suburbs.

“While those studies are really tempting to link (raw milk and fewer allergies), I think that the picture is considerably more complicated than that,” she told Reuters Health.

Claims that raw milk has nutrients that are killed by pasteurization also haven’t been supported, researchers said.

When it comes to raw milk, Boor said, “We can quantify the risks. We cannot quantify the benefits. And the benefits at this point are vague and not really substantiated scientifically.”

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 148 disease outbreaks tied to raw milk or raw milk products were reported in 1998 through 2011. Those caused 284 hospitalizations and two deaths.

“Contamination during milking or storage or milking from cows that may be diseased, exposes the consumer to severe and life-threatening illnesses such as miscarriage and still births in pregnant women, meningitis and blood infections in both young infants and pregnant women,” Dr. Jatinder Bhatia told Reuters Health in an email.

Bhatia, from Children’s Hospital of Georgia in Augusta, is one of the lead authors of the AAP statement.

In addition to babies and pregnant women, raw milk poses a health risk for people with compromised immune systems and the elderly, he said.

“The evidence overwhelmingly establishes the benefits of pasteurization on safety without proven adverse effects of pasteurization,” Bhatia said.

The International Dairy Foods Association, a trade group, says on its website that “All milk intended for direct consumption should be pasteurized – it’s a matter of food safety.”

Boor grew up on a dairy farm and was raised on raw milk.

She said she favors giving people a choice when it comes to the type of milk they drink. But most people may not understand the risks of raw milk or accurately envision what goes on at a farm. Cows can be sick for a while before it’s noticeable, Boor said, or the milking machine can drop off the cow and fall on the ground and get contaminated.

“Pasteurization is a very simple step, and that’s all that it takes to put up that barrier, to prevent that problem,” she said.

Dangerous Bacteria Can Lurk Inside Nose: Study

Posted by on Dec 16, 2013 in Apollo Health Blog | Comments Off

Dangerous Bacteria Can Lurk Inside Nose: Study

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People who carry staph can transmit life-threatening infections in hospital setting

Potentially harmful staph bacteria can lurk deep inside the nose, a small new study finds.

Researchers tested 12 healthy people and found that formerly overlooked sites deep within the nose may be reservoirs for Staphylococcus aureus, which is a major cause of disease. Nearly half of S. aureus strains are antibiotic-resistant.

It’s been known that S. aureus can reside on the skin and at sites lower down in the nose. Although there are ways to eliminate the bacteria, it typically returns in weeks or months.

This new finding that the bacteria can be present further inside the nose may explain why this happens, the Stanford University School of Medicine researchers said.

“About one-third of all people are persistent S. aureus carriers, another third are occasional carriers and a remaining third don’t seem to carry S. aureus at all,” study senior author Dr. David Relman, a professor of medicine and microbiology and immunology, said in a university news release.

“Not everyone who carries S. aureus gets sick. When they’re out walking the streets and otherwise healthy, attempts to rid them of their S. aureus are not necessary, and even sometimes futile,” said Relman, who also is chief of the infectious disease section at Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System, in California.

“But once a carrier enters a hospital with an underlying illness or a weakened immune system or a high likelihood of undergoing skin-penetrating procedures, S. aureus carriage is a major liability,” he said.

If S. aureus gets into the bloodstream through a wound, incision or catheter placement, it can cause potentially life-threatening problems such as sepsis,pneumonia or infection of heart valves.

Relman and his colleagues also found that a type of bacteria calledCorynebacterium pseudodiphtheriticum may compete with S. aureus at the sites deep within the nose. It’s possible that C. pseudodiphtheriticum — or some molecular product it produces — may prove useful in countering S. aureusinfections, the researchers said.

Beware – high cholesterol can cause breast cancer!

Posted by on Dec 16, 2013 in Apollo Health Blog | Comments Off

Beware – high cholesterol can cause breast cancer!

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Researchers have suggested that breast cancer growth can be fuelled by high cholesterol, as a by-product of cholesterol functions like the hormone oestrogen to enhance the growth and spread of the disease. The researchers at the Duke Cancer Institute also found that anti-cholesterol drugs such as statins appear to diminish the effect of this oestrogen-like molecule. By using mouse models and tumour cells, the researchers have for the first time explained the link between high cholesterol and breast cancer, especially in post-menopausal women, and the study suggested that dietary changes or therapies to reduce cholesterol may also offer a simple, accessible way to reduce breast cancer risk.

Senior author Donald McDonnell, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology at Duke, said they have found a molecule- not cholesterol itself, but an abundant metabolite of cholesterol- called 27HC that mimics the hormone oestrogen and can independently drive the growth of breast cancer. Using mouse models that are highly predictive of what occurs in humans, McDonnell and colleagues demonstrated the direct involvement of 27HC in breast tumour growth, as well as the aggressiveness of the cancer to spread to other organs.

They also noted that the activity of this cholesterol metabolite was inhibited when the animals were treated with anti-oestrogens or when supplementation of 27HC was stopped. McDonnell said the findings suggested there may be a simple way to reduce the risk of breast cancer by keeping cholesterol in check, either with statins or a healthy diet. Additionally, for women who have breast cancer and high cholesterol, taking statins may delay or prevent resistance to endocrine therapies such as tamoxifen or aromatase inhibitors.

The study is published in the journal Science.

 Herbal remedies for cholesterol

Cholesterol is a component that is normally synthesized in the body and is also present in many of the foods we eat. Cholesterol is important to maintain the integrity and permeability of the cell membranes, process important hormones including oestrogen, androgens and cortisol and helps metabolize fat soluble vitamins.However, when the total cholesterol levels increase beyond 200 milligrams per deciliter, you can be at risk for several other associated problems such as high blood pressure and heart disease.

Cholesterol buster #1: Oats

Oats are a rich source of fibre that contains beta glucan; this fibre is of the soluble variety and has the capacity to bind cholesterol circulating in the blood. This binding facilitates the excretion of cholesterol from the body and therefore, if you are looking at reducing your cholesterol levels, it makes sense to consume oats on a regular basis. An intake of about 5 grams of soluble fiber in a day can help cut LDL “bad” cholesterol by almost 5 percent. The best thing about oats is that it can be worked into Indian dishes if you don’t like taking it in the form of porridge. When preparingkhichadipongal or dosa batter, substitute oats for a small part of the rice and you have food that is filling as well as good for reducing cholesterol levels. 

Cholesterol buster #2: Garlic

With its rich store of sulphur-containing antioxidants, garlic plays an important role in regulating the cholesterol levels. Not only can it reduce the LDL cholesterol, studies have shown that a regular consumption of fresh garlic can also help boost levels of the “good” HDL cholesterol. Sprinkle a little freshly peeled and chopped raw garlic onto your salad dressings, work it into your sandwich or use it to garnish soups, dal or rasam and you have a tasty dish that is healthy, too. 

Cholesterol buster #3:  Soybean oil and corn oil

Plant oils such as soybean oil and corn oil contain plant sterols or phytosterols; these have the ability to prevent your body from absorbing the cholesterol that is naturally present in the foods you eat. These sterols and stanols are also found in several vegetables, fruits, nuts, grains, legumes and seeds and adding these to your diet can help reduce levels of LDL and total cholesterol. Besides, it has also been found that these compounds enhance the cholesterol-lowering effects of statin drugs that are generally prescribed to combat high cholesterol levels.

Cholesterol buster #4: Brown Rice

Brown rice refers to rice that has not been completely processed but has only the outermost husk removed during the milling process. Therefore, this rice has the lower layer of bran intact and therefore, it is a rich source of not just vital vitamins and minerals but also fiber. If you are looking at reducing cholesterol through a healthy diet, simply substitute brown rice for all the white rice that you eat. The bran of the brown rice contains oil that is highly unsaturated and this plays an important role in ensuring your cholesterol levels stay low. 

Cholesterol buster #5: Turmeric

We know of turmeric’s excellent wound healing properties as well as expectorant action. But some studies have also found that it also has a protective action on the heart.Turmeric has been shown to lower the levels of LDL cholesterol and therefore, it can help cut down on the build-up of plaque on the walls of the arteries. Adding a pinch of turmeric powder to the curries and vegetable preparations is one of the best ways to ensure you get your daily dose of this powerful herb.