Health Front: Blood Tests May Reveal Positive Attitude
By DR. JERRY DeCAPUA
• U.S. researchers found excellent levels of “good cholesterol” and other markers of good heart health in the blood of middle-aged people who had a positive disposition. According to results published in the American Journal of Cardiology, people with higher optimism scores also had more high-density lipoproteins (HDL), the desirable form of cholesterol that is believed to protect against heart disease. They also had lower levels of triglycerides, the fatty molecules involved in hardening of the arteries.
Previous research had shown a link between optimism and lowered heart attack risk. This recent research wanted to rule out any other influences like alcohol consumption, weight and lifestyles that might account for the link between optimism and blood cholesterol. Researchers could not get around the fact that optimistic and forward thinking people did have healthier lifestyles and diets. They did conclude that those with sunnier outlooks, who were not self-absorbed, refrained from self-pity, and stayed open and positive about life’s next challenges, had much better blood pumping through their hearts.
• Older adults who get steroid injections for degeneration in their lower spine may fare worse than people who skip the treatment, another study suggests. The research, published in the professional journal Spine, followed 276 older adults with spinal stenosis or thickening and narrowing of the spinal canal. Some patients were treated with a range of conservative treatment options or combinations that included Chiropractic, Physical Therapy and anti-inflammatories. The other group received spinal steroid injections. In the new study, researchers found that patients who got the steroid injections had some pain relief, but over time did not fare as well as the patients that opted for a conservative treatment plan.
It was also noted was that those who opted for the quick and easy steroid injection, did not improve as quickly when surgery was eventually required. The patients who skipped the steroid shots recovered better from later surgery. The industry dependent on steroid therapy was quick to come out in force to discredit this recent study that questions spinal steroid injections.
• The unreported side effects of drugs are found using internet search data, a new study finds. Using data drawn from queries entered into Google, Microsoft and Yahoo search engines, scientists at Microsoft, Stanford and Columbia University have for the first time been able to detect evidence of under-reported prescription side effects before they were found by the FDA warning system.
Using automated software tools to examine queries by six million Internet users, the researchers found evidence of drug side effects prior to physicians reporting the adverse reactions to the F.D.A.
Specific evidence was found concerning the antidepressant, paroxetine, and a cholesterol lowering drug, pravastatin. They were able to find evidence that the combination of the two drugs caused high blood sugar, unbeknownst to most of the medical community. The scientists said they were surprised by the “strength of the signal that they detected in the searchers” on the internet for drug reactions. “There is a potential public health benefit in listening to such signals and a valuable tool for the F.D.A.” The challenge, they noted, was to integrate new sources of data while protecting individual privacy.
Russ B. Altman, the chairman of Stanford bioengineering department, said from his laboratory, “I think there are tons of drug-drug interactions. The good news is that we have ways to evaluate the public health impact.”
• Does your pet cat appear a little discouraged or confused? It appears that scientists are now implanting human brain cells into newborn mice, and it makes them smarter as adult mice. Science takes a big leap towards science fiction with the report of a study issued in the journal Cell stem Cell. Researchers were able to implant mice with human brain cells called glial cells, see those cells mature and act like human ones while seeing the effects on mice’s learning, reported Paul Sandberg, professor of neuroscience at University of South Florida. He is very excited that “the cells were still functioning like human cells, and they actually enhanced aspects of learning.” He did not mention if he donated his own brain cells to the project or if he taught the mice calculus. His good intentions seem to be directed toward acquiring the knowledge for understanding a way to treat degenerative brain disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.