In the Doctor's Lounge - Sleep, heart, alcohol, etc. | St. Louis Public Radio

In the Doctor's Lounge - Sleep, heart, alcohol, etc.

Aug 12, 2008

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: August 12, 2008 - Excess Drinking Linked to Metabolic Syndrome

We know our livers don't like it when we drink too much. But maybe you thought your heart was thanking you for those extra glasses of wine. Well, not so much. Drinking excessively on a regular basis is associated with a 60 percent higher risk of metabolic syndrome, according to research published online this summer in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

Fifty-two percent of the men and 67 percent of the women surveyed in the study reported that their usual consumption of alcoholic beverages exceeded U.S. Dietary Guidelines: two drinks a day for men, one drink a day for women. A 51 percent increase in metabolic syndrome was seen for those binge-drinking at least once weekly.

"Prevention efforts should focus on reducing alcohol consumption to safer levels among those who already drink alcohol," the authors concluded. "However, few physicians screen their patients about alcohol use despite evidence-based guidelines recommending such screening."

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Sleep Apnea Linked to Higher Death Risk

Struggling to get a good night's sleep? Don't ever feel really rested? It just might be the common sleep disorder, sleep apnea or another sleep-related breathing disorder. If so, this is your wake-up call. "Moderate-to-severe sleep apnea is independently associated with a large increased risk of all-cause mortality," say the authors of a study in the August 1 issue of Sleep.

And it doesn't stop there: People who suffer from other severe sleep-disordered breathing also have a higher risk of death than those without, according to another study published in the same journal.

While there was no significant association between mild sleep apnea and risk of death, it is known that these disorders can progress. Treatments for these sleep-breathing disorders are widely available and can be highly effective. So get checked out and tuned up. Your life may very well depend on it.Read the research

Abstract - Young 

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Abstract - Marshall 

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Video Consultation Improves Stroke Treatment Decisions

There is no time to waste in diagnosing and treating a stroke. Doctors and patients alike should be alert to the early warning signs and act quickly. Prompt identification and action can save lives and prevent, or limit, disability.

When a stroke victim lives in a remote area, a quick response is especially critical. The use of telemedicine consultations, with real-time audio, video, imaging and other communications may help. Stroke telemedicine improved decision making compared with telephone consultations. However, these consultations didn't improve the use of thrombolytic drugs, an oftentimes underutilized but crucial part of many stroke management plans , according to an article published online August 3 in The Lancet Neurology.

The best course of action? Get yourself educated on the signs and symptoms of stroke and act quickly should any occur.

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Exercise Lowers Atrial Fibrillation Risk

Need yet another reason to get off that couch and move? Older folks who exercise have a lower risk of atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat) than those who do not, according to research published online August 4 in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association. "Our findings suggest that moderate physical activity may meaningfully reduce this risk and that up to one-fourth of new cases of atrial fibrillation in older adults may be attributable to absence of moderate leisure-time activity and regular walking at a moderate distance and pace," the authors write.

It is important to note that these benefits weren't just reserved for those sweating it out. In fact, the light-to-moderate physical activity participants were actually the ones seeing the benefit..

Gardening, dancing, walking the mall ... whatever gets you up and moving. Just do it.Read the research


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Prostate Cancer Screening Not Recommended Over Age 75

The debate wages on: to screen or not to screen? For prostate cancer, that is. Many say no, while others say it's a go.

Out this month from the Annals of Internal Medicine are new clinical guidelines stating that men over 75 should not be screened for prostate cancer. And the benefits of screening younger men are being debated.. "For men younger than age 75 years, the benefits of screening for prostate cancer are uncertain.... For men 75 years or older, there is moderate certainty that the harms of screening for prostate cancer outweigh the benefits."

Most prostate cancers will never cause symptoms during an elderly patient's lifetime. And screening doesn't improve mortality rates, according to the report.

However, whether you are 45, 75 or 105, if you have a family history of prostate cancer, if you are having any symptoms that may signal a problem, or if you just plain worried about prostate cancer, talk to your doctor about whether screening is right for you.

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This column by HealthDay's Dr. Cindy Haines, managing editor of the Physician's Briefing news service, will run each week in the St. Louis Beacon.