Medical science has made such tremendous progress that there is hardly a healthy human left. Aldous Huxley

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Hospital Dangers Changing Direction

This blog, begun in February 2011 and based originally on some on unhappy personal experiences in a hospital seems to have run out of steam. This might be obvious from the past months’ dearth of posts. However, there are still plenty of topics to write about in the healthcare field, particularly as changes take place in insurance coverage and in new ways of thinking about treating consumers' ills.

Therefore, Hospital Dangers will be morphing into a different content area. I intend to explore and report upon the latest research and opportunities in healthcare that have not necessarily been approved of or adopted by the medical/pharmaceutical establishment. Some of this information even may have been published in medical journals. However, the time difference between research appearing in this form and being accepted or adopted by practicing physicians can be both lengthy and costly in terms of their patient’s health. A  considerable body of research in this area is published in foreign journals, which while indexed by the National Library of Medicine’s databases, may not be readily available to practicing physicians.

Sometimes, big Pharma is ahead of traditional medical practitioners in accepting treatments derived from naturopathic practices. This is evidenced by pharmaceutical companies when they try to develop derivatives or combinations of natural substances used for years into patentable medicines to increase their profits. 

One example is of this practice is Red Yeast Rice, known for many years to lower cholesterol safely without the potential side effects found in prescription strength statin drugs. Years ago, a few drug manufacturers filed patents on special formulations of Red Yeast Rice even though they didn’t necessarily proceed to complete the extensive testing needed to obtain FDA approval. At the same time drug company-funded studies continued to report on doubtful benefits of Red Yeast Rice. Only recently are reputable studies appearing in the literature showing that the precursor of the statin drug, lovastatin, found in Red Yeast Rice can be just as effective without dangerous side effects found in the prescription version of lovastatin and other statin drugs.

CAUTION: Nothing that you may read about substances mentioned in this blog is intended to be nor should it be taken as medical advice or specific recommendations. The information presented here is solely intended as medical information. It is based on published research available on the Internet.

Finally, given the different focus the Hospital Dangers blog will have a new name. This will be announced in the next post. It will still be under the current blog title to give current subscribers and followers time to adjust their subscription should they be interested in continuing to follow the blog.

New Blog Launch: “Mushrooms and Your Health.”

Did you know that mushrooms have an incredible amount of nutrients that can support healthy functioning in a number of areas? Mushrooms may prevent age related memory loss, have anticancer benefits, reduce cholesterol, protect the liver and kidneys, strengthen your immune system, decrease the risk of diabetes, help control blood pressure and improve digestion. As reported in an article in the journal Molecules (July 20, 2016, 21:7), “Studies show that mushrooms possess various bioactivities, such as antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anticancer, immunomodulatory, antimicrobial, hepatoprotective, and antidiabetic properties . . ..”  

A similar study in the same journal (October 27, 2015: 20 (10): 19489- 525), reported “Edible mushrooms might be used directly in enhancement of antioxidant defenses through dietary supplementation to reduce the level of oxidative stress.”

The full range of health benefits from several types of mushrooms is described and evaluated in an article titled “Chemistry, Nutrition, and Health-Promoting Properties of Hericium erinaceus (Lion's Mane) Mushroom Fruiting Bodies and Mycelia and Their Bioactive Compounds.” This was published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, (Aug 19, 2015, 53(32):7108-23). The author, M. Friedman, said this: “The reported health-promoting properties of the mushroom fruit bodies, mycelia, and bioactive pure compounds include antibiotic, anticarcinogenic, antidiabetic, antifatigue, antihypertensive, antihyperlipodemic, antisenescence, cardioprotective, hepatoprotective, nephroprotective, and neuroprotective properties and improvement of anxiety, cognitive function, and depression.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has a helpful Web page listing Nutrient Content and Nutrient Retentionn of selected mushrooms.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Modern Medicine—The Good

Guest Post

By Harold Rodenberger     February 23, 2017

I recently posted a couple of entries detailing some medical mistakes and what we can do to protect ourselves from such things. Today's post is about the other side of our medical establishment and the care we receive.

We've all heard about the nefarious uses of chloroform and ether, but when I had my tonsils removed in the late forties, ether was the medical anesthetic of choice. The use of chloroform as anesthesia had pretty well ended by that time because of the number of accidental deaths. Ether had a reputation for safety so was used almost exclusively until the fifties. Now we have dozens of anesthetics ranging from inhaled to intravenous, short term to long term, local to general and combinations of various kinds. Some are quick acting, some maintain their effect over longer periods and some are designed to promote amnesia while allowing a person to be responsive to a doctor's orders.
Similar improvements have been made in diagnostic tools. When I went in for my first physical the doctor depended on a stethoscope, reflex hammer and his own senses. I donated a urine specimen which he smelled and eyeballed for color and cloudiness, matching those attributes to standard charts. I don't think he tasted mine but if a doctor suspected diabetes, he would taste the urine to determine its sweetness, a pretty good indicator of diabetes.

Doctors today have access to dozens of blood tests, MRI and CT or CAT scans, XRays with immediate results via digital methods, endoscopies (upper and lower), EKG and StressEKG tests and echo scans from fetus to old age and often concentrating on the heart. Speaking of the heart, there are tiny cameras and surgical instruments that can be inserted into an artery or vein thereby looking at and treating the heart from the inside. Then there are very sensitive microscopic tests and even DNA tests.

Surgical techniques also have changed for the better. The old "sawbones" has become a specialist equipped with a wide array of instruments to perform amazing medical feats. 
When my appendix was removed in 1960 I was left with a four inch scar. With today's laparoscopic surgery (sometimes called minimally invasive surgery) there would be only a small dimple. 

Prior to 1950, if you had an arthritic knee or hip, you learned to walk on crutches, operate a wheelchair or stay at home.  In 2009 there were 773,000 hip or knee replacement surgeries just for Americans. Of course, there also are replacements for ankles, elbows and wrists. Today's recipients of artificial knees and hips are often out of the hospital in just a couple days. What an amazing improvement.

Then there are the medical specialties. A hundred years ago there were only a few specialists, today the American Board of Medical Specialties lists Specialty and Subspecialty Certificates for which they can give certification. There are 26 specialties with up to 20 subspecialties under each specialty.

With this number of specialists and the many diagnostic options available, any patient worth his insurance can have up to a dozen specialty doctors and a huge file of diagnostic procedures. In my own case, I’m pretty healthy but at times I see my primary care provider, cardiologist, dermatologist, endocrinologist, gastroenterologist, neurologist, ophthalmologist and sports medicine specialist. If I need to go under, that calls for an anesthesiologist as well.

All these improvements lead to better medicine and longer lives. When I was born in 1939 my life expectancy was 62.1 years, if I had been born in 2010 my life expectancy would have been 76.5 years. That’s a remarkable improvement in 71 years.

Doctors are better trained, tests are better, anesthetics are safer and surgical procedures are more effective with better outcomes. Some doctors tend to over test and over prescribe. Over testing is often driven by the specter of malpractice lawsuits, justified or not, and over prescribing is driven, at least in part, by the ubiquitous advertising of Big Pharma urging watchers to “ask your doctor if this magical drug is right for you.”

There are some problems, as there must be with any system as large as our medical program. If I were in charge I would make a couple changes. I think people make better decisions when they have some skin in the game. Somehow we need to let people feel a little of the economic impact of medical decisions. When medical care is given at no cost to the individual we see cases of sniffles in the emergency room and sore backs in the doctor’s office with the owner asking for an operation.

Sometimes the best course of action is no action while letting the ailment cure itself, as ailments have done for thousands of years. Maybe with a little help for old wives and their time-tested remedies but without knives and operations with questionable results and certainly without wonder drugs that are rapidly losing their power to cure fast evolving microbes.

Overall I’m impressed with the progress of medicine and medical professionals during my lifetime. No system is perfect and medical professionals are human, but by and large the system is better, the doctors are more professional and people are living longer, healthier lives. It doesn’t get much better than that.