Review Category : Health

Should You Get That Arthroscopic Knee Surgery?

KatarzynaBialasiewicz/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Knee surgery may not be the best choice for older adults, according to a new study published in the British Medical Journal.

Researchers in Denmark and Sweden reviewed 18 studies comparing arthroscopic knee surgery to three other approaches: placebo surgery, exercise and no treatment at all.

Half of the studies showed that people had less pain after surgery, but this improvement tended to be short-lived – 6 months – and patients tended to garner no functional improvement.

Complications of the surgery, meanwhile, were rare – but they could be severe, including problems such as blood clots and infection.

The researchers also found that, for the most part, the benefits of surgery could be achieved with exercise.

Researchers conclude that their findings do not support treatment of middle age or older adults with arthroscopy to treat arthritis of the knee.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Why A Head Transplant Probably Isn’t Happening Any Time Soon

Hlib Shabashnyi/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — An Italian scientist has been making headlines after claiming that he believes he will be able to perform a successful human head transplant in just a few years. But experts say it’s unlikely the procedure will happen anytime soon.

Dr. Sergio Canavero, director of the Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group, Turin, Italy, has proposed in two published medical articles that a head transplant is possible thanks to new technology that allows for the body to be cooled during surgery, a tools that create a cleaner cut on the spinal cord and machines that allow people to be on bypass during surgery.

But it’s likely that Canavero’s dream of performing the surgery is more than just 18 months away due to the fact that in the papers where he has presented his idea, he has not given any evidence that this procedure will work long term by showing it works in animals.

Dr. Michael DeGeorgia, a neurologist at University Hospitals Case Medical Center, said in order for Canavero to ethically and possibly legally perform the procedure on a human he would have to show that the process works in animals and present those findings to peers before getting to try out the procedure on a human.

“You go through normal progress and no matter how painful and slow that is,” said DeGeorgia. “So that it’s not just valid in petri dish but in an animal…[see] if it works and what are the side effects and can we actually perfect it.”

Canavero has pointed to a 1970 operation where a surgeon at Case Western Reserve Medical Center transplanted the head of one rhesus monkey to another, as a reason the operation might work. The animal survived for 10 days on a ventilator before eventually dying, according to DeGeorgia.

Although Canavero points to that 1970 operation as a sign that he could be successful, DeGeorgia said that the operation doesn’t reveal that the procedure would work on a human, or even have long term success in an animal.

“Dr. Canevero talks about in his patients but we’re not quite ready for prime time even in animals,” said DeGeorgia.

DeGeorgia explained that one major issue is how to safely separate and reattach the spinal cord. While Canaverso said a specific substance could be used to help preserve the spinal cord, DeGeorgia said it’s only been tested in petri dishes.

“It’s never been done in animals let alone in humans and putting the whole package together has never been done,” said DeGeorgia.

DeGeorgia admits the new technology means a surgeon would likely be able to successfully reattach the vascular areas of veins, which was also successfully done in the 1970 operation, but that it’s unclear whether the brain would survive the operation. Additionally, the immune system could attack the transplanted material, creating a fatal problem.

“The bigger issues are rejection [and] the immunological consequences of the transplant,” said DeGeorgia.

Another issue is the fact that the spinal cord doesn’t just tell limbs to move your lungs to breathe, it also sends millions of tiny signals to the body that regulate everything from appetite to the immune system.

“That’s the issue, there’s millions of little nerve endings that are keeping everything in the right balance,” said DeGeorgia. “How would that work? It may not work so well.”

While Canavero’s proposal seems like science fiction — and does not offer much proof it could work — DeGeorgia admits that the surgery may not be as far-fetched as it seems.

“I’m as skeptical as everybody but you can’t completely dismiss the concept,” said DeGeorgia. “If you said in the 1940s and we’re going to take someone’s heart and put it into someone else’s body they would have thought you were crazy.”

However, DeGeorgia said there is almost no chance that Canavero reaches his goal of performing a successful procedure by 2017.

“I think it’s not going to be in two years or even 10 or 20 years,” said DeGeorgia.

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How Diabetics Handle Fasting for the Muslim Holy Month of Ramadan

Mike Watson Images/moodboard/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — As more than a billion Muslims begin the observation this week of the holy month of Ramadan, Wael Mousfar will be among them.

Mousfar, 62, is a Type 2 diabetic, so marking the holy month with the customary fasting during daylight can play havoc with his blood sugar and insulin levels. But Mousfar said he’s not worried.

“I will be fasting for sure,” he told ABC News. “I’ve been doing it all my all life. I would not stop during Ramadan, the fast.”

Mousfar, of New York City, has been a diabetic for over 20 years, but said his diabetes hasn’t stopped him from observing Ramadan.

“I really look at fasting as [spiritual,]” Mousfar said. “It’s body and soul work together.”

In previous years, Mousfar said his doctor found that he lost weight and had better blood sugar following the fast. But even in his own family fasting for Ramadan can cause problems. His brother, also a diabetic, has had his blood sugar drop below safe levels during Ramadan and ended up breaking the fast as a result, he said.

At the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn, Michigan, Executive Administrator Kassem Allie said diabetes has become a growing concern in the local community. Those who have a medical issue such as diabetes or pregnancy are allowed to break the fast for their health, but Allie said some try to adhere to the rituals anyway.

“People are disappointed they can’t fast,” Allie said of those with diabetes. “Some people hesitate to go to the doctor because they say I can’t fast. They try it for a couple days and see how you do.”

He explained that many people are reluctant to give up the rituals around Ramadan, including the big meal enjoyed at sunset with family and friends.

“They fast for 25 and 30 years and suddenly they develop this malady,” said Allie. “Fasting becomes a way of life and it’s a traditional [and] communal.”

Diabetes has been steadily rising in the Middle East and North Africa — areas with a high population of Muslims, according to the Associated Press. In the U.S., about 9.3 percent of the population have diabetes.

Lisa Cimperman, a dietitian at University Hospitals Case Medical Center, said it’s unlikely that people with Type 1 diabetes can safely fast due to the sensitive nature of their condition. She said those with Type 2 diabetes — once known as adult-onset diabetes — could likely just “flip” their schedule so that their normal daytime schedule of calibrated pills and carbohydrates is changed to night so that their blood sugar level remains stable.

“This would definitely be a time for even individuals with Type 2 diabetes to check their blood sugar regularly throughout the day,” said Cimperman, who explained many people with Type 2 diabetes don’t have to check their blood sugar multiple times daily.

“That will be the best way to see how their body is reacting to fasting,” she said.

Linda Jaber, a professor of pharmacology at Wayne State University in Detroit, has studied diabetes in the Muslim community for years and explained that aside from the daytime effects, diabetics can face problems as they break their fast at night.

“The traditional meal where you break your fast is rich in carbs and low in fat. It’s calorie intense and people tend to overeat,” she said. “A high blood sugar level after you break fast is also a complication.”

While Mousfar said he is ready to start the fast this week, he also noted that he will not have a problem giving up the fast in the future if his health is at stake.

“If I feel that my body is in danger [that] I had to stop, then I don’t hesitate to do it,” he said of stopping his Ramadan fast. “[The] dangerous part is if someone breaks it on purpose and they don’t need to break it.”

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Doctors: More Research Needed on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

phototake/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Extreme fatigue, pain, impaired memory, sleep problems — it’s a set of conditions that are often mysterious not only to doctors, but to the individuals experiencing them.

Now, in a set of three studies and an accompanying commentary published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers are saying that more needs to be done to better define the Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and improve its diagnosis in order to help those who suffer from it.

In the commentary, the researchers note that the syndrome has 163 possible combinations of symptoms.

The Institute of Medicine’s estimates on how many Americans have ME/CFS ranges from 836,000 to 2.5 million, and the researchers note that many of the instruments used to evaluate and diagnose the condition “are not validated, are inappropriate, and may be misleading.”

Meanwhile, they add, those who suffer from the condition are “often treated with skepticism, uncertainty and apprehension.”

The solution, they say, is improved, methodologically sound research that leads to better knowledge concerning this debilitating syndrome.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Why Some Experts Debunk ‘Transracial’ to Explain Rachel Dolezal Case

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — After days of public speculation, former NAACP chapter president Rachel Dolezal broke her silence Tuesday morning during an interview on the Today show to say she identifies as “black.”

Dolezal’s story had not only led to international headlines but generated a stream of social media comments about so-called “transracialism,” comparing Dolezal’s case to that of a transgender person.

But some experts say such an analogy makes no sense. Anita Thomas, associate professor of counseling psychology at Loyola University Chicago, said there are genetic differences between genders that don’t exist for races.

“Biological sex has biological physical components and we know race does not” in the same way, Thomas said.

“Transgender” is also cited in medical literature and the diagnosis is identified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as a condition that can be treated through therapy, surgery or hormonal changes so a person can present as the gender they identify with.

Thomas points out there are often hormonal or physiological components that could lead to a person’s identifying with the opposite gender in a way that does not exist for anyone conflicted about his or her race.

Thomas instead suggests looking at why Dolezal, 37, might have wanted to present as a different race. She said it’s possible Dolezal became more comfortable in the black community through her relationships and work experiences and eventually decided to appear black as a way to improve “self-esteem.”

“For Rachel, she did great work with the NAACP, really felt a lot of affirmation and powerful reinforcement,” said Thomas, who has not worked with Dolezal. “It makes sense in terms of [her thinking,] ‘How do I get to a place where people like me, and how I feel comfortable about myself?’

“For Rachel this is probably much more inward-driven,” she said.

Dolezal might think, “I feel better … people are responding positively” to her as a black woman, Thomas added.

Dolezal has not responded to ABC News’ requests for comment.

Kevin Cokley, a professor in the Department of Educational Psychology and the Department of African and African American Diaspora Studies at University of Texas-Austin, said he had never heard of case like Dolezal’s.

Cokley said social scientists talk about race “as a social construct,” not biological, so it’s confusing when someone then claims they can “identify” with being black.

Priscilla Dass-Brailsford, multicultural expert and chair of international psych department at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology, said Dolezal’s case brings up intriguing questions of how people identify with different cultures and races.

“Because of a familiarity with black culture, she [may] regard herself as transracial,” Dass-Brailsford said. “But [she] can’t claim to be black.”

Dass-Brailsford said what’s troubling for some is that Dolezal misrepresented herself in a way that many people have perceived as lying.

“She can identify with black culture, that’s fine,” Dass-Brailsford said. “But then to claim as a result of doing that they become black … is an issue.”

Dass-Brailsford said what can make people uncomfortable is their suspicion that she misrepresented herself for benefit.

“We have to make all these suppositions about why she’s lying,” Dass-Brailsford said. “Because people lie for benefit and what’s the benefit” of changing races?

Her case has made people uncomfortable, Dass-Brailsford said, but as the United States becomes more diverse, people may have to address more and more of these thorny issues about race and what it means to society.

“We may have a common culture as we become more of pluralistic society,” Dass-Brailsford said. “These kinds of differences will always come up.”

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Why Some Experts Debunk ‘Transracial’ to Explain Rachel Dolezal Case

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — After days of public speculation, former NAACP chapter president Rachel Dolezal broke her silence Tuesday morning during an interview on the Today show to say she identifies as “black.”

Dolezal’s story had not only led to international headlines but generated a stream of social media comments about so-called “transracialism,” comparing Dolezal’s case to that of a transgender person.

But some experts say such an analogy makes no sense. Anita Thomas, associate professor of counseling psychology at Loyola University Chicago, said there are genetic differences between genders that don’t exist for races.

“Biological sex has biological physical components and we know race does not” in the same way, Thomas said.

“Transgender” is also cited in medical literature and the diagnosis is identified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as a condition that can be treated through therapy, surgery or hormonal changes so a person can present as the gender they identify with.

Thomas points out there are often hormonal or physiological components that could lead to a person’s identifying with the opposite gender in a way that does not exist for anyone conflicted about his or her race.

Thomas instead suggests looking at why Dolezal, 37, might have wanted to present as a different race. She said it’s possible Dolezal became more comfortable in the black community through her relationships and work experiences and eventually decided to appear black as a way to improve “self-esteem.”

“For Rachel, she did great work with the NAACP, really felt a lot of affirmation and powerful reinforcement,” said Thomas, who has not worked with Dolezal. “It makes sense in terms of [her thinking,] ‘How do I get to a place where people like me, and how I feel comfortable about myself?’

“For Rachel this is probably much more inward-driven,” she said.

Dolezal might think, “I feel better … people are responding positively” to her as a black woman, Thomas added.

Dolezal has not responded to ABC News’ requests for comment.

Kevin Cokley, a professor in the Department of Educational Psychology and the Department of African and African American Diaspora Studies at University of Texas-Austin, said he had never heard of case like Dolezal’s.

Cokley said social scientists talk about race “as a social construct,” not biological, so it’s confusing when someone then claims they can “identify” with being black.

Priscilla Dass-Brailsford, multicultural expert and chair of international psych department at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology, said Dolezal’s case brings up intriguing questions of how people identify with different cultures and races.

“Because of a familiarity with black culture, she [may] regard herself as transracial,” Dass-Brailsford said. “But [she] can’t claim to be black.”

Dass-Brailsford said what’s troubling for some is that Dolezal misrepresented herself in a way that many people have perceived as lying.

“She can identify with black culture, that’s fine,” Dass-Brailsford said. “But then to claim as a result of doing that they become black … is an issue.”

Dass-Brailsford said what can make people uncomfortable is their suspicion that she misrepresented herself for benefit.

“We have to make all these suppositions about why she’s lying,” Dass-Brailsford said. “Because people lie for benefit and what’s the benefit” of changing races?

Her case has made people uncomfortable, Dass-Brailsford said, but as the United States becomes more diverse, people may have to address more and more of these thorny issues about race and what it means to society.

“We may have a common culture as we become more of pluralistic society,” Dass-Brailsford said. “These kinds of differences will always come up.”

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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FDA Takes Action to Phase Out Trans Fat in Food

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The Food and Drug Administration announced a ruling Tuesday that will require companies to phase out the use of artificial trans fat in processed foods.

The ruling says there is “no longer a consensus” that trans fats are “generally recognized as safe” in food.

The agency is giving food manufacturers three years to remove partially hydrogenated oils, the primary source of trans fat in processed foods, from their products.

“The FDA’s action on this major source of artificial trans fat demonstrates the agency’s commitment to the heart health of all Americans,” FDA Acting Commissioner Stephen Ostroff, M.D. said in a statement. “This action is expected to reduce coronary heart disease and prevent thousands of fatal heart attacks every year.”

The announcement is a win for the Obama administration as it works to encourage Americans to pursue a healthier diet.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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FDA Takes Action to Phase Out Trans Fat in Food

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The Food and Drug Administration announced a ruling Tuesday that will require companies to phase out the use of artificial trans fat in processed foods.

The ruling says there is “no longer a consensus” that trans fats are “generally recognized as safe” in food.

The agency is giving food manufacturers three years to remove partially hydrogenated oils, the primary source of trans fat in processed foods, from their products.

“The FDA’s action on this major source of artificial trans fat demonstrates the agency’s commitment to the heart health of all Americans,” FDA Acting Commissioner Stephen Ostroff, M.D. said in a statement. “This action is expected to reduce coronary heart disease and prevent thousands of fatal heart attacks every year.”

The announcement is a win for the Obama administration as it works to encourage Americans to pursue a healthier diet.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Eating Nuts Can Lengthen Your Life, Study Says

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Want to live a longer and healthier life? Have some nuts.

A study by researchers at Maastricht University in the Netherlands, published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, claims people who enjoy ten grams of tree nuts or peanuts a day — that’s about a handful, by the way — showed a lower risk of dying from certain diseases, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, ALS and others.

Researchers say the results were the same for both women and men. The subjects studied ranged in age from 55 to 69.

Don’t go chowing down on peanut butter and jelly sammies, though, in the name of better health: the study didn’t find the same health benefit from eating peanut butter.

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Doctors’ Group Urges Delayed Start Times for Schools

JerryB7/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Sleep experts with the American Thoracic Society issued an update Monday to current recommendations regarding sleep requirements for kids.

Their finding: That delaying school start time from 8:00 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. may significantly increase sleep duration, improving alertness, motivation and moods in adolescents.

The doctors also recommended seven to nine hours of sleep for optimal health in adults, stating that less than six hours of sleep can be linked to increased disease risk and mortality.

Their recommendations were published Monday in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine and are based on past research.

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