Is mouthwash necessary for good oral health?

is mouthwash necessaryMouthwash possibly linked to oral cancers

Earlier this month, a group of dental researchers in Glasgow, Scotland reported a link between frequent use of alcohol-based mouthwash (3 times per day) and oral cancers, such as mouth, throat, tongue and vocal cords.

similar study came out of Australia in 2009. The theory is that alcohol “increases the permeability of the mucosa” to carcinogens, such as nicotine or acetylaldehyde (a breakdown product of the alcohol).

But other analyses have found no such significant link.

Certainly smoking, chewing tobacco, drinking and poor oral health are all risk factors for developing oral … Continue reading

“The Treatment Trap”

the treatment trapWhat is too much medicine and why is it bad?

I’ve talked about it before: Health care costs are crazy high; the cost of insurance is increasing to meet those costs; and more patients than ever are being harmed by the treatment that is supposed to help them.

The overuse of medical care is directly responsible, and increased patient (consumer) awareness is needed to help turn this trend around.

Reading The Treatment Trap: How the Overuse of Medical Care is Wrecking Your Health and What You Can Do to Prevent It by Rosemary Gibson and Janardan Prasad Singh would be … Continue reading

Is organic produce worth the price?

organic produceResearch says it’s not healthier

I’m always conflicted at the grocery store.

Should I spend the extra money on fruits and vegetables labeled “organic”? Or should I just buy “conventionally-grown” produce at the lower price?

I don’t mind paying premium for the best flavor, such as fresh peaches or tomatoes from local growers that boast organic and sustainable farming practices. 

But broccoli, apples, bananas? Can anyone really tell the difference?

More importantly, if I choose to be more frugal, am I hurting myself and my family?

I’ve never been one to buy into marketing hype; I want facts! So … Continue reading

Do you need an annual mammogram?

mammogramThe latest report

Most of my nursing career was in breast cancer, so I like to stay current on the most recent research on screening, diagnosis and treatment.

Earlier this week, the British Medical Journal released a pretty stunning report:

In conclusion, our data show that annual mammography does not result in a reduction in breast cancer specific mortality for women aged 40-59.

In normal language that translates to “annual mammograms don’t save lives.”

Aaron Carroll, MD, writes on his blog:

This study is going to make a whole lot of people upset. It’s a large, well designed

Continue reading

Health benefits of nuts

health benefits of nutsNuts associated with longer, healthier lives

Last November, the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) published the results of a huge observational study that showed a lower death rate among people who ate several servings of nuts (including peanuts) every week.

Previous studies have pointed to other health benefits of nuts: reduced risk of diabetes, heart disease and cancer. The NEJM is the first study that looked specifically at death rates.

Over 115,000 people (nurses and other health professionals) were followed for 30 years. Diet questionnaires were filled out every 2 to 4 years. That is a lot of people … Continue reading

Healthy adults don’t need multivitamins

multivitaminsFor most, multivitamins are a waste of money

I’m always trying to do two things:

  1. Save my money
  2. Be healthy

It’s not easy when everything about health care costs so much.

So I really don’t want to throw money away on expensive drugstore products that are poorly regulated (if at all) by the FDA, and whose benefits are not supported by the latest scientific research.

Related post: The Quack Miranda Warning

I’ve written several posts about the lack of demonstrated benefit (and possible harm!) of several supplements:

And now the multivitamin is the latest Continue reading

How often for a Pap smear?

Screening guidelines often don’t agree

One of the mandatory benefits of health insurance, thanks to Obamacare, is that preventive or screening services are covered without charging copays or coinsurance.

Preventive care is not really “free,” of course, because we pay higher premiums and higher copays and deductibles for other health care. It’s more like pre-paid.

(Oh, and make sure the doctor and testing facility (lab or radiology) are in your network, or the care won’t be covered.)

But I’ve found it more and more confusing to know which screening exams are covered, and how often, because different medical “authorities” seem … Continue reading

Quality of life: “Rethinking Aging”

rethinking agingHealthy aging

I don’t consider myself old, but we are all aging, aren’t we?

One of my personal irritations with our for-profit health care system—and the main reason I started this blog—is its predilection to market and sell screening tests and prescription medications of questionable value to the aging population.

In his book Rethinking Aging: Growing Old and Living Well in an Overtreated Society, Dr. Nortin Hadler scrutinizes some of the most over treated aspects of aging, and rigorously reviews the scientific literature that does—or doesn’t—support those treatments.

Like many doctors that are thankfully pushing back against the current Continue reading

Prescription drugs: Statins

prescription drugsThe blockbuster drug

My husband has had mildly elevated cholesterol for years. At several points in time, his doctor has recommended that he start taking one of the cholesterol-lowering drugs, like Lipitor (atorvastatin), the best-selling prescription drug of all time. In 2006, Lipitor sales peaked at $13.7 billion—that’s just one year!

Because my husband has no other risk factors for heart disease—he is not overweight, he doesn’t smoke, he doesn’t have high blood pressure (if anything, it’s low), he has no family history of heart attacks, and he eats a low-saturated fat diet and exercises regularly—I have always … Continue reading

Save your money: Vitamins and herbal supplements

save your money and buy healthy foodsBuy healthy food and skip the vitamins

Last week two news stories caught my attention.

First, medical experts have (once again) come out saying that the evidence does not support taking supplemental vitamins to reduce your risk of heart disease or cancer.

The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), the government panel that provides guidelines to the public on such things as preventive care and screening tests, has recently updated its recommendations for vitamin and mineral supplements.

Looking at a large number of smaller studies (what’s called a meta-analysis), the researchers at the Kaiser Permamente Center for Health … Continue reading

Outbreaks and vaccinations

childhood vaccinationsThe canary in the coal mine

Late last week I read the troubling story about a recent polio outbreak in Syria. Although polio, thanks to the vaccine, has been almost eradicated in most parts of the world, it is still present in several middle eastern countries.

Because of political unrest and the huge numbers of refugees fleeing to Europe, world public health officials worry about more widespread outbreaks of this crippling, and deadly, disease.

Outbreaks of highly contagious, but preventable, diseases have become more common because of the anti-vaccination movement. And as these like-minded individuals tend to settle … Continue reading

A follow up on vitamin D

What they said about vitamin D then…

A few months ago I posted about calcium supplements and vitamin D supplements. I’m not a big fan of taking a lot of pills (or any, actually), so I did a little more research into what the most current evidence-based studies recommended.

Regarding calcium, I found that it’s best to get calcium from foods in my diet, such as dairy products and certain vegetables. I’ve been trying to do that.

And what about vitamin D? Calcium supplements often include vitamin D because it helps with absorption of calcium. Low vitamin D levels … Continue reading

Pushing back against too much medicine

As someone who advocates for less medical care, I’m always thrilled to see physicians and others in the health care industry step forward to protest over-testing, over-screening, over-diagnosing, over-treating and over-charging.

Here are some of my favorite health care blog posts and news articles from the last week.

“Testing Wisely” by Dr. Rob Lamberts 

Dr. Lamberts is embracing the newest trend in primary care: the direct-pay model. He does not accept health insurance, but rather charges a modest (age-based) monthly fee per patient. Booting the insurance companies not only lowers his overhead costs considerably, but frees him from so many … Continue reading

Lowering health care costs: It takes a village

Physicians have a role in lowering health care costs

The Mayo Clinic has been busy this month.

Last week researchers published a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) titled “Views of US Physicians About Controlling Health Care Costs.”

Also last week,  Mayo Clinic Proceedings published its conclusion that nearly 40% of current medical practices are of no net benefit and needlessly contribute to high health care costs.

The first study surveyed physicians’ attitudes about their role in reducing health care costs. Do they believe they can and should help rein in the cost of health Continue reading

Melatonin: Not a sleeping pill for children

The “sleep supplement”

I am a chronically poor sleeper, and I have tried melatonin, the sleep supplement,  in the past. I have friends that swear by it,  but it never worked for me.

Plus, I could never get a straight answer from any source about the therapeutic dosage – 1 mg, 3 mg, 5 mg, 10 mg? Should I only take it as needed, or is melatonin safe to take every night, forever?

As a supplement (it’s actually a hormone), melatonin falls under the extremely loose guidelines of the Dietary Supplement Health And Education Act  (DSHEA) of 1994. It … Continue reading