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Health Capsules: Mixing meds

The FDA has issued a consumer update about the potential dangers of mixing medications with dietary supplements.

The FDA has issued a consumer update about the potential dangers of mixing medications with dietary supplements.

Mixing meds

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently issued a consumer update to remind people of the potential dangers of mixing medications and dietary supplements.

According to the update, taking prescription or over-the-counter medications along with vitamins, minerals or other dietary supplements in some cases can pose a health risk because certain supplements can affect the absorption, metabolism or excretion of a medication and alter its potency.

“Some dietary supplements may increase the effect of your medication, and other dietary supplements may decrease it,” said Robert Mozersky, FDA medical officer. “You may be getting either too much or too little of a medication you need.”

For example, drugs for HIV/AIDS, heart disease, depression, organ transplant treatment and birth control pills are less effective when taken with St. John’s Wort, an herbal supplement. The prescription blood thinner warfarin, the herbal supplement ginkgo biloba, aspirin, and vitamin E each can thin the blood, so taking any of them together may increase the potential for internal bleeding or a stroke.

The FDA warned also that taking both supplements and medications could be harmful to children because their metabolisms are unique and at different ages, kids metabolize substances at different rates.

“The bottom line is, before you take any dietary supplement or medication – over-the-counter or prescription – discuss it with your health care professional,” said Mozersky, who offered these tips:

• Every time you visit a health care professional’s office, bring a list of all the dietary supplements and medications you are currently taking. Include the dosages and how many times a day you take them. Or, bring all supplements and medications to the office visit.

• Call your health care professional before adding a dietary supplement to your daily routine, and let him/her know what other supplements and medications you are taking.

• If your health care status has changed, particularly if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or have had a recent illness or surgery, tell your health care professional.


Pain in the neck

Pain specialists at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine have reported that over time, a combination of spinal steroid injections and physical therapy is the most effective treatment for a common form of neck pain.

“We designed our study to answer the question that primary care doctors face when they see patients with neck pain: Should I send them for a series of injections, try conservative measures first, or do both?” explained Steven P. Cohen, M.D., professor of anesthesiology and critical care medicine at Johns Hopkins and director of its pain treatment center.

Study participants included 169 adults who were experiencing neck pain from a herniated disc or narrowing of the spinal canal (spinal stenosis) that inflamed or pinched nerves in the neck and caused pain radiating to the arms. Participants were divided into three groups, receiving either steroid injections; physical therapy and pain medications; or a combination of the two.

After one month, no significant differences in pain outcomes were found between those getting injections and those getting the other treatments; however, the combination therapy produced better results on some measures of pain. Three months after treatment, 56.9 percent of patients who received the combination therapy reported meaningful relief from their arm pain and satisfaction with their treatment, compared to 36.7 percent of those who received injections alone and 26.8 percent of those who received physical therapy and pain medication.

“All of this suggests that epidural steroid injections should not be a first-line, stand-alone treatment, but they may improve outcomes when used in conjunction with a multidisciplinary treatment approach that includes physical therapy and exercise,” said Cohen, noting that additional research is needed to better explain the research findings.


Rapid weight loss surprise

Slow and steady might not win the race when it comes to weight loss, a new study suggests.

Researchers at the University of Melbourne wanted to find out if obese individuals who lose weight at a slow rate should expect better long-term results than those who lose weight more rapidly. Their findings were at odds with the dietary guidelines most often recommended worldwide.

“Global guidelines recommend gradual weight loss for the treatment of obesity, reflecting the widely held belief that fast weight loss is more quickly regained,” said Katrina Purcell, study co-author and dietician. “However, our results show that an obese person is more likely to achieve a weight loss target of 12.5 percent weight loss, and less likely to drop out of their weight loss program, if losing weight is done quickly.”

The study involved 200 obese adults (body mass index of 30 or greater). Some participants were assigned to a 12-week rapid weight loss program with a very low-calorie diet and had an average weight loss of about 3.5 pounds per week. Others underwent a 36-week gradual weight loss program based on current dietary recommendations and lost an average of slightly more than 1 pound per week.

Three years later, researchers found that the initial rate of rate loss did not affect the amount of weight regain, as participants in both groups reported similar amounts of weight regain.

The research was published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology.


Cooking with oil

Frying food in olive oil results in healthier food than frying in several seed oils, according to a report in the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Noting that heating cooking oils can result in the formation of potentially toxic compounds and that by-products of heated oils can affect nutritional properties of foods being fried, a team of scientists conducted an experiment using four oils: olive, corn, soybean and sunflower. They reused each oil 10 times and found olive oil was the most stable for deep-frying and sunflower degraded the fastest when pan-frying. The researchers concluded that for frying foods, olive oil maintains quality and nutrition better than seed oils.


Music to the ears

It is not uncommon for people to remove their hearing aids when listening to music, and a recent study seems to help explain why.

According to research results published in the journal Ear and Hearing, today’s hi-tech hearing aids may not be particularly helpful when listening to music.

“Hearing aids have gotten very advanced at processing sounds to make speech more understandable,” explained Naomi Croghan, who led the study at the University of Colorado Boulder. “But music is a different animal and hasn’t always been a part of the hearing aid design process.”

According to a CU-Boulder news release, modern hearing aids use a type of processing that amplifies softer sounds but leaves loud sounds untouched. While helpful for engaging in conversation, that processing can cause music to sound distorted.

For the study, researchers had hearing aid users listen to music using various hearing aids and found they tended to prefer music that was subjected to less processing.

“What’s interesting about this is that more is not necessarily better,” said Professor Kathryn Arehart, a member of the research team. “If I am in a noisy restaurant and I want to hear the people at my table, then more processing may be better in order to suppress the background noise. But when listening to music, more processing may actually do more harm than good.”

Researchers noted that while participants generally agreed that less processing was better for listening to music, individual preferences differed from person to person.

“When it comes to hearing, like a lot of things, the average result does not fit everyone,” Croghan said.


On the calendar

“Sleep Issues in the Young Child” is from 6:30-7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 6 at St. Luke’s Hospital Institute for Health Education, 222 S. Woods Mill Road in Chesterfield. The free program is for parents only and covers healthy sleep practices and proven strategies to help parents and caregivers. To register, call (314) 542-4848, or visit stlukes-stl.com.

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“What are Probiotics?” is from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 10 at Longview Farm House, 13525 Clayton Road in Town & Country. The Missouri Baptist Medical Center Lunch and Learn event features Dr. Rahul Dhillon, gastroenterologist, who explains why probiotics are essential to human nutrition and how they can be used to prevent and alleviate various conditions, particularly those affecting the gastrointestinal tract. To register, call (314) 996-5433.

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“Hypnosis for Smoking Cessation” is from 7-8:30 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 10 at St. Luke’s Hospital Institute for Health Education, 222 S. Woods Mill Road in Chesterfield. A licensed professional counselor provides education, information and a hypnosis session. Admission is free. To learn more, call (314) 542-4848.

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“Diabetes Update: The Bionic Pancreas” is from 6-8 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 12 at St. Luke’s Hospital Institute for Health Education, 222 S. Woods Mill Road in Chesterfield. Attendees learn the latest information on diabetes treatment and technological innovations from an endocrinologist, visit vendor booths, speak to health specialists and observe a Dierbergs culinary team cooking demonstration. Admission is free. For more information and to register, call (314) 542-4848, or visit stlukes-stl.com.

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“Reach Out: Advice on Teen Issues & Safety” is from 7-9 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 12 at Chesterfield City Hall. Chesterfield Alliance for Positive Youth (CAPY) Chairperson Earl Barge facilitates a forum featuring a panel of experts in teen issues who discuss bullying, suicide, drug use, computer safety and social media concerns. Admission is free and open to the public. For more information, call Earl Barge at (314) 606-1803.

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A Mindful Eating Workshop is from 6:30-8 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 20 at St. Luke’s Hospital Institute for Health Education, 222 S. Woods Mill Road in Chesterfield. Participants learn several techniques that will help them better understand their eating habits and how to modify them to reach nutrition goals. Stress eating also is discussed. Admission is free. For more information, call (314) 542-4848.

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“Legal Matters and Goals of Care” is from 1-2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 9 at Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital, 12634 Olive Blvd. in Creve Coeur.  An attorney presents information on advance directives, powers of attorney and qualifications for assistance. A facilitator leads the group in ways to engage a loved one in conversations about his/her goals of care.  Admission is free, and no registration is required.  For more information, call (314) 542-9378.


st. luke'sTop hospital

The independent health care ratings organization Healthgrades recently named St. Luke’s Hospital in Chesterfield among the top hospitals in the nation in several specialties.

In a study published on Oct. 21, Healthgrades identified St. Luke’s as being among the top 10 percent of U.S. hospitals for cardiology services (2012-2015), pulmonary services (2003-2015), neurosurgery (2012-2015), and gastrointestinal medical treatment (2010-2015).

Earlier this year, Healthgrades recognized St. Lukes’s for the eighth consecutive year as one of America’s 50 Best Hospitals, ranking it among the top 1 percent of the nation’s hospitals based on overall survival and complication rates.



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