November 2003 Health News Tips

Note to media: To reach the media contacts for any of these health news tips, call the Office of News and Publications at 214-648-3404.


Making a commitment to increase physical activity now decreases the chances of developing type 2 diabetes later, says Dr. Abhimanyu Garg, professor of internal medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.

“Avoiding sedentary behaviors and increasing physical activity, particularly for individuals with a family history of diabetes, lowers the chances of someone developing type 2 diabetes later in life,” Dr. Garg says.

“Parents who have diabetes should make sure their children are not overweight or obese and should encourage physical activity.”

Type 2 diabetes, the most common form of the disease, affects 16 million Americans. The cause of diabetes is unknown, although both genetics and environmental factors such as obesity and lack of exercise appear to play a role in its onset.

November is American Diabetes Month, which raises awareness about serious and often preventable diabetes complications: blindness, amputations and heart disease.

Media Contact: Amy Shields


People suffering from diabetes or hypertension should have their kidneys screened immediately, says Dr. Ramesh Saxena, assistant professor of internal medicine and a nephrologist at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.

“More and more patients are having kidney failure because of diabetes and hypertension,” Dr. Saxena says. “Chronic kidney disease in the early phases often goes undetected. Steps should be taken to slow down the progression of kidney disease early rather than letting the kidney function decrease until dialysis is needed.” He recommends asking your primary care physician for a micro-albuminuria test to check for protein in the urine, an early sign of kidney disease.

Of course, avoiding type 2 diabetes and managing high blood pressure through lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise is the best way to ensure healthy kidneys, Dr. Saxena adds.

Media Contact: Staishy Bostick Siem


Think osteoporosis only affects women? Think again.

The National Institutes of Health reports between 1 million and 2 million American men have osteoporosis, a thinning of the bones through loss of calcium and protein. Men over age 50 are at greater risk of osteoporosis-related fracture than for prostate cancer.

Dr. Khashayar Sakhaee, chief of mineral metabolism at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, says the best prevention methods for men are the same as for women. “One out of every six men will have osteoporosis, and resulting fractures are associated with long-term hospitalizations, chronic disabilities with pain, immobility, deformities and even death,” he says, adding male bone loss may also be due to a deficiency in testosterone.

Weight-bearing exercises that include walking, running, aerobics and weight training help strengthen bones. Another way to lower the risk for osteoporosis is a nutritious diet, Dr. Sakhaee says. Calcium is the most important nutrient for preventing osteoporosis, and most men don't get enough. Recommended daily intake: 1,000 milligrams, or three 8-ounce glasses of milk.

Media Contact: Scott Maier


Holiday partygoers may choose to mingle first and eat later, but they may return home with an unexpected guest – an upset stomach – if those foods have been sitting at improper temperatures for too long, says Dr. Vickie Vaclavik, assistant professor of clinical nutrition at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.

“To deter bacteria growth, holiday party hosts should remember the two-hour rule,” she says. “Foods should not sit unprotected at room temperature for more than about two hours.”

Cream-based products, eggs, meats and milk are examples of foods in party fare that naturally promote bacteria growth that cause food-borne illness.

“If these categories of foods are to be left out – either unrefrigerated or not held hot – they may become unsafe to eat. The host may use smaller, easily replaced batches, which should be discarded after a couple of hours, or the foods should be held at the right temperatures.”

Other tips include: Replacing platters for fresh food instead of adding fresh food to a dirtied dish; keeping hot foods at 140 degrees Fahrenheit or warmer, and cold foods at 40 degrees F or colder; keeping your hands, work surfaces and utensils clean.

Media Contact: Amy Shields


Radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh is fighting his addiction to prescription painkillers in the public limelight, but doctors say addiction can happen to anyone.

Commonly prescribed opioids – the most popular type of pain medication – include morphine, oxycodone, hydrocodone and codeine. Familiar brand names are Vicodin and Oxycontin. Dr. Noor Gajraj, assistant professor of anesthesiology and pain management at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, says opioids are often prescribed for patients in chronic pain following surgery or injury.

While offering relief, the drugs lead to dependence and tolerance as normal responses, Dr. Gajraj says. Dependence means that if the medications are suddenly stopped, minor withdrawal symptoms may occur. Addiction, however, is a biological disease of the brain, with a significant genetic component that affects approximately 10 percent of the general population. Signs of addiction include loss of control over taking medications, obsessive thoughts about the medication, compulsive use, craving for the medication, and use despite harmful effects.

“Opiates are a very valuable option for the treatment of pain but must be taken under medical supervision,” says Dr. Gajraj. “Patients need to be monitored to ensure that the medications are providing benefit, are being taken as prescribed, and to assess side-effects.”

Dr. Gajraj says patients should follow a few simple steps to avoid addiction: Take the medications only as prescribed; get medications only from one physician and one pharmacy; don't take another person’s medication; inform your physician of any troublesome side-effects; and use the medication only for pain and not to treat anxiety, depression, stress or insomnia.

Media Contact: Stephen O’Brien


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