December 2005 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.

Make good nutritional choices in your holiday meal ingredients
The holidays shouldn't be a nightmare for people watching their waistlines. Experts at UT Southwestern Medical Center offer a few tips on how to cut calories and eat sensibly.

"Place a super-sized salad bowl filled with fresh leafy greens and colorful veggies at the front of the serving line," says Lona Sandon, a registered dietician at UT Southwestern. "This will encourage you and your guests to start the meal with a nice healthful, high fiber, low-calorie appetizer."

  • Use broth to sauté instead of butter - 104 calories saved per tablespoon.
  • Substitute 1/3 cup of mayonnaise and 1/3 cup of nonfat yogurt for 2/3 cup of mayonnaise - 480 calories saved.
  • Use nonfat milk instead of whole milk - 60 calories saved per cup.
  • Use plain nonfat yogurt instead of cream - 720 calories saved per cup.
  • Eat skinless chicken - 360 calories saved per whole bird.

Cooks should also experiment with sugar substitute Splenda, a no-calorie sweetener ideal for baking at up to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Every time you use one tablespoon of Splenda rather than sugar you save 45 calories.

Media Contact: Katherine Morales

Take care when approaching up-on-the-rooftop tasks
As winter approaches, so does the task of untangling the lights and spending hours hanging outdoor holiday lights from atop a ladder. In 2004 more than 547,000 people sought medical attention because of ladder-related injuries, including cuts, bruises and fractured bones.

"Knowing how to properly use and set-up a ladder can significantly reduce the possibility of injury," says Dr. Robert Bucholz, chairman of the orthopaedic surgery department at UT Southwestern Medical Center. "It's essential that ladders are placed on firm, level surfaces."

Bucholz, past president of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, offers this advice:

  • Inspect and properly set up the ladder.
  • Remember the one-to-four rule: Ladder's bottom should be one foot away from the wall for every four feet that the ladder rises.
  • Don't use the ladder as a seat between tasks.
  • Position the ladder close to the work and move materials with caution.

Media Contact: Connie Piloto

Friendly visitors make a difference in Alzheimer's disease
Friends, relatives and others caring for those with Alzheimer's disease appreciate visits during the holidays to lift their spirits and give their patient a project that can engage his or her mind, says Peggy Higgins, education director for the Alzheimer's Disease Center at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

Be sure to call first, as surprise visits rarely produce good results, she adds. With the caregiver's permission, bring a "sorting" project such as photos, a box of buttons, nuts and bolts, or various squares of felt. Busy hands can be a breath of fresh air to a family that might be isolated from many social activities. A plate of cookies may also be appreciated. Keep your visit under an hour, and offer to come back in a week or so.

Media Contact: Aline McKenzie

Colon-cancer testing with take-home kits may provide imprecise results
Several manufacturers have developed take-home kits enabling consumers to test their stool for early signs of colon cancer. The disease kills about 58,000 Americans per year, according to the American Cancer Society. Experts say early detection is the key to a cure.

But the slew of new fecal occult blood tests (FOBT) consumers can perform at home should not be considered an alternative to the most accurate screening tool available, a colonoscopy, says Dr. Harry Papaconstantinou, assistant professor of surgery at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

FOBT will detect bleeding from lesions, which may be cancerous or precancerous polyps, at the time of the test, but since lesions bleed intermittently, the test may show a false negative result, says Dr. Papaconstantinou, an expert on colorectal cancers. In addition, certain foods, such as rare meats, turnips, melons, horseradish or cauliflower can trigger false positive results. And patients who are taking aspirin or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can have microscopic bleeding from their gastrointestinal tract that can give a false positive test.

Colonoscopy, the most sensitive test, relies on the use of a flexible scope to examine the entire colon. It is performed under sedation.

"My preference for screening is colonoscopy, but when performed appropriately, FOBT can be a useful screening tool to detect colorectal cancers and polyps," Dr. Papaconstantinou says. A recent Japanese study found that FOBT missed up to 35 percent of cancer and 80 percent of large polyps, according to Dr. Papaconstantinou.

Media Contact: Toni Heinzl

Stemming heart disease keyed by cholesterol monitoring
People, even those without a family history of cardiovascular disease, should have their cholesterol checked at least every five years, a cardiologist at UT Southwestern Medical Center advises.

"The American Heart Association suggests that every adult over the age of 20 has a fasting lipid profile at least every five years and every two years if they have other cardiovascular risk factors," says Dr. Amit Khera. "A person's cholesterol goal is determined by their risk, which can be easily estimated by knowing their smoking history, blood pressure, cholesterol, age and sex."

People with known coronary artery disease or diabetes are at high risk and should have a goal of lowering LDL (bad cholesterol) to less than 100. Those who are at very high risk should have a goal of less than 70.

 These new lower goals were suggested in the most recent statement by the National Cholesterol Education Program in 2004, based on the results of clinical trials showing that lower is better. 

"Achieving a goal of less than 70 can be challenging, and will require the combination of dietary therapy and medications, sometimes multiple medications," Dr. Khera says. "There are some newer, more potent cholesterol-lowering drugs that are now available that can help in achieving these goals."

Media Contact: Katherine Morales


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