February 2007 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.


Choosing right type of Valentine’s Day chocolate can benefit heart

If you can’t resist eating chocolate or giving it as a gift on Valentine’s Day, you should know that choosing the right type of chocolate can benefit your heart, says Lona Sandon, a registered dietician at UT Southwestern Medical Center. Pure chocolate, made from cocoa beans, is rich in flavanol, an antioxidant that may help protect arteries from damage, maintain healthy blood flow and fend off heart disease.

Dark chocolate and cocoa powder contain the highest levels of flavanol.

But these health benefits are reduced considerably when pure chocolate is processed and other ingredients — such as sugar, milk and butter — are added. Candy bars and boxed chocolates may be tasty but their added fat and calories make them not-so-healthy treats, Ms. Sandon says.

So it’s best to skip the chocolate candy and replace it with a cup of hot cocoa.

“Research suggests that drinking a cup of dark hot chocolate can be equated with drinking a glass of wine in protecting the heart,” says Ms. Sandon, who urges people to eat and drink in moderation. “Chocolate by itself may provide some health benefits. It’s what’s added to it that’s not so good for us.”

Visit http://www.utsouthwestern.org/nutrition to learn more about UT Southwestern’s clinical services in nutrition.

Media Contact: Cliff Despres

New Year’s resolutions often quickly fall by the wayside

Each year, millions of Americans make New Year’s resolutions to lose weight, exercise more, or work on their personal relationships. By February, many of those resolutions have become distant memories.

Why are New Year’s resolutions so hard to keep?

Dr. Timothy Wolff, a psychiatrist at UT Southwestern Medical Center, says people often aren’t successful because they either set their goals too high or because they subconsciously can't accept change.

“Change is often difficult, due to people being unaware of how ingrained certain behaviors are,” Dr. Wolff says. “In addition, people don’t like looking at the negative part of themselves. They don’t want to feel badly about themselves.”

To help resolutions become new habits, Wolff suggests setting small goals, finding activities you enjoy that can help in attaining these goals and communicating your objectives to others, so as to be more accountable.

“As the proverb goes: the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step,” Dr. Wolff says. “So, make sure the first step is doable.”

Visit http://www.utsouthwestern.org/mentalhealth to learn more about
UT Southwestern’s clinical services in psychiatry.

Media Contact: Donna Steph Hansard


Scrubbing bubbles can worsen acne’s outcome

When acne starts to flare, avoid the instinct to scrub.

Acne begins in the teen years because of hormonal changes that can make oil glands on the face, chest and back more active. Pores on the skin can become plugged with dead skin cells and oil, causing blackheads and whiteheads.

“I advise teens to wash their face no more than twice a day, because acne is not caused by dirt, and too much scrubbing and washing will irritate the skin and make the acne worse,” says Dr. Erin Welch, a dermatologist at UT Southwestern Medical Center. “Instead, use a medicated face wash containing salicylic acid, which helps slough dead skin cells, or benzoyl peroxide, which also helps keep pores unplugged and kills the bacteria that grow in pimples.”

Many effective products that contain these ingredients can be obtained over-the-counter, she says. If acne persists, there are prescription medications available from dermatologists, as well as chemical peels and laser therapy. 

Also, avoid picking and squeezing pimples since this can rupture them, which makes the area more painful and can be potentially scarring.

Visit http://www.utsouthwestern.org/dermatology to learn more about
UT Southwestern’s clinical services in dermatology.

Media Contact: Russell Rian


Facial pain may indicate nerve damage, not dental problems

When people develop pain in their face, they tend to assume that something’s wrong with their teeth, but it can be a condition called trigeminal neuralgia, a serious disorder sometimes called the “suicide disease” because it causes such excruciating pain, says Dr. Jon White, a neurological surgeon at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

The two trigeminal (Latin for “triplet”) nerves run down the sides of the face, each splitting into three branches. Symptoms of the disorder include sharp, “electric” pain on one side of the face that comes and goes. The pain can be triggered by simple actions such as brushing teeth, applying makeup or being hit by a gust of wind. In contrast, dental pain tends to be constant.

Sufferers can go through a long period of misdiagnoses, Dr. White says, “before they make it to a very sharp practitioner who recognizes it as trigeminal neuralgia.”

About 50,000 new cases of trigeminal neuralgia are diagnosed annually in the United States, although this is probably an underestimate, he says.

The cause of trigeminal neuralgia is unknown, although it seems to involve a blood vessel compressing the nerve resulting in the loss of insulation around the nerve. Treatment for the disorder includes pain medication, traditional surgery and surgery using focused radiation.

Visit http://www.utsouthwestern.org/neurosciences to learn more about
UT Southwestern’s clinical services in neurosciences.

Media Contact: Aline McKenzie

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About UT Southwestern Medical Center
UT Southwestern Medical Center, one of the premier medical centers in the nation, integrates pioneering biomedical research with exceptional clinical care and education. Its more than 1,400 full-time faculty members — including four active Nobel prize winners, more than any other medical school in the world — are responsible for groundbreaking medical advances and are committed to translating science-driven research quickly to new clinical treatments. UT Southwestern physicians provide medical care in 40 specialties to nearly 89,000 hospitalized patients and oversee 2.1 million outpatient visits a year.?


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