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PlaneTalk Newsletter: News Items

Archive of news items from our PlaneTalk newsletter

Recent PlaneTalk newsletters

News items

Rather than take expensive dietary supplements to foster a healthy gut, choose more foods that help your digestive system and fewer fewer that work against it. (Jan. 2018)

These 5 podcast programs, all focused on science and health topics, might be fun to listen to as you exercise, drive, or do chores. (Jan. 2018)

Which screening tests should you get and which are a waste of money (or worse)? (Jan. 2018)

If an elderly loved one with dementia has been prescribed the drug Nuedexta, this article is must-reading. (Jan. 2018)

Hospital patients occasionally become infected with Clostridium difficile (C. diff), a bacterial cause of diarrhea that can be very hard to treat. If you or a loved one will be in the hospital, here's how to lower the odds of a C. diff infection. (Jan. 2018)

What is the most effective treatment for severe obesity - dieting, exercising, or surgery? (Jan. 2018)

Blood Pressure (Jan. 2018)

How High Is Too High? 

You have probably heard about a new guideline released by the American College of Cardiology (ACC) and the American Heart Association (AHA) in November. They set a lower threshold for diagnosing high blood pressure (hypertension) - a systolic pressure of 130 or more, or a diastolic pressure of 80 or more. Using the new guideline, nearly half of American adults are hypertensive.

However, since it did not make the news, you are probably unaware that the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) released a statement saying they do not endorse the new guideline. Partially because family doctors focus on a broad array of health issues, rather than just heart health, the AAFP supports the older, higher threshold of 140/90. A blog post about the media's failure to cover the controversy does a good job of explaining the AAFP's position.

Getting a Valid Blood Pressure Reading

No matter which hypertension definition you and your doctor prefer, high blood pressure should be diagnosed only after it has been correctly measured on at least two occasions. Unfortunately, harried medical personnel rarely ensure that all steps necessary to obtain a valid reading have been taken. Some of these steps are ones you can easily take on your own; others you may need to discuss with the person taking your pressure.

Toothpaste (Jan. 2018)

What do you want from your toothpaste? This article initially discusses the safety of triclosan, a chemical present in Colgate Total toothpastes, but it concludes with lots of helpful information about selecting toothpastes for various purposes - whitening, making teeth less sensitive, fighting bacteria, or avoiding canker sores.

Alcohol & Cancer Risk (Jan. 2018)

The American Society of Clinical Oncology recently issued a warning that even light alcohol consumption increases the risk of cancer sounded alarming. Most reports about the advisory sounded alarming, but typically omitted some important details, such as how substantial is the increased absolute risk? And when you look at mortality from all causes - not just cancer - how do light and moderate drinking affect life expectancy? This article provides some much needed context.

Aromatherapy & Essential Oils (Jan. 2018)

In recent years, there has been renewed interest in using scents and oils derived from aromatic plants for medicinal purposes. Articles in the popular media about essential oils often include glowing testimonials from users and positive spin from sellers, but fail to mention what researchers have - or have not - learned about the products' health effects.

An exception is this excellent article, which examined the safety and efficacy of aromatherapy and other uses of essential oils. Additional details, including information about using oils for specific health issues (especially, but not only, cancer), and a few safety concerns users should be aware of, are also available.

Restless Leg Syndrome (Jan. 2018)

People with restless leg syndrome have an uncontrollable urge to move their legs when awake but lying or sitting still. Although its cause is poorly understood, self-care measures can help, and medications are available for more severe cases.

Lab Tests (Jan. 2018)

If you have questions about a laboratory test - what it may reveal, how you should prepare, the procedure itself, or the significance of your results - here are two excellent sources of information:

    • has easy-to-understand information in English and Spanish for over 50 common procedures

    • has more detailed information, including reference values, and covers a larger number of tests.

Planning a trip? You can exercise, even without access to a gym. Many exercises for strength and cardiovascular health require no equipment. (March 2018)

Babies who are delivered vaginally and who are breastfed have a lower incidence of various health problems during childhood and adulthood. (March 2018)

Pain during sex is common - and largely treatable - among women, especially older women. This FAQ has more info. (March 2018)

Is peanut butter good for you? (March 2018)

The internet is full of contradictory advice about which fats are healthful. A variety of vegetable oils, coconut and palm oils - even butter and lard - have proponents. What do mainstream nutrition and heart disease experts advise?

If you have urinary incontinence, talk to your doctor. You may feel embarrassed, but your doctor is used to helping people with this very common problem. (March 2018)

Many recent news reports alarmingly suggested ibuprofen could harm sperm production - but they misrepresented the study they cited. It found no link between ibuprofen and male fertility. (March 2018)

Have a Healthy Relationship with Your Smartphone (March 2018)

Even if you love your smartphone, you may feel that it monopolizes too much of your attention - adding to your stress levels, disrupting interactions with friends and family, or taking you away from more rewarding activities. To help you better manage how and when you use your phone, try these techniques and apps. You will find one more tip in this quirky video.

Deciding as an individual or family to disallow phones in certain situations can be very beneficial. If you are a parent, here are some steps to help your children use their phones in a healthful way.

How Trustworthy Are Your Sources of Health News? (March 2018)

PlaneTree strives to consistently provide you with unbiased, accurately reported information based on solid scientific evidence. We are proud that you depend on PlaneTalk as a source of trustworthy health and medical journalism. But do you sometimes wonder about the quality of your other sources of news? (HNR), a nonprofit organization that critiques medical news in the popular media, recently looked at how well 25 popular news sources had covered health and medical news in 2017. HNR found that many media outlets had provided poor quality information in most of their health and medical reportage. A few clearly had higher standards. To see HNR's ratings for each specific outlet, plus the average for all outlets, visit this page. (You may also want to learn how HNR evaluates articles.)

If you enjoy watching "The Doctors" or "The Dr. Oz Show," this HNR article about the reliability of their reportage will be especially eye-opening.

Finding & Working with a Doctor (March 2018)

     If you are shopping for a new physician, use this guide to help plan your search. (Its advice is relevant to all ages, not just seniors.) One step, of course, is to solicit recommendations from friends and other physicians. If their suggestions do not bear fruit, the online resources located at the conclusion of this article will be helpful.

     Some issues you will want to consider as you evaluate potential providers are posed here. If you are anticipating surgery, you will especially want to gauge the surgeon's competency. And always visit the State of California website for licensing of health care professionals that a doctor has not been subject to any serious disciplinary actions or malpractice judgements. 

     The responsibility for having a positive, productive relationship with your doctor is a shared one. Ways to optimize every doctor's office visit are presented here via video and text.

The text on this page is copyright PlaneTree Health Library, licensed under Creative Commons CC BY-SA. Linked contents are the responsibility of their creators / copyright holders.