Top Five Recent Health Stories

Much News in November, But More to Come

November has been a good month for health news, but you can expect every month for the forseeable future to produce these kind of results. Baby Boomers aren’t exactly circling the drain yet, but they are adamant about getting that extra ounce of prevention for the aging process. The National Institute of Aging and the universities are full steam ahead getting us the info we need to keep it going on.


For this column, and for my blog (, I am constantly scouring the professional journals and the credible Internet sites for the latest in research that directs us to how we can keep it going on. Here are my top 5 healthspan stories for November.

5) Mother was right


What our mothers all told us — eat your vegetables — finally might get our attention. A study of 2000 seniors in the Chicago area found that those who ate two servings a day of the greens had 40 percent less mental decline than those who didn’t. In fact, those who consumed veggies at that rate ended the six year study younger by five years on all measures than when they began the study.

4) Coffee is good for you!

This research doesn’t come courtesy of Juan Valdez. You can trust this one as it was funded by the National Institute of Aging and the National Institute of Diabetes. The study found that drinking coffee actually reduced the risk for type 2 diabetes by a whopping 60 per cent compared to those who abstain from the bean.


As reported in this month’s issue of Diabetes Care, this study confirms and extends the “striking protective effect of caffeinated coffee”, found in several other studies.

3) Another case for anger management

We all know about “heartache”, but is it really a scientific fact that stressful emotions — anger, worry, terror — can cause a lethal cardiac event?


Some important new research reported last week at the Scientific Sessions of the American Heart Association confirms and extends prior studies showing that anger disrupts the heart’s electrical rhythms in very dangerous ways. According to Dr. Noel Bairey Merz, the medical director of Los Angeles’ Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, this new study is “significant in that it provides objective data confirming a cause-and-effect relationship between emotions and behavior — here anger — and lethal heart arrhythmias.”

Most doctors reviewing the study have emphasized the importance of anger management therapy, especially for those vulnerable to heart disease.

2. A shout-out for low carb diets

Nothing has been more combative in the Healthspan world than the Diet Wars. My series on them a couple of years ago actually generated some of the most heated emails I have ever received. Here is some fresh gasoline for the fire.


A recently reported study in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine lends support to “low carb” diets. Such diets are typically higher in fat and animal protein sources, the infamous Atkins Diet being a prime example. What this study of more than 80,000 women from Harvard and UCLA found was that cardiac risk is not increased by eating more fat.

One of the most important findings from this major study is that the women who consumed their fat mostly from vegetable sources, such as olive oil, had a 30 percent lower risk of heart disease than their sisters who gobbled their fat from animal sources.

1) Lung cancer death highly preventable

This one is a wow! Eighty percent of deaths from lung cancer can be prevented by having a CT scan, according to a Cornell University study reported recently in the New England Journal of Medicine.


In case you weren’t aware of it, lung cancer is one of the most lethal of cancers. More Americans die each year from lung cancer than from breast, prostate, and colorectal cancers combined. It was estimated that in 2005, 173,000 new cases of lung cancer were diagnosed and 164,000 Americans died from the disease. This study is very significant as the CT screening detects lung cancer at very early stages, where it is curable. Lung cancer is usually detected in its later stages when it is often too late.

Of these 30,000-plus high-risk subjects who were scanned, 85 percent were discovered to have stage 1 lung cancer. This group, who caught the cancer early, had a 88 percent chance of surviving 10 years. You can contrast this to the reported survival rate for patients with stage IV lung cancer at about 5 percent.

The priniciple investigator, Dr. Claudia Henschke, said, “We believe this study provides compelling evidence that CT screening for lung cancer offers new hope for millions of people at risk for this disease, and could dramatically reverse lung cancer death rates.”

Dr. Michael O.L. is a licensed clinical psychologist with a psychotherapy practice in Santa Barbara. Comment at and visit his web site/blog at for more information on the topics covered in this column.

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