April 28, 2015

Bits & Pieces of This & That

Often I read something interesting but not worthy of a full blog post. I save and use these items when I need a quick, easy post. These past two days, I've been focused on the Nepal earthquake, so it's a good time to dip into this miscellany file.

Good News on My Cancers
I get so absorbed in matters of aging and Parkinson's, I forget I also have prostate cancer and have been treated twice for skin cancer. Last week, I had checkups with my urologist and my dermatologist, and heard good news from both doctors.

Dermatologist: This meeting turned out to be unusual and enjoyable. I arrived a few minutes early for my 11am appointment to find an empty waiting room. My doctor examined me right away, zapped a few spots on my forehead, said I was doing fine, and sent me on my way. I was out of the office by 11:15.

Urologist: This appointment took a little longer, and I had to wait several days for results -- which were also good. I had my prostate removed in January. 1995. A few months after the operation, PSA tests revealed some remaining cancer cells. Since then, those test results have bounced around quite a bit, and even reached 10 once. Last week's reading was 6.7, consistent with the last several readings.

Since this cancer has grown very slowly over 20 years, I wonder if it would have been better to decline surgery in favor of "watchful waiting." My urologist tells me the experts are getting closer to determining -- at the outset -- whether the prostate cancer will be aggressive or not. But there's no sense brooding about my decision now.

Underweight People at Higher Risk of Dementia
People who are underweight in middle age -- or even on the low side of normal weight -- run significantly higher risk of dementia as they get older, according to the results of a large study conducted at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. In fact, the numbers appear to show that increased weight is protective.

According to this study, middle-aged people with a BMI (body mass index) under 20 carry a 34 percent increased risk of developing dementia than their heftier counterparts with BMIs between 20 and about 25. That's the range (20-25) that this study identifies as "healthy."

The heavier people become, the more their risk declines. Very obese people (BMIs above 40) were 29 percent less likely to develop dementia 15 years later than those in the normal weight category. 

But I controlled my rush to the refrigerator for that chocolate mousse cake when I saw this warning from the study's lead author, Dr. Nawab Qizilbash from Oxon Epidemiology: "Even if there were to be a protective effect in dementia, you may not live long enough to benefit because you are at a higher risk from other conditions."

Shorter Stature May Pose Higher Risk of Heart Disease
A few weeks ago, an international research consortium reported that shorter stature increases the risk of heart disease. After gathering genetic data from nearly 200,000 men and women worldwide, the investigators found that each additional 2.5 inches of height brings a 13.5% reduction in heart disease risk. That relationship is present throug the range of adult heights.

According to the study, someone five feet tall has a 30 percent increased chance of developing heart disease than someone who is five feet, six inches tall. There's nothing you can do about your height, but the researchers hope the findings will lead to the discovery of new links to heart disease.

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