Doctor Housecalls Blog

Healthcare related news and updates



Live Longer by Owning a Dog

A study that included more than 3.4 million people found that owning a dog is linked to living longer. The study was published in Scientific Reports and was conducted by researchers in Sweden at Uppsala University. The study included both men and women who were between 40 and 80 years old, and who did not have a history of cardiovascular disease. Researchers followed their health records and found whether or not they owned a dog from registries.

The study found that there was a lower risk of death by cardiovascular disease, as well as a lower risk of death from other causes. This was most prominent for people who lived alone. The design of the study was not to show a cause and effect relationship of owning a dog. However, they believe that those who owned dogs tended to be more active and in better health. They also believe that the dog’s effect on the owner’s microbiome could be a factor by providing immune benefits for adults. Other studies have shown that growing up with a dog can reduce allergies and asthma in children.



Synthetic Opioids Cause More Overdose Deaths Than Prescription Opioids

In 2016, opioid overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids surpassed those involving prescription opioids. The LA Times reported that there were a total of 42,249 overdose deaths from opioids. Over 19,000 of those were from synthetic opioids, over 17,000 were from prescription opioids, and over 15,000 were from heroin (some cases involved more than one type of drug). That means 46% of all opioid deaths were due to synthetic opioids, as opposed to 40% from prescription opioids. 

In 2015 there were more opioid overdose deaths from prescription opioids than synthetic. However, there was a shift and the overdose deaths from synthetic opioids doubled between 2015 and 2016. According to Emily Einstein, of the of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, drug enforcers have been hyper focused on prescription opioids, when in more recent years the biggest threat has been the rise in synthetic opioids.

The increase in drug overdose deaths in the United States is largely due synthetic opioids, like the most common synthetic opioid, illicitly manufactured fentanyl (IMF). “IMF is mixed into counterfeit opioid and benzodiazepine pills, heroin, and cocaine, likely contributing to increases in overdoses involving these other substances,” according to the CDC. Fentanyl is extremely dangerous because the effects are active at much lower doses.



Antibiotics – Are You Taking Them for Longer Than You Should?

According to a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, many doctors are prescribing antibiotics to patients who are suffering with sinus infections for durations that are too long. Infectious disease doctors recommend only taking acute sinus infection antibiotics for five to seven days, yet many people are taking them for ten or more days.

“Any time antibiotics are used, they can cause side effects and lead to antibiotic resistance,” Dr. Katherine Fleming-Dutra, deputy director of the Office of Antibiotic Stewardship at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, explained. The findings published recommend that people only take antibiotics when absolutely necessary and to only take them for the minimum effective duration.

Side effects for antibiotics include: rash, dizziness, nausea, diarrhea, and yeast infections, as well as life threatening allergic reactions. They can also cause Clostridium difficile infection, which can lead to severe colon damage.

When antibiotics are over prescribed and used for longer time periods, bacteria develop the ability to beat the drug, causing the antibiotic to lose its effectiveness in the future. For acute sinus infections, patients typically  recover within 5-7 days. Therefore, there is no need to take an antibiotic for longer and risk becoming immune to it. The reason many people take antibiotics for too long is largely due to people firmly believing they should take their full prescription and many doctors have not yet switched to the new guidelines. Most doctors are still prescribing these antibiotics for 10 or more days.

“Older . . . acute bacterial sinusitis guidelines were written with the belief that if antibiotics were taken for shorter durations of time, that the bacteria would not be completely eradicated and that would risk persistent, recurrent and antibiotic resistant infections,” said Dr. Sharon Meropol, a researcher at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland, Ohio, who wasn’t involved in the study. However, the recommendations for this have changed after several subsequent studies. The medical community learned that it not necessary to stay on antibiotics for acute sinus infections for 10 or more days, and doing so can make you resistant to the drug.



The Many Benefits of Taking Daily Naps

Research has shown that taking a nap each day can provide a range of benefits for children and adults alike. Greek researchers conducted a study with close to 400 men and women who were middle aged. They found that taking naps can reduce blood pressure, which can reduce the risk of heart attacks. In addition, those who sleep more often tend to be able to stay more focused, and they feel refreshed when they wake from a nap. Here are some other benefits of daily napping:

  • Research has also found that a nap can help to boost productivity, as it can provide some downtime for the brain.
  • Naps can also help with mood stability for both children and adults.
  • Spanish scientists found that napping can reduce stress.
  • The National Sleep Foundation believes that naps can help to restore alertness, reduce mistakes and accidents, and boost performance.
  • A NASA study found that having a 40-minute nap could improve the performance of astronauts and military pilots by 34% and alertness by 100%.


Cancer Risk Linked to Highly Processed Foods

Doctors have long advised patients to eat whole grains along with fresh fruits and vegetables as a means to help reduce the risk of cancer. Obesity also causes an increased risk of cancer, and foods that have been highly processed tend to have a lot of calories with little nutritional value. A recent study conducted by researchers located in France and Brazil found that highly processed foods have an increased risk of cancer in addition to being bad from a nutritional standpoint.

The researchers looked at food that was “ultra-processed”, which simply means that it has been heavily processed. They found that a 10% increase in the amount of these ultra-processed foods in the diet would cause a risk of greater than 10% when it came to overall cancer and breast cancer. The research was an ongoing survey of more than 100,000 adults in France. After five years, they found that there were 2,200 cases of cancer within this group.

The researchers said that the study does not definitively prove that the highly processed foods were the cause of the cancer, as many who eat unhealthily also have other dangerous habits, such as smoking, that could increase the risk. They did say that the ultra-processed foods did tend to have higher fat content, saturated fat, added salt and sugar, and a lower amount of fiber and vitamin density. The processing can also create carcinogenic compounds.



How to Check Your Body for Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer and early detection of skin cancer can save your life. The best way to find skin cancer while it is still in its early stages is by having a doctor examine your skin once or twice a year and by examining it yourself at least once a month. So what should you, someone without a medical degree, look for during your monthly skin examinations? 

Check your moles.

Most skin cancer becomes visible in the form of a mole. However, examining moles can be tricky. This is especially true for people whose bodies are covered in moles, most of which are healthy. 

The American Cancer Society suggests using the ABCDE rule when examining moles for skin cancer.

  • Asymmetry: Asymmetric moles are not neatly shaped and circular. Sometimes they are darker in some areas than others.
  • Border: If the border is not a clean line and instead blurred, ragged, or irregular.
  • Color: When the color is not the same throughout the mole. They sometimes have darker shades in certain spots or patches of red, pink, white, or blue in them.
  • Diameter: Any mole that has a diameter greater than ¼ and inch.
  • Evolving: If the mole changes in size, shape, and color over time. 

Other characteristics you should look for are if your moles are itchy or painful, have growths or lumps, open sores with oozing, or if any new moles appear. If your moles have any of the above characteristics, it does not mean they are definitely cancerous, but it does mean you should ask your doctor or dermatologist to have a closer look at them.




How to Prevent a Migraine

A migraine is a reoccurring, severe headache that can have side effects such as nausea, vomiting, and a sensitivity to light and sound. The throbbing headache often occurs on the side of the head and is more common in women than in men. A migraine is caused by abnormal brain activity and what triggers the abnormal brain activity differs vastly from person to person. The best way to prevent migraines from occurring is by identifying the root cause of the change in your brain activity. Study your migraines and find out what triggers them so that you can make the necessary changes to prevent the onset of a migraine. Here are some common lifestyle and medicinal tips that can help prevent a migraine from occurring.

    1. Limit caffeine. Withdrawal from caffeine can trigger a migraine. Prevent yourself from having caffeine withdrawals by limiting your caffeine intake to no more than one cup of coffee a day.
    2. Avoid alcohol. If certain types of alcohol give you a headache after just a few drinks, the alcohol may be triggering a migraine. Avoid these types of alcohol all together.
    3. Avoid triggering foods. Foods like chocolate, cheese, other dairy products, gluten products, red wine, smoked fish, and peanuts are common triggers of migraines. Find out which foods trigger your migraines and eliminate them from your diet.
    4. Do not skip meals. A fluctuation of blood sugar from missing meals is a common cause of migraines. Be sure to keep your glucose levels stable by eating consistently throughout the day.
    5. Get a consistent, healthy amount of sleep. Studies show that sleep deprivation can cause migraines. You can help prevent migraines by making sure you get 8 hours of sleep a night and go to sleep around the same time every night.
    6. Take a low-dose estrogen contraceptive (for women). For many women, migraines occur when they have a drop of estrogen right before they start their menstrual cycle. A contraceptive can help balance your estrogen levels and prevent the migraine from occurring.

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