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Doctor Housecalls Blog

Healthcare related news and updates

It should come as no surpise that it is harder to fall asleep in an unfamiliar location, but a new study published in Current Biology is attempting to learn the science behind the reason why people sleep so poorly after they’ve moved into a new home. 

The reason for this first sleepless night has to do with one hemisphere of the brain staying awake as a way to watch for potential danger. The study showed that the brains of people who were sleeping in an unfamiliar location did not show the slow wave activity that brains typically showed when in deep sleep. One hemisphere always seemed to be awake and was able to induce wakefulness much faster at the first sign of any unusual signals from the environment.

An article in the “Health and Science” section of the Washington Post reports that suicide rates in the United States have risen 24 percent between 1999 and 2014 to 13 suicides per 100,000 people. The biggest increase has been found in middle-aged white people, particularly women.

There are of course several factors in the increase of suicide rates, but the primary factors are substance abuse, “gray divorce” and the rise in social media and the Internet. Economic stress also seems to be a factor as this increase also coincides with the recent recession.

The suicide rate among girls between the ages of five and 15 years old has also been increasing. Suicide within this population was a rare phenomenon before 1999, but suicide rates among young girls tripled between 1999 and 2014, with one suicide for every 6,660 girls.

New Report on Depression and Serotonin

According to an April 21st article on by Alexandra Sifferlin, 1 in 10 Americans are on anti-depressants or SSRIs, even though there is little understanding in the medical community about how these medications actually work.

A new paper in the BMJ published by Bangor University professor of psychiatry David Healy suggests that there is little proof regarding the connection between depression and serotonin, a key point that is often used in marketing SSRIs.

While many members of the psychiatric community continue to support SSRIs for treatment of depression, others like Dr. Victor I. Reus, professor of psychiatry at the University of California-San Francisco, agree with Healy. “He’s preaching to the choir at this point,” says Reus.

Reus goes on to explain that it is not necessarily the efficacy of these medications that is the issue.  Rather, it is their overblown marketing and the fact that industry leaders do not understand how and why these drugs work that causes concern.

Additionally, Reus goes on to explain that the drugs have been over-prescribed, especially to people with mild depression.

“You wonder what the real risk benefit ratio is in that population,” he says. “They’ve been oversold.”


FDA Warns Consumers To Be Wary Of Claims That Supplements Treat Concussions.

by Dr. Steven J. Lipsky MD, FACEP

The Food and Drug Administration has put out a new warning for supplements that are claiming to treat concussions. In an article published by LiveScience (8/26, Gholipour, 612K) it is noted there is no scientific evidence to back the claims that any supplements are safe or effective in treating concussions. A concussion is an injury to the brain. Patients who return to normal activity too soon, may be susceptible to multiple concussions, increasing their odds for severe lasting effects. The only tried and true method for healing a concussion is time and rest until a patient is fully recovered. Simply stated by Charlotte Christin, acting director of FDA’s Division of Dietary Supplement Program, “there is simply no scientific evidence to support the use of any dietary supplement for the prevention of concussions or the reduction of post-concussion symptoms that would allow athletes to return to play sooner.”

Study indicates working from home reduces stress.

Dr. Steven J. Lipsky MD, FACEP

In today’s society, the challenge of balancing work and family priorities can be stressful. Whether you work in a job that requires 24/7 attention or you work from home, the increase in demands can leave an employee feeling pulled in multiple directions and questioning who should receive more attention, work or family. The New York Times (8/24, BU4, Korkki, Subscription Publication) recently released the results from a study by The American Sociological Review examining whether the stresses of work-life conflicts could be eased if an employee was given more flexibility over their schedule and work location. The study reported that employees who were given flexibility in their schedules felt happier, less stressed, had more energy and used their time more effectively. However, for this flexible schedule to succeed it must have full managerial and department support. The study was financed by the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Many doctors say that Alzheimer’s Disease is the largest public health problem for the next 50 years. The Alzheimer’s Association has listed 10 signs that may signal the onset of the brain destroying illness:

  • Memory changes that disrupt daily life;
  • Challenges in planning or solving problems;
  • Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, work, or leisure;
  • Confusion with time or place;
  • Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships;
  • New problems with words in speaking or writing;
  • Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps;
  • Decreased or poor judgment;
  • Withdrawal from work or social activities;
  • Changes in mood and personality.

Also, according to Dr. J. Carson Smith of the University of Maryland Public School of Health, just by putting seniors suffering from mild memory impairment on a three-month exercise regimen focused on regular treadmill walks, their brain function improved along with the ability to remember familiar names. According to him: “no study has shown that a drug can do what we showed is possible with exercise!”

Finally, Dr. Gwenaelle Douard of Oxford University gave volunteers either a placebo or a combination of B12, B6, and Folic Acid (all “B” vitamins) and found that those who took the vitamins had 29% less brain degeneration that those taking the placebo.

For more information  go to: or call the Alzheimer’s Association’s 24hr hotline at 1-800-272-3900.

Stroke and Depression

Researchers such as Susan Everson-Rose at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis have found in a 10yr study of more than 4000 adults with an average age of 77 found that those with the most depression, blues, negative outlook and general dissatisfaction with life were 3x as likely to die from stroke, and 54% more likely to be hospitalized because of a 1st stroke. Dr. Erik Peper of San Francisco State University found that simply sitting more erect reverses bad moods, and that people who slouch were more likely to feel depressed. Medicare now covers the Ornish Program as an “intensive cardiac rehab plan”. It teaches a vegetable-based diet, yoga, and meditation and can reverse heart disease. Medicare will cover up to 72, one-hour sessions, and $70/hr.!

Many studies have shown in recent years that one can keep one’s brain from “slipping” as we age by reading, writing, playing board games, attending a play, etc., including a recent study by Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center and Illinois Institute of Technology. However, according to researcher Alan J. Gow of Scotland’s University of Edinburgh, seniors who participated in more physical activity over a course of three years–including walking several times a week–, experienced less brain shrinkage than those who didn’t exercise as much, and there was no benefit from mentally and socially stimulating activities!! Also, Dr. Martin Juneau of the Montreal Heart Institute put overweight, inactive adults through four months of high-intensity interval training and found that besides weight loss, there was improvement in thinking, memory, and making quick decisions. He suggests at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity a week. (A recent Danish study found that fast walking and jogging slashed heart disease and stroke risk by 50%, but daily one-hour leisurely walks made no difference!).

Lowering Risk for Alzheimer’s Disease 

Dr. Steve Lipsky MD, FACEP

Dr. Gary Small, professor of Psychiatry at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine, and a leading expert on Alzheimer’s Disease,  has written a book entitled: “The Alzheimer’s Prevention Program: Keep Your Brain Healthy for the Rest of Your Life”. He states that although genetics does have a role to play in one’s risk for developing  the dreaded disease, it “accounts for only a small part of the risk”. He states 10 ways to help guard oneself against the disorder:

  • Brisk Walking – 90 minutes/wk
  • Staying Mentally Active – Engaging in stimulating activities such as taking classes, doing    challenging puzzles, reading.
  • Taking It Easy – Reducing anxiety and stress decreases hormones that impair learning and recall. Try yoga, meditation, breathing exercises, and getting help from others.
  • Staying Socially Connected – Being isolated and alone is bad for mental health. One recent study showed that a 10-minute stimulating conversation is better for cognitive health that watching 10-minutes of a rerun TV comedy
  • Eating Omega-3 Fatty Fish – At least 2 times per week (or capsules) – once again, they protect the brain from inflammation and degeneration
  • Eating Green Leafy Vegetables and Colorful Fruits – Once again, they’re rich in antioxidants which protect the brain.
  • Maintain Ideal Body Weight – Obesity has been linked to an increase risk of developing Alzheimer’s, as well as hypertension and diabetes that can damage the brain.
  • Get Enough Sleep – Recent studies say 6-8hr/night. This let’s one think more clearly and decreases the levels of amyloid plaques in the brain that can be toxic to cells and lead to Alzheimer’s (we think).
  • Take a Multi-Vitamin Daily – Provides insurance that your brain is getting enough Vitamin B, D, and other nutrients it needs for normal functioning.
  • Take Care of Medical Illnesses – Hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, and others if left untreated lead to cognitive decline.

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