Monthly Archives: December, 2013

Coffee Causes Cancer…No!

coffee

Around one in 10 British adults mistakenly think coffee causes cancer,so says a survey carried out by the World Cancer Research Fund (see here). Nothing can be  further from the truth – repeat, drinking coffee does not cause cancer. In fact, the benefits of coffee have been largely understated. Among the benefits include:

1. It contains powerful anti-oxidants, like chlorogenic acid and melanoidins (especially in roasted coffee beans), both of which confer proven health benefits.

2.Reducing the incidence of Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s. Read “A Cup of Coffee a Day will Keep Alzheimer’s Away”.

3.Protecting against diabetes. Moderate consumption  may lower the risk of type 2 diabetes in younger and middle aged women.

4.Preventing liver disease and the formation of liver and kidney stones.

5. Promoting alertness, attentiveness, and wakefulness.

But its not all good and no bad. Drinking excessive amounts (more than four cups a day) has been shown to accelerate osteoporosis as well as increase blood pressure, palpitations and even increase the risk of hardening of the arteries (a process called atherosclerosis). In some, coffee can cause heartburn, or GERD(gastro -esophageal reflux disease).

An important point to note is that there seems to be a health hazard in drinking unfiltered coffee (as in Turkish coffee and kahawa) as it raises blood cholesterol. Filtered coffee, as in instant coffee, does not do so, as diterpenes, responsible for raising cholesterol, are removed by filtration.

What about heart disease? The verdict’s not in just yet..on one hand, diterpenes cause a rise in cholesterol and homocysteine but this seems balanced by the beneficial anti-oxidant properties. As of now, there is no convincing evidence that coffee leads to heart disease.

latte

Latte, a combination of coffee,steamed milk and sugar) can set you back by 260 calories per cup.

Bear in mind that this discussion is based on just pure plain coffee. The scenario changes quite a bit with additives like milk, cream and sugar. For one thing, a cup of latte at Starbucks can contribute about 260 calories (as opposed to 0 calories in plain coffee). This is not to mention the health risks of added fats (and cholesterol) and sugar.

Back Pain? That Could Be A Heart Attack.

I was prompted to write about this when, in the last week or so, a couple of patients presented with upper back-pain in between the shoulder-blades and dismissed them off as ‘muscular aches’. In both cases, they turned out to be impending heart attacks. So what kind of symptoms are produced when the heart’s in trouble?

heart attack3

Courtesy of Australian Heart Foundation

The reality is not all heart attacks happen suddenly and dramatically as in a TV drama where you clutch your chest in pain and fall to the ground. In many instances, the warning symptoms appear but are ignored because they appear in unusual parts of the body and may fade off after a while, only to reappear again especially when the heart is stressed.

The classical symptom is that of central chest-pain or pressure, not unlike someone standing on your chest. But sometimes, the pain can be in  unusual locations include jaw or teeth pain, leading to a visit (wrongfully) to the dentist. An alert dental surgeon can recognise the differentiating features and refer the patient on to the cardiologist for urgent attention.

Another location for heart-attack pain can be the so-called interscapular area (the part between the shoulder-blades), even without chest-pain. Often, the pain can be excruciating with possible pain-free intervals, leading one to a false sense of security with disastrous consequences; because time is crucial in such circumstances :  the well-known ‘golden hour‘, named because early treatment during an evolving heart attack can mean the difference between life and death.

heart attack4

Some unusual sites of pain due to a heart attack

Pain need not always be present as a heart attack develops. Especially in diabetics, breathlessness can be the only symptom. Of particular note is progressive deterioration of stamina, such as walking up a staircase.

Getting treatment within an hour of a heart attack cuts your risk of dying from it in half, so it is important to get to the nearest Emergency Department of a large hospital in double-quick time. Sometimes it may be better to rely on one’s own transport than to wait for an ambulance if that’s going to save time.

Are there any useful measures to do while waiting to receive medical attention? Anecdotally, several maneuvers have been promoted on the Internet, many without a proven basis. There’s certainly no place for home remedies! Sitting up and facilitating breathing (loosening tight clothing) and at the same time calming the patient does help as it is well-known that anxiety aggravates the heart. If aspirin is available (even the ones for headaches), putting a tablet under the tongue will help to thin out blood and prevent clots from developing.

Personally, I have encountered several instances where people hesitate to go to the hospital for fear of embarrassment in case it turns out to be a false alarm. Others deliberately neglect to call help, fearing the worst, but hoping their inner fears may be wrong. In any case, an important rule of thumb is that it is better to be proven wrong at the hospital than to miss a heart attack. No medical staff is going to chastise you, for sure, if you’re wrong.

An important rule of thumb is that it is better to inaccurately self-diagnose a heart attack than miss it. – See more at: http://www.houseandhome.org/tag/what-to-do-in-the-case-of-a-heart-attack#sthash.ltVe0833.dpuf
Others deliberately neglect to call help, fearing the worst, but hoping their inner fears may be wrong. – See more at: http://www.houseandhome.org/tag/what-to-do-in-the-case-of-a-heart-attack#sthash.ltVe0833.dpuf
Others deliberately neglect to call help, fearing the worst, but hoping their inner fears may be wrong. – See more at: http://www.houseandhome.org/tag/what-to-do-in-the-case-of-a-heart-attack#sthash.ltVe0833.dpuf
Others deliberately neglect to call help, fearing the worst, but hoping their inner fears may be wrong. – See more at: http://www.houseandhome.org/tag/what-to-do-in-the-case-of-a-heart-attack#sthash.ltVe0833.dpuf
Do not be embarrassed about seeking help. It is better to be wrong than make an error of judgment. – See more at: http://www.houseandhome.org/tag/what-to-do-in-the-case-of-a-heart-attack#sthash.ltVe0833.dpuf
Do not be embarrassed about seeking help. It is better to be wrong than make an error of judgment. – See more at: http://www.houseandhome.org/tag/what-to-do-in-the-case-of-a-heart-attack#sthash.ltVe0833.dpuf
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