Counseling Sheet

Science/Health Abstracts #1

Agatha M. Thrash, M.D.
Preventive Medicine


Loud noise produces a number of involuntary reactions in the human body and the reactions may persist as long as five times the duration of the noise itself. The pupils dilate and blood vessels constrict, the skin pales, the muscles tense, the hearer may wince, and hold his breath. (American Family Physician, October 1970, pages 151-152) (Other reports show that people living in a noisy atmosphere die earlier than people living in quiet areas. Ed.)


Ultrasound examination of the fetus may be not entirely harmless, reports Dr. Doreen Liebeskind at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Human lymphocytes and a continuously growing lymphoblast line exposed to diagnostic levels of ultrasound demonstrated a significant increase in the number of sister chromatid exchanges. Investigators believe that these exchanges indicated damage to the chromosomes (Family Practice News, April 1, 1980, page 17).


Over one million pounds of dry milk were seized by the Department of Agriculture in August 1980. The USDA stated that contamination with rat feces and sawdust made the milk unfit for consumption, even by animals. However, over 60,000 pounds of the contaminated milk was sold to bakeries in Iowa City, Iowa, where it may have been used in products consumed by humans (Physician's Washington Report, September 1980).


For decades a bland diet, plenty of milk, and six meals a day have been the standard treatment for ulcer patients. At the Annual Meeting of the College of Physicians, Dr. Norton J. Greenberger, Chairman of the Department of Medicine at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City summed up the conclusions of a panel of ulcer experts by saying: "Three normal meals a day are as good a buffer as six bland ones; and milk contains calcium which stimulates acid secretion and creates rebound problems." Dr. Charles Richardson, head of gastroenterology at the Dallas Veterans Administration Hospital pointed out that even decaffeinated coffee stimulates acid secretion (Medical Tribune 21(22):18, October 8, 1980).


A study of 656 women demonstrated that women cigarette smokers have an earlier onset of menopause than do former smokers and non-smokers. It also strongly suggested that the lowering of the menopausal age may be directly related to the number of cigarettes smoked (Could damage to the ovaries and their blood supply be responsible? Ed.).

For non-smokers the mean age at menopause was 49.4 years, while for former smokers it was 49.2. Light smokers (1-14 cigarettes per day) had a mean menopause age of 48.0, compared to heavy smokers (15 or more cigarettes a day), whose mean age at menopause was 47.6 years (American Journal of Public Health 70:420-421, April 1980).


Pain in the upper back is often the result of poor posture according to Dr. Robert Watkins, chief of spinal disorders and orthopedic trauma service at the University of Southern California School of Medicine. Women who have secretarial duties or jobs involving the use of the upper extremities are particularly susceptible to this type of backache (Family Practice News, October 1, 1980, page 37).


Noticeable and sometimes dangerous rises in the blood pressure of healthy adults may be produced by over-the-counter drugs containing phenylpropanolamine. Nearly one-third of a group of medical students who took one capsule of Trimolets demonstrated supine diastolic blood pressure readings over 100 mm Hg, and one participant demonstrated a blood pressure reading of 190/142 mm Hg two and a half hours after taking a single Trimolet capsule! Other volunteers showed an increase in blood pressure in response to Contac 500.

The researchers feel that the dose of phenylpropanolamine taken and the rate of absorption affect the degree of hypertension produced. Other medications used concurrently may alter the hypertensive effects (Lancet 1:60-61, 1980). (We have been dismayed to see large displays of "diet pills" containing caffeine and phenylpropanolamine in several discount stores. We have recently seen a patient who was on these medications; her insomnia and agitation almost required psychiatric hospitalization. Ed.)


Chronic headaches can lead to memory loss in both adults and children. Headaches cause deficits in some neurotransmitters having to do with memory storage (Family Practice News, October 1, 1980, page 44).


A study of over 7,000 men, aged 35 to 57 years demonstrated that those who drank nine or more cups of coffee or tea daily had nearly twice the incidence of ventricular premature beats as those who consumed two or fewer cups daily. The incidence of premature ventricular beats increased with age (Journal of Chronic Disease 33:67-72, 1980) (Could we say that coffee or tea drinking accelerates aging? Ed.).


Breast-fed babies visit the doctor less often during the first six months than do bottle-fed infants, according to Dr. Randolph Paine, a University of Iowa physician. By six months of age, the breast-fed infants in his study had averaged 1.6 visits to the doctor while bottle-fed infants averaged 2.8. Over 75% of the breast-fed infants in the study had never visited the doctor (other than for routine checkups or accidents). Twelve percent had only one visit, and ten percent had two to five visits by the age of one year. Only three percent of the bottle-fed babies had no visits and some of the remaining had as many as sixteen visits! Infants who were exclusively breast-fed for more than three months had significantly fewer visits during the entire first year of life, and the longer the infant is breast-fed the fewer the number of illness-related visits.

Dr. Paine states there are five advantages to breast feeding: (1) Human milk contains high levels of fatty acids which researchers feel may be important in the growth of the baby's brain, (2) Breast milk immunizes the baby until he can build his own immunity, (3) Breast-fed babies have fewer allergies than do bottle-fed infants, (4) Mother-infant bonding is strengthened through breast-feeding and (5) Feeding the baby is much more convenient and less expensive (American Family Physician, January 1980, page 210).


Bed-wetting in children can be a most troublesome problem for both child and parent. One doctor reports that a child was cured of his bed-wetting by removing orange juice from his diet (The Lancet 2:1387, December 29, 1962).

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