Doctor’s Tip: A potpourri of health tips

Greg Feinsinger

Following are some random health tips that don’t warrant a whole column of their own:

COLORECTAL CANCER SCREENING: Over 50,000 Americans die annually from colon cancer, which is a preventable disease — it’s very rare in populations on a life-long plant-based, whole food diet. The earliest stage of colon cancer is clusters of abnormal cells lining the colon. The second stage is polyps — small growths that protrude from the lining. The final stage occurs when small polyps — that are initially benign — gradually become malignant and eventually spread. Screening is now recommended at age 45 and earlier if there is a family history of colon polyps or colon cancer. A repeat is recommended every 10 years up to age 75, more often if polyps are found. The old screening method of checking stool from three different bowel movements for blood annually is no longer recommended because it’s too inaccurate. Colonoscopy has been the gold standard for screening for years and should be used in circumstances such as a family history of colon cancer. However, it’s inconvenient, expensive (much cheaper at an outpatient facility in Grand Junction versus here, where it’s done in Valley View Hospital), and associated with a small risk of perforation. According to a recent issue of the Berkeley Wellness Letter, an annual home stool test called FIT (fecal immunochemical test), done with a kit prescribed by your doctor, is inexpensive ($20) and quite accurate; if positive, a colonoscopy is indicated. Another stool test called Cologuard is expensive ($650) and has not been shown to be more accurate than an annual FIT.

GUT/BRAIN CONNECTION: According to an article in a recent Harvard Health Letter, the gut microbiome can influence our emotions, our cognitive capabilities and our vulnerability to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Three mechanisms are involved: 1) Substances made by gut bacteria can get into the brain via the bloodstream. 2) Gut bacteria can send signals to the brain through certain nerves connecting the two organs. 3) Gut bacteria can stimulate immune system cells in the gut wall, and these immune cells can send signals via gut-brain nerves. The best way to ensure a health-promoting gut microbiome is to lead a healthy lifestyle including eating lots of fiber (found only in plants).

REDUCING ALZHEIMER’S RISK: The same Health Letter cites evidence that 40% of dementia cases could be prevented or delayed with the following: 1) regular aerobic exercise; 2) learning something new as you age; 3) eating a healthy diet; 4) getting at least seven hours of sleep at night; 5) limiting alcohol consumption; 6) maintaining social connections; 7) managing stress through activities such as yoga, tai chi or mindfulness; 8) avoiding tobacco; 9) maintaining normal blood pressure, weight and cholesterol; 10) treating hearing impairment; 11) avoiding head injuries; 12) avoiding midlife obesity; 13) avoiding/reversing diabetes; and 14) avoiding air pollution.

INACCRATE MEDICAL INFORMATION ON THE INTERNET: Sites such as Harvard Medical and Mayo Clinic are reputable. However, according to the June issue of Nutrition Action, published by Center For Science in the Public Interest — which has no industry ties — many other sites such as Healthline, WebMD, Medical,, SHAPE and Healthy Eating are influenced by ties to the pharmaceutical, food and supplement industries and contain inaccurate information.

CURRENT ASPIRIN RECOMMENDATIONS: If you’ve had a heart attack or stroke, a baby aspirin (81 mg) a day helps prevent a second event. However, aspirin can have serious side effects: stomach bleeding and hemorrhagic strokes (where a blood vessel in the brain bursts). When it comes to preventing a first heart attack or stroke, aspirin might be considered in someone at high risk for a heart attack or stroke, such as strong family history or presence of plaque in their arteries (seen on imaging tests such as coronary calcium scoring or carotid IMT). However, other people should avoid aspirin to prevent a first heart attack or stroke, because the risk outweighs the benefit. And people at risk for bleeding (age over 70, use of steroids or drugs like ibuprofen, history of stomach ulcers or GI bleeding) should avoid aspirin in all circumstances.

Dr. Feinsinger is a retired family physician with special interest in disease prevention and reversal through nutrition. Free services through Center For Prevention and The People’s Clinic include: one-hour consultations, shop-with-a-doc at Carbondale City Market and cooking classes. Call 970-379-5718 for appointment or email [email protected].

Aish Barbara

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