Topic 2

  1. Wriggling away infection

    Letting maggots crawl across your flesh might sound like something out of "Fear Factor" -- but if the latest research is any indication, you might find it taking place at your doctor's office instead of on television.

    Maggots, as it turns out, are proving to be highly effective at treating diabetic wounds that won't heal -- the types of wounds that affect up to a third of all diabetics and often result in disability and even amputation.

    Researchers in Hawaii placed the fly larvae onto the skin of 27 diabetics who had been battling non-healing wounds for as long as five years. In 21 of the cases, the maggots did the trick, according to the research presented at the Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy in Chicago.

    One patient was suffering from gangrene in a leg so severe that doctors had recommended amputation. But after a few months of maggot therapy, he was back on his feet -- both of them.

    The secret is in the secretions: Maggot goo has the ability to boost the immune system, stimulate the growth of blood cells, and even fight infection -- including infections that are resistant to antibiotics.

    Even better, the maggots only seem to have a taste for diseased flesh -- and once it's gone, they stop eating.

    I realize a study of 27 patients is incredibly small -- too small to prove anything in most cases. But we don't exactly need much research to prove the health benefits of these critters: They were used for literally thousands of years, right up until modern times.

    They only fell out of favor when antibiotics hit the scene -- but with those meds now being overused to the brink of uselessness, maggots might start making an appearance in your own doctor's office one of these days.

    P.S. Maggots aren't the only creepy-crawlies worming their way into mainstream medical care: As I told you earlier this year, leeches are becoming essential equipment in emergency rooms, saving both life and limb in cases of severe trauma. Read more here.

  2. Eyes linked to heart risk

    When it comes to heart disease, it looks like the eyes have it.

    Researchers say they can spot who's more likely to suffer the life-threatening condition by simply checking for yellow spots on the eyelids. People who have them face a 50-percent increase in the risk of a heart attack.

    The study of nearly 13,000 people in Denmark also found that the yellow spots -- actually little pockets of cholesterol called xanthelasmata -- can up the odds of heart disease by 39 percent and an early death by 14 percent.

    That may not sound like a lot, but over the years it can add up -- and over the course of a decade, the researchers say a person with xanthelasmata has a one in five chance of developing heart disease.

    You can see where this is going, right? Since the spots are made of cholesterol, the researchers wrote in BMJ that patients who have them should be given cholesterol treatment -- a not-so-subtle code for meds like the statins that have become so overused.

    But it's just not that simple, because there's no clear link between those yellow cholesterol pockets and blood levels of the fats. In fact, half the people who develop xanthelasmata have perfectly normal blood cholesterol levels -- and even the new study found that the link to heart disease was there regardless of those blood cholesterol levels.

    So instead of blindly flinging statins around, docs should use the yellow patches as a sign they need to dig deeper and get a more complete picture of your heart disease risk factors. As far as those risk factors go, both yellow eyelids and even those cholesterol levels are actually pretty low on the list.

    The one that beats them both is homocysteine, the inflammation marker that can signal everything from heart problems to dementia risk -- and you don't need a drug to help lower it.

    Something you probably have in your supplement cabinet at this very moment will do that for you: fish oil.

    As I've told you before, the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil can slash homocysteine levels -- and, as a bonus, they can even lower your levels of deadly triglycerides and boost HDL cholesterol, aka "the good cholesterol."

    It's like killing two birds with one fish.

  3. Apples and pears can lower stroke risk

    Supposedly cutting-edge procedures like the brain stent I just mentioned won't lower your risk of stroke -- and they might even kill you. But you don't have to turn to risky surgery or unproven meds to keep a stroke at bay: A new study finds all you might really need is more of the foods you already enjoy.
  4. Question authority -- question your doctor

    For years, the doctor-patient relationship went a little something like this: Patient visits the doctor... doctor tells the patient what to do. That's the way it still is in many practices, and that might even describe your relationship with your own doctor. But you're perfectly capable of making decisions about your health -- and two new campaigns are urging you to do just that.
  5. Painkillers up miscarriage risk

    You wouldn't dream of pumping a newborn full of powerful painkillers like ibuprofen -- yet nearly a fifth of all pregnant women take these meds during pregnancy... and it's killing their unborn children.
  6. The natural way to beat inflammation

    Inflammation has gone from a condition you should worry about to a marketing buzzword used to sell everything from drugs to juice to cereal. Well, at least they got it half right: You should worry about inflammation, and do what you can to bring your own levels down.
  7. Anger and stress cause heart attacks? You don't say!

    The connection between emotional overload and heart attack has been known since... well, forever. But in case you had any doubt, a new study puts it to rest: Heart attack survivors with anger and stress issues have a dramatically higher risk of a second attack.
  8. Poor sleep linked to hypertension

    If you're battling blood pressure problems, you don't need another med -- you just need better sleep... and that doesn't necessarily mean more sleep.
  9. Dirty docs don't wash hands

    Doctors are so smart most of them must've skipped a grade -- and that grade was probably kindergarten. How else can you explain the fact that they still haven't figured out how to wash their hands?
  10. Simple solution for post-menopausal sleep disorders

    If you tell your doctor you're having trouble sleeping, the first thing he'll do is reach for his prescription pad -- especially if you're a woman going through menopause.
  11. A nation of sugar addicts

    No wonder we're fatter and sicker than ever and getting worse every day: New numbers from the CDC show that half of all Americans over the age of TWO YEARS OLD drink at least one soda a day.
  12. Migraine relief

    I recently came across a new remedy for migraine relief. It involves putting tiny amounts of feverfew and ginger into a little pouch, and then putting it under your tongue.
  13. Freeze your head

    You probably know all about the wonders of the magical "cool spot" on your pillow (and if you don't, try looking for it tonight). But now, researchers are taking the concept a step further. They've created a water-powered nightcap that can keep your head cool all night long.
  14. Apples top pesticide list

    I know it feels like summer has only just begun, but fall is right around the corner -- and that means apple season is almost here. Don't be fooled by the apples you'll find in the supermarket year 'round -- most of them are actually months old... and you won't believe the tricks they use to keep them fresh.
  15. Zinc beats colds

    A simple mineral could help you beat the cold and get you back on your feet -- and back on the job -- quicker than ever. A new study finds that zinc -- the main ingredient in many natural cold lozenges -- is so good at beating back the sniffles that it's practically a cure.
  16. 8 ways to reduce your dementia risk

    There's no surefire way to keep dementia at bay, but there are steps you can take to dramatically slash your risk -- including the following lifestyle changes you can make, starting today.
  17. Antidepressants boost women's stroke risk

    Would you rather suffer from depression or from a stroke? If you're taking antidepressants, you might not have a choice. The answer could be both.
  18. New instructions for Tylenol

    J&J says the changes it will make -- next year, mind you, not today -- will help stop the overuse that's turned the drug's main ingredient, acetaminophen, into the leading cause of liver failure in the United States. But they're not changing the drug.
  19. Fats beat sadness

    Looks like the old maxim "fat and happy" isn't too far off -- but it's not fat in your body that'll lift your mood. It's fat in your diet.
  20. The battle against PTSD

    Veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder are routinely pumped full of antipsychotic drugs. And as most of them will tell you (in language I can't use here), those drugs aren't doing a darn thing for them.

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