blood

  1. Prostate biopsies double your infection risk

    Imagine fighting for your life after a cancer scare... only to find out you didn't even have cancer in the first place.

    Well, imagine no more: If you're a man getting a prostate biopsy, you're putting your life on the line -- because a new study finds the biopsy itself can double your risk of a life-threatening infection in the month after the procedure.

    Researchers compared data on 17,472 older men who had prostate biopsies to that of 134,977 who did not, and found that 6.9 percent of the men who underwent the procedure were hospitalized in the 30 days afterward -- versus just 2.9 percent of the un-biopsied.

    They also wrote in the Journal of Urology that biopsy victims suffered 2.3 times the infection rate of men who kept their prostates away from the pokers.

    Adding insult to infection risk, the median age of men in the study was 73 -- or what even many mainstream docs will admit is well past the age of prostate worry.

    The simple truth is that the cancer won't hurt most older men (or even younger ones... but that's a topic for another day) -- but the infections caused by the biopsies can be positively deadly, and it's not hard to see why: The rectum is a germ highway.

    Fortunately, the traffic is usually one-way, so the bacteria never have a chance to get inside your body. That only happens when a sharp instrument -- like, say, a biopsy needle -- works its way through and pokes a few holes here and there.

    Suddenly, the traffic isn't one-way anymore -- and the bacteria get a free ride right into your bloodstream.

    One study earlier this year found that 2 percent of prostate biopsy patients battle sepsis, a potentially deadly infection of the blood. Another study found that nine out of every 10,000 biopsy patients die of infection in the month after.

    Here's the cruelest part of that last number: These were all men who didn't even have the prostate cancer that the biopsy was supposed to detect... dead.

    But even if they did have cancer, they never needed to fight and lose this infection battle -- because as I told you earlier, prostate cancer is simply not the killer it's been made out to be... especially for older men like the ones in this study.

    It's one case where you're better off not knowing -- because sometimes, what you don't know really won't hurt you.

  2. Apnea in new heart risk link

    Sleep apnea doesn't need any help scaring anyone: It could be killing you a little bit every single night, and you might not even know you have the condition.

    But now, researchers say that in addition to leaving you gasping for air in the night, sleep apnea could also be responsible for serious blood vessel abnormalities -- problems that can actually steal blood right from your heart.

    The researchers looked at three groups of 36 people: one with moderate to severe sleep apnea with no hypertension, one with hypertension but no apnea, and one set of patients with neither.

    They found that both the hypertension patients and the sleep apnea patients had the kinds of blood vessel abnormalities that can interfere with the flow of blood to the heart.

    The good news here is that the problem improved among the apnea patients after 26 weeks of sleeping with a continuous
    positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine.

    The bad news is that the apnea patients in the study were all otherwise healthy -- unlike the typical apnea patient, who is usually fighting obesity.

    That's not to say a CPAP device won't help them -- but whether you're healthy or obese, it's a short-term solution to a long-term problem. And sleep apnea brings some pretty serious long-term problems: a higher risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, erectile dysfunction, and more.

    There's even plenty of evidence that sleep apnea will dramatically boost your risk of an early death, including a study that found a 40-year-old with the condition has the same death risk as a 57-year-old without it.

    It's like aging 17 years overnight!

    One of the biggest problems with apnea is the diagnosis -- because, as I mentioned earlier, most people who have the condition don't even know it. Apnea is known for causing patients to stop breathing in the night, but in most cases, people sleep right through those episodes.

    Some of the warning signs include waking up tired even after a full night of sleep, heavy snoring, anxiety, and headaches (especially in the morning).

    If you suspect you might have the condition -- or if your spouse has witnessed you gasping for air in the night -- talk to your doctor about arranging a night in a sleep clinic.

    But before you sign up for any treatments, gimmicks, surgery or anything else, try the simplest, safest long-term solution of all: Lose some weight.

    Read all about the impact of even modest weight loss on apnea right here.

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