Even low-dose aspirin may increase risk of GI bleeding

For decades, the medical industry has tried to convinced healthy people to take an aspirin a day to prevent cardiovascular disease and cancer. However, according to a new study in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, the use of low-dose aspirin raises the risk for GI bleeding, with the risk being increased further with accompanying use of cardiovascular disease-preventing therapies, such as clopidogrel and anticoagulants.

Yet, the risks weren’t enough to convince the researchers to change the recommendation altogether. “The use of aspirin has been proven beneficial in reducing cardiac events and deaths in patients who have cardiovascular disease, and has even been shown to reduce cancer risk,” said Angel Lanas, MD, PhD, of University Hospital Lozano Blesa and lead author of this study. “However, clinicians need to be more proactive in their efforts to reduce potential risk factors associated with all doses of aspirin, especially gastrointestinal bleeding. New low-dose aspirin studies should report more precisely on the incidence of bleedings, especially gastrointestinal bleedings, to better determine the balance between risks and benefits.”

Low-dose aspirin – commonly defined as 75 to 325 mg daily – is a mainstay of therapy for cardiovascular disease. It’s likely now to also be used for cancer prevention, especially GI and colon cancer.

A major factor limiting widespread aspirin use is concern about the development of GI adverse events, especially GI bleeding. Damage may vary, however, depending on the dose taken, other medication being consumed along with aspirin and patients’ risk profiles. For example, certain patients have an increased likelihood of experiencing bleeding: those with long-term pharmacotherapy use, patients using combinations of low-dose aspirin with clopidogrel and anticoagulants, and patients with previous GI ulcers or bleedings.

In this study, doctors searched 10 electronic databases and collected data on adverse events in studies that evaluated low doses of aspirin alone or in combination with anticoagulants, clopidogrel or PPIs. They found that low doses of aspirin alone decreased the risk of death. But, the risk of major GI bleeding increased with low doses of aspirin alone compared with placebo. The risk also increased when aspirin was combined with clopidogrel (compared with aspirin alone), anticoagulants versus low doses of aspirin alone, or in studies that included patients with a history of GI bleeding or of longer duration.

SOURCE: Press Release from the American Gastroenterological Association, Sept. 12, 2011, provided information for this article.

Study finds link between posture and pain tolerance

Mothers have been telling their kids to stop slouching for ages. It turns out that mom was onto something and that poor posture not only makes a bad impression, but can actually make you physically weaker.

According to a study by Scott Wiltermuth, assistant professor of management organization at the USC Marshall School of Business, and Vanessa K. Bohns, postdoctoral fellow at the J.L. Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, adopting dominant versus submissive postures actually decreases your sensitivity to pain.

The study, “It Hurts When I Do This (or You Do That)” published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, found that by simply adopting more dominant poses, people feel more powerful, in control and able to tolerate more distress. Out of the individuals studied, those who used the most dominant posture were able to comfortably handle more pain than those assigned a more neutral or submissive stance.

Wiltermuth and Bohns also expanded on previous research that shows the posture of a person with whom you interact will affect your pose and behavior. In this case, they found that those adopting a submissive pose in response to their partner’s dominant pose showed a lower threshold for pain.

Fake it until you make it

While most people will curl up into a ball when they’re in pain, Bohn’s and Wiltermuth’s research indicates you should do the opposite. In fact, their research suggests that taking that position may make the experience more painful because it will make you feel like you have no control over your circumstances, which may in turn intensify your anticipation of the pain.

Instead, try sitting or standing up straight, pushing your chest out and expanding your body. These behaviors can help create a sense of power and control that may as a result make the procedure more tolerable. Based on previous research, adopting a powerful, expansive posture rather than constricting your body may also lead to elevated testosterone, which is associated with increased pain tolerance, and decreased cortisol, which may make the experience less stressful.

Keeping your chin up might really work to manage emotional pain

While previous research shows that individuals have used pain relievers to address emotional pain, it’s possible that assuming dominant postures may make remembering a breakup or some distressing emotional event less painful.

Caregivers need to let go

Caregivers often try to baby their charges in order to help make things easier and alleviate stress. In doing this, they actually force those they’re caring for into a more submissive position and thus, according to this new research, possibly render them more susceptible to experiencing pain. Instead, this research suggests that caregivers take a more submissive position and surrender control to those who are about to undergo a painful procedure to lessen the intensity of the pain experienced.

SOURCES: University of Southern California news release. “It hurts when I do this (or you do that): Posture and pain tolerance” by Wiltermuth et al. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, June 7, 2011.

Effects of meditation on brain function explored

Two years ago, UCLA researchers discovered that specific regions in the brains of long-term meditators were larger and had more gray matter than the brains of individuals in a control group. This suggested that meditation could be good for all of us since our brains naturally get smaller with age.

Now, there’s a follow-up study, which appears in the online edition of the journal NeuroImage,

suggesting that people who meditate also have stronger connections between brain regions and show less age-related brain atrophy. Having stronger connections influences the ability to rapidly relay electrical signals in the brain. Significantly, these effects are evident throughout the brain, not just in specific areas.

Eileen Luders, a visiting assistant professor at the UCLA Laboratory of Neuro Imaging, and colleagues (study co-authors Kristi Clark, Katherine L. Narr and Arthur W. Toga) used a type of brain imaging known as diffusion tensor imaging, or DTI, a fairly new imaging mode that supplies insights into the brain’s structural connectivity. They found that the differences between meditators and controls are not limited to a particular core region of the brain. They involve large-scale networks that include the frontal, temporal, parietal and occipital lobes, and the anterior corpus callosum, as well as limbic structures and the brain stem.

“Our results suggest that long-term meditators have white-matter fibers that are either more numerous, more dense or more insulated throughout the brain,” Prof. Luders said. “We also found that the normal age-related decline of white-matter tissue is considerably reduced in active meditation practitioners.”

The study consisted of 27 active meditation practitioners (average age 52) and 27 control subjects, who were matched by age and sex. The meditation and the control groups each consisted of 11 men and 16 women whose meditation practice spanned 5 to 46 years. Self-reported meditation styles included Shamatha, Vipassana, and Zazen, styles that were practiced by about 55% of the meditators, either exclusively or in combination with other styles.

Results showed distinct structural connectivity in meditators throughout the entire brain’s pathways. The greatest differences between the two groups were observed within the corticospinal tract (a collection of axons that travel between the cerebral cortex of the brain and the spinal cord), the superior longitudinal fasciculus (long bi-directional bundles of neurons connecting the front and the back of the cerebrum), and the uncinate fasciculus (white matter that connects parts of the limbic system, such as the hippocampus and amygdala, with the frontal cortex).

“It is possible that actively meditating, especially over a long period of time, can induce changes on a micro-anatomical level,” said Luders, herself a meditator.

As a consequence, she said, the strength of fiber connections in meditators may increase and possibly lead to the macroscopic effects seen by DTI.

“Meditation, however, might not only cause changes in brain anatomy by inducing growth but also by preventing reduction,” Luders noted. “That is, if practiced regularly and over years, meditation may slow down aging-related brain atrophy, perhaps by positively affecting the immune system.”

But – there’s a “but.” While it’s tempting to assume the differences between the two groups constitute actual meditation-induced effects, nature versus nurture remains the unanswered question.

“It’s possible that meditators might have brains that are fundamentally different to begin with,” Luders said. “For example, a particular brain anatomy may have drawn an individual to meditation or helped maintain an ongoing practice – meaning that the enhanced fiber connectivity in meditators constitutes a predisposition towards meditation, rather than being the consequence of the practice.”

Still, she said, “Meditation appears to be a powerful mental exercise with the potential to change the physical structure of the brain at large. Collecting evidence that active, frequent and regular meditation practices cause alterations of white-matter fiber tracts that are profound and sustainable may become relevant for patient populations suffering from axonal demyelination and white-matter atrophy.”

Luders said, however, that more research is needed before taking meditation into clinical trial studies.

SOURCES: “Enhanced brain connectivity in long-term meditation practitioners,” NeuroImage Volume 57, Issue 4, 15 August 2011. ABSTRACT

“Is meditation the push-up for the brain?” University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Health Sciences

Is obesity contagious?

Researchers out of Arizona State University recently published an article in the American Journal of Public Health titled, “Shared Norms and Their Explanation for the Social Clustering of Obesity.” It looked at why obesity seems to be common in some families and groups of friends.

Along the lines of the old saying, “Birds of a feather flock together,” the study showed people do cluster according to size, but with few clues to help explain why.

“Although inconclusive, this study has provided some important information about trends in obesity and the public health implications,” according to co-authors Dian Griesel, PhD and Tom Griesel of the new book, “TurboCharged: Accelerate Your Fat Burning Metabolism, Get Lean Fast and Leave Diet and Exercise Rules in the Dust.”

The Griesels write: “Obese families and friends usually have two things in common: food choices and activity levels or more accurately, lack of activity. Obese parents tend to raise obese children. Obese family and friends hang out and eat the same kinds of detrimental foods and participate in the same kinds of detrimental habits.”

Yet, it’s interesting. Most people don’t want to be obese. Study participants offered that given the choice, they’d choose a pretty serious disease – alcoholism, depression or herpes as examples – instead of obesity. In fact, 25.4% preferred severe depression, and (incredibly) 14.5% would rather be totally blind than obese!

So, why are they stuck?

Does a rising frustration level from past dieting efforts result in permanent discouragement and a resolve to be fat? Or, is “misery loves company” another “clustering” clue?

“Obesity is not from lack of will-power,” the Griesels say, “but rather the result of bad diet and exercise advice. It is difficult to follow the usual prescription for 30-90 minutes of aerobic exercise 5-6 times per week. Add the usual recommendations of a reduced-calorie, ‘balanced’ diet based around the USDA food pyramid and you have a recipe for failure. Sugar is too often a prevalent ingredient in packaged and refined foods that are so often touted as ‘healthy.’ With the consumption of all these low nutrition manufactured foods,” they explain, “the body is left craving more in an attempt to make up for the deficit. Consequently an unhealthy cycle begins.”

Special: Dr. Terry Rondberg interviews New Renaissance leaders

On August 22nd, 2011, Dr. Terry Rondberg, President of the World Chiropractic Alliance (WCA) interviewed co-owners of The New Renaissance, Dr. Kevin Pallis & Dr. Ed Plentz about their mission to revitalize the chiropractic profession. They discussed their partnership with the WCA, their humanitarian  project “Love Has No Color,” and their upcoming Revitalization Seminar in Detroit on November 5th.

Watch now!