Geriatrician, Hospitalist, Patient Advocate, Healthcare Educator

Drinking Alcohol on a Flight May Be Bad for You

Per Linda Carroll, in NBC News “Drinking on a plane may be bad for your heart, new research suggests”.

“If you enjoy having a glass of wine or a cocktail before dozing off during long airplane flights, you might want to reconsider it, a new study suggests.

A series of lab experiments discovered that when people fall asleep after consuming alcohol at the low air pressures typically experienced during airline flights, blood oxygen drops to worrisome levels and heart rates increase even in those who are healthy and young, according to the report published in the journal Thorax.

Even when we don’t drink, commercial flying can be taxing for the body. Dry cabin air can cause dehydration and being immobile in cramped seats for hours can sometimes trigger blood clots in the legs. At cruising altitude, cabin pressure is set to what would be experienced between 6,000 to 8,000 feet above sea level, which can contribute to lower oxygen saturation in the blood. As air pressure decreases the amount of oxygen a person takes in with each breath also declines, according to the National Institutes of Health.

For the study, 48 healthy adults between the ages of 18 and 40 were randomly assigned to one of two groups: Half would go to a sleep lab that had air pressure at sea level, while the other half would sleep in an altitude chamber that mimicked the air pressure found on planes traveling at cruising altitude.

Twelve people in each group slept for four hours after having consumed the equivalent of two cans of beer or two glasses of wine, while the other 12 slept after consuming no alcohol. After a break of two days, the procedure was reversed, so that those who had consumed alcohol before sleeping now slept with no alcohol on board and vice versa.

People who drank before falling asleep in the altitude chamber on average had their blood oxygen saturation drop to 85%, while their heart rates rose to compensate for the lower oxygen levels to an average of nearly 88 beats per minute.

That’s compared to a blood oxygen saturation drop to 95% and a heart rate rise to 77 beats per minute in those who consumed alcohol at sea level before falling asleep."

This study consisted of healthy individuals and showed these results. It would be worthwile to see what happens in the elderly and patients with underlying health conditions such as chornic lung disease and heart disease. This just adds another reason not to drink and fly.

Lifestyle Changes May Slow or Prevent Alzheimer's

Per Dennis Thompson, in U.S. News & World Report “Lifestyle Changes May Slow or Prevent Alzheimer’s in People at High Risk”.

“New research shows that a set of healthy lifestyle habits can help preserve brain function in folks with mild cognitive impairment or early dementia.

About 71% of patients who ate healthy, exercised regularly and engaged in stress management had their dementia symptoms either remain stable or improve without the use of any drugs, researchers reported June 7 in the journal Alzheimer’s Research and Therapy.

By comparison, about 68% of patients in a control group without these lifestyle changes experienced a worsening of their symptoms, results show.

Researchers also found that the more patients changed their lives in healthy ways and stuck to those changes, the greater the benefit for their brain power.

For the study, researchers recruited 51 people with a diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment or early dementia due to Alzheimer’s disease. They were randomly assigned to either the lifestyle change group or a control group.

The people in the lifestyle change group participated in an intensive program with four components:

  • A whole-foods, plant-based diet low in harmful fats, refined carbs, alcohol and sweeteners.
  • Moderate aerobic exercise and strength training at least a half-hour each day.
  • Stress management, including meditation, stretching, breathing and guided imagery, for one hour a day.
  • Support groups for patients and their partners for one hour three times a week.

Results after 20 weeks showed significant differences in the lifestyle group versus the control group, both in brain function and in blood-based biomarkers for Alzheimer’s like the protein amyloid."

Although this was a study with a small group, the results are hopeful and positive results were seen in just 20 weeks. These same changes may have a role in the prevention of cognitive impairment… so a little more reason to eat well, exercise, and stress less.

What Is Skinny Fat?

Photo by Diana Polekhina

Being skinny does not always mean being healthy. Skinny fat or normal weight obesity refers to those that have a normal weight and BMI for their height but have a high percentage of body fat and not enough muscle mass.

Risk factors

  • Not exercising enough-exercise causes your body to release anabolic hormones which in turn stimulate muscle building
  • Unbalanced diet-diet high in refined sugar can negatively impact body composition
  • Age-older adults are prone to muscle loss(sarcopenia) which is accompanied by an increase in body fat
  • Genetics-some people are predisposed to having higher body fat percentage and less muscle

Health risks of skinny fat

  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Low muscle mass-muscle is important for metabolism and activities

What can you do?

  • Move your body
    • exercise
  • Strength training
    • builds and maintains muscle(remember to pair protein with it)
  • Work on a balanced diet
    • limit highly processed foods
    • reduce refined carbs and refined sugar
    • look for nutrient-dense foods(fruits and vegetables) and fat burning foods(lentils, cinnamon, chili peppers, oatmeal, broccoli)
    • don’t skimp on the protein
  • Sleep
    • work on getting 7-9 hours of good quality sleep
  • Relax and work on decreasing stress

Medicine to Regrow Teeth on the Horizon

Per Bronwyn Thompson, in NEW ATLAS “World-first tooth-regrowing drug will be given to humans in September”.

“The world’s first human trial of a drug that can regenerate teeth will begin in a few months, less than a year on from news of its success in animals. This paves the way for the medicine to be commercially available as early as 2030.

The trial, which will take place at Kyoto University Hospital from September to August 2025, will treat 30 males aged 30-64 who are missing at least one molar. The intravenous treatment will be tested for its efficacy on human dentition, after it successfully grew new teeth in ferret and mouse models with no significant side effects.

Following this 11-month first stage, the researchers will then trial the drug on patients aged 2-7 who are missing at least four teeth due to congenital tooth deficiency, which is estimated to affect 1% of people.

Researchers are then looking at expanding the trial to those with partial edentulism, or people missing one to five permanent teeth due to environmental factors. The incidence of this varies from country to country, but it’s estimated around 5% of Americans are missing teeth, with a much higher incidence among older adults.

The medicine itself deactivates the uterine sensitization-associated gene-1 (USAG-1) protein, which suppresses tooth growth….. blocking USAG-1’s interaction with other proteins encourages bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) signaling, which triggers new bone to generate."

This could provide promise to people of all ages and could provide an alternative to implants and dentures.

Women Live Longer With Mediterranean Diet

Per Sandee LaMotte, in “Mediterranean diet helps women live much longer, a large new study finds”.

“Women who closely followed a Mediterranean diet lived much longer than those who did not, according to a new study that followed more than 25,000 women for 25 years.

In the new study, published Friday in the journal JAMA Network Open, researchers asked 25,315 healthy women participating in the Women’s Health Study about their diet and collected blood and other biomarkers between 1993 and 1996. Those women were reevaluated between 2018 and 2023.

Not only did closely following the Mediterranean diet cut the risk of early death by 23%, it lessened the risk of dying from cancer by 17% and dying from cardiovascular disease by 20%, the study found."

The Mediterranean diet has been shown to be beneficial in study after study. This particular large-scale observational study shows the impact embracing a Meditteranean diet can have to the life of a woman and prevention of chronic illnesses. It may just be worth looking at how to incorporate the Meditteranean style of eating by looking at ways to add more fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole wheat, and extra virgin olive oil to our everyday meals.

Incorporate Fiber in Your Diet

Photo by Jannis Brandt

You may have heard that fruits and vegetables are good for you not just because of all the nutrients they provide but also because of their fiber content. Fiber is actually a requirement for your body to function. Dietary fiber include the parts of plant foods that the body cannot digest or absorb. There are 2 types of fiber: soluble and insoluble.


Soluble fiber

  • Dissolves in water to form a gel-like material. It can be metabolized by the “good” bacteria in the gut and function as prebiotics.
  • It can help lower blood cholesterol and glucose levels.
  • Soluble fiber is found in oats, peas, beans, apples, nuts, oatmeal, lentils, citrus fruits, carrots, barley and psyllium.

Insoluble fiber

  • Does not dissolve in water, promotes the movement of material through your digestive system and increases stool bulk.
  • Whole-wheat flour, wheat bran, nuts, beans and vegetables, such as cauliflower, green beans and potatoes, are good sources of insoluble fiber.

Benefits of fiber intake

  • Keeps your digestive system in shape-normalizes bowel movements, reduces risk of developing hemorrhoids, diverticular disease, and studies have shown may reduce risk of colorectal cancer.
  • High fiber diet has been shown to reduce risk of cardiovascular disease(heart disease and stroke).
  • Lowers cholesterol level.
  • Helps in achieving and maintaining healthy weight-high-fiber foods make you feel full preventing increased eating/snacking.
  • Helps to control blood sugar- slows the absorption of sugar and helps improve blood sugar levels.
  • Improves longevity- Studies have shown that fiber, especially cereal fiber — is associated with a reduced risk of dying from cardiovascular disease and all cancers.

Recommendation of fiber intake

  • The American Health Association recommends 25 to 30 grams a day from food, not supplements.

Tips for fitting in more fiber in diet

  • Make breakfast count-look for cereals with whole grain, choose whole wheat bread
  • Incorporate beans, peas, lentils to your diet
  • Eat more fruit and vegetables
  • Snack on nuts, dried fruit, whole grain crackers

Now, before going all in on a high fiber diet, remember to do it gradually over a few weeks. When the gut flora/bacteria ferment the fiber, they produce gases wich can lead to abdominal bloating or intestinal gas. These side effects usually go away with time as your body adjusts. Remember to increase your water intake as you increase your fiber intake.

Our Connection With Our Moms

Per Caitlin Beale, MS, RDN in Motherly “What is microchimerism? Tiny cellular souvenirs may keep you connected to your baby long after pregnancy”.

“They say being a parent is like having your heart walk outside your body. While it may feel true that your baby is now part of you in a figurative sense, it turns out there’s science to suggest that’s literally the case. During pregnancy, fetal cells can pass through the placenta into the mother’s bloodstream and take up residence—a phenomenon called microchimerism.

A mother passes nutrients, air, water and other vital materials to the baby via the placenta during pregnancy. In return, the baby gives mama a tiny present that lasts for years, decades or even her lifetime. You may carry cells from your children and your mother simultaneously—highlighting the deep connection between parent, child and even between generations."

Mother’s Day is a great time to celebrate the literal physical and emotional bond we share with our Moms and be grateful!

Cardiorespiratory Fitness Reduces Mortality

Per ScienceDaily “Cardio-fitness cuts death and disease by nearly 20%”.

“Running, cycling, or swimming – if you regularly exercise, you’re well on track for a long and healthy life, as groundbreaking new research from the University of South Australia finds that an increased cardio fitness level will reduce your risk of death from any cause by 11-17%.

Published in BJSM, the study found that for every 1-MET increase in cardiorespiratory fitness – the amount of energy used for quiet sitting – a person can reduce their risk of death by 11-17%, and specifically, their risk of heart disease by 18%.

Comprising 26 systematic reviews with meta-analysis representing more than 20.9 million observations from 199 unique cohort studies, it is the first study to collate all the scientific evidence that looked at the prospective link between" cardiorespiratory fitness and health outcomes among adults.“

Cardiovascular fitness or aerobic fitness measures how well your heart, lungs, and blood vessels supply and deliver oxygen to your muscles and organs during sustained physical actiivy. Aerobic exercise(running, swimming, cycling, brisk walking, aerobic exercise classes) maintains cardiovascular fitness. The study reinforces the fact that you need to get in that physical activity….. remember something is better than nothing.

Are Young Americans Happy?

Per Solycyre Burga in “U.S. Falls Out of Top 20 Happiest Countries for the First Time Ever”.

“For the first time in the World Happiness Report’s dozen-year history, the U.S. did not rank in the top 20 of the world’s happiest countries.

Out of the more than 140 nations surveyed, the U.S. landed in 23rd place, compared to 15th place in 2023. While the U.S. is still in the top 10 happiest countries for those 60 years old and above, its overall ranking fell due to a significant decline in the reported well-being of Americans under 30.

Finland ranked at the top of the list for the seventh year in a row. Lithuania is the happiest country in the world if you only look at those under the age of 30, while Denmark is the happiest country for people who are 60 and older……..

According to the report, people born before 1965 are, on average, happier than people born after 1980. Millennials report drops in their life satisfaction with every year they grow older, while boomers’ happiness increases the older they get."

The 2024 World Happiness report was released by Gallup and its partners on March 20, 2024 and looked at 3 year average from 2021 to 2023. The U.S ranked 62nd just at looking at the happiness of people under the age of 30 and came in 10th when looking at people over the age of 60. A lot can be said for Finland who has maintained the top spot for the last 7 years. Maybe other nations should learn from them.

Practice Safety During the Solar Eclipse

Photo by Jongsun Lee

The Great North American Solar Eclipse is coming on Monday, April 8, 2024. While there is much excitement and planning taking place with some people even traveling to areas of totality to experience this event, it is first and foremost important to practice safety. Keep in mind that looking at this total solar eclipse, untraviolet and infrared solar rays can cause direct serious, permanent eye damage to the retina. Some of the vision changes that can occur are blurry vision, headache, a blind spot in the central vision, sensitivity to light, changes in color perception, and distorted vision.

Here are some safety tips:

  • Safest way is to avoid looking at the sun directly and instead viewing it indirectly, either through a pinhole projector, colander, or on a television or computer screen
  • If you do plan to watch the solar eclipse directly, use specially designed eclipse glasses. Eclipse glasses must comply with the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 12312-2 standard. They screen out 99.99 percent of the light, about a thousand times the blockage of standard sunglasses. Do not use damaged eclipse glasses with scratches or tears.
  • Find a safe place to watch the eclipse
  • Have headlights on while driving during the eclipse and beware of vehicles that may be pulled over on the side of the road to watch
  • NASA advices against looking at the sun through regular sunglasses, camera lens, telescope, or binoculars with eclipse glasses or handheld solar viewers as the concentrated solar rays will burn through the filter and cause serious eye injury
  • Remember to protect your skin-wear sunscreen, protective clothing/hats