Sunday, March 30, 2014

Monday, March 31, 2014 on the Doctor Ira Breite Show on SiriusXM 81: Doctor Radio

A brief rundown of tomorrow's show.  We are starting with kidney disease and dialysis.  Dr. Dugan Wiess Maddux, a nephrologist and Vice President of Chronic Kidney Disease Initiatives at Fresenius Medical Care North America will be joining us.  If you have any questions at all about dialysis or kidney failure, give us a call at 1-877-NYU-DOCS!

After this, we will have GI update for all of your digestive disease questions and information on some of the latest and greatest problems in digestive disease.  Give us a call at 1-877-NYU-DOCS!

I have two teenage boys.  Teenage boys who play hockey.  So sometimes I wish I couldn't smell anything.  But I can.  And a new study suggests that human can distinguish up to one trillion smells.  I can't even count that high.  Join me as I speak to Dr. Marcelo Magnasco, PhD, Professor and Head of the Mathematical Physics Lab at Rockefeller University about their recently published study on the human sense of smell.

Olfactory questions? call us at 1-877-NYU-DOCS!

We will end the show with Ask Doctor Ira, where you can ask me any questions on any medical topic at all...anything you forgot to ask your doctor ask me!  Give me a call at 1-877-NYU-DOCS or send me a tweet to @doctorira.

What Should I Do When My Man Tells Me Cholesterol is Borderline: Part 2 of a Women's Guide To Men's Health

Executive Summary

  • An LDL cholesterol over 190 is considered a reason to take medications regardless of any other medical factors
  • Dietary intake  has a small effect on cholesterol but
    • Weight control using any available method can really lower the number
  • Smokers, diabetics, men with hypertension are much more likely to need medication when they have a "borderline" number
    • Stopping smoking is more important than any cholesterol treatment in terms of heart attack risk reduction.
  • African American men have a higher risk of heart disease and may be more likely need to need medication at a given amount of cholesterol.

Between Obamacare and insurance discounts for having a "check up," more and more men are having some kind of preventative physical examination and blood tests done.  Although severe problems are occasionally found, most adverse findings are more of the "you need to watch that buddy" variety.   Borderline blood pressures, liver enzymes and cholesterol readings are common findings during a check up.  Appropriate follow up on all of these issues is important, the evidence of how to proceed weak, and the official guidelines a bit fuzzy.  Trying to figure out how to appropriately manage the "not quite bad enough bit of bad medical news" is an major part of my practice and an significant part of men's health.  I want to start talking about cholesterol first because the new guidelines have generated an inordinate amount of confusion among patients and doctors.

Before starting, its important to note that the men with 'borderline cholesterol' I am talking about here are men who are at "average" risk for heart disease.  If your man is diabetic, a smoker, or has known coronary artery disease might need treatment even for with what may appear to be pretty good cholesterol numbers.  African American men are also at higher risk for cardiac disease at any given cholesterol level.  Even those who are not at increased risk have a lot to think about: new guidelines may add up to 13 million new people to the ranks of those taking cholesterol medications.  Many of those added would be men in late middle age and older.  Healthy men, particularly as they round 50, need to understand their individual cholesterol risks and try to figure out the right way to manage it.

What is it? So let's start with cholesterol itself.  When you see the "total cholesterol" number what you are really seeing is a combination of the good cholesterol (HDL), the bad cholesterol (LDL) and fat in the blood (triglycerides).  Ultimately, the only number that really counts for heart disease and stroke risk is the LDL, or bad cholesterol.  And this number only counts when it is a "fasting" number: not eating for at least 12 hours prior to the test.  Eating causes a brief surge in the cholesterol that makes interoperation of the number difficult.  

There is a drop dead number (literally) for LDL cholesterol.  That number is 190.  The latest guidelines pretty much say that if your LDL is 190 or more, you need medication therapy: no ifs, ands, or buts. Having said that, if your 35 year significant other has an  LDL of 195 and is 30 pounds overweight, I am often willing to give him a chance to lose some weight first.  The important thing is not to keep dragging out the decision to treat forever: if he doesn't lose the weight and the cholesterol doesn't come down in a reasonable amount of time, then the drug trigger must be pulled.

What causes it? Most cholesterol is made in the liver.  About a quarter of cholesterol comes from diet. Just eating cholesterol rich foods, such as shrimp or eggs, will not give you high cholesterol.  And eating fatty (but not cholesterol rich) food will raise cholesterol.  As a matter of fact, if you lose weight by substituting low calorie, high cholesterol shrimp for trans-fat/cholesterol free chocolate cake, the  cholesterol will most likely fall.  Weight loss lowers cholesterol: even men who eat nothing but eggs, bacon and steak on a low carb diet will watch their cholesterol numbers drop.  Other factors besides genetics that make LDL cholesterol rise include a lack of exercise.   

When is it dangerous? The problem of course, is that "borderline" is a slippery slope.  The new cholesterol guidelines generally recommend medical treatment when the risk for a cardiac event in the next 10 years is more than 7.5%  The number is based on sex, age, smoking status, race, blood pressure and whether the person has diabetes or not.  And while you can't change your sex or your race, some preventable risk factors are way more important than cholesterol.  Qutting smoking is a lowers your risk for a future heart attack way more than controlling your cholesterol.  Its worth losing the war on french fries if it means no smoking.   As a general rule, younger, non-hypertensive, non-diabetic, non-smokers can worry about "borderline" cholesterol numbers less.

When should I be concerned? As men age, the chances of getting a heart attack increase and the importance of "borderline" cholesterol numbers becomes more important.   Anyone who is a smoker, has hypertension, or is a diabetic needs to take a good look at medication before going on the "I'll lose a few pounds" route.  Controlling these factors often means not needed cholesterol medication.  Try not to have the man in your life be the "next year" guy: if the cholesterol isn't improving and he's failed at the exercise/weight loss: increases the risk:  draw a "medication" treatment line in the sand.

What are the possible treatments? At some point in the future, I will have a giant discussion on all of the various cholesterol reducing meds out there and why they may (or may not) work.  Medical therapy primarily consists of statin medications such as Lipitor or Crestor.  Although traditionally diet therapy consists of low fat-low cholesterol foods, I encourage weight loss using any diet to lower cholesterol.  The less you are, the less your cholesterol is!

Many men with what is thought of as "borderline cholesterol" do not need treatment with medication, but they should be carefully monitored and need to watch their weights.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Monday, March 24th, 2014 on the Doctor Ira Breite Show on SiriusXM 81: Doctor Radio!

Happy Spring! We continue with our theme of colon cancer prevention as we exit the harshness of March and head towards Spring.  Dr. Chris Dimaio, the head of therapeutic endoscopy at Mount Sinai Medical Center, will be joining us to talk about colon cancer prevention and specifically a new study in the New England Journal of Medicine  showing improved results for a "combined" DNA testing of stool as a screening method for colorectal cancer.  Find out what it means and have your questions on colon cancer prevention answered at 1-877-NYU-DOCS!

We will expand the conversation with Gastroenterology update after this.  Join me as we talk about the latest and greatest advances in digestive disease and answer your questions at 1-877-NYU-DOCS on all things digestive.  Or tweet me at  @doctorira.

TB.  When I was a resident at Bellevue Hospital in the nineties it was a big deal.  Now, in my private practice I rarely think about it.  But TB hasn't gone away, and in the developing world it remains as a difficult, hard to treat problem affecting millions each year.  Join me as I speak with Jezza Neumann, who made "TB: The Silent Killer," which will air on PBS Frontline on March 25th.

We will end the show with Ask Doctor Ira, where I will tell you tales from my own office (the tale of the week is definitely Flu B) and answer your questions on all things medical...anything that you forgot to ask your doctor ask me at 1-877-NYU-DOCS!

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Sunday, March 16, 2014

Should I worry if My Man is Snoring? Part 1 of a Women's Guide to Men's Health.

I have been talking about health in men for most of my career.  And although many men take care of themselves by eating reasonably well, not smoking and exercising, they are less than perfect at seeing doctors and following up on symptoms they may be having.  With that in mind, I am introducing a new section to the Ira Breite Blog: A Women's Guide to Men's Health (a.k.a. making the fight worthwhile). My experience has been that men, dragged to the doctor, get overwhelmed by the questions that their significant others have and the plethora of advice given to them by their physicians.  As a man, I am often overwhelmed as well!
In "a Women's Guide to Men's Health",  I am going to attempt to go through a series of common symptoms and general health concerns to help women make an informed decision as to whether its worth having an prolonged discussion (which your spouse will interpret as an argument no matter what you think is happening) about something or whether its better to pick a more important battle later.

The inner lawyer living in my ear says this is general advice and should not be interpreted as an actual medical opinion.  Thank you, inner ear lawyer.

And the inaugural topic is....snoring.  Annoying, yes.  But dangerous?  Potentially.

What is it: snoring is the sound the soft tissues of the airway make when you sleep.  Almost 50% of men snore regularly and almost everybody does it occasionally.  As long as air is moving in and out of the lungs, snoring is more annoying than dangerous.  But if there is too much resistance in the upper airways to the movement of air, serious problems can ensue.

What causes it: Common causes of snoring include obesity, congestion, and large tonsils. Smoking and alcohol both increase the risk for snoring.  People who sleep on their sides tend to snore less.   Of course, sometimes snoring happens for no clear reason at all. .  In my practice, weight gain is the most common cause of increased snoring in men.  Allergies and sinus congestion are second.

When is it dangerous:  When airway resistance increases, the amount of air reaching the lungs decreases.  If it gets bad enough, men will wake up briefly to breath.  This is the basis of Obstructive Sleep Apnea.  Despite the association between snoring and sleep apnea, there is no evidence that simply snoring means that a man is at greater risk in the future.  Sleep apnea can lead to a variety of health problems including atherosclerosis, hypertension, and heart disease.

When should I be concerned?   Although being a loud snorer is annoying to you, your partner might be fine.  I will have a bit more on treating benign snoring in a future post.  In general, if it looks like he is not breathing at times (waking up choking, gasping and restless sleeping are also to be watched for), its probably worth dragging him to the doctor.  Daytime clues include weight gain and fatigue.

What will be done when he finally goes to the doctor?  If there are none of the danger symptoms listed above, I often try to treat sinus and allergy issues first.  This sometimes helps.  If there is concern about sleep apnea its best to go for a sleep study and possibly see an ENT doctor.

What are the possible treatments: True sleep apnea (not just snoring) is treated with either a CPAP mask (that Darth Vader like mask that pushes air into your loved ones lungs) or, occasionally, surgery to fix the soft palate in some way.  I am a big fan of using the mask as a reason to lose weight, which often helps as well.  More on sleep apnea is available on the NIH Medline Plus website.

Regular snoring is often helped most by simple weight loss, being careful with booze, and not smoking. Men with allergies should be treated.  My opinion is that a CPAP mask for simple snoring is replacing one noisy annoyance for another.

Monday, March 17, 2014 on the Doctor Ira Breite Show on SiriusXM 81: Doctor Radio!

What do running, colon cancer and beer have to do with each other?  We will find out.  Its St. Patrick's Day, its colon cancer prevention month, and, if the weather ever improves, its not a bad to run a little bit.  The beer we'll talk about...

We will start with colon cancer prevention.  Join me and Danielle Burgess, the spokesperson for Fight Colorectal Cancer, as we talk about her story and what you can do to prevent colon cancer in you and your loved ones.

Colon Cancer Questions...give us a call at 1-877-NYU-DOCS!

After this we will expand the conversation to all of digestive Disease with Gastroenterology Update, where I will tell you some of the latest and greatest news in the world of gastroenterology and answer your questions at 1-877-NYU-DOCS or by tweeting me.

And now, the beer.  Its spring, and yes, its St. Patrick's Day. The question: "Does beer affect your training?"  The answer will be provided by chiropractor and  ultra-marathoner Dr. Victor Runco.  Come on, you know you want to know.

We will end the show with Ask Doctor Ira, where you can ask me any question on any medical topic at all.  Anything you forgot to ask your doctor ask me!  give me a call at 1-877-NYU-DOCS.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Monday, March 10, 2014 on the Doctor Ira Breite Show on SiriusXM 81: Doctor Radio

Spring coming.  Check up season is beginning (and yes there is a season).  One health issue that remains hidden, particularly in baby boomers, is hepatitis C.  Join me and Dr. Lisa Ganjhu as we talk about new treatments for hepatitis C and liver disease in general!  Give us a call at 1-877-NYU-DOCS!

After this, we will expand the conversation to all thinks digestive...yes its time for Gastroenterology Update!  I will tell you some of the latest and greatest news in the world of digestive disease and answer your questions at 1-877-NYU-DOCS.

Food allergies have been a growing problem here in the United States.  Join me and Dr. Corinne Keet as we talk about food allergies and how severe allergies have doubled amongst African American children over the past 23 years!

Call us with your food allergy questions at 1-877-NYU-DOCS.

We will end the show, as we normally do, with Ask Doctor Ira, where you can ask me any medical question on any topic at all: anything you forgot to ask your doctor, ask me!  Give us a call at 1-877-NYU-DOCS!

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Sunday, March 2, 2014

Monday, March 3rd, 2014 on the Doctor Ira Breite Show on SiriusXM 81: Doctor Radio

Can't sleep?  Well, then you are going to want to hear our first guest on Monday.  Dr. Ana Krieger of New York Hospital will be joining us to talk about the relationship between sleeping disorders and gastrointestinal reflux disease.

Can't sleep?  Heartburn? Give us a call at 1-877-NYU-DOCS

After that, we'll have GI update.  I will tell you some of the latest and greatest news from the world of Gastroenterology and answer your questions on all things digestive at 1-877-NYU-DOCS.  Or tweet me!

Continuing our sleep week show, we will be talking about caffeine.  Most of know that that 9 PM cup of coffee may not be the best idea if you want to get to sleep: but what about all of those supplements that people take.  Join me and Dr. Tod Cooperman of  as we talk about caffeine in all kinds of supplements.

Caffeine/supplement questions?  Give us a call at 1-877-NYU-DOCS

We will end the show with Ask Doctor Ira, where you can ask me any medical questions on any topic at all...anything you forgot to ask your doctor ask me!  Give us a call.

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