Subscribe to Dr. Mirkin's free FITNESS & HEALTH NEWSLETTER      

Morgan Freeman’s Diabetes

Morgan Freeman is an American actor, producer, and narrator who has Academy and Screen Actors Guild Awards, a Golden Globe Award, the Kennedy Center Honor in 2008, the AFI Life Achievement Award in 2011, the Cecil B. DeMille Award in 2012, and the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award in 2018. He missed part of his press tour for his upcoming TV series Special Ops: Lioness, in which he stars alongside Zoe Saldana and Nicole Kidman.

A “Normal” BMI Can Miss The Harmful Effects of Excess Body Fat

Body Mass Index (BMI) is a standard method for assessing body weight. BMI is calculated by dividing a person's weight by the square of his height. A study from Israel found that one third of more than 3000 normal-weight and normal-BMI individuals were still at high risk for diseases caused by obesity, such as diabetes, heart attacks, strokes and kidney damage.

Inflammation May Explain Association of Dementia with Constipation

Ten thousad people attended the Alzheimer's Association International Conference (AAIC) in Amsterdam on July 19, 2023, which featured more than 3,000 scientific presentations. Much of this conference dealt with amyloid plaques and the drugs associated with them. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved anti-amyloid drugs Lecanemab (Leqembi, Eisai) and Aducanumab (Aduhelm TM), and fast-tracked a third drug, Aducanumab. These drugs may help to slow brain damage caused by amyloid plaques that deposit in and damage the brain as much as 20 years before a person suffers loss of mental function.

Eating Mammal Meat is Associated with Increased Risk for Gastro-Intestinal Cancers

Researchers at the Centre for Ecological Research in Hungary analyzed the death records for 110,148 animals from 191 mammal species that died in zoos and found that carnivorous mammals were much more likely to die of cancer than mammals that rarely or never eat animals. Humans are mammals, so we might expect to see similar results in studies of human diets.

Sleep Problems Associated with Increased Stroke Risk

A study of 1,799 people, who had suffered and survived strokes at the average age of 62, found that stroke risk is markedly increased by sleep disturbance symptoms, poor sleep quality, napping for long periods, and sleep apnea symptoms (Neurology, May 23, 2023;100(21): e2191–e2203). The stroke survivors were compared to age-matched people who had not had a stroke and the results were adjusted for smoking, physical activity, depression, and alcohol intake.

One Injection of HPV Vaccine Can Prevent Many Cancers

Many of the more than 150 strains of Human Papilloma Viruses (HPV) are relatively harmless, but about 15 are classified as high-risk types because they can cause cancer and other health problems. A single dose of the vaccine for types 16, 18 and the other high-risk types of HPV appears to provide at least eight years of protection against these infections. These viruses are the most common cause of cancers of the cervix and other parts of the uterus, as well as of the penis, anus, throat, vagina and vulva

Check Your Blood Pressure At Night

A study of 59,124 patients in 223 medical care centers had one group of patients check their blood pressures several times throughout the day and night, while the other group had blood pressure checked in their doctors' offices only. After 10 years, 12.1 percent of patients died, including 4.0 percent from heart disease. The study found that having patients check their blood pressure several times during the day and night, and following those results, was six times more effective in predicting death overall and death from heart attacks than just taking patients' blood pressure in the doctor's office.

High Rise in Blood Sugar After Meals Increases Risk for Dementia

High blood sugar and high blood pressure are major risk factors for dementia. A study from Johns Hopkins showed that the younger a person develops diabetes or pre-diabetes, the more likely they are to become demented. People who developed diabetes before age 60 were three times more likely to develop dementia than those who did not develop diabetes before age 60. Those who developed diabetes after age 70 were only 23 percent more likely to suffer from dementia, and those who developed diabetes in their 80s or 90s had no increased risk for developing dementia.

HDL Cholesterol is Not All Good and LDL Cholesterol is Not All Bad

There are many ways to measure risk factors for having a heart attack, but since the 1950s the criteria used most by doctors to predict your likelihood to suffer a heart attack has been that HDL ("Healthy") cholesterol predicts protection, and the LDL ("Lousy") cholesterol predicts increased risk for heart attacks. An extensive review of the world’s literature demonstrates that this is not always true.

Fatty Liver Can Cause Diabetes, Heart Attacks and Cancers

More than 80 million North Americans suffer from a fatty liver and many do not know that they have it because most people with a fatty liver have normal liver function blood tests in the early stages of the disease. The American Association of Clinical Endocrinology, supported by the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases, has issued guidelines for diagnosing and treating a fatty liver.

Plant-Based Diets for Heart Health

A review of 30 clinical trials published between 1982 and 2022, covering about 2,400 participants in many different countries, found that vegetarian and vegan diets reduced blood levels of total cholesterol levels by seven percent, the harmful LDL cholesterol by 10 percent, and apolipoprotein B by 14 percent. These blood factors are strong predictors of likelihood to suffer a heart attack or stroke, and reducing these three factors has been consistently shown to reduce risk for heart attacks in normal-weight and obese patients.

Exercise to Help Prevent and Treat Diabetes

About 70 percent of North American adults will suffer from diabetes or prediabetes. The most common cause of diabetes is excess fat in the liver, which prevents your body from responding to insulin to cause high blood sugar levels. When you have high blood sugar, the sugar can stick to and damage the outer membranes of cells, to increase risk for heart attacks, strokes, certain cancers, and dementia.

Drugs to Lower Blood Pressure

Most people with high blood pressure are not able to achieve normal blood pressure with daily doses of a single medication. In one study, more than 45 percent of people with high blood pressure did not take their medication regularly, and 84 percent of those with persistent high blood pressure did not take their mediation regularly.

The Latest on COVID-19

I am following the latest Bivalent Booster Protects Against the Most Recent COVID-19 Viruses: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that the bivalent COVID-19 vaccine that is available today helps protect against infection by the omicron variant XBB and its subvariant XBB.1.5 that dominate infections today. The present bivalent booster was made specifically against both the initial SARS-CoV-2 virus and the BA.4/BA.5 variants. However, BA.5 and its subvariants account for just about two percent of cases now, and BA.4 and the original virus are essentially gone.developments on COVID-19.

You Don’t Need a Lot of Exercise to Help Prevent a Heart Attack

Exercise has been shown to help prevent heart attacks, and a new study suggests that you can gain protection with as little as 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week, or 75 minutes per week of more vigorous activity. Pushing yourself to exercise at high intensity for many long hours did not appear to provide additional protection from heart attacks. The Master@Heart study found that middle-aged competitive endurance athletes had more plaques in their heart arteries than similarly fit and healthy exercisers with a healthy lifestyle who did not compete.

Sleep Problems Can Be Harmful

It is common and normal for people to occasionally have difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep at night, but if this occurs on a regular basis and interferes with functioning during the daylight hours, you may need a medical evaluation to find the cause. Getting fewer than seven hours of sleep each night is associated with increased risk for heart attacks, depression, weight gain and diabetes.

Statin Drugs Help to Prevent Heart Attacks

Doctors try to predict and prevent heart attacks by measuring blood levels of LDL cholesterol and treating you if they are too high. Statins and PSK9 inhibitors are among the most effective drugs used to lower high LDL cholesterol. Almost half of all North American adults will suffer heart and blood vessel disease , and statins can help to save your life by lowering LDL cholesterol and reducing inflammation.

Active Watching of Prostate Cancer is Usually Safe, but Not Always

Prostate cancer usually grows slowly over many years, so a study was designed to find out if it is safe to delay treatment for many years. More than 1,600 men diagnosed with localized prostate cancer (that had not spread beyond the prostate) were randomly assigned to receive surgery, radiation or waiting with active monitoring. Fifteen years later, there was no statistical difference in deaths from prostate cancer between the three groups: 3.1 percent in the active-waiting group, 2.2 percent in the surgery group, and 2.9 percent in the radiation group.

Inflammation Tests More Effective than Cholesterol Tests as Predictors of Heart Attacks

An analysis of three large studies of people taking statins found that a blood test for inflammation levels was better than tests of cholesterol levels for predicting future heart attacks). More than 30,000 participants were given CRP (c-reactive protein test that measures inflammation) and cholesterol tests, and the researchers found that CRP was a stronger predictor for risk of future cardiovascular events and deaths than the cholesterol assessment (LDL).

Gas Stoves May Be Harmful

About 40 percent of U.S. households cook with gas stoves. A recent study reported that “12.7 percent of current childhood asthma in the US is attributable to gas stove use." However, the authors did not show that gas stoves cause asthma. They presented evidence that gas stoves emit gases such as nitrogen dioxide, that can worsen symptoms in people who have asthma. Any air pollutant can cause an asthmatic to cough, wheeze and become short of breath. These authors have not demonstrated cause-and-effect, they only found an association between gas stoves and asthmatic symptoms.

Exercise Better Than Calorie Restriction to Control a Fatty Liver

Both exercise and calorie restriction reduced liver fat in overweight and obese adults, but only exercise had a dose-dependent effect in reducing liver fat and reducing belly fat. Storing fat in your belly is a stronger risk factor for diabetes than just being overweight, and is arguably the most common cause of Type II diabetes in North America today

How Sugar-Added Foods and Drinks Increase Risk for Heart Disease

Researchers followed more than 110,000 people for nine years and found that the more free sugar a person takes in, the greater the risk for heart disease. Each five percent increase in free sugar intake in a participant's daily diet resulted in a six percent higher risk of heart disease and a 10 percent higher risk of stroke. Furthermore, a higher fiber intake and replacing refined grain starch and free sugars with whole grains and non-free sugars appeared to help protect against heart attacks.

Midlife Obesity Increases Risk for Dementia

Obesity in your 40's-60's increases risk for developing the dementia of Alzheimer’s disease later in life. Researchers analyzed brain scans of more than 1,300 people from the UK Biobank and found that people who were obese in midlife had already lost gray matter in the brain in the same areas as those who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease.

Controlling High Blood Pressure

The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) recommends that you get your blood pressure below 140/90 mm Hg. Taking medication to reduce blood pressure below that did not further reduce your chances of dying overall or from heart disease, even though it did lead to a 16 percent reduction in heart attacks. It also did not reduce the incidence of strokes, and it increased risk for multiple side effects from medications.

Intense Exercisers Have More Plaques but Fewer Heart Attacks

The MARC-2 study followed 291 older men for 6.3 years with a test called Coronary Artery Calcification (CAC), and found that the amount of calcium in the arteries leading to the heart increased most in men who exercised at the highest intensity, even more than those who exercised the most. The authors said this showed that intense exercise increases the amount of plaques in arteries, which may be true. However, they would then have to explain why intense exercisers are far less likely to suffer heart attacks than non-exercisers

Loss of Hearing is a Major Risk Factor for Dementia

The National Health and Aging Trends Study from Johns Hopkins followed 2,413 community-dwelling participants aged 65 and older, and found that 10.3 percent suffered from dementia. Of those with dementia, 36.7 percent suffered mild hearing loss and and 29.8 percent had moderate to severe hearing loss. The people with moderate to severe hearing loss were 61 percent more likely to suffer from dementia than those with normal hearing, and every 10-decibel loss of hearing was associated with a 16 percent increase in dementia risk.

Anti-Inflammatory Lifestyle to Help Prevent Dementia as You Age

About 22 percent of North Americans ages 85-89 and 33 percent of those over 90 suffer some degree of dementia. A study from the Chicago Health and Aging Project, which followed 2449 men and women over age 65, suggests that there is a lot that you can do to help protect yourself from dementia. The healthful lifestyle factors tracked in this study included diet, physical activity, cognitive activity, not smoking, and avoiding or limiting alcohol

Why I Still Recommend COVID-19 Vaccines and Boosters

Every week I receive emails asking why I recommend vaccinations against COVID-19 when they can have serious side effects that can result in hospitalizations and deaths. I have been following the data and research since the beginning of the pandemic, and they clearly show that: • Vaccination helps to prevent hospitalization or death from COVID-19 by a very wide margin • The rates of heart damage or death from vaccination are vastly lower than from the disease itself

Mammal Meat is Associated with Increased Risk for Diabetes

A study from Australia found that middle-aged women who ate meat daily were significantly more likely to be diabetic and have uncontrolled high levels of blood sugar than those who ate a plant-based diet with little or no red meat. The authors conclude that plant-based diets reduce diabetes risk by increasing the body’s response to insulin and reducing body fat.

Most Type II Diabetics Should Lose Weight, Even If They Are Not Overweight

Most type II diabetics are overweight, but about 15 percent are not overweight. A study presented on September 23, 2022 at the European Association for the Study of Diabetes meeting in Stockholm found that 70 percent of normal-weight type II diabetics went into remission when they lost 10 percent of their body weight.