Recently, I came across 3 unrelated issues that can really impact your health. One of them involves something you likely use everyday – all day – your cell phone. Another involves learning more about the secrets of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for new treatments for cancer and many other conditions. Lastly, if you’re over 50, you’ll really want to know about this – how hearing loss can impact the health of your brain. Let me tell you more…
Hearing Loss, Cell Phones and TCM: The Effect on Your Health
Hearing Loss and Your Brain
When you get older, it’s natural for your hearing to decrease a little, the same as your vision, sense of smell or your taste. Yet, I’ve learned something surprising about hearing loss and the impact on your future brain health. According to Johns Hopkins University, older people who suffer from hearing loss can have an accelerated rate of brain shrinkage as a result.
In their study, 126 adults aged 56 to 86 were studied. The results showed that almost half had mild to moderate hearing loss and that their brains were “atrophied”, or shrunken, in the regions related to hearing. In addition, the part of the brain that governs hearing also governs speech processing and memory. So these functions are also affected by the shrinkage. The researchers compared the phenomena to muscles that were not used very often – they grow weak and shrink and eventually you lose function.
In light of these findings, the researchers are now studying whether restoring hearing, either with hearing aids or implants, can also restore brain volume as well as function in speech and memory. But those results won’t be known for a while yet. In the meantime, you should do everything you can to protect your hearing if you want your brain functions to be sharp in the future. Watch the loudness of your music or loud sounds you may be exposed to at work or in your environment. Eat a diet that protects your hearing – like adequate Omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin D, B vitamins – especially B12 – and magnesium which recent studies show repair temporary and permanent noise-induced hearing loss.
Traditional Chinese Medicine
TCM has been around for centuries. In fact, it is one of the oldest practices of medicine on Earth. It works on the principles of “yin” and “yang” – opposites that work in conjunction, and balance, each other. TCM puts this theory to use in balancing the body by using natural herbs and acupuncture/pressure. With its longevity and success at treating many conditions, TCM doctors must be doing something right. That’s why Western doctors are now trying to learn more about what TCM has to offer traditional medicine.
For example, the herb astragalus has been in the TCM “longevity” category for a long, long time. But it wasn’t until just a few years ago that Western research uncovered its incredible anti-aging potential. As a result, a specially formulated version of astragalus is now the main ingredient of TA-65, the only real telomere preserving/lengthening, anti-aging product on the market.
Other new breakthroughs using TCM is the management of a type of leukemia treated successfully with arsenic trioxide (sold as Trisenox in the U.S.), a substance commonly used in Chinese medicine to purify the blood. Leukemia patients faired better on a combination of Trisenox, and all-trans retinoic acid than patients undergoing traditional chemotherapy. So much so that doctors are talking “cure” using Trisenox while researchers at Dana Farber Cancer Institute think it should be the standard of care for leukemia, and possibly other cancer patients as well.
Another Chinese herb called “thunder vine” is also being looked at by Westerners for its anti-cancer properties. It has already been shown effective against cancer in lab animals and scientists here are now trying to figure out how/why it works so well. Researchers are also making inroads into treating chronic pain with a Chinese herb noted for its painkilling properties instead of addicting prescription medications. In time, I believe that the nontoxic, natural properties of Chinese medicine will be better known and utilized in Western medicine. Putting them to use in the treatment of many conditions could extend both quality of life and lifespan, and I’m all for that.
Cell Phones and Your Immune System
Okay, this is pretty gross. But, did you know that your cell phone has more germs than your toilet? No? Well, me either. I just found this out reading a University of Arizona study published in the American Journal of Infection Control. The way researchers found this out was through a man stealing a sick patient’s cell phone in Uganda. Not long after, the man came down with the same disease the cell phone’s former owner had – Ebola. One of the researchers on the case reported that your cell phone carries 10 times more germs – bacteria, virus, fungi, and other microbes – than your toilet. How is that possible? Well, when was the last time you cleaned your cell phone? Probably not as recently as you’ve cleaned your toilet! And many people take their cell phones into the bathroom with them – especially public bathrooms. They lay them down on surfaces inside stalls, like the paper holder, back of toilet, etc, and then pick them up and use them.
Think of how many other public surfaces – tables in restaurants, counters in businesses, etc, that you’ve placed your cell phone on. Every germ that was on that surface gets transferred to your cell phone, or iPAD, and then gets transferred to you. The study originally focused on hospital staff who shared iPADs to document patient information, but the impact can be just as bad for personal use. To clean your cell phone or iPAD, wipe them down with a damp – not wet – antibacterial wipe, like the ones at the grocery store you use to wipe down your cart handle. Never spray electronic devices like these with liquids as it could damage them.
Staying healthy in a technologically advanced world is tricky. We not only have to wash our hands, now we have to wash our cell phones; we have to be very careful about the amount of noise we expose our ears to and hope that all those years of rock concerts aren’t going to result in damage of our hearing and/or brain function in the future. But if they do, hopefully, ancient Chinese Medicine has effective treatments we can borrow to restore our health.
Mark Rosenberg, M.D.
Hearing Loss Tied to Brain Shrinkage, http://blog.aarp.org/2014/01/29/hearing-loss-tied-to-brain-shrinkage/