Wake Up, Philippines!

Why liver cancer is common in the Philippines

Posted in Cancer, Diseases/Disabilities by Erineus on March 6, 2009
March 02, 2009
(Illustration by Greco Milambiling)
(Illustration by Greco Milambiling)

Q. Our 68-year-old neighbor died of liver cancer last week, less than six months after he was diagnosed with the disease. I understand that the outlook for liver cancer patients is very poor. Why is this so? Also, why is this form of cancer common in the Philippines when it is rare in the US? Is there a way to prevent this form of cancer?

Celso N., Cebu City

A. Liver cancer has a poor prognosis or outlook because it is often diagnosed very late in its course. It usually presents no symptoms until the tumor is already at least 10 cm in size, at which time the disease has typically already spread and is in the advanced stage.

Most liver cancer patients die within a year of diagnosis, and the five-year survival rate for the disease (if no treatment is undertaken) is less than five percent. Even with treatment, the five-year survival rate for liver cancer is still a low 35 percent.

Liver cancer is only the eighth most common cancer worldwide, and as you mentioned, it is relatively rare in the US (and for that matter, other developed countries). In the Philippines and other underdeveloped countries, however, the incidence of liver cancer is rather high. The latest DOH advisory shows that liver cancer is the third most common form of cancer among Filipinos—in men, it is the second most common, while in women, it is the ninth most common.

Liver cancer is relatively common in our country primarily because many Filipinos suffer from cirrhosis of the liver, a major risk factor for liver cancer. Cirrhosis of the liver precedes 80 percent of all liver cancers; thus, any condition that predisposes to cirrhosis indirectly causes liver cancer. The usual cause of liver cirrhosis among Filipinos is chronic hepatitis B, a major public health problem in the country. Chronic hepatitis B afflicts between 10 and 12 percent of all Filipinos (i.e., more than 8 million Filipinos). Other less significant causes of cirrhosis are hepatitis C infection and alcoholism.

Another risk factor for liver cancer that adds to the high incidence of the malignancy among Filipinos is aflatoxin. Aflatoxin is a poisonous substance that damages the liver and may cause liver cancer. It is produced by certain species of molds that grow in foodstuff such as peanuts, corn, rice, dried fruits, spices, crude vegetable oils, cocoa beans, and copra, as well as milk and milk products from cattle that have consumed contaminated feed. The high temperature and relative humidity that prevail in the Philippines and the often improper storing, processing, and handling of foodstuff are the reasons why the aflatoxin content of the above-mentioned food products is frequently above the acceptable level.

Other less common causes of liver cancer in the Philippines are certain chemicals such as vinyl chloride (used in certain industries), and estrogens and androgens—hormones that are present in oral contraceptives and anabolic steroids, respectively.

The outlook for liver cancer is poor, but the disease is preventable because the major risk factors for the disease have already been identified. Measures that can significantly reduce one’s risk for cancer of the liver include vaccination for hepatitis B, avoidance of alcohol, and proper storage of foodstuff.

(Email inquiries on health matters to medical_notes@yahoo.com)

Medical Notes
Manila Bulleting

Warning on weight-loss products

Posted in Alternative Medicines, Health, weight loss by Erineus on February 24, 2009

If you are taking, or planning to take, any products (pills, portion or lotion, food supplements, or herbals) to help you lose weight, here is a wake-up call for you.

For at least the past three decades, we have been warning our readers about the dangers of weight control aids, especially those sold on the streets, in health food or herbal shops or organic food stores, marketed as “effective and safe.”

In spite of the reported adverse side effects on various organs of the body, which have resulted in some deaths, these weight loss products continue to flood the market and people (ignorant and misinformed by the ads and info-mercials) are duped into buying and using them. The fact that many of them are expensive may be a secondary consideration for some, but the real serious effects of these products are risks not worth taking. Besides, there is a healthier, safer, and more economical strategy available.

And now, once again, and even in a more forceful assault on the manufacturers of weight loss products, the US Federal Drug Administration (FDA) “has inspected some companies associated with the sale of these illegal products and is currently seeking product recalls,” and “additional enforcement steps, such as warning letters, initiating seizures, injunctions, or criminal charges, are also possible,” according to the agency report.

The FDA has expanded its warning list of weight-loss products from 28 to 69 in January 2009, from the original advisory issued by the agency December 22, 2008.

These weight loss products, according to the FDA, can cause important cardiovascular side effects from these components: sibutramine, phenytoin, phenolphthalein, and abumetanide. Some ingredients of some weight-loss products may even be carcinogenic (cancer-causing agents).

The FDA press release also noted that “One product, known as Phyto Shape, even contained rimonabant, the cannabinoid-receptor blocker that has been linked to neurological and psychiatric side effects… in 2007, an FDA advisory committee unanimously said no to rimonabant, and Sanofi-Aventis, the maker of rimonabant, eventually halted all clinical research with the weight-loss drug.”

It is unfortunate that the public appears to be at the mercy of the well-designed but less than truthful commercials on these weight-loss products, especially the so-called food supplements and herbals, with their baseless claims about their efficacy and safety and obviously intentional omission of listing their adverse side effects, short term and long term. The ignorant and unsuspecting public swallows the advertisement hype and ends up spending hard-earned money for products that could cause health problems. Misinformed people also think that these products replace the need for dieting and exercising.

The safest (and lesser expensive) way to lose weight and maintain good health is to do daily exercises (aerobic exercises, dancing, tai-bo, normal pace or brisk walking, swimming, etc), and by cutting down calorie intake, to maintain the desired weight (monitoring the weight once a week, using it as a guide to dieting). Drinking a tall glass of water before eating also helps in reducing food intake. Avoiding carbohydrate foods (rice, bread, potatoes, cakes, candies, ice cream and other pastries and sweets) will greatly help in weight control. Those who have given up most of these foods, especially rice, maintained their desired weight sooner and more permanently.

It is common to hear some people say they have not been eating a lot and still gained weight. Medical data show that all (100%) of the starved prisoner in any war in the history of the world lost massive weight, regardless of gender, physical built, family history, genetics, etc. All lost weight, because of calorie restriction and hard labor (which is a form of physical exercise).

There is really no need for weight-loss pills, teas and juices, for safe and effective weight control for 99% of people who are overweight. Calorie control and daily exercises will do the trick. The 1% exception who have morbid obesity, not responding to calorie control and exercises, are possible candidates for gastric bypass surgery.


To be more effective and lasting, normal weight maintenance must start from childhood. The old tale that fat babies and children are healthier is not true. Childhood obesity leads to early onset of serious diseases. And children as early as in their teens should have their blood cholesterol level checked, even once, to have a baseline data. Because of exposure to the junk food culture of red meats, eggs, fries, and milk shakes, and other unhealthy items in fast food chains, young children in various countries around the world have been found to prematurely have high cholesterol level. High cholesterol level among these young people is also associated with high risk of developing heart attack and stroke early, even before age 45. Pediatric experts have now lowered the normal value of blood cholesterol to be at 170, down 30 points from the former standard of 200.

One area, where most of us, parents, have miserably failed in is in teaching our children to eat fish, vegetables, and fruits daily, instead of a lot of carbo, red meat and eggs. This is the reason why today we have an epidemic (actually a pandemic) of obesity and hypercholesterolemia among children in well-developed countries and a severe increase in the global incidence of diabetes mellitus type 2, heart attack, stroke, and even cancer.

Teaching our youngsters healthy lifestyle starting from the crib is the best way to instill good habits among them and ensure their good health and a better future.

If you think about it, most of the diseases confronting mankind are self-induced and actually preventable, with knowledge, wisdom, discipline, and determination.

By Dr. Philip S. Chua
Cebu Daily News
First Posted 14:15:00 02/23/2009


10 Surprising Health Benefits of Love

Posted in Health, Love by Erineus on February 14, 2009

Lower Blood Pressure, Fewer Colds, Better Stress Management Are Just the Beginning

“I need somebody to love,” sang the Beatles, and they got it right. Love and health are intertwined in surprising ways. Humans are wired for connection, and when we cultivate good relationships, the rewards are immense. But we’re not necessarily talking about spine-tingling romance.

“There’s no evidence that the intense, passionate stage of a new romance is beneficial to health,” says Harry Reis, PhD, co-editor of the Encyclopedia of Human Relationships. “People who fall in love say it feels wonderful and agonizing at the same time.” All those ups and downs can be a source of stress.

It takes a calmer, more stable form of love to yield clear health benefits. “There is very nice evidence that people who participate in satisfying, long-term relationships fare better on a whole variety of health measures,” Reis tells WebMD.

Most of the research in this area centers on marriage, but Reis believes many of the perks extend to other close relationships — for example, with a partner, parent, or friend. The key is to “feel connected to other people, feel respected and valued by other people, and feel a sense of belonging,” he says. Here are 10 research-backed ways that love and health are linked:

1. Fewer Doctor’s Visits

The Health and Human Services Department reviewed a bounty of studies on marriage and health. One of the report’s most striking findings is that married people have fewer doctor’s visits and shorter average hospital stays.

“Nobody quite knows why loving relationships are good for health,” Reis says. “The best logic for this is that human beings have been crafted by evolution to live in closely knit social groups. When that is not happening, the biological systems … get overwhelmed.”

Another theory is that people in good relationships take better care of themselves. A spouse may keep you honest in your oral hygiene. A best friend could motivate you to eat more whole grains. Over time, these good habits translate to fewer illnesses.

2. Less Depression & Substance Abuse

According to the Health and Human Services report, getting married and staying married reduces depression in both men and women. This finding is not surprising, Reis says, because social isolation is clearly linked to higher rates of depression. What’s interesting is that marriage also contributes to a decline in heavy drinking and drug abuse, especially among young adults.

3. Lower Blood Pressure

A happy marriage is good for your blood pressure. That’s the conclusion of a study in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine. Researchers found happily married people had the best blood pressure, followed by singles. Unhappily married participants fared the worst.

Reis says this study illustrates a vital aspect of the way marriage affects health. “It’s marital quality and not the fact of marriage that makes a difference,” he tells WebMD. This supports the idea that other positive relationships can have similar benefits. In fact, singles with a strong social network also did well in the blood pressure study, though not as well as happily married people.

1 | 2 | 3

By Sherry Rauh
WebMD FeatureLink: chttp://www.webmd.com/sex-relationships/modern-love-8/health-benefits

Heart Attack

Posted in Health, Tips by Erineus on February 11, 2009

WHEN the supply of blood to the heart is sharply reduced or cut off, the heart is deprived of needed oxygen. If blood flow is not restored within minutes, portions of the heart muscle begin to die, permanently damaging the heart muscle. This process is referred to as a myocardial infarction, more commonly known as heart attack.

The most common type of heart attack is caused by a thrombosis, or blockage, of one of the coronary arteries by a thrombus, or blood clot. This cuts off the blood supply to the region of the heart muscle served by the artery, damaging or killing the deprived tissue. Heart attack generally occurs only if your coronary arteries are already narrowed by coronary artery disease. If the infarct, or damaged area of the heart, is small, it does not impair the electrical conducting system that regulates heartbeat. Therefore, the attack should not be fatal and you will have a good chance of recovery.

What are the symptoms?

The main symptom of a heart attack is usually a crushing pain in the center of your chest. The pain may also appear in the neck, jaw, arms, and upper abdomen. A heart attack can come on gradually, preceded by a few weeks of angina (chest pain), but it can also happen without any warning. The pain varies in degree from a feeling of discomfort to antagonizing tightness in the chest. The pain may be continuous, or it may last for only a few minutes, then fades away, and then return. It may come on during exercise or emotional stress or even at rest. Unlike the pain of angina pectoris, the pain of a heart attack does not go away after the exercise or stress ceases.

Other possible symptoms of heart attack are dizziness, shortness of breath, sweating, chills, nausea, and fainting. In a few instances, mainly in older people, there are few if any symptoms. The condition, known as a silent infarct, can be confirmed only by electrocardiography (ECG) and blood enzyme tests.

What are the risks?

Two out of three people who have a heart attack recover, but the attack may be fatal if it interferes with the electrical impulses that regulate your heartbeat or if it severely damages your heart muscle. Most deaths from heart attack occur within 2 hours of the onset of symptoms. About 10 percent of patients admitted to hospitals with heart attacks go into shock, which can also be fatal. Heart failure may also develop.

After a heart attack, a thrombus, or a clot, may form inside one of the four chambers of the heart. If the thrombus becomes detached (it is called an emboli) and is swept into the circulation, it can travel and cause damage elsewhere in the body. Fortunately, this occurs in only about 5 percent of cases.

Damage caused by heart attack may weaken and stretch one of the walls of the heart chambers. The resultant aneurysm, or ballooning, can lead to complications such as heart failure. There is the added risk that bed rest may cause thrombosis (blood clots) in the veins especially in the legs.

What should be done?

A heart attack is a medical emergency. Half of the deaths from heart attacks occur in the first 3 or 4 hours after symptoms begin. The sooner the treatment begins the better the chances of survival. Anyone having a symptom that might indicate a heart attack should get prompt medical attention.

What is the treatment?

Self-help: None is possible.

Professional help:

1. The most effective treatment for a heart attack is to dissolve the blood clot that caused it, but this is possible only within a few hours of the start of a heart attack, which is why it is vital to treat any possible heart attack as an emergency.

2. Once a diagnosis is arrived at, a clot-dissolving (thrombolytic) drug is given, usually by injection into a vein.

3. Further special tests will be performed, including coronary angiography, to assess whether thrombolytic drug treatment has been successful.

4. If the coronary artery is still blocked, an attempt may be made to reopen the artery by transluminal (balloon) angioplasty.

5. Coronary artery bypass graft operations are performed in cases of coronary artery disease in which the narrowing or blockages are multiple or involve the left main coronary artery.

Prognosis and prevention:

Most people who survive for a few days after a heart attack can expect a full recovery, but about 10 percent die within a year. Most death occur in first 3 or 4 months, typically in people who continue to have angina, irregular heart beat, and heart failure.

The old saying “prevention is better than cure” is very true in the case of heart ailments. In fact in the cases of disorders of the circulatory system and the heart it is only prevention that offers the real chance of your staying alive.


* Make sure your diet is high in fiber.

* Do not eat red meat, highly spiced foods, salt, sugars, or white flour. Refined sugars produce adverse reactions in all cells by causing wide variations in blood sugar.

* Eliminate fried foods, coffee, black tea, colas, and other stimulants from the diet.

* Do not smoke. Avoid secondhand smoke.

* Refrain from alcohol use, as it has a direct toxic effect on the heart.

* Drink plenty of water.

* Do physical exercises regularly.

* Learn to meet stress efficiently.

Dr. Gary S. Sy, M.D. is the Medical Director of Life Extension Medical Center located at The Garden Plaza Hotel (formerly Swiss Inn Hotel) 1370 Gen. Luna St., Paco, Manila. He is Diplomate in Gerontology and Geriatrics, Advocate Diet-Nutritional Therapy, and conducts free seminar every Friday about Age-Related Health Problems.

For more details e-mail address: lifeextension_drgarysy@yahoo.com

Please tune in at:

DZRH 666 kHz “Lunas” every M-W-F 7:30-8:30 p.m.

DZMM 630 kHz “Gabay Sa Kalusugan” every Sunday 10-11 a.m. Telecast @ SkyCable Channel 26.

Please watch “Generation Rx” every Saturday 9- 9:30 a.m. @ ANC SkyCable Channel 27.

Author: Dr. Gary S. Sy

Dr. James Rouse’s all-natural way to lose weight

Posted in Health by Erineus on February 3, 2009

Successful weight management isn’t about perfectionism. There will be times when you will be vulnerable to cravings,” says natural medicine expert Dr. James Rouse. “But positive, proactive thinking will help you moving and eating healthfully each day. An integrative approach to weight loss results in optimal health long after you achieve that magic number on the scale.”

Dr. Rouse is best known for the “Optimum Wellness” news segments that he hosts on NBC affiliate channels in the United States. He visited the Philippines recently as the guest of Healthy Options, the Philippines’ leading all-natural products store.

“The formula for weight loss is simple. Eat less; eat better and move more,” explains Dr. Rouse. He emphasizes the need to think positively to be able to achieve results. “Mental and emotional fitness will enable you to achieve your goals. This will help you to start choosing to love yourself and nurture your body.”

Understanding what is behind the weight may be one key basis to success. “Before you can shed pounds, you must shed the habits and attitudes that put them there in the first place.” Thus, more important than solely thinking of butt reduction, for example, one needs to work on “but” reduction. Says Dr. Rouse: “Experiencing long-term success with your weight means no excuses. You need to shut out the old voice of doubt saying: I would like to eat well but (fill in excuse here) or I would like to exercise but (fill in excuse here). To move forward, you need to forget the ‘but.’”

Undoubtedly, a drastic change in mindset to alter bad eating habits and sedentary lifestyle may present a formidable challenge. To increase the probability of success, Dr. Rouse suggests a preliminary strategy to strengthen one’s resolve to live a healthier life. These include affirmations or creating new life-affirming messages and reading these aloud every day and making “mind maps” or collages that will inspire you to work towards what you visualize for yourself. In addition, he talks about “mental hygiene,” where you are encouraged to listen closely to your self-talk.

Goal setting, surrounding yourself with people who will help and support you reach your goals, and keeping track of successes no matter how small likewise reinforce the habit of living a healthy lifestyle. However, Dr. Rouse is quick to emphasize that each individual needs to “find his personal best” and avoid unrealistic expectations because “an unreasonable plan promotes eventual failure.”

Certainly, watching what you put in your mouth is essential. One should regulate caloric intake, but skipping meals and “out-of-balance eating” are no-no’s. Missed meals and consequently binging on food wreak havoc on blood sugar balance. Moreover, this may disrupt hormonal support for metabolism and energy production. Dr Rouse maintains that eating a right balance of low-glycemic complex carbohydrates, lean proteins, and beneficial fats “creates and sustains consistent high levels of energy and metabolism.” He suggests choosing the right high-quality proteins (lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, yogurt, tofu, soy protein powders, tempeh) and staying away from saturated fats (whole milk, red meat, ice cream, chocolate, whole-fat dairy products, starchy fast foods) and trans-fats or partially hydrogenated oils (margarine, shortening, fast-food snacks, commercial baked goods, processed foods) whenever possible. Nutrient-rich organic whole grains, fruits, legumes, and vegetables are also requisite.

Of course, exercise is essential. “Regular exercise helps melt the pounds and dissolves stress while your health strengthens and your commitment solidifies.” Dr. Rouse identifies what he calls “The Three Pillars of Movement.” These include cardio/aerobic, strength/resistance and stretching/flexibility. After your physician ascertains that certain types of exercise pose no risks to your health, the challenge is to keep motivated to maintain an exercise regimen. “Set it and do it,” exhorts Dr. Rouse. Aside from setting a routine and planning exercise sessions, it would help if you write down fitness goals to track successes. Keep in mind that some routines may be initially difficult to do, so “do what you can, build on your present success and grow into new successes.”

Getting enough exercise, eating the right food, and maintaining a positive attitude may entail a lot of effort and commitment at the start but with proper planning and enough determination, it will become routine. In weight management as in living a healthy lifestyle Dr. Rouse counsels, “Plan for excellence, and you’ll be prepared for life.”

By Joy Angelica Subido
Updated February 03, 2009 12:00 AM