Archive for January, 2011

NFL Players Continue to Take Pain Meds After They Retire

You may have seen the recent headlines or watched ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” report on the misuse of painkillers among retired National Football League (NFL) players. Not surprising, the new research conducted by investigators at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis found that brutal collisions and bone-jarring injuries associated with professional football often cause long-term pain, and that former NFL players continue to use painkilling medications.

The study of 644 former NFL players was commissioned and supported by a grant from ESPN, with additional funding from the National Institute on Drug Abuse of the National Institutes of Health. Among the key findings are:

– 7% of the former players were currently using painkilling opioid drugs, more than 4 times the rate of opioid use in the general population.

– More than half (52%) say they used prescription painkillers during their careers, and nearly three-quarters (71%) of that group say that they abused the drugs, with 15% admitting to misusing the drugs over the last 30 days.

– About two-thirds (63%) of former players who misused the drugs during their playing days got their medication from a non-medical source, including a teammate, coach, friend, or the Internet.

The study reminded me of conversations I’ve had with Allan Levy MD, New York Giants team physician emeritus and my co-author of Sports Injury Handbook. Pro football is a grueling, physically demanding game, he said, and the players are expected to endure pain and continue playing. Basically, they get paid to play in pain. To maintain their performance, players often need to take pain medications.

It makes sense that NFL players use painkillers more often than Average Joes because they’ve been exposed to them. Addiction research shows once you’re exposed to painkillers, you’re more likely to continue to use them.

There’s no doubt NFL players, current and retired, are taking painkillers, and abuse happens. Maybe most famously, quarterback Brett Favre missed 45 days of the 1996 season due to a Vicodin addiction.

For the rest of us, early, aggressive use of simple over-the-counter painkillers can allow you to rehabilitate sports injuries.

Men Can Maintain a Healthy, Fertile Lifestyle Over Age 40

One of my co-authors of A Baby at Last!, Marc Goldstein, MD, appeared as a panelist on the Weekend Today Show last Saturday Jan. 22, answering viewers questions about men over age 40. Looking dapper as usual, Marc succinctly described how a 40-plus man could maintain a fertile lifestyle — watch your weight, don’t drink too much, and stay away from anabolic steroids.

On Marc’s Cornell Institute for Reproductive Medicine website he lays out guidelines on how men can live a healthy, fertile lifestyle. “Patients with infertility can have some control of their reproductive function by living healthy lifestyles. Often some ‘negative’ lifestyle may be contributing to their infertility. Therefore, if patients live healthy lifestyles, it is possible that there will be some improvement in their reproductive function. There may not be conclusive evidence for all these lifestyle recommendations, but rarely will following these guidelines hurt, and often they may help,” he says.

10 Tips to a Fertile Lifestyle

1. Males should avoid excessive heat (such as saunas or hot tubs and placing laptops on the lap).
2. Limit coffee to 1 or 2 cups per day.
3. Do not smoke.
4. Do not use marijuana, cocaine, or other recreational drugs. Marijuana stays in the testicles for 2 weeks, so even using it once every two weeks will have a negative effect.
5. Exercise regularly and moderately.
6. Drink no more than 2 ounces of alcohol twice per week.
7. Have good nutritional habits, especially a diet rich in fresh fruits, leafy vegetables (oranges, tomatoes, peppers, leafy greens – any bright-colored fruit or vegetable), as well as fish (think SMASH: salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, and herring). Avoid excess of animal fat (red meat, fried food, cheese, and whole milk). Diets high in animal fat are associated with a high risk of prostate cancer and heart disease. Meats lower in animal fat include venison, buffalo, and grass-fed beef.
8. Be aware of sexual problems and do not hesitate to ask for medical help.
9. Educate yourself about health and reproduction.
10. Seek emotional and/or psychological support; consider meditation to reduce stress.

Take Your Vitamins

It is believed that taking certain vitamins may help improve a man’s fertility. The mechanism of action is believed to be as follows:

The breakdown of oxygen as it passes through the cells in our body results in substances known as free radicals. Infertile men have a higher concentration of free radicals in their semen as compared to fertile men. Free radicals attack and destroy the membrane that surrounds sperm. Anti-oxidants fight against these bad effects, and vitamins are natural anti-oxidants.

Marc suggests men take daily vitamin C (500 mg), vitamin E (200 IUs), selenium (200 mcg), a multivitamin that contains no more than 20 mg of zinc, folic acid (800 mcg), and co-enzyme Q10, or CoQ10, (200 mg). Co Q10 is an antioxidant that has been shown to increase sperm motility.

One product currently available that contains all of these suggested supplements except CoQ10 is Conception XR Natural Conception Formula for Men. It can be used with CO Q10 200 mg daily to fulfill the recommended vitamin requirements.

Fitness for Dummies Now in 4th Edition

The classic Fitness for Dummies is now out in the 4th edition with a revamped, 21st-Century version of the book that first appeared in the mid-1990s. As fitness expert co-authors Suzanne Schlosberg and Liz Neporent write, it does indeed cover fitness from all angles, can make you a savvy consumer of fitness products, and tell you stuff you want to know, such as how to measure your strength and fitness level; guidance on setting up a home gym; sample cardio and strength-training programs; and exercises for all ages and life stages.

I met Liz at the American Society of Journalists and Authors Annual Writers’ Conference last Spring in New York, where she spoke about health books. I asked Liz to give me a head’s up on what’s new in this edition of Fitness for Dummies. Here’s what she said:

“We’ve updated the book to reflect all the changes that have happened to fitness — and the world — in the last few years. For example, we cover apps, social media and the Internet extensively for the first time.

We also cover changes in guidelines. For example, the blood pressure guidelines and some nutritional guidelines have changed drastically since the last edition. We also cover kids and seniors in separate chapters for the first time.”

And Liz gave me three tips to pass along:

Tip #1: There is a lot of free stuff on the Internet that can help you get in shape. You can join a Twitter or Facebook group and have a group of like-minded people help inspire your efforts. Or try to become the Foursquare mayor of your gym!

Tip #2: If you have an mp3 player, go to iTunes and download a podcast related to fitness – or just a podcast you are interested in. It’s free. You can learn to speak another language as you workout!

Tip #3: The weight loss and body mass index (BMI) guidelines are different for kids than for adults so be sure to review them carefully.

The book also provides tips on how to avoid common sports injuries. For example, to buy proper footwear, you need to know if you’re flat-footed or pronate (roll your foot to the inside when you step). A Technical Stuff sidebar describes a simple test — wet your foot and then step on a piece of paper — to show how high your arch is. You can also diagnose potential foot problems by looking at the bottom of your athletic shoes. You can find a diagram of telltale signs of foot abnormalities in the foot chapter of Sports Injury Handbook.

Chock-full of easy-to-find information, the new edition of Fitness for Dummies is a great edition to anyone’s fitness bookshelf.

Tai Chi — Medication in Motion

The article I wrote “Tai Chi: Medication in Motion” appears in the January 2011 issue of American Legion magazine.

The science of Tai Chi is just now catching up with (and justifying) what Tai Chi masters have known for centuries – this mind-body practice, which originated in China as a martial art, leads to longer life, more vigor and flexibility, better balance and mobility, and a sense of well being. Cutting-edge research now supports the long-standing claims that Tai Chi has a favorable impact on the health of the heart, bones, nerves and muscles, immune system, and the mind. In fact, Tai Chi might well be called “medication in motion.”

Tai chi combines meditation with slow, gentle, graceful movements, as well as deep breathing and relaxation to move vital energy (what the Chinese call qi) throughout the body. “Tai Chi can heighten bodily awareness and inner focus, make body movements more graceful and efficient, enhance natural breathing, and help you attain peace of mind,” says Dr. Peter Wayne, assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, who has practiced and studied Tai Chi for more than 35 years. “Our fast-paced, multi-tasking, over-stimulated, more-is-better, Type-A, Western lifestyle can be counteracted by the ‘meditation in motion’ of Tai Chi.”

New research provides insight into the underlying physiological mechanisms that explain how Tai Chi works. This knowledge has enabled Dr. Wayne and his colleagues to shape the essential elements of Tai Chi into a program to use in the rehabilitation — and prevention — of many health conditions. They have developed and successfully tested a simplified Tai Chi protocol in a number of clinical trials. A 12-week controlled study of Tai Chi in heart failure found that the Tai Chi participants were able to walk longer and faster and had improved quality of life. What’s more, they had reduced blood levels of B-type natriuretic protein, an indicator of heart failure.

A newly completed Harvard randomized controlled trial of post-menopausal women diagnosed with low bone density used bone density markers and computerized motion analysis to quantify how Tai Chi affects weight-bearing in the skeleton. The preliminary results show that Tai Chi arrested bone loss in the hip and spine compared to women who had usual care, says Dr. Wayne.

Many other studies have shown the health benefits of Tai Chi. A Harvard review of 26 studies in English or Chinese of Tai Chi and high blood pressure found that Tai Chi lowered blood pressure in 85% of the trials. Tai Chi has also been shown to improve balance, reduce falls in older women, and increase bone strength – all important ways to prevent fractures from low bone density.

And studies show Tai Chi may be effective for rehabilitation and prevention of chronic low back pain, can reduce the pain of knee osteoarthritis, can reduce stress, enhance mood and sleep, and may strengthen the immune system, which improves the body’s resistance to disease.

“The integration of Tai Chi as an adjunct into the medical world can help prevent the progression of many chronic diseases,” says Dr. Wayne.

I Don’t Hear Nothin’ But the Blues

I took my daughter, Sarah, age 13, to a concert about 10 days ago to to hear her drum teacher, Mike Pride, and tenor saxophonist Jon Irabagon play a gig in nearby Brooklyn. These guys are two of the hottest young jazz players, and their album “I Don’t Hear Nothin’ But the Blues” was named one of the top jazz albums in 2009.

Just before the show at Barbes in Park Slope, I took another listen to the album, which is only one, 47-minute long cut.  There’s just the two of them, a sax and a drummer.  Critics say they sound like John Coltrane or Sonny Rollins, but I hear some Ornette Coleman in there, too.

Even with the listen, I wasn’t prepared for the powerful, raw energy from this duo  in person. It was like listening to a conversation between two well-versed, highly intelligent friends. The basic motif came back three times during the extended jam. In between, we heard Jon’s braying sax and Mike’s thrashing beats as they constantly traded licks.

At the end, Mike introduced me to Jon, and I told them that I had the privilege to hear 90-plus minutes of their music, half live, half on CD. “The live version was the same, but totally different!” I told them. The feathery themes were still there, but the improv parts were recalibrated.

I know the show was an eye-opener for Sarah, who’s more into pop music (think Justin Bieber) than avant-garde jazz. She got to play her first gig last summer at Rockinsummercamp, a week-long day-camp that ended  with a performance of a handful of rock covers at a small club. “Why did they play with their eyes closed?” she asked. I suggested that may have helped them to listen  to each other better. We both agreed that the farting-like sound Jon made into his reed at times was weird, but we said we definitely wanted to see them again to see what else they could cook up between them.

Excerpt from A Baby at Last!

A Baby at Last! coverYour very own consultation with the world’s leading fertility doctors!

If you can’t get to New York Presbyterian-Weill Cornell for a consultation with Dr. Rosenwaks and Dr. Goldstein, this book is your chance. A Baby At Last! puts the doctors’ expertise down on paper and offers all the information you need on the latest fertility treatments in order to make informed decisions. In this comprehensive, practical, and up-to-date handbook for diagnosing and treating infertility in both men and women, you’ll get invaluable advice on:

  • When to seek help: you may not need to wait at all
  • Finding the right doctors, and the tough questions you need to ask
  • What tests to have: tests for him and her, when to have them, and why.
  • Whether or not you’re a candidate for advanced treatments, including  IVF,  ICSI, and beyond

Covering everything from the latest technologies to the emotional hurdles associated with infertility, Drs. Rosenwaks and Goldstein share the knowledge and expertise that makes the pregnancy success rates for Weill Cornell patients among the highest in the world. Here as never before is a book that can help you, too, bring home a baby at last!

Zev Rosenwaks, M.D., is the Director of The Center for Reproductive Medicine and Infertility at New York Weill Cornell Medical Center. He is Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Weill Medical College of Cornell University.

Marc Goldstein, M.D., is the Director of The Center for Male Reproductive Medicine and Microsurgery at the New York Weill Cornell Medical Center. He is Professor of Reproductive Medicine and Professor of Urology at Weill Medical College of Cornell University.

Mark Fuerst is a health and medical writer and the co-author of ten books, including The Couple’s Guide to Fertility.

Award for A Baby at Last!

The Board of Directors of The American Fertility Association (The AFA) unanimously decided to honor the book “A Baby at Last!” with an Illumination Award.   The AFA founding board chair, Carolyn Berger, presented the award on November 10, 2010.


NY Resident magazine book review

Welcome to my new blog. My current news is the positive responses I’ve been getting regarding my latest book, A Baby At Last!

A very favorable review ran in this month’s issue of the Resident magazine.

A Couples’ Guide to Getting Pregnant

“Everyone seems to know someone who has a fertility problem…”  That’s the start of  A Baby At Last!: The Couples’ Complete Guide to Getting Pregnant—from Cutting-Edge Treatments to Common Sense Wisdom by Mark L. Fuerst, Zev Rosenwaks, M.D., and Marc Goldstein, M.D.

This book is for every couple seeking a solution to fertility problems. It conveys the knowledge that you are not alone and much can be done. You’ll learn when to seek help, how to find doctors and ask the right questions, what tests are worth having and why. The book covers up-to-date therapies and provides support for the emotional rollercoaster of fertility treatments.

Céline Dion’s many failed attempts at in-vitro fertilization were heartbreaking but in October 2010 the 42-year-old singer gave birth to twin boys. She said, “When I think about Dr. Rosenwaks and the extraordinary talent and intelligence that allows him to combine nature and genius to create new life, I am in awe and forever grateful for his talent.”

“Sugar” Ray Leonard, six-time world boxing champion, said, “One of my toughest fights was to father children with my loving wife, Bernadette. After two failed surgeries, I found Dr. Goldstein. My greatest victories are my Olympic gold medal, my world titles, and my family, the last one with thanks due to Dr. Goldstein.”

Mark L. Fuerst’s writing talents shine. Publishers Weekly said, “The text is reader-friendly and accentuated with informative ‘Take Home Messages’ that will help couples expand their knowledge and foster fertility success.”

About the Authors

Mark L. Fuerst is a health and medical writer and coauthor of ten books including The Couple’s Guide to Fertility. His many articles on fertility have appeared in major magazines.

Zev Rosenwaks, M.D. and Marc Goldstein, M.D. are fertility experts at the NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, a leading pioneer in treating infertility.

By Dorri Olds