Taking Control Of Your Health

Dr. Dean Edell
CBS/The Early Show
Dr. Dean Edell has been disbursing medical news on his radio talk show for the past 25 years on a wide variety of topics. In his latest book, "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Healthiness," he cuts through the hype, dispels myths and gets down to the facts of medical news and proper advice.

This book is a comprehensive medical resource for the whole family, applying Dean's practical health philosophies to today's most pressing health topics. The book features Q&A, quizzes, symptom checklists, Web links and recommended readings. It also encourages the reader to take control of their health by using common sense and a healthy dose of skepticism.

Edell is scheduled to stop by The Early Show on Monday to discuss his book and share some health facts.

Read some excerpts from "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Healthiness":

Are You a Pear Or An Apple?

Your body shape may tell you more than your realize. And, if you are overweight, you may have yet another reason to tackle those extra pounds. A study of more than forty thousand middle-aged female nurses found that those who are apple-shaped (their waist-to-hip ratio is more than .76), or who had waists of more than thirty inches, had a higher risk of heart disease than those women who are pear shaped (waist-to-hip ratios of less than .76). How do you figure the ratio? It's simple; divide your hip measurement into your waist measurement. Example: a thirty-inch waist and forty-inch hips mean a ratio of .75.

Q: Is there really much difference between taking a cranberry supplement and drinking cranberry juice? I want to avoid any more bladder infections, but I forgot to ask my doctor if either approach would have the same impact.

A: I will never understand why someone would rather pop a pill than drink a nice glass of cranberry juice or eat a nice piece of fish or enjoy a bowl of strawberries. Food is pleasure, folks, and we need as many moments of pleasure in our lives as possible.

OK, enough of my rant. Here are the facts, and it reminds us that too much of anything is seldom a good thing.

Cranberry juice is popular among women because of its ability to prevent bladder infections. This is because a substance in the juice discourages bacteria from adhering to the wall of the bladder. However, cranberries also have a high concentration of oxalate, which contributes to forming kidney stones. According to a report in Urology, a patient came to Stanford Medical Center with terrible kidney stones and reported that she had been taking cranberry pills that she had bought at a "nutrition store," prompting her doctors to measure the effects of cranberry pills on a small group of volunteers.

The researchers measured the oxalate levels in the urine of five healthy women, who then took cranberry pills for seven days per instructions on the label. On the seventh day, their urine was measured again. The oxalate level had increased by an average of 43 percent. That's a big increase in a short time!

In addition, University of Alabama researchers found cranberry pills were not effective in fighting bladder infections.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Eat fish, eat garlic, drink cranberry juice, eat soy. But don't take your food as pills. If nature had meant for us to consume concentrates, cranberry pills would grow in the bogs, fish oil pills would swim through the ocean, and garlic pills would grow in the ground.

Q: A TV news magazine recently reported that infants who are constantly held and who sleep in the same bed with their parents turn out to be very well adjusted. Everywhere I go, I see parents lugging their infants around in car seats like sacks of potatoes. I never see them pick the kid up out of the seat. What is your opinion on this type of physical relationship?

A: I share your concern about the babies I see living in little boxes and other "containers." They get carried to the car in plastic boxes, put into plastic car seats and set on tables, in boxes, as if they were paperweights. When they aren't in little plastic playpens, they're hanging from doorframes. Taken altogether, that just doesn't feel right.

However, before we go any further on this subject, let's not throw out all baby seats with the bathwater. Car seats are lifesavers, and no child should be in a car without one. One of the most dangerous places a child can be in a car is on someone's lap. And a child, even in a car seat, should never be in the front seat.

As to your question, there have been lots of experiments on babies and touching, and, not surprisingly, children respond to touching just the way most of us do. Premature babies in a hospital who are held and cuddled, for example, cry less and are calmer than the babies who aren't held, and leave the hospital sooner. Other studies have advised that a crying baby can be calmed just by being in a pack on your body, even if all you are doing is cleaning the kitchen. The contact alone seems to be helpful.

The power of touching plays out among all the animals that we have tested. A wise professor of mine was part of one of the classic research projects on rats. The researchers were injecting rats with a hormone to study its effect. At some point they realized that the reactions they observed were not the rats' responses to the hormone, but to being picked up and held for the shot. As a control, they picked up some rats without injecting them and that group had the same response as the group that was getting the hormone.

When it comes to sleeping, there is some controversy. In many cultures it is routine for babies to sleep with their parents. Yet some studies show a risk to the baby. You can injure a baby if you roll onto him or her, and they can be smothered. Other studies have found these are rare occurrences. I think wanting to be close to one's baby is a natural response. Just look at primates sitting around, holding their babies, sleeping with their babies. It is not a surprise that some parents want to do that, too.

Q: Is there really a kind of depression that only happens in the winter? My sister says that's what she has, but I'm skeptical, because she tends to be a hypochondriac.

A: Well, your sister may be a hypochondriac, but you need to be more supportive, because it's very possible she has been diagnosed with seasonal affective disorder (SAD). It's a real ailment and very treatable.

With SAD, the onset of depression-like symptoms is probably linked to sunlight -- or lack of it. As the seasons change, some folks' biological clocks are thrown out of sync. Melatonin fluctuation may trigger symptoms of depression, and it is produced at increased levels in the dark. The worse months are usually January and February, and women are at higher risk. These same people usually have no signs of depression in spring and summer.

One treatment is called "bright-light therapy," but some patients respond to just being outdoors during daylight for more time in the winter than they might be on a normal summer day. Antidepressants are also used to treat SAD.

Of course, there are people who hear about this illness and convince themselves they have it. I'm not saying that's the case with your sister, but it is possible.

The foregoing is excerpted from Life Liberty, and the Pursuit of Healthiness by Dr. Dean Edell. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced without written permission from HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022.