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Would You Know What to Do If You Were Having a Stroke? HGH Giving a Boost of Youth to Hollywood; Ride of a Lifetime; How Healthy is Your City?

Aired April 26, 2008 - 08:30   ET


This is HOUSE CALL. We're making the rounds this morning of the most intriguing medical stories of the week.

First up, would you know what to do if you were having a stroke? Why the first three hours could be crucial to your recovery.

And it's all about image, what people in Hollywood are turning to for a boost of youth.

And the ride of a lifetime, would you take the risk? I did. Watch and see what happens.

Plus, how healthy is your city? We'll tell you all of this and more at HOUSE CALL.

We start, though, with the news about a disease that kills one person every three to four minutes. Could cost Americans more than $65 billion this year. We're talking about strokes. And the American Stroke Association released some new information this week.

Joining us to talk about it, Dr. Nieca Goldberg, cardiologist from New York University. Welcome back to the show.

NIECA GOLDBERG, DR., CARDIOLOGIST: Thank you. Good to see you.

GUPTA: This was an interesting conference, sounds like. First of all, the thing that really struck me was women in their 30s, 40s and 50s having strokes. You typically think about this as an older person's disease and typically men. What's going on?

GOLDBERG: Younger women and we find it's related to obesity. We used to think that the leading risk factor for stroke was high blood pressure. But in this younger group of women, it's obesity. And it's related the thing -- one of the bad things that obesity does -- raise blood sugar.

GUPTA: We're starting to see the ramifications of the obesity epidemic. We talk about this a lot. You've written a book specifically about women's health. What are some of the things that women should look for if they're concerned that they might be having a stroke? I mean, is it different in women versus men?

GOLDBERG: Some of the symptoms are similar, some are different. You know, typical symptoms -- a sudden headache, weakness of the face, arm or leg, difficulty speaking, dizziness, feeling a lack of coordination.

But in this particular conference, what they found is women just experience a generalized feeling of fatigue or disorientation. So it's really important for everyone to know all the signs of a stroke, because oftentimes a person who's having a stroke may not be able to call 911 themselves. So we need families, and neighbors, and everyone in the community to know about stroke symptoms.

GUPTA: Yes, my wife's in her 30s. And she would tell you that she has generalized fatigue all the time. I mean, we have two small children. What -- I mean, how does she know seriously, though, when she should be calling somebody?

GOLDBERG: You know, it all comes down to knowing what your risk for stroke is. And certainly, as I mentioned, obesity and high blood pressure family history and smoking. You know if you're just fatigued because you're overworked. You're not getting enough sleep, or you're just doing too many things. When a person is having a stroke, this is an often a very sudden and scary feeling.

GUPTA: Right, right.

GOLDBERG: And you need to get help.

GUPTA: So it comes out pretty quickly. Where do you come down on supplements? The people talk about fish oil, for example a lot, in terms of warding off heart disease, warding off stroke. Good idea? Waste of money?

GOLDBERG: It's a waste of money.

GUPTA: Really?

GOLDBERG: Fish oil supplements don't reduce risk of heart attack or stroke. And that has been documented in a number of medical studies. What we do know is that if you eat two servings of fish a week, you have a lower risk of heart attack and stroke. So you eat it in your food. Don't take the pill.

GUPTA: Get the food instead of the pills. But may save some money and taste better, too, by the way.

We got a lot of e-mail questions coming in, particularly about stroke. One from Ken in Ohio, who asks this. "My wife suffered a stroke last June and has since been dealing with intense feelings about dread and generalized anxiety. Is there information regarding this topic?"

You know, you think about stroke and all of the things that you mentioned, but what about some of the longer term psychological ramifications?

GOLDBERG: It's very common and more common than you might think. But oftentimes, the stroke patient really stays home and doesn't express these feelings to their families. It's really important for the patient and the caregiver to talk to their doctor and also, look at the American Stroke Association Web site or American Heart Association Web site for more information.

GUPTA: One final thing that sounds interesting. Cat owners, are they more likely, less likely to develop strokes? What was the deal there?

GOLDBERG: Cat owners are less likely to have strokes. And actually pet owners in general are less likely to have heart attacks and strokes. And that is related to the concept of social support.

So you have your cat or your dog, social support. And if you're allergic to pets, having good friends and family members are also a good network for social support.

GUPTA: That's probably good for all aspects of your health. Hey, thanks for being here. Good luck with the book as well.

GOLDBERG: Thank you.

GUPTA: Really important stuff. Dr. Nieca Goldberg, thank you.

Now you've probably heard some allegations of steroid use swirling around some big name athletes. But performance-enhancing drugs go far beyond the big leagues. In fact, they could be reaching the stars. Recent reports show that while some celebrities are aging gracefully, others may be getting a boost.

David Mattingly has this report from Hollywood.


DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Hollywood, it's all about image. And relatively young stars could be the latest wave of customers turning to performance-enhancing substances.

When people come to you, what are they looking for?

ANDRE BERGER, DR., PRESCRIBES HGH: Well, they come for generally two reasons. They want to feel better and they want to look better.

MATTINGLY: At the Rejuvalife Vitality Institute in Beverly Hills, Dr. Andre Berger sees a growing number of stars spending up to $15,000 a year on HGH, an injectable human growth hormone that some patients and doctors claim can reduce fat, build muscle, and boost energy.

But where he used to see middle aged patients, Berger's now getting calls from Hollywood 30 somethings wanting HGH. Some critics say HGH is nothing more than a dangerous placebo, elevating risks of cancer and diabetes. The FDA says HGH should only be prescribed for adults with a rare growth hormone deficiency or muscle loss from AIDS.

But older Hollywood has its own ideas. Suzanne Somers says HGH helped her make 60 the new 40. Sylvester Stallone at 61 defends HGH as a way to reduce physical wear and tear.

Dennis Pelino isn't a movie star, but he lives like one. And after taking HGH for five years, this businessman doesn't look or feel like he's 60.

DENNIS PELINO, USES HGH: The only competitive advantage is I can keep up with people a lot younger than me. I'm not trying to set records, I'm just trying to stay in the game. I'm doing business here.

MATTINGLY: Pelino says he's been diagnosed with a growth hormone deficiency. Dr. Berger says one in four patients has a deficiency and is prescribed HGH for limited periods of time. He says many seeking a shot from a fountain of youth are turned down and surprised to learn that all those Hollywood hard bodies still demand good diets and lots of work.

David Mattingly, CNN, Los Angeles.


GUPTA: Searching the Web beyond reliable sources. Places you might have never thought to look.

And later in the show ...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Watch those legs, take a deep breath.




GUPTA: We'll see what the G forces of a powerful plane can do to your body. You're not going to want to miss my flight of a lifetime. Stay with us.


GUPTA: Welcome back to HOUSE CALL. You know, doctors hand out free samples to be helpful. And they save you a few dollars up front, but could actually end up costing you more in the long run.

In this week's "Empowered Patient," Elizabeth Cohen explains why you may want to think twice before saying yes to samples.


ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Sanjay, we've all heard the expression there's no such thing as a free lunch. Well, there may be no such thing as a free drug sample either.

Consumer advocates are urging patients to say just no to those free drug samples that doctors hand out in their office. Many medical centers have stopped using them all together. Now you may be thinking what could possibly be wrong with something that's free?

Well, here's the problem. The samples are often for the most expensive drugs on the market. The samples might get you through a few weeks or maybe a month, but after that, you're on your own. You'll have to pay for this expensive drug.

Now you might be thinking, here's what I'll do. I'll use the free samples of the expensive medicine, and then ask my doctor to switch to the cheaper medication. Unfortunately, that won't always work. Doctors are often hesitant to switch drugs.

So here are some tips for what to do when you're offered free samples. First, ask your doctor if there's a less expensive alternative drug that would work just as well. If you forget to do that and you're hit by sticker shock at the pharmacy, ask the pharmacist to call your doctor and suggest a less expensive drug. Many pharmacists are happy to do so.

Finally, don't be embarrassed to talk to your doctor if you're having trouble paying for your medications. With the price of drugs these days, there's nothing to be embarrassed about and you're in good company.

One survey at a private practice doctor's office in Minnesota found that 40 percent of the patients said that they had skipped taking some of their medications because they couldn't afford it.

In my "Empowered Patient" column this week, we have many more tips for saving money on prescriptions. Did you know, for example, there are Web sites you can go to find out if there's a cheaper alternative to a drug that you're taking? To get those Web sites, go to patient.


GUPTA: Now the flight of a lifetime, traveling supersonic in an F-18. Follow me inside the cockpit for a wild ride and find out how pilots manage the incredible stress placed on their bodies. And ...


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It kind of gives you a dizzy sensation. And it gives you the feeling of being in a fun house.


GUPTA: Finding your balance in the most unlikely of places. Stay with us.


GUPTA: Those are the Blue Angels there, the Navy's performance elite flying team. What an amazing thing to watch. You can go for a ride with them as well. We went up to supersonic speeds with a series of turns, climbs and loops.

As a doctor, the science of how these pilots say conscious and aware is absolutely fascinating, considering what their bodies are fighting constantly, gravity.


GUPTA (voice-over): Flying in a high performance jet is an unforgiving lesson in the power of gravity and physiology.

(on camera): Now I have all this physiology, got this all in my head. So I get to actually do something that I rarely get to do as a doctor. I get to experience something that I've only learned about in textbooks.

(voice-over): Within seconds, I experienced something most humans never will. More than six Gs. My body experienced more than six times the force of gravity. Whoa, geez. Everything from the skin on my face, to the organs in my body were pushed back toward the ground.

During an inverted roll, yes, these planes do fly upside down, my vision started becoming blurry and gray. It's called graying out. At four Gs, you lose color vision, at four-and-a-half Gs, you can go temporarily blind. Higher Gs, and your lungs collapse, making it hard to breathe. And the blood pools in your legs. I may have lost consciousness.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dr. Gupta, are you with me?

GUPTA: Here's something maybe you didn't know. Being a tall pilot is not the best thing. Why? Simply because the distance between the heart and the brain is further.

Here's something else. It's not speed, but change and direction that pulls on your body. The F-18 I flew in broke the sound barrier, flying at more than 800 miles an hour. And it didn't feel like much at all.

Pilots have their own ways of combating "G" forces. They strengthen their lower bodies. That helps them when they squeeze the muscles in their legs, buttocks, and abdominal muscles during gravity defying maneuvers. That keeps blood from pulling away from their brains, which can cause blindness or blackouts.

It takes a lot of training. These anti-G techniques are critical to protecting them in their precision flying demonstrations. Last year, a Blue Angels pilot crashed during a show in South Carolina. It's reported that a Navy investigation concluded the pilot became disoriented after failing to take steps to counter the gravitational forces.

Flying commercially, we typically don't go higher than 1.3 Gs. And the closest most of us get to feeling high forces of gravity is at the amusement park. But keep in mind even the most hair raising rides don't reach four Gs, nor does the space shuttle, which only hits 3.5 Gs.

Truth is, it was a once in a lifetime experience. I think I'll keep it that way.


GUPTA: Now of course, you don't need to be pulling seven Gs to feel ill. Motion sickness can happen just about any time you're moving. It's all about conflicting messages. Think of it like that. Your entire body is always working to orient itself. Your eyes, your skin, your inner ear, your central nervous system all sending signals.

Here's how it works. Say you're in a car reading a book. Your inner ear, that's the control center for balance, well -- it sort of figures out that you're moving. Now take a look at these canals specifically. They have fluid moving through them constantly. And that fluid sort of gives you an idea that, in fact, your body is moving.

Meanwhile, your eyes, another key source of balance, only sees the page of a book. And it's not moving, oops, a conflicting message. And that's when motion sickness can set in.

And if that's not enough to still disorient you, coming up, there's more news to keep your head spinning like mine was on that flight. Millions of Americans suffer from chronic dizziness or imbalance. Could purposely throwing you off balance actually keep you on your two feet? Hang on, we'll tell you.


GUPTA: We're back with HOUSE CALL. You know, Albert Einstein once said life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you got to keep moving. Unfortunately, as we age, that might be easier said than done.

Previously on, keeping your balance came in second on our quick vote. We brought you the report on cold and flu last week.

So for those who voted on balance, we turn now to Judy Fortin with more.


JUDY FORTIN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): No, she's not getting into an amusement ride.


FORTIN: She straps on a harness, puts on 3-D glasses, and stands on a moving platform surrounded by huge screens. To throw her off balance to see how she recovers.

TANGIA BOYD, KEEPING HER BALANCE: It kind of gives you a dizzy sensation. And it gives you the feeling of being in a fun house. FORTIN: More than six million people in this country suffer from chronic dizziness or imbalance. And those numbers are expected to grow, as our population gets older. The Temple lab is set up to see how the central nervous system handles movement in a natural setting. That's because all our senses help keep us balanced. When that changes, it can knock us off stride.

EMILY KESHNER, PHYSICAL THERAPY, TEMPLE UNIV.: If you have an impairment in the sensation in your limbs, your balance will become impaired. If you lose your inner ear sensors, the stimulus system, your balance is impaired.

FORTIN: In our 30s, watch minor injuries. They can play a big role in balance control. Athlete will favor one side of their bodies if they've hurt a foot or leg and begin to lose their stability. Also, posture plays a role in keeping your balance. The earlier you correct it, the better your balance will be later in life. Yoga and Tai Chi can help at any age.

KESHNER: Those are actually good in two ways. One, they'll strengthen you. But two, they also make you pay more attention to the input you're getting from your limbs.

FORTIN: In our 40s and 50s, our senses begin to change. Our hearing isn't as good, our eyesight may need to be corrected. But by keeping senses intact, balance problems can be avoided. And getting plenty of sleep makes a difference.

KESHNER: Whether you're aware and alert is going to impact on whether you can stay balanced.

FORTIN: Doctors find people in their 40s and 50s subconsciously begin to rely on handrails and other supports to keep them upright. In some cases, grocery stores packed from floor to ceiling can cause some people to lose their sense of staying upright, known as supermarket syndrome, which can cause a person to fall for no reason.

KESHNER: A lot of the time, there's so many things going on around us, we can't always pay attention to everything that's happening. And so being able to figure out what we should pay attention to -- that's important becomes a processing problem.

FORTIN: With data from this project, researchers hope to develop tools that can help people keep their balance even as they age, which will hopefully cut down on accidental falls and injuries as we reach our golden years.

Judy Fortin, CNN, Atlanta.


GUPTA: All right, Judy thanks.

Later in the show, you won't want to miss something important. Getting healthy in jail? That's right, you heard me correctly. We'll tell you what's on the menu at New York City's prisons. And when it comes to your waistline, where you live may be just as important as what you eat. Is your city one of the fittest and healthiest? You'll find out next. Stay with us.


GUPTA: We're back with HOUSE CALL. People need to live healthier lives, eat smart, be fit, live well. Something we all strive for, but admittedly, it's not always easy.

"Cooking Light" magazine ranked the 20 best cities in the United States. The question is does your city fit the bill of health?


GUPTA: It's a list you want your city to be on, but the bar is high when it comes to determining the healthiest metro areas in the United States. For the editors of "Cooking Light", the Pacific Northwest is leading the country.

PHILLIP RHODES, SR. EDITOR, COOKING LIGHT: Seattle did come very close with Portland. But there were a couple of areas in which it really excelled.

GUPTA: So what did the magazine consider when it gave Seattle and Portland the top spots?

RHODES: Does it have park land? Does it have places to exercise? Are they well maintained? Is there access to fresh ingredients, fresh foods, farmers markets?

GUPTA: This access to healthy food is a critical component for cutting obesity and overweight numbers in any city.

Washington, D.C. is on board with that. The abundance of farm fresh foods plus a pedestrian friendly attitude placed the capitol on the list at number three.

A relatively healthy population and nicely maintained parks earned Minneapolis a spot in number four. And "Cooking Light" noted the great cuisine of San Francisco, the fifth place finisher.

Cities that didn't make the list should follow this advice.

RHODES: I would encourage someone to really examine what tools exist. What people really need are tools.

GUPTA: But access is only half the battle. The rest of course is up to you.


GUPTA: And one of those top cities is now serving, get this, tofu and steamed carrots to some of its most hardened citizens. That story after the break.


GUPTA: New York City inmates are getting healthier whether they want to or not. I love the story. The Department of Corrections is banning sweets and butter from city jails. They're also unveiling a new healthy menu, fresh fruit, whole wheat bread, and cereal are the breakfast choices. For dinner, pepper steak, rice, and steamed carrots.

The corrections commissioner says the menu doesn't cost the city any more, could actually save some money by keeping inmates healthy. I'm not exactly sure what they ate before all this.

Well, thanks for watching. I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Make sure to tune in next weekend for all the answers to all of your medical questions. Stay where you are, though. This weekend's top stories are next in the CNN NEWSROOM.