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Sick on Vacation; Performance Enhancing Drugs; How Does Dara Torres Do It?; More McConaughey

Aired August 16, 2008 - 08:30   ET


SANJAY GUPTA, HOST: Good morning and welcome to HOUSECALL, the show that helps you living longer and stronger. I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
First up, the oldest Olympic swimmer to ever win a medal. Her name is Dara Torres. Just how does this 41-year old mother do it? We've got all the details. And powerful performance enhancement drugs, some athletes use them to win gold, but we investigate the enormous price those athletes may end up paying later in life.

Plus, what happens if you get sick on vacation? I'm not talking about the beach here, but if you're overseas, do you know where to go, where to turn? We're going to give you a plan. Finally, Matthew McConauhey, he's back, part 2, fills us on the two pieces of advice his late father gave him. That's going to help guide his own son's life.

We start, though, with a study out of this week which shows low levels of the sunshine vitamin, Vitamin D, are linked to an increased risk of death. That's right. While other studies have found low levels of a vitamin may be linked to heart issues and cancer, this study did not find that. Only that those people who had the lowest levels of Vitamin D had the highest risk of death from any cause. We're going to investigate that a little bit further.

There's also something else that caught my eye, clumsy kids may grow up to be obese. A new study out of London says it all has to do with poor hand, eye coordination. Now they tested thousands of British children as part of a 50 year long study. And it warns of a higher risk of Type 2 diabetes in those children later in life.

Well, now this weekend, Olympic swimmer Dara Torres is going for another medal in Beijing. It's amazing. The 41-year old mom is beating kids that are half her age. She's already got a silver medal in the 4 by 100 freestyle relay. And that's the 10th metal of her career.

So how does she do it?


DARA TORRES: It doesn't really matter how old you are.

SANJAY GUPTA, HOST (voice-over): In a sport where the average age of national championship competitors is just 20-years old, Torres is shattering the odds.

TORRES: Kind of forget that sometimes I'm so much older than them, but the minute I'm on the blocks, I feel like I'm their age.

GUPTA: And she's taking regular blood and urine tests to answer any suspicions of doping. So far, she's clean.

Her Olympic career began 24 years ago. Over the years, she's battled bulimia, knee surgeries, and bone spurs. So how is she still dominating? Her height, long arms, big hands, exercise physiologists says she has the perfect swimmer's genes.

JOEL STAGER, INDIANA UNIVERSITY: Genetics does play a role. Talking about one percent or less of the population that has that genotype.

GUPTA: But good genetics aren't enough. Her training regimen is custom tailored for her age.

TORRES: My body is a 41-year old body. And I just can't get in the pool nine times a week. The biggest obstacle I have is recovery. It's about allowing my body to recover so I can come back the next day and perform at a high level.

GUPTA: Her team includes coaches, a chiropractor, masseurs, stretchers who use their feet and hands to knead her limbs. She calls resistance stretching her secret weapon. Muscles are contracted and stretched at the same time to increase flexibility and power.

STAGER: Dara is definitely working smarter. A sprinter has to be smart.

GUPTA: Which is why the 15 mile freestyle, a race that can be as quick as 25 seconds, may be best suited for someone in their 40s. Longer races may be tougher with age, as endurance tends to decrease.

TORRES: I'm proving that you can be 41 and you can follow your dreams and that age is just a number.


GUPTA: Now with about 4500 doping tests being done, Olympic officials are pledging to make the Beijing Games clean. Now already, two athletes have tested positive for banned substances at the games. Now (INAUDIBLE) wonder is if these athletes know what damage they might be doing to their bodies by taking these drugs? Good question. And CNN's Frederick Pleitgen has this amazing story of former Olympians paying the price.


FREDERICK PLEITGEN: Andreas Krieger has an amazing collection of medals. This is the invitation to the Olympic team, he says. But the former East German shot put star says the honors mean nothing to him. He calls them doping medals. When he won them, he was a woman, then named Heidi Krieger. Heidi Krieger was one of East Germany's most promising athletes, the 1986 European women's shot put champion. But he says after having been fed steroids for years without his knowledge, there were problems. I felt much more attracted to women and just felt like a man, but I knew I was not lesbian, he says. In only year, Heidi Krieger's physique changed from this to this. Finally, in 1997, Heidi Krieger underwent a sex change and began Andreas. Krieger is among an estimated 10,000 East German athletes thought to have been given performance enhancing drugs. Krieger says he had no idea his coaches were feeding him anabolic steroids called Uraltrobinol (ph). They told him he was taking vitamin pills.

In the 1970s and '80s, the German Democratic Republic was one of the most successful nations at Olympic games. But all along, steroids were fueling the communist medal machine.

And the former athletes are still paying the price. Like Birgit Boese, herself once a shot putter. Today, she says, her body is a wreck

I have kidney and liver problems, she says. My body started to become more masculine. I have heart problems. When I quit sports, I had the female organs of an 11-year-old.

But the athletes we talked to say they fear too little has been learned from their plight. Experts say doping remains a major issue. And they fear soon athletes could try to use gene therapy for better physical performance, so-called gene doping.

It means the body will basically dope itself and the human monster will be a reality, says Willi Heepe (ph). If today's athletes say they want to take the risk, they really don't know what risk they are taking, Andreas Krieger says. He has since married and now owns an Army surplus story. Krieger says he's tired of being portrayed as a victim and is taking his life into his own hands. Heidi Krieger, Andreas says, is long dead.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Berlin.


GUPTA: Wow, Fred, a remarkable story there. We're going to continue following the Olympic doping story and bring you the latest, of course.

And now the recent death, though, of actor/comedian Bernie Mac has raised some concerns about the risks of pneumonia. I'm going to answer your questions about that in our ask the doctor segment. And there's nothing worse than getting sick overseas. How do you get the care you need? We're going to give you a plan. And later, any new parent has a whole new list of concerns. But dealing with the paparazzi? Well, Matthew McConaughey fills us in on fatherhood in Hollywood. Stay tuned.


GUPTA: You know, 64 million Americans traveled abroad in 2007 and AAA estimates China will host more than 570,000 U.S. tourists this summer, largely due to the Olympics as you might imagine. But whether you're cheering in Beijing or visiting the queen, getting sick can be a scary experience, especially if you're so far from home.

Even before you leave the house, there are things you can do to have a healthier vacation. Elizabeth Cohen joins us now with some tips. I don't think I've gone on vacation where I haven't gotten sick.


GUPTA: Particularly after I've...

COHEN: Well, you'd definitely (INAUDIBLE).

GUPTA: Well, what do I need to be doing ahead of time? I mean, how can I prepare for this?

COHEN: There are things that you can do ahead of time. And that's really important. So lets go over a couple of those. First of all, experts tell me take antibiotics with you if you're going to a place where the food or water might be dicey. And you'll have to ask your doctor for a prescription for that, obviously. Also, consider travel insurance. Your U.S. insurance may mean nada or nothing wherever you're going. Also, watch where you swim. And Sanjay, I'll tell you, I hadn't really thought about this one before. Watch what you eat and drink. But just swimming in water that has bad things in it can give you skin infections, eye infections, all sorts of nasty things.

GUPTA: You know, one of the things as well, adventure vacations seem more popular for particularly brave travelers. Anything in particular about that? I mean, I was in West Africa recently. And I don't know if it was an adventure vacation. It was more for work, but I mean, anything particular about those sorts of places?

COHEN: Well, if you're going to a place that has some political unrest and some of these adventure trips are to places like that...

GUPTA: Right.

COHEN: should definitely go to the State Department website. They have alerts for things that are going on in particularly unstable areas of the world. And we give you the site in our column this week.

And also, another thing I didn't know -- maybe you knew this because you travel more than I do to sort of strange places, did you know that you can register your trip with the State Department? If you're going to some place that things are a little bit dicey? You can let them know where you're going to be at all times in case they need to come pluck you out.

GUPTA: I haven't had them come pluck me out...


GUPTA: But I've never actually registered ahead of time. That's good advice. You got any good trips coming up?

COHEN: New York.

GUPTA: The jungles of Manhattan.

COHEN: But I'm thinking OK about that. Exactly.

GUPTA: Elizabeth, thanks so much.


GUPTA: As always, great tips. And you can read the full list of Elizabeth's travel tips and some unbelievable horror stories as well on her website, patient.

Coming up, actor and new father Matthew Mcconaughey talks about his newest adventure, fatherhood. That's just ahead.

And you too busy to cook? Love ordering out? Hmm, sounds familiar. You're going to want to hear about this healthy new option that is delivered right to your door.

Plus, I'll answer your medical questions in our segment called "ask the doctor." Stay tuned to HOUSECALL.


GUPTA: And we are back with HOUSECALL. Now as any new parent knows, the excitement of having a new baby is tempered with concerns about being a good parent. I talked with box office sensation Matthew McConaughey about becoming a new dad, his new title. We talked about things like diet, whether he has concerns about vaccines, and the advice that he's going to pass on to his son from his late father.


GUPTA: Are you worried about vaccines and the links to autism?

MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY, ACTOR: I mean, obviously, the idea of vaccinating is in an ideal world, upside down and backwards. But the world we live in right now, I understand why. But we're going slow with the vaccines. You know, there's a lot of vaccines that are given for things that there hasn't been a case of, in this area, in America in years in years in decades.

GUPTA: Sure.

MCCONAUGHEY: So we're just - we're going slowly with that.

GUPTA: Probably vaccination...

MCCONAUGHEY: We ask the pediatrician who's shepherding us through that and giving us the - you know, we're trying to get common sense on these things...

GUPTA: Right.

MCCONAUGHEY: ...before we make a move.

GUPTA: Diet wise, obviously, he's breastfeeding now. MCCONAUGHEY: Yes.

GUPTA: But you know, as far as diet goes, is he going to be an all organic eater? Or how are you going to pick foods?

MCCONAUGHEY: Well, we're going to go - I have the privilege of being able to go organic. So we're going to go that way. We -- you know, our family are meat eaters. We love our meat. So it's not going to be necessarily a vegetarian unless he wants to be.

The one thing that he won't have - we're not going to be a household that has the -- you come over and get some great food at the Mcconaughey's house, but we're not going to have bubble gum, the Coca Colas...

GUPTA: Right.

MCCONAUGHEY: ...and all the candy. GUPTA: You said you're a story teller, which is interesting.


GUPTA: Anything that your father ever tell you that you're going to tell Levi? Advice from your father?

MCCONAUGHEY: Oh, yes. My dad's two basics still hold true to this day. It's don't lie and don't say "I can't."

GUPTA: That's interesting.

MCCONAUGHEY: Very simple, but I think those two can take you a long way.

GUPTA: Served you well.

MCCONAUGHEY: I mean, you know, you lie, you start leaving crumbs. You start leaving crumbs, you gain stress because you have to look over your shoulder. I mean, I believe - I mean, stress is the worst disease we have going, you know. The one that sends us to the grave quicker than anything, in my opinion.

Now, don't say can't was a great one because I remember Dad would - say dad, I can't get the lawn mower started. He goes, I'm sorry, you what? I can't get the lawn mower started. He goes you what? Oh, yes, dad, I'm having trouble getting the lawn mower started. He'd go there we go, let's go check it out, see if we can fix it.

It was always I'm having trouble, never c-a-n-t. Nasty word in our family. And that will be a nasty word to Levi.

GUPTA: As well. There's paparazzi. There's people who follow you guys around. Obviously, you did a magazine shoot...


GUPTA: ...with Levi. How did that all come about? How do you feel about all that?

MCCONAUGHEY: Yes, a good question. Here's the situation. I mean, OK, I'm someone who the world will take pictures of. Those pictures can make money.

Now first pictures of us with the child, and our child can make paparazzi a lot of money...

GUPTA: Right.

MCCONAUGHEY: A lot of money. These guys get pictures of our child and the money goes in their pockets. And they're, you know, running around, doing what they do with it. Let's do an exclusive with a photographer and a magazine. And let's get the money. And 100% of that money, let's put it into the Just Keep Living Foundation. Let's put it into our charity that we believe in, that's a good place to put it.

GUPTA: That's right.

MCCONAUGHEY: So let's flip that. So as soon as those pictures and that magazine come out, the bubble is burst on the price of any pictures that those paparazzi can get after that.

So now we can relax and go out with Levi and into the world and, you know, make sure that when they're around, they don't get up in our face and don't come too close, what have you. But we don't have to run around with Levi covered, you know. I mean, and we're not going to do that.

GUPTA: You and Camille are obviously well known, very good looking people. Is this going to be a burden in any way for Levi? He's got a lot to live up to.

MCCONAUGHEY: Damn right he does. That's a major burden. If something like oh, I've got famous parents and I can't get out of their shadow? If that kind of thing were -- I've got a little road trip we'll to take to Africa that will sober things right up for him.

GUPTA: I'm sure you do.

MCCONAUGHEY: No, we're going to - we're living a little higher than that, a little better than that, yes. I don't believe that will be a burden. That's a high-class burden is what I would be saying.

GUPTA: And for more of my interview with Matthew Mcconaughey, just click over to Click on my podcast. We're going to have the entire interview for you there.

Now forget drive thoughs and take-out menus. This couple found a new way to eat that's not only speedy, but healthy as well. That's so important. And it's right after the break.


GUPTA: Welcome back to HOUSECALL. You know, the average American adult eats out more than five times a week, that's a fact. Spending almost half their food budget eating meals cooked outside of the home. But although take-out and drive throughs may be convenient, as you probably know, they can also expand your waistline.

So many are turning to a new trend in dining that's both convenient and healthy.


GUPTA (voice-over): Drive-throughs and take-out for busy young professionals Tiffany Hoffine and her husband, eating was all about convenience.

TIFFANY HOFFINE: We're going non-stop. I did not have wonderful eating habits before, because I was always going for what was convenient. And what's convenient is not generally healthy. And it's not generally inexpensive.

GUPTA: They were desperate for change. So Tiffany signed up for a new service in Atlanta called Fresh and Fit, that drops off ready- made, healthy meals right in her neighborhood.

BRETT MCINTYRE: This is the kitchen where we make everything here at Fresh and Fit Cuisine.

GUPTA: Executive chef Brett Mcintyre overseas about 20 lines cooks in the Fresh and Fit kitchen and makes sure the food tastes good.

MCINTYRE: There's sandwiches, there's wraps, everything from Caesar salad on to burgers and pastas.

GUPTA: Registered dietitian Ashley Owings makes sure it's all healthy.

ASHLEY OWINGS, REGISTERED DIETICIAN: We have two meal plans, a 1,200 and a 2,000 calories. I would say it's not necessarily a diet plan, it's more of a lifestyle. And it also teaches you how to incorporate the right portion.

GUPTA: Eight months into the program, Tiffany says it has become a lifestyle change. She's eating better, understands what a true portion size looks like, and she's lost weight.

HOFFINE: I did not start doing this to lose weight. But just as a side, fringe benefit, I've lost about ten pounds since the beginning of the year without feeling that I've deprived myself of anything.

GUPTA: In case you're curious, Fresh and Fit menu plans start at $18 a day.


GUPTA: So there's an option for some of you out there.

Coming up next, they say a moment on the lips, lifetime on the hips. You may have heard that. But just how long does it take for last night's dinner to change from food to fat? We tackle that question and much more in our "ask the doctor" segment coming up after the break. Stay tuned to HOUSECALL.


GUPTA: And we are back with HOUSECALL. It's time for our "ask the doctor" segment, the chance to answer the medical questions that are on your minds. And here's our first question.

KAY, CALLER: Hi, this is Kay from Olympia, Washington. And I'm very sad that Bernie Mac has passed away from pneumonia at such a young age. I wonder if Dr. Gupta could speak about the dangers of pneumonia, and how to protect ourselves?

GUPTA: Kay, you know, we all watched Bernie Mac. And he was a remarkable comedian. We watched the story about him getting sick. It's important to keep in mind that pneumonia is a very serious condition. It actually kills more than 60,000 Americans every year.

Now it's caused by an inflammation of the lungs, usually due to an infection. Pneumonia is a particular concern for older adults and for those with immune systems who are compromised by some sort of illness, whether it be diabetes, heart disease or cancer.

In Bernie Mac's case, he had a pre-existing lung condition that did put him at greater risk, called Sarcoidosis, but even healthy people can get it when their immune system is weakened for some reason or another.

So some ways to keep your immune system strong. Get your annual flu shot. Wash your hands frequently. We talk about that all the time. So important. Avoid cigarette smoke. And of course, exercise regularly.

Now here's another question from Susan in Texas, who asks this. "If I overeat this weekend, how soon will that additional pound or two or many more show up on the scale?"

Well, Susan, this is a common question. Many people will notice a half to a four-pound increase on the scale the very next day, depending on what they ate. Don't panic, though. Most of this is just water weight, not actual fat. But experts tell us eating healthfully the next following days will actually help equalize the calories

And consider this. Do a little math with me. 3,500 calories is equal to one pound of fat. So for example, if you consistently eat 2,300 a day, but only burn 1,800, the extra 500 is stored as fat. After seven days, you guessed it, that's 3,500 calories or a pound.

The important thing to remember is that burning more calories than you eat is going to keep off the extra pounds. Simple math there.

Well, unfortunately, that's all the time we have for today. Remember, this is the place for the answers to all of your medical questions. Thanks for watching. I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Stay tuned now for more news on CNN.