Are Broken Bones Stronger After They Heal?

Perhaps you have heard this pseudo-fact, or ‘old wives tale’? the logic goes like this: Since we know that bones, just like muscles, grow and strengthen when worked out or put under pressure, therefore the more pressure the bone is under, the stronger it will become. This is a fact, but only up to a point. This explains why certain athletes, such as fencers and tennis players, develop greater bone mass in the arms and legs which they use more in their game; and it also explains why astronauts, under the influence of almost zero gravity, develop bone loss while in space.

However, there is no evidence that a healed broken bone is any stronger than it was before the break. The way a bone heals itself is a remarkable process. First something called a callus forms at the site of the fracture. Calcium is deposited there as an aid to the eventual rebuilding of the bone. The plaster cast which is usually put on the limb is there to protect the site so that it can heal unimpeded. And since there is actually no pressure placed on the limb during healing, the bone there actually becomes weaker, with the exception of the site where the callus is being formed, the place where calcium is being deposited.

The result of this amazing natural process is that there might be a short period during the healing process when the site of the fracture is actually stronger than the bone surrounding it. But later, when you begin to use your arm once again, the areas will reach equal strength. The place of the break is no more, or less, likely to break again. In tests done on healed fractures, the likelihood of another break was equally distributed, including along the place of the previous fracture.

I wouldn’t be too disappointed. After all, how many other things are even as strong as they were before  breaking? That’s the problem with those old wives tales. They just don’t appreciate what we do have.

Beware of Hormone Pills for Menopause

For women taking hormone pills for menopause – they now have one more thing to worry about their health. As part of an analysis about hormone pills and the possibility of kidney stones, Dr. Naim Maalouf and his team analyzed government research.  Out of the 24,000 postmenopausal women taking either hormones or dummy pills in the study, those who were using hormones were 21% more likely to develop kidney stones over a five year period.

Dr. Naim Maalouf cautioned that women who are thinking of taking hormone pills should weigh the benefit against the risk of kidney stones. Certainly, they should also be aware of potential other health problems including breast cancers, heart attacks, and other serious problems that have been linked to these pills.

The results of this study indicate that in the course of a year, out of 10,000 postmenopausal women taking hormones, five would develop kidney stones who wouldn’t have developed them otherwise.

Beware of Loan Sharks

Loan sharks are simply awful and should be avoided at all times.  Everyone knows that basic fact but, when one is desperate, it seems like it can be forgotten.  Unfortunately that is when the loan sharks strike and students are often especially vulnerable to being financially in strife. There’s just the most basic advice here, in fact instruction:  don’t do it.  Don’t be suckered in. It’s never going to help your situation and it will only make things worse.  No matter how badly you are off financially, going to a loan shark will just  make things worse.  Go to a bank, to family, to friends, but never a loan shark.  Speak to a student counselor (pretty much everyone and their dog has gone through financial strife while studying) and don’t let things get on top of you.  But if you do go to a loan shark, just know that you will never get out of paying back huge amounts of money and if you fail to meet these demands, your life will become hell. So just remember this rule:  do anything BUT go to a loan shark.

Worm Might Be Key to Improving Women’s Reproductive Health

A worm commonly used in scientific research, C. Elegans, might hold the secret to helping women to retain their ability to reproduce for a longer span of time and in a healthier manner. It is a sad fact of women’s lives that already by the time they are in their 30s they begin to show a marked decline in their reproductive ability. C. Elegans has this fact in common with women; and just like in women, the worm’s first sign of declining fertility is the lessening of the quality of eggs, rather than their quantity.

This decline in egg quality was found to be caused by the increased secretion of a protein called TGF-beta (transforming growth factor beta) as the worm ages. Amazingly, this very same protein occurs in women as well as in other mammals. In experiments conducted on worms that naturally produced lowered amounts of TGF-beta their reproductive ability was longer and the quality of the eggs remained high.

In women a decline in egg quality can mean an increase in birth defects such as Down syndrome and others. At the moment it is far from certain that the same effect that lowered TGF-beta has on worms will also apply to women, although tests on mice, which are at least also mammals, have shown a similar effect.

The hope is that perhaps one day women entering into their 30s who still want to have children, will be able to take a medication that will perhaps suppress the secretion of TGF-beta, this allowing the production of healthy eggs, which will hopefully lead to healthy babies.

Lifting the Fog of Chemo Brain

Many cancer survivors complain that they deal with “chemo brain” which they describe as a mental fog and an inability to concentrate that continues long after their treatment ends. Now, a new study suggests that this condition may not be due to recent chemo alone.  Researchers, analyzing data gathered from 2001-2006 by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, found that people with a history of cancer were 40% more likely to report memory impairment.

Certainly, these issues may be due to the treatment and to the influence of chemotherapy, but researchers think that they may also be attributed to the disease itself which may change brain chemistry, or to psychological distress.

These findings were recently presented at an American Association for Cancer Research conference in Miami by Pascal Jean-Pierre of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

Dr. Jean-Pierre emphasized that his study shows that “this is a serious national problem” and treatment options may begin to focus on behavioral interventions and medications like antidepressants.

Getting Along with Roommates

Getting along with roommates can often be a very difficult task.  Especially if this is the first time you are sharing with people you don’t know and haven’t chosen.  Indeed, even if you know the person ahead of time but still are not accustomed to sharing such a confined space, it can be challenging at best.  So what should you do to make this as positive an experience as possible?  Or, some might ask, how do you ensure you don’t kill each other by the end of the first semester?  Here are some tried and tested tips:
1)    Set up some ground rules:  you have to sit down at the start of your time together to establish a few ground rules, such as will you be allowing partners to stay overnight?  How is the cleaning going to be managed?  Who is going to be in charge of buying basic supplies?  In a shared room, is there going to be a time for lights out and quiet time? Etc.
2)    Suggest a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly review:  you might not necessarily know 100% what you want right from the start.  So it could be a good idea to set out some basic ground rules but then come back for a review so that nothing is set in stone.
3)    Prioritize:  ask your roommates what’s the most important thing to her about sharing her space and you tell her the same for you.  Make sure you are on the same page.
4)    Always be considerate:  remember that you have no more right to the space than she does and be careful never to abuse that.
5)    Set up some alone time: if it’s important to you not to be crowded the whole time and to be able to spend some time completely alone, ask her if you could each have one afternoon a week in which the other person vacates the room to allow for alone time.  Try to set something up that is mutually beneficial.
6)    Split the room:  if possible (without seeming petty) try to split the room so that you can still maintain your independence and create your own private space.
These are just some basic tips.  The most important piece of advice however is to ensure that the lines of communication stay open at all times; you make sure you are open to hearing her voice and then hopefully she will accord you the same respect.