MANILA, Philippines — This summer, whether one goes to the beach or stays in the boardroom, it is inevitable to be overexposed to the sun.

The sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays add up to other causes of aging: genetics, toxins, smoke and pollution, said esthetics and rejuvenation expert Dr. Cecilia Catapang.

From age 20 onwards, the skin’s anti-oxidation defense and barrier functions begin declining, the doctor said. By age 40 onwards, the skin loses its original functions at the cell level, resulting in visible signs of aging.

Signs of aging

  • Dull skin
  • Wrinkles
  • Sagging muscles
  • Memory loss
  • Gray hair
  • Lack of energy

Aging, according to Catapang, is one of nature’s least understood processes. But scientists like her have identified at least three major causes.

1. The Cellular Clock of Aging Theory

Since many human cells do not continue to reproduce indefinitely, this theory suggests that aging is a result of cells hitting their programmed reproductive limit.

“Normal human fibroblasts have a limited replicative potential and eventually enters a state of irreversible growth arrest,” explained the doctor. “Senescent cells in tissues may accumulate to the point where their strength and functional capacity are compromised.”

Senescence in stem cells limits their regenerative potential, which eventually leads to a progressive loss of tissue strength and functional capacity. Cellular Senescence is commonly triggered by various forms of DNA damage. External sources include ionizing radiation, tobacco smoke, air pollution and genotoxic drugs.

“The body has many cells, so the most important one has to do is to rejuvenate at the cellular level because usually, problems start here. Cell division seizes at a certain point in our lives, according to scientists, leading to diseases and aging,” Catapang expounded.

2. Free radicals cause aging

According to the doctor, free radicals are byproducts of cell oxidation responsible for damaging deoxyribonucleic nucleic acid (DNA) over time and therefore, a cause of cell death. It is believed that consuming antioxidants in food would counteract this process.

“With age, the number of mutant mtDNA increases and the mitochondrial functions decline, leading to increased production of free radicals,” said the doctor.

“As the body metabolizes, when toxins accumulate because the body is low in antioxidants, we start to age and get sick. Oxidative stress happens when there is too much free radicals and this causes sickness.”

3. Age-related changes in the body

Catapang said the time of your life when age-related changes appear depends on a variety of factors, including genetics, culture, harmful food and toxins, overexposure to the sun, pollution and smoke.

Over time, these external factors can lead to tissue damage, hormonal production decline, restricting its ability to maintain and repair cells, tissues and organs.

It can be frustrating when aging signs become more apparent, but the doctor assured that you can slow down aging by trying the following solutions:

  • Fish oil – anti-inflammatories like fish oil fight free radical damage in the body.
  • Avoid white sugar – processed sugar speeds up the aging process by weakening collagen in the skin.
  • Good nutrition – eat a nutritious and balanced diet. Practice moderation in everything.
  • Apply sunscreen or avoid the sun. Sunscreen protects against wrinkles and skin cancer and allows some repair of damaged skin.
  • Get plenty of sleep – seven to nine hours of rest will reduce stress and strengthen memory. Sleep preferably by 10 p.m.
  • Drink water throughout the day. Fine lines can develop as a result of chronic dehydration. Take 10 to 12 glasses daily.
  • Skin care – moisturizers hydrate and act like a protective shield for your skin. Use gentle products, preferably virgin coconut oil-based, to cleanse, tone and moisturize.
  • Eat all your superfoods. These include salmon, walnuts, spinach, buckwheat, beans, avocadoes, berries especially acai, and other fruits and vegetables.
  • Stay active – exercising for 20 minutes, three or four times a week, can make a huge difference to the aging process. Moderate exercise is the absolute way to reduce the effects of aging.
  • Stay cheerful – a positive attitude and outlook keeps immune system strong.
  • Take a natural anti-aging and skin brightening supplement to make sure you are getting all the nutrients you need. Novuskin Lift, said Catapang, is an anti-aging food supplement made of 18 natural ingredients tried and tested in Thailand to be effective.

“The foundation of beauty is good health. And the secret of looking and feeling young is to live a healthy lifestyle," reminded beauty and wellness icon Cory Quirino. "A lifestyle of wellness leads to beauty regardless of age.”

source: Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — What is robotic surgery? Is it an operation on robots? Is it an operation done by robots? Or is it an operation done by a human surgeon who is as stiff as CP30 (the Star Wars robot)? Fortunately, it is none of the above!

 Technology has always been utilized to make our lives easier or to aid us to do things better. This is an exciting time as technology is rapidly evolving. What we only imagined and dreamed about before is now becoming reality.

Robots, though, have been around since the 1970s being utilized in the machine industry or in space travel. Progress has led to the invention of smaller and smaller robots that have varied uses for different industries.

It was only a matter of time that robots would find their way in the medical field.

Robot-assisted laparoscopy

Concomitantly, laparoscopic or "key-hole" surgery was also developing. The need for long and sometimes disfiguring incisions was avoided. Even major operations were later on performed through small incisions. Using specialized long instruments and a vision system, operations were performed through small holes as some would describe this as surgery with chopsticks.

However, unique challenges were encountered in laparoscopy especially in complex procedures. Hence, robot-assisted laparoscopy, otherwise known as robotic surgery, was born.

The robot is utilized as a master-slave equipment. This means that it is under the full and sole control of the operating surgeon. It functions to maximize the surgeons' capabilities and provides the surgeon a three-dimensional view inside the patient's body at 10 times magnification.

Millimeter-sized blood vessels are clearly seen which could have been overlooked by the naked eye. The surgeon's movements are filtered by the robot, eliminating unwanted natural tremors of the human hand. This translates to precise and purposeful movements.

And despite the small-sized instruments and precision movements, the robot still possesses robust strength. There is a unique balance in the gentle touch for fragile tissues and strong movements for tough tissues, all under the control of the surgeon. Moreover, all this can be achieved with just three 8mm to 10mm wounds at the least.

Better operations

What does all this mumbo-jumbo mean for patients? It means patients can be provided with a better operation.

Vision is paramount in surgery. Having a 3D, magnified, "inside the patient" view facilitates the surgeon's identification of important structures and oftentimes difficult to delineate borders of the target organ.

The precise movements allow the surgeon to manipulate only the structures that need to be touched. These translate to accurate dissection with less trauma to other structures and less bleeding. Less trauma and small incisions would mean less pain, shorter hospital stay, and faster return to normal activity. Small incisions would also result in more cosmetically acceptable scars oftentimes barely noticeable.

In the future

In the future, all cases for surgery will be done robotically. For now, it is mostly utilized for the most complex procedures in various fields like urology, gynecology, thoracic, head and neck, oral surgery, colorectal surgery and other abdominal surgeries.

In urology, robotic surgery is the leading treatment modality for prostate cancer in the world. It obviates the difficulties associated with the location of the prostate deep in the pelvis and it being surrounded by sensitive structures.

Many prostate cancer patients, including those with high risk disease, have been cured at The Medical City (TMC) through robotic surgery. Aggressive urinary bladder cancer will necessitate extensive removal of lymph nodes aside from the tedious task of removing the entire bladder.

TMC robotics patients have successfully undergone this highly complex urologic procedure without even necessitating blood transfusions in open type surgeries. Kidneys with cancer can be saved by excising only the diseased portion with the aid of the surgical robot. Many patients have benefited from robotic surgery even in other fields as it provides a better way of completing the most complex of tasks.

The Medical City way

The Medical City prides itself with acquiring the first surgical robot in the country way back in 2010 and acquiring its second robot this year.

Teams of surgeons trained and skilled in robotics were formed in the various surgical specialties. Combining experience and excellent skills, the teams are prepared for the most complex of procedures. As the country's leader in robotic surgery, various Philippine firsts were performed at TMC.

These include the first robotic prostatectomy performed in June 2010, the first robotic colorectal surgery in July 2010, the first robotic sacrocolpopexy or gynecologic surgery in July 2011 and the first robotic radical cystectomy to treat bladder cancer in August 2014.

Keeping up to date with the latest techniques and research, the surgeons regularly attend and participate in international conferences. Complementing the new technology is the personalized care and the tenet that patients are partners in the management of their respective conditions.

source: Philippine Star

Drinking 32 ounces of energy drink is associated with potentially harmful changes in blood pressure and heart function that are beyond those seen with caffeine alone, according to a new study.

There are more than 500 energy drink products on the market, and their increased popularity is matched by a significant rise in energy drink-associated emergency department visits and deaths.

Manufacturers and fans of these products claim they are as safe as caffeine, but there is little evidence to support that claim.

Caffeine in doses up to 400 mg (about five cups of coffee) is generally recognized as safe by the Food and Drug Administration. While energy drinks usually contain caffeine, little is known about the safety of some of their other ingredients the study team writes in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

To see what effects these other components have, researchers compared physical changes in a group of 18 healthy men and women after consuming a commercially available energy drink and after drinking another concoction with the same amount of caffeine but none of the other ingredients.

Besides 320 mg of caffeine - the amount in about four cups of coffee - the energy drink contained 4 ounces of sugar, several B vitamins and a proprietary "energy blend" of taurine and other ingredients that are often found drinks like Monster Energy, Red Bull and 5-Hour Energy.

Sachin A. Shah of David Grant Medical Center on Travis Air Force Base and University of the Pacific in Stockton, California, and colleagues measured the participants’ blood pressure and used an electrocardiogram (often called an ECG or EKG) to measure heart electrical activity for 24 hours after the subjects consumed the drinks.

An ECG change known as QTc prolongation and sometimes associated with life-threatening irregularities in the heartbeat was seen after drinking the energy drink, but not after drinking the caffeine beverage, the study team reports.

Several drugs have been withdrawn from the market just for causing ECG changes of a similar magnitude, the authors note.

Blood pressure increased by close to 5 points after drinking the energy drink, but by just under 1 point after drinking the caffeine beverage. Blood pressure also remained elevated six hours later.

These changes are by no means worrisome for healthy individuals, the researchers say, but patients with certain heart conditions might need to exercise caution consuming energy drinks.

Larger studies are needed to evaluate the safety of the noncaffeine ingredients contained in energy drinks, they conclude.

"The energy drink industry claims that their products are safe because they have no more caffeine than a premium coffee house coffee,” said Dr. Jennifer L. Harris from University of Connecticut's Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity in Storrs, who wasn’t involved in the study.

“However, energy drinks also contain a proprietary ‘energy blend,’ which typically consists of stimulants and other additives. Some of these ingredients (including taurine and guarana) have not been FDA-approved as safe in the food supply, and few studies have tested the effects of caffeine consumption together with these ‘novelty’ ingredients,” she said by email.

“On top of that, energy drinks are highly marketed to adolescent boys in ways that encourage risky behavior, including rapid and excessive consumption,” she said. “As a result, emergency room visits by young people in connection with energy drinks are rising.”

Any research that compares the effects of consuming energy drinks versus caffeine alone provides important evidence for public health advocates who have urged the energy drink companies to stop targeting youth with these potentially harmful products, Harris added.

source: Reuters Health


Weekly yoga sessions may be associated with a better quality of life for patients with ulcerative colitis, a chronic inflammatory bowel disease that can be exacerbated by stress, a small study suggests.

People with ulcerative colitis have inflammation in the lining of the large intestine that can lead to symptoms like diarrhea and abdominal pain. When symptoms are severe, patients may have sudden loose or bloody stools so often that it impairs their ability to navigate normal daily activities like going to school or work.

Researchers studied 77 ulcerative colitis patients who reported a reduced quality of life due to the disease even though their symptoms were clinically in remission. They randomly assigned participants to receive either 12 weekly yoga sessions or written self-care advice and found the yoga group had greater improvements in quality of life.

“It seems to be safe and effective, so it is surely worth trying yoga as an add-on to other evidence-based interventions at least for maintenance of remission,” said lead study author Dr. Holger Cramer, a researcher at the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany.

“It definitely should not be used as a replacement but rather as an ancillary intervention,” Cramer said by email. “That’s how it was used in our study.”

Previous research has linked higher perceived stress levels to more severe ulcerative colitis symptoms, and other studies have also tied yoga to reduced stress in both healthy and sick people, researchers note in the journal Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics.

While there isn’t a standard treatment regimen that’s the same for all patients with ulcerative colitis, they may take a variety of different drugs to curb inflammation and achieve symptom remission. In more severe cases, they may need surgery to remove the colon and rectum.

At the start of the current study, patients had been in remission for at least four weeks and no longer than one year.

People were excluded if they weren’t in remission and had active symptoms, if they had surgery to remove their colon, or if they had medical problems that would make it hard for them to do even light yoga exercises.

Patients assigned to yoga during the study took 90-minute classes in what’s known as hatha yoga, with postures and breathing exercises designed to calm the body and mind. People in the yoga group were also given manuals to try poses at home and encouraged to keep a daily log of their practice time.

Everyone in the control group of self-care patients received two books with general information on ulcerative colitis and strategies for improving symptoms with lifestyle modifications, medication and other approaches. They were asked not to start a yoga practice or any other exercise regimen during the study.

With yoga, people reported a better quality of life after 12 weeks of classes, and again three months later.

Five patients in the yoga group had side effects like musculoskeletal pain that may have been related to the yoga, while none of the mild side effects in the self-care group appeared related to this intervention.

One limitation of the study is that many patients dropped out of the yoga class, mainly because it proved too time consuming, the authors note. It’s also possible that personal attention from yoga instructors contributed to outcomes for that group rather than the yoga itself, the researchers point out.

Still, some previous studies suggest that stress reduction may have direct anti-inflammatory effects, which may explain why yoga reduced disease activity and flares in patients with ulcerative colitis in the current study, said Dr. Gilaad Kaplan, a gastroenterologist, at the University of Calgary in Canada.

“Yoga should not replace the medications that help patients with ulcerative colitis go into remission,” Kaplan, who wasn’t involved in the study, said by email. “But yoga may serve as complementary intervention, particularly in patients experiencing stress or whose quality of life is poor.”

source: Reuters Health


Pregnant women should get their blood pressure checked at each prenatal visit to screen for preeclampsia, a potentially fatal complication that can damage the kidneys, liver, eyes and brain, new U.S. guidelines say.

While many doctors already monitor blood pressure throughout pregnancy, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) updated its guidelines for the first time since 1996 to stress that screening at every visit can help doctors catch and treat preeclampsia before it escalates from a mild problem to a life-threatening one.

“Preeclampsia is one of the most serious health problems affecting pregnant women,” task force member Dr. Maureen Phipps, a women’s health researcher at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, said by email.

“Because this condition is common and critical, the Task Force offers two separate recommendations to help women lower the risk associated with preeclampsia - screening for preeclampsia is recommended for all pregnant women, and women at high risk of developing the condition can take low-dose aspirin to help prevent it,” Phipps added by email.

The screening recommendations, published on Tuesday in JAMA, apply to women without a history of preeclampsia or high blood pressure. Separate guidelines advise low-dose aspirin after the first 12 weeks of pregnancy for women with a history of elevated blood pressure. (

Preeclampsia can progress quickly, and typically develops after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Blood pressure screening earlier in pregnancy can show normal results for women who go on to develop preeclampsia.

In addition to elevated blood pressure, women with preeclampsia may also have excess amounts of protein in their urine, as well as swelling in the feet, legs and hands.

Women may suffer from stroke, seizures, organ failure and in rare cases, death. For babies, complications include slower growth inside the uterus, low birth weight and death.

Risks for preeclampsia include a history of obesity, diabetes, kidney disease, lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, as well as a mother or sister who has experienced the condition.

Because the risks of preeclampsia increase with age, women may be able to lower their chances of developing this complication by having babies sooner, said Dr. Dana Gossett, an obstetrics and gynecology researcher at the University of California, San Francisco, and co-author of an accompanying editorial in JAMA.

“Beyond that, it is also important to ensure that all health problems are well managed prior to pregnancy,” Gossett said by email. “High blood pressure should be under good control, other diseases like kidney disease or lupus should be well controlled, and women should try to be close to their ideal body weight prior to conception.”

Checking blood pressure at every prenatal visit can help prevent complications for mothers and babies alike, said Dr. Martha Gulati, chief of cardiology at the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Phoenix and author of a separate editorial in JAMA Cardiology.

“This is something that should be provided to every woman as part of preventive care,” Gulati said by email. “We will save lives and prevent complications and death in pregnant women with this simple, cost-effective” test that doesn’t take much time.

source: Reuters Health