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HealthWeek No. 138

ANNOUNCER: Funding for HealthWeek is provided by the Howard Heinz Endowment and the Teresa and H. John Heinz III Foundation.

SHARYL ATTKISSON: Today on HealthWeek...Some swear by Mom's homemade chicken soup. Others take zinc or vitamin C. The latest on what works and what doesn't in the battle against the common cold.

A leap of faith for Parkinson's patients.

FATHER ELIAS VELONIS: "I didn't want to live like that anymore. I wanted some quality of my life to come back."

SHARYL ATTKISSON: Can new high-tech surgeries restore what the disease took away? And when a pet passes on, new ways of coping with the emotional pain. Hello. I'm Sharyl Attkisson. Welcome to HealthWeek.


Today we begin with news about pregnancy and weight. Many expectant moms worry about how much weight they'll gain during pregnancy. But new research shows that a woman's weight before she gets pregnant may be just as important when it comes to having a healthy baby. With the latest findings, here's HealthWeek's Marcia Brazda.

MARCIA BRAZDA: Attorney Ann Berriman has been overweight all her life. But recently she's stepped up her efforts to shed those extra pounds.

ANN BERRIMAN: If I had to pick one motivation for losing weight right now in my life, it absolutely is my desire to have a child.

MARCIA BRAZDA: Doctors know that obesity can make it difficult to conceive, and when an overweight woman does get pregnant, she faces a greater chance of developing high blood pressure, diabetes and other health problems. But it's still been thought that excess weigh may have some benefit: protecting her unborn child.

But new research in this week's New England Journal of Medicine shows that may not be the case. The study involved 168,000 Swedish women who were grouped according to weight. The researchers found obese women who'd previously given birth were twice as likely as lean women to deliver a stillborn baby. And for obese women with no previous children, the risk was over four times greater. And that's not a risk to be taken lightly, according to Dr. Jean Bolan, a maternal-child specialist who was not involved in the study.

JEAN BOLAN, MD, COLUMBIA HOSPITAL FOR WOMEN: This study shows that bigger is not better. And one should not try to gain weight excessively either prior to pregnancy or during pregnancy, thinking that you are therefore going to have a healthier baby.

MARCIA BRAZDA: But overweight women shouldn't panic if they get pregnant before getting trim.

JEAN BOLAN, MD: It's reasonable for obese women to gain less weight during pregnancy than the 35 pounds that some people consider optimal for someone who starts out a normal weight. But I definitely would never advise someone to try to lose weight during pregnancy.

MARCIA BRAZDA: Meanwhile, Ann Berriman is trying hard to bring her weight down, both for herself and for the child she hopes to bear someday.

ANN BERRIMAN: Basically my view is anything that I do to put myself at risk while I'm carrying a child also puts that child at risk.

SHARYL ATTKISSON: Joining us now to talk more about weight and pregnancy is Doctor Pamela Peeke, an expert on weight loss with the National Institutes of Health.

Let's begin with a general definition off the bat of what exactly is obese when we're talking about being that much overweight.

PAMELA PEEKE, MD, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: All right. Obesity basically is described as, for instance, a woman who is approximately 20 percent at least over what we refer to as an ideal body weight. At 5 foot 4, a woman who is 120 pounds is average. A 5 foot 4 woman who is 160 pounds is obese.

SHARYL ATTKISSON: So if a woman is trying to lose weight before she gets pregnant, should she go about that the same way as everybody else, with a safe diet and exercise? Or are there special things she has to keep in mind?

PAMELA PEEKE: No. Really, seriously all she needs to do is have moderation in her dietary intake on a routine basis and daily aerobic activity, just like everyone else, preparing for lifestyle changes that she can continue for the rest of her life.

SHARYL ATTKISSON: What about overweight women who are already pregnant? We hear of stories sometimes of women who decide once they're pregnant that they ought to slim down.

PAMELA PEEKE: That is not the time to slim down. That is inappropriate because during pregnancy, you need to utilize those calories that you're taking in for the growth of the baby, and that would impair that. Instead, that woman needs to pair up with her physician and to be able to watch for any adverse side effects of perhaps obesity, for instance, and really to be able to watch and monitor the weight gain, which should really be restricted somewhat to no more than 10 to 15 pounds.

SHARYL ATTKISSON: For most people, we heard an expert in the story say that about 35 pounds seems reasonable to people, an amount to gain while you're pregnant, but I've heard a lot of ranges for that for average women. What is your thinking?

PAMELA PEEKE: In 1990, the Institutes of Medicine issued a report basically recommending weight gain during pregnancy by pre-pregnancy weight. And that is, if a woman is average weighted, then she should be gaining approximately 25 to 35 pounds. If she is overweight, then it's going to be less, as I've already stated. And if she's underweight, then she really needs to gain a little bit more, sometimes 25 to 40 pounds.

SHARYL ATTKISSON: All right. Thanks so much, interesting. Pamela Peeke.

PAMELA PEEKE: Thank you.


NANCY SNYDERMAN, MD: Hello, I'm Dr. Nancy Snyderman with this week's Healthful Hint. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, an Iowa farmer holds the title for longest lasting hiccups, a full 60 years. Hiccups happen when the diaphragm, the muscle that controls our breathing, temporarily goes haywire. Now, unless you're looking for a place in the record books, there are plenty of remedies you can try the next time you get the hiccups. Breathing into a paper bag is one old-fashioned cure. Some doctors think this calms the diaphragm by increasing the amount of carbon dioxide in your bloodstream. Drinking a large glass of water or holding your breath sometimes works the same way. Stimulating the roof of your mouth may also help. You can gently rub a cotton swab there or bend over and try to drink a glass of water upside down. Even if you don't get rid of your hiccups, you'll at least amuse your friends. And if that doesn't work, here's another creative suggestion: plug both ears with your fingers. One almost certain cure is to try any remedy for five minutes; except for rare cases caused by underlying disorders, that's how long it takes for most hiccups to go away on their own. With Healthful Hints, I'm Dr. Nancy Snyderman.


SHARYL ATTKISSON: All right. The kids have runny noses, the co-workers, hacking coughs. So, you know it's probably just a matter of time until you come down with another miserable cold. There's no foolproof way to prevent the common cold. But there are things you can do to try to head it off at the pass. From Pittsburgh, HealthWeek's Roger Klein has the cold, hard facts.

ROGER KLEIN, PhD: It's that time of year again, you're in bed, got a cold, you feel lousy. And you toss your tissue in... a Baggie? And wait -- she's bagging her tissue too?

It's all part of a study in Pittsburgh, where people are getting paid to get sick.

DAVID SKONER, MD: This has the cold virus in it.

ROGER KLEIN, PhD: Volunteers are exposed to cold viruses, then for six days, confined to a motel, and monitored by immunologist David Skoner.

A computer measures the stuffiness in their noses, and a technician weighs the secretions in their tissues.

DAVID SKONER, MD, CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL OF PITTSBURGH: We give everybody a virus here. Some get sick and some don't. Some get the infection and some don't.

ROGER KLEIN, PhD: Skoner has teamed up with psychologist Sheldon Cohen to figure out why that is and why some colds are worse than others.

Just before subjects are given the cold virus, they complete questionnaires about stress and lifestyles.

SHELDON COHEN, PhD, CARNEGIE MELLON UNIVERSITY: We've had three major findings. The first is that as stress increases, the probability of developing a cold increases. Second, the longer the stress lasts, the greater the likelihood of developing a cold. Third, the more types of social relationships people have, the less likely they are to develop a cold.

ROGER KLEIN, PhD: So Mom was right about stress and colds. But what about the weather? On that one, popular wisdom is wrong.

DAVID SKONER, MD: You don't get a cold by being out in cold air. You actually get a cold because someone else had that and either sneezed or coughed on you and transmitted that cold to you.

ROGER KLEIN, PhD: Researchers say people tend to get more colds in winter because they're inside and in closer contact.

With all of the research on colds, you might wonder why there's no vaccine available to prevent them. That's because colds are caused by so many hundreds of different viruses, that no one vaccine would be effective. But there are steps you can take to avoid colds. Topping the list: washing your hands frequently, since cold viruses are often spread through touching. That means you should also try not to touch your eyes and nose. It's also a good idea to stay away from people who have colds, especially during the first three days when they're most contagious.

DAVID SKONER, MD: Avoid any kind of close contact with that person or sharing any kind of utensils like pens or silverware or any kind of inanimate objects.

ROGER KLEIN, PhD: And if you still get a cold anyway? Over-the-counter remedies such as decongestants, cough suppressants and Acetaminophen can help relieve symptoms, but they won't cure the cold or make it go away faster.

And antibiotics don't help at all because they attack bacteria, not viruses. Of course, lots of people have their own ideas about what works.

MAN ON STREET: "The best thing I think for a cold is to take plenty of vitamin C."

MAN ON STREET: "Zinc tablets. I've been taking daily for about 5 years and the last cold I had lasted approximately 3 days."

MAN ON STREET: "Natural herbs."

ROGER KLEIN, PhD: At health food stores, these alternative remedies are flying off the shelves. One of the most popular this year is Echinacea, an herb that's been used for years in Europe.

WOMAN IN HEALTH FOOD STORE: "When I take the Echinacea, it works so much better and so much more quickly. I don't have to use the cold pill at all or very seldom."

DOMINICK IACUZIO, PhD, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: I have not seen these claims based on any sound scientific evidence.

ROGER KLEIN, PhD: Dr. Dominick Iacuzio oversees cold and flu research at the National Institutes of Health. He's skeptical of alternative treatments like Echinacea and zinc, but...

DOMINICK IACUZIO, PhD: If some people feel comfortable with taking it and feel that it is beneficial, then that's fine, it works for them. But I would only caution about taking anything in excessive amounts.

ROGER KLEIN, PhD: But it can be hard to figure out how much is too much. For example, different brands of Echinacea have different recommended doses on their labels.

Sound confusing? Experts say the best advice is to keep it simple: rest, drink plenty of fluids, and most important, remember this:

MAN ON STREET: "Usually I just wait a week and then it goes away."

SHARYL ATTKISSON: So, now you have some ideas about how to handle a cold. But how can you tell a cold from the flu? Here's some advice on that from infectious disease specialist Doctor Stephen Threlkeld.

STEPHEN THRELKELD, MD, INFECTIOUS DISEASE SPECIALIST: People frequently confuse the common cold and the flu. But there are some very important differences between the two.

With a common cold, we almost always see a fairly gradual onset of the symptoms. Typically, we see a mild scratchy throat, a stuffy nose, runny nose, mild headache, muscle aches, and usually not any significant fever with a common cold. The flu is generally a much more severe illness. It begins usually with a very rapid onset of high fevers, up to 103 or more, sometimes shaking chills, severe headaches, a pain with moving the eyes, severe muscle aches, and usually those are followed soon after by a hacking cough. With the sort of symptoms typical for the flu, it's probably a very good idea to check with your doctor. With symptoms of the common cold, milder symptoms, it's usually fine for people to treat themselves with over-the-counter medications, although it's also probably a good idea to check with their doctor initially to make sure that those over-the-the counter medicines are safe for them.

SHARYL ATTKISSON: And choosing the best medicine to treat your cold symptoms can be pretty complicated. Right now, there are more than 800 different cold remedies on drugstore shelves.


Cold symptoms are typically worst between 4 AM and 8 AM.


SHARYL ATTKISSON: It begins slowly, often with muscle stiffness or a slight tremor of the head or hands. But over time, Parkinson's disease chips away at people's ability to move and talk. Drugs can help control or delay some of the symptoms. But there's still no cure. And the search is on to find new ways to get Parkinson's patients back to the lives they once had. HealthWeek's Andrew Holtz reports on two of the newest techniques.

ANDREW HOLTZ: Walking is as simple as putting one foot in front of the other. But no movement is simple for people like Jim Finn who have Parkinson's disease.

JIM FINN: "I couldn't properly bathe, properly cook my meals, properly cut food. Any of the ordinary things that people usually do and don't give a second thought to were almost impossible for me to do."

ANDREW HOLTZ: Greek orthodox priest Elias Velonis found it hard to minister to his flock when Parkinson's disease froze his muscles.

FATHER ELIAS VELONIS: "People were starting to tell me, "Father, you don't have any expression on your face. Are you listening to me?" And of course I was listening intently, and the fact that my face wasn't communicating, that was very painful."

ANDREW HOLTZ: Parkinson's disease kills cells in the brain that make a chemical called Dopamine, which helps control muscle movement.

Without Dopamine, patients suffer tremors, stiffness, slowness and other crippling symptoms. For both Father Velonis and Jim Finn, medication helped at first but eventually was no longer effective in controlling their Parkinson's disease. Father Velonis placed his faith and his life in the hands of a team of surgeons at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta. In this type of surgery, which is experimental, electrodes are inserted through a small opening in the skull into the part of the brain where cells are not working properly. Once the electrodes are in place, they are hooked up to a device called a deep brain stimulator which, like a heart pacemaker, produces an electrical current. The current helps reduce excessive brain activity that's responsible for Parkinson's symptoms. The neurosurgeon works with the patient, who is awake throughout the nine hour operation. Doctors try to find the right amount of electrical stimulation to stop symptoms, such as tremors, without causing other problems.

MAHLON DELONG, MD, EMORY UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL: "This works for all of the symptoms really of Parkinson's disease, that's the wonderful thing about it."

ANDREW HOLTZ: This type of brain surgery is a last resort because of small, but potentially lethal, risks... risks Father Velonis willingly accepted.

FATHER ELIAS VELONIS: "Absolutely. I didn't want to live like that anymore. I wanted some quality of my life to come back."

ANDREW HOLTZ: He's supposed to turn off the stimulator at night to save it's batteries, but he dreads flipping the magnetic switch.

FATHER ELIAS VELONIS: "Let's turn me off and see what happens. Things begin to feel convoluted and difficult all around. And to walk is a very scary thing. Because this is how I walk without the machine.

ANDREW HOLTZ: He's suddenly hobbled by the freezing, slowness and other symptoms of Parkinson's disease.

FATHER ELIAS VELONIS: "It's back on. And as far as I'm concerned, so is my life."

ANDREW HOLTZ: A different approach is being taken by surgeons at Lahey-Hitchcock and Boston University Medical Centers.

They are collecting brain cells from the fetuses of pigs and implanting them in the brains of Parkinson's disease patients.

SAMUEL ELLIAS, MD, BOSTON UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER: "It's thought that by introducing some of these cells that make Dopamine, that you'll be replacing the Dopamine that the person isn't making and then the person will be able to move better."

ANDREW HOLTZ: Jim Finn became one of a dozen volunteers for the experimental transplant.

JIM FINN: "I decided to have this procedure done, knowing it was an experiment, because it was the last chance I had. It was an act of desperation."

ANDREW HOLTZ: In this surgical procedure, the pig cells are injected deep within the brain where it is hoped they will grow and regenerate.

Researchers first tried using cells from aborted human fetuses, but abortion opponents protested, and it was difficult to collect enough useful cells. Each surgery needed a dozen fetuses.

SAMUEL ELLIAS, MD: "With pig cells there's a virtually unlimited supply of cells that you could transplant easily."

ANDREW HOLTZ: For patients, the pig cell implants carry the same risks as other transplant surgeries, rejection and the transmission of disease.

No one knows how successful transplants or electrodes will be over the long run. But more than a year after his surgery, testing shows Jim Finn continues to improve. And as he recalls how devastating his symptoms were before the implant, he says now, just watch him go. And watch Father Velonis as he uses his arms and legs to reach out to his parishioners. He feels he's blessed to have a second chance at life.

FATHER ELIAS VELONIS: "It's like your life is back. Now try and live it well."

SHARYL ATTKISSON: Here with more about those and other treatments for Parkinson's is Doctor John Nutt, a neurologist at Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland.

Dr. Nutt, we saw some pretty dramatic improvement, very encouraging, but can you tell us what patients make the best candidates for those experimental types of surgeries that we just learned about?

JOHN G. NUTT, MD, OREGON HEALTH SCIENCES UNIVERSITY: Well, Sharyl, at this point it is experimental, and we don't know for sure what the best indications for this type of surgery are. However, what is being done at the investigative sites is to select patients who have responded to the drug Levodopa which is converted into Dopamine, and is the standard therapy for Parkinson's disease, but who are now having an inconsistent response to the drug, and they also get a side effect of involuntary movements.

SHARYL ATTKISSON: So what other surgical procedures are being done for Parkinson's patients?

JOHN G. NUTT, MD: Well, the other procedure that is commonly done is a procedure called a paledotamy (sp), and this is done in the same part of the brain in which the simulating electrode is placed, except a probe is introduced and a very small hole is produced in the brain. It's smaller than the tip of your little finger, and that often is very effective. The problem is that if you have side effects, they're permanent, unlike the stimulation where you can adjust the stimulation to get rid of side effe

SHARYL ATTKISSON: The other route besides surgery of course is medication. Can you tell us about any new medications?

JOHN G. NUTT, MD: Well, there's a lot to talk about. But briefly, two new medications have come out in the past six months. Another two are expected in the next year. And these medicines are really to augment and replace the missing Dopamine. But more excitingly, there are now treatments that are under investigation that might slow the progression of the disease and treatments that might bring back Dopamine neurons that are injured but have not died. And I think that it's a very exciting time with

SHARYL ATTKISSON: Dr. John Nutt, thanks for the hope and the information.

For more about Parkinson's or any other HealthWeek story you can call our toll-free number shown at the end of the program.


"Is green tea effective in helping to fight cancer?"

BRUCE DAN, MD: It all depends on what you mean by fighting cancer. Green tea, which is rich in the protective chemicals called antioxidants, has been shown to slow tumor growth in animals.

It's not known if green tea can help treat people with cancer, but studies to answer that question are now underway. There's stronger evidence for green tea's preventive powers. Studies have found that green tea drinkers in Japan and China are less likely to develop stomach and throat cancers than those who don't drink it. It's important to note that not all teas are created equal when it comes to your health. Black tea, the kind of tea most Americans drink, has less than half the antioxidants found in green tea. And here's something else: green tea may pack a bigger health punch than another beverage that's received a lot of positive press: red wine. Research has found the main antioxidant in green tea to be twice as strong as that in wine. So next time you want to drink to your health, instead of going to happy hour, you may want to head to the tea room. With Ask the Doctor, I'm Dr. Bruce Dan.


SHARYL ATTKISSON: Think back to your childhood and the death of a pet dog or cat. For many people, it was their first real brush with grief and loss. And it doesn't always get easier as you get older. In Philadelphia, a special kind of support group is helping people cope.

SCENE FROM "OLD YELLER" DISNEY: "He's more dog than I ever had him figured for."

SHARYL ATTKISSON: Popular culture, as reflected in the movies, says it's okay for children to grieve over a dying animal.

But not so for adults.

"SUNSET BOULEVARD" CLIP, PARAMOUNT PICTURES, NORA DESMOND: "I want the coffin to be white, and I want it specially lined with satin!"

SHARYL ATTKISSON: Steve and Sheila Springer enjoy a strong bond with their dog, Wynne. They readily admit the death of their dalmatian, Ashley, was hard to take.

SHEILA DELROCCILI-SPRINGER: "I could actually feel her just go limp in my arms and we just told her how much we loved her and to go peacefully.

SHARYL ATTKISSON: Not yet eight years old, Ashley got an infection veterinarians couldn't treat and died within a month.

STEVEN SPRINGER: I feel that the people who say "well come on, it's just a dog, it's just a cat," those are obviously individuals who never owned a dog or cat. That's as simple as that. It's a family member.

SHARYL ATTKISSON: The Springers found help the same place where Ashley was treated.

SHEILA DELROCCILI-SPRINGER: She's not coming back, and I was never, ever going to see my dog again, and it really, really upset me.

SHARYL ATTKISSON: Once a week at the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary Hospital, people who've recently lost their pets meet to share experiences and emotions.

The program was started ten years ago when concerned veterinarians approached psychiatrist Aaron Katcher.

AARON KATCHER MD, UNIVERSITY OF PENN.: I got to interview people who were either in the middle of the grief process or going through the grief process and convinced myself of its seriousness.

SHARYL ATTKISSON: Soon after, Katcher helped the hospital become the first in the nation to provide a social worker for individual and group counseling.

KATHLEEN DUNN, UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA: The purpose is to help people who are having a really difficult time with their animal's death, to be able to talk about it, to get the feelings out and to understand that "they're not going crazy."

SHARYL ATTKISSON: For example, one couple shares pictures they displayed at their pet sheltie's funeral.

MAN: "I had never been to a funeral for a dog but it did help. I recommend it for anybody who wants to do the same thing."

SHARYL ATTKISSON: The Springers chose cremation to remember Ashley. Recently they adopted another dalmatian and named her Nellie. In fact, therapists say finding a new animal companion can help people get over their grief, even if it means eventually losing that pet as well.

STEVEN SPRINGER: They just give you so much love in the meantime, so much happiness, that it's really worth it.

SHARYL ATTKISSON: Many vets are also doing more to recognize people's grief. Some now even send sympathy cards to people who've recently lost their pets.

That's all for this week. Next time we'll show you some of the latest surgical treatments for baldness. You'd be surprised what some men will go through in their quest for a full head of hair! We'll also take you inside a new effort by doctors to join labor unions, and introduce you to a former military man turned hard-core exercise instructor.

Remember you can visit us throughout the week at our site on the World Wide Web. To reach the HealthWeek home page go to PBS ONLINE at the Internet address on your screen. That address is

Until next time, I'm Sharyl Attkisson. Be well!

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