Battle the Bulge
The next time you stop in to your favorite sandwich shop you may want to reconsider ordering that fried oyster po-boy. According to several nationally acclaimed researchers who recently presented their findings at the International Stroke Conference held at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, expanding waistlines have tripled the rate of stroke in middle-age women between 1988 and 2004.

Dr. Amytis Towfighi, a leading neurology researcher at the University of Southern California, attributes the increase in strokes to America's obesity epidemic. She compared data from two different National Health and Nutrition surveys, which asked more than 5,000 participants to periodically report whether they had ever had a stroke and then matched the responses to a series of health measures. Towfighi analyzed a variety of individual medical history variables (such as smoking, diabetes and high blood pressure) and medication usage, then concluded that there were "no significant differences in presence of conventional cardiovascular risk factors" between the 1988-1994 and 1999-2004 versions of the survey.

Towfighi reports that the culprit behind the spike in strokes boils down to pounds. "Abdominal obesity is a known predictor of stroke in women and may be a key factor in the midlife stroke surge in women," she says. — Spencer Marr

Click and Quit
For the more than 23 percent of Louisiana adults who smoke, quitting is now just a mouse click away through the new Web site The site is a joint effort by the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospital's Tobacco Control Program (TCP) and the Louisiana Campaign for Tobacco-Free Living. The site doesn't require visitors to register, so it's a good starting point for those who are considering quitting but are not fully committed.

"We think tobacco users will appreciate the anonymity, accessibility and ease of going online to seek information and help from a single source," says Tiffany Netters, cessation program monitor for TCP.

If a smoker is ready to stop, the site offers a variety of online resources and free statewide cessation programs, including:

The Louisiana Tobacco Quitline, 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669);

Group cessation counseling classes; and

Tobacco Control Initiative — tobacco cessation resources and services within Louisiana public hospitals. — David Winkler-Schmit

A Better Way to Screen
Lakeview Regional Medical Center (95 E. Fairway Drive, Covington, 985-867-3800; recently acquired the latest in MRI breast cancer detection equipment, which is good news for women with a high risk for developing breast cancer. The American Cancer Society advises women in the high-risk pool to get a yearly MRI scan along with an annual mammogram.

The InvivoDyna CAD used at Lakeview Regional is a state-of-the-art MRI system with computer-aided detection (CAD) and MRI-guided breast biopsy. According to the Food and Drug Administration, mammography breast cancer detection is 23.4 percent more accurate when using CAD technology. The new system also allows radiologists to differentiate between benign and malignant lesions more easily and conduct minimally invasive breast biopsies.

Dr. Steve Pflug, a radiologist at Lakeview, says that the innovative device will add to the center's resources for identifying breast cancer in its earliest stages.

"MRI of the breast is not a replacement for mammography or ultrasound imaging, but rather a supplemental tool proven valuable in diagnosing a broad range of conditions, including detecting and staging breast cancer, particularly when other imaging studies fail to provide adequate information." — Winkler-Schmit

Care When You Need It
Ochsner Health System has opened a community health clinic Uptown at 3423 St. Charles Ave. (842-7400). The clinic offers various medical services, including family medicine, internal medicine, radiology and lab services and is staffed by Dr. Richard McQueen and Dr. Lora Langfels.

In addition to the Ochsner health-care center, there is a Gulf Coast Urgent Care center, which is staffed by board-certified emergency room physicians. The center can treat a number of nonlife-threatening emergencies such as minor fractures, lacerations, sprains, colds and flu.

Local hospital emergency rooms often are crowded with nonemergency patients, and urgent care centers can provide medical treatment faster and for less money. Before you go to any urgent care center it's a good idea to make sure it accepts your insurance and can provide the type of treatment you need.

The Ochsner clinic is open from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday; the urgent care center is open from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. — Winkler-Schmit

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