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Jul 18, 2017 · Fifty years after "Summer of Love," drug use still going strong for some

Fifty years ago, this summer, a social phenomenon emerged in California and swept the nation.  Called the “Summer of Love,” it began with tens of thousands of “hippies” converging in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district during the summer of 1967. Many were against the Vietnam War and consumerism, and passionate about music and meditation. There was widespread use of illicit drugs such as LSD and cannabis, as well as legal substances including alcohol, tobacco and tranquilizers.

Fast forward to 2017.  The bohemian “flower children” of the 1960’s are now a formidable segment of the nation’s baby boomer generation.  Not surprisingly, many in this age group, now largely in their 50s and 60s, have continued to struggle with drug and alcohol abuse.  And it is changing the face of addiction in America.

Baby boomers grew up in an era when illicit drugs were widely available, affordable and their use was seductive and alluring. As some have continued to use drugs, they have experienced a wide range of consequences.

“The older adult population, meaning anyone 55 years and up, carry unique vulnerabilities to addictive disorders. They can become addicted faster and by the time they seek treatment, their addictive disorder is very severe,” says Dr. Timothy Fong, a professor of addiction psychiatry at UCLA. “American society has these stereotypical images of drug and alcohol addicts being younger, homeless and poor, not someone’s grandmother or favorite aunt.”

Dr. Tim Fong, professor of addiction psychiatry at UCLA

Twenty-five percent of the patients who seek treatment at the UCLA Addiction Medicine Clinic are over age 55. Fong says.

Addiction of any kind is a brain disease that is defined by continued use or behavior that is harming one’s life, Fong says.  The disease comes with biological, psychological and social risk factors.  It changes one’s biology, causes the brain to function abnormally and, if left untreated, can last a lifetime.

“Addiction is not a moral failing,” says Fong. “It’s no different from diabetes or heart disease or cancer.”

People often take drugs or abuse alcohol for emotional reasons, says Fong, to lessen anxiety, worries, fears, depression and a sense of hopelessness.  The stressful life situations that often accompany aging, such as the death of a partner, retirement, boredom or loneliness, become high-risk factors that can lead to unintentional addiction.

Cannabis In Older Adults:  A Growing Issue

According to the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health, an estimated 4.8 million adults aged 50 and older have used an illicit drug in the past year. Marijuana was the most commonly used substance, followed by the nonmedical use of prescription drugs.

The prevalence of illicit drug use was higher among adults aged 50 to 59 than those aged 60 and older.  And in a challenge to the stereotype of aging flower children clinging to their old marijuana habits, the study reveals big jumps in heroin and cocaine use among the baby boomer population.

It is projected that by the year 2020 the number of senior citizens with alcohol and drug problems will soar by 150 percent, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, part of the National Institutes of Health.

Recognizing the difference between social, recreational use and addiction is not easy, especially in older adults. In fact, it can be more difficult than recognizing use among younger users. Many signs of addiction among baby boomers, for instance, such as anxiety, memory loss, disorientation, headaches, and incontinence, mirror symptoms of physical and mental health conditions that affect the older population.

If you think an older person you know might have addiction issues, “start out with an honest conversation and encourage them to seek professional help in order to seek clarity and understanding about their relationship with substances,” says Fong.

Contact the UCLA Addiction Medicine Clinic at 310-825-9989 for a consultation or initial appointment.

Jun 28, 2017 · Experience research first-hand through a clinical trial

When the lab results came back from my recent annual checkup, I found I had joined a club frequented by all-too-many of my fellow Baby Boomers.  My AC1 score – a standard test used to diagnose diabetes – had crept up to the prediabetes range.

I do have a sweet tooth, but I exercise regularly and think of myself as fit.  The word diabetes, or even prediabetes, was not something I had expected to hear from my doctor.

I quickly scoured the Internet for advice on how to tamp down my blood sugar levels.  And when I found out that two of my closest friends had recently received similar news, I became even more determined to determine the best course of action to keep diabetes at bay.

Fortunately, I work at UCLA, a major research university which at any one time is running hundreds of clinical trials on urgent medical issues.  Perhaps there is a prediabetes study here that I would be eligible to enroll in as a study volunteer, I thought.

My hunch proved correct.  One ongoing clinical trial for prediabetes that peaked my interest, for example, involves taking a protein supplement.  When I inquired further, I learned this study would involve frequent blood draws.  That requirement, in all honesty, made me hesitant about proceeding further because I’m one of the unlucky people with veins that are hard to stick and sometimes it takes three to four tries by an experienced technician. It also underscored an important lesson.  All clinical trials involve potential risks and benefits.  So, it’s important anyone considering participating in such a study ask questions to help them make an informed decision.

“A clinical trial is a research study that uses human volunteers to try to answer a specific question,” said Dr. Meghan Brennan, director of UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center Clinical Research Unit. “Whenever a new diabetes medication, arthritis drug or cancer treatment hits the market, clinical trials were the critical step to getting that treatment or medication approved.”

Having worked at UCLA for over 20 years, I was aware of the interesting research studies conducted for a myriad of diseases.  So, it was a surprise to me that my friends with no research university exposure had little knowledge of clinical trials and how they work.

Clinical trials are conducted for a variety of reasons, according to the National Institutes of Health. Some test experimental treatments, others test new ways to prevent certain diseases from returning and still others test new methods to detect disease.

Clinical trials happen in phases, designated as I through IV. Each phase has a different purpose. Phase I trials use a small group of people to check the safety, dosage and side effects of a treatment. Phase II trials look at the effectiveness and safety of a treatment. Phase III trials seek to confirm the results of the earlier trials, and compare the new treatment with other commonly used treatments. Phase IV trials are done after the treatment has been approved for the public.  These trials collect additional information on risks and benefits of the new treatment.

Dr. Meghan Brennan

“The good news is many clinical trials test treatments that have already shown some promise of being more effective than existing therapies,” said Brennan.

All clinical trials have guidelines that describe the criteria for participants.  In most trials, one group of study volunteers receives a standard treatment, while another group gets the new therapy being tested.

Should you sign up to be a study volunteer? Brennan encourages talking with your doctor and family to help you decide if enrolling in a clinical trial is the right choice for you. In addition, she recommends questions the NIH advises you to consider before deciding to participate.

I’m grateful to have learned about the world of clinical trials from the researchers at UCLA, not to mention passing that knowledge along to my friends.  If you live near a research university, you can check out their website to see if any research might be a good fit for your condition. You can be sure I’ll be keeping an eye out for future clinical trials that might be helpful for prediabetics, while upping my exercise regimen and watching my sugar consumption.

In the meantime, carrots anyone?

Feb 14, 2017 · Give your heart a healthy Valentine's Day gift

Give your heart a healthy Valentine’s Day gift

While boxes of decadent chocolates treats, celebratory champagne and romantic high-calorie dinners may dance in your mind as a way to celebrate Valentine’s Day, your heart may be pining for something else. With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, it is a great time to look at the state of your heart.

“Despite recent progress, cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States,” said Dr. Sheila Sahni, interventional cardiology fellow at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and UCLA Barbra Streisand Women’s Heart Health Program.  “Making heart healthy lifestyle choices and taking control of your cardiovascular risk factors can help prevent or slow the progression of heart disease.”

Every day decisions are important to cardiovascular health, she adds, and Valentine’s Day is a good time to give yourself the gift of lifestyle changes that will benefit you through the year. Check out these tips.

Ten Heart Healthy Tips for Valentine’s Day and Beyond:

  1. Stay active: The key to heart health is to keep moving and avoid being sedentary. Ideally, aim to get your heart rate up with at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise at least five days a week. However, any movement will be good for your heart so keep moving and stay active.
  2. Limit your consumption of red meat, sugar and unhealthy fats. There are plenty of foods you can eat instead to enjoy a heart healthy diet.  Add fruits and vegetables to your diet to increase your fiber consumption.
  3. Reduce your salt intake. Can’t imagine your favorite foods without that added salt? Over time, however, you can re-train your taste buds to become accustomed to a lower-sodium diet and you will start to notice subtle flavors in your foods again.
  4. Stop smoking. Smoking not only damages your lungs, it also negatively effects your heart health. Once you stop smoking, your odds of developing heart disease drops rapidly. Breaking that smoking habit is essential for your overall health.
  5. Keep your weight under control.  Ask your doctor if you are overweight. Obesity increases the risk of heart attacks, heart failure and diabetes. A healthy diet with portion control and regular exercise is the best way to maintain a healthy weight.
  6. Know your cholesterol levels: High cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease. If you have not had your cholesterol levels checked in the past year or two, get them checked now to find out if you’re at risk for heart disease.
  7. Know your blood pressure:  High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a major risk factor for heart attacks, strokes and heart failure. Many people with high blood pressure are unaware that they have this condition. There are effective treatments for hypertension in addition to lifestyle modifications of exercise and salt reduction.
  8. Know your blood sugar levels:  Over time, elevated blood sugar levels can lead to diabetes, a strong risk factor for heart disease. Ask your doctor if you are at risk.  If you are pre-diabetic or have “early” diabetes, lifestyle changes can be effective.
  9. Reduce stress: Stress is a strong risk factor for heart disease, especially for women. Try meditation, yoga, or simply being silent and still for 10 minutes a day.  Be mindful of stress in your life and take extra care of your heart.
  10. See your doctor regularly. Regular medical follow-up is one of the best ways to prevent cardiovascular disease. Studies show that individuals who stop their cardiovascular medications are at higher risk for heart attacks, strokes, heart failure and reduced survival.

If you are dedicated to heart health, the above checklist is the place to start.  The American Heart Association has a “Healthy for Good” online support and information resource to help you to eat well, stay active and be healthy.  Commit to nurturing your heart this Valentine’s Day!

(Note to Editors: UCLA cardiologists are available for interviews.)

Jan 17, 2017 · While winter skies may look dreary, protecting your skin is still “in”

While winter skies may look dreary, protecting your skin is still “in”!

When weather forecasts are filled with predictions of wind, rain and frosty temperatures, it’s easy to forget that the sun and its potentially harmful rays are still out there.  Even during the dead of winter, it is still important to protect your skin.  Our skin is the largest organ in our bodies, and a recent study, which appeared in JAMA Dermatology, notes that the likelihood that Americans will develop the most serious form of skin cancer has steadily climbed for the past two decades.  More than 1 million new cases of skin cancer are diagnosed each year.

Each year, I make an annual pilgrimage to my dermatologist to point out each and every new—and old—skin blemish. This year, I had the JAMA study in hand for my visit.  UCLA’s Dr. Paul Levins, my dermatologist, explained that not every patient needs to have an annual full-body skin exam.

According to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force’s 2016 U.S. guidelines aimed at preventing deaths from skin cancer, the task force concluded that there isn’t enough evidence to date to know whether full-body skin exams reduce deaths from melanoma. “If you are in an at-risk population, have a family history of melanoma, were born with a lot of moles or have a bleeding mole, then a full-body skin exam is prudent,” said Levins.

During my skin exam, Levins explained to me that my facial blemishes could be ascribed to dark spots that people get as they age. He also cited an interesting fact that I didn’t know before.

“Asians, for some reason, are more prone to get skin cancer on their hands, fingers, toes and feet,” Levins said.

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, certain skin cancers are influenced by genetic and environmental factors other than UV sun exposure. While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest statistics from 2013 indicate that white men and women still have the highest incidence of melanoma of the skin, people with darker complexions should still adhere to skin cancer prevention guidelines. For one thing, the Skin Cancer Foundation notes, individuals with dark skin are particularly susceptible to acral lentiginous melanoma that typically appears on the palms of the hands and soles of the feel.

The American Academy of Dermatology notes that skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States and that 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. The academy emphasizes that through regular self-skin exams and a yearly examination by a dermatologist, early detection and proper treatment can help find early skin cancers and increase cure rate percentages.

Levin said that it’s important for darker-complexion people to get annual skin check-ups as well as those with lighter complexions. Darker skin pigment may provide a bit more protection, he said, but doesn’t protect you fully from the sun’s UV rays or from other types of skin cancer.

Fortunately, there are proactive measures we can take to protect our skin from sun damage. UCLA Dermatology reminds us of the following strategies to avoid skin cancer:

  • Protect yourself from the sun.
  • Know the Risk factors.
  • Outdoor activity planning – minimize time during the sun’s most intense rays.
  • Tanning beds should be avoided.
  • Examine your skin monthly.
  • Consult your dermatologist once a year.
  • Take your skin seriously.

UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center offers additional tips for skin cancer prevention and detection:

  • Asymmetry:  The shape of one half of the mole does not match the other.
  • Border:  The edges are ragged, notched or blurred.
  • Color:  The color is often uneven. Shades of black, brown and tan may be present. Areas of white, gray, red or blue may also be seen.
  • Diameter:  The diameter is usually larger than 6 millimeters (the size of a pencil eraser) or has grown in size.
  • Evolving:  The mole has been changing in size, shape, color, appearance or growing in an area of previously normal skin. Also, when melanoma develops in an existing mole, the texture of the mole may change and become hard, lumpy or scaly. Although the skin may feel different and may itch, ooze or bleed, melanoma usually does not cause pain.

So, take your skin and these sun protection strategies seriously to minimize your risk for developing skin cancer and other sun-related skin conditions.  For more information, a YouTube video with  UCLA dermatologist Dr. Anabella Pascucci offers tips for detecting and preventing prevent skin cancer.

Dec 20, 2016 · Not just for celebs: meditation provides real-life health benefits

Not Just for Celebs: Meditation Provides Real-Life Health Benefits

Tina Turner does it.  So does Katy Perry, Sting, supermodel Gisele Bundchen and a host of other celebrities. When not strutting the concert stage or cat walk, they’re grooving to meditation’s benefits.

While celebrity isn’t a reason to try meditation, it did make me a bit more curious. These are people who must surely have at least as much stress in their daily lives as many of us, right?

As we swing into the holiday season, stress can play as big a role in our lives as exchanging presents and expressions of good cheer. Our minds race with thoughts of travel plans, family gatherings, gift-buying and how to keep it all together without losing it — both mentally and physically.

And that included stressed-out me.  According to health experts, stress that’s left unchecked can contribute to many health problems, such as heart disease, weight gain and mental health concerns.

Determined to bring my holiday-induced anxiety, not to mention my blood pressure, down to earth, I decided to consult the Oracle. I opened my Google page. Just the briefest of searches took me to a health-related news area that seemed as popular as sports – meditation. With the benefit of a little more research, I decided to explore a form of meditation known as “mindfulness meditation.”

“Mindfulness is one of dozens of types of meditation,” notes Diana Winston, UCLA’s director of Mindfulness Education.  “Mindfulness is both a meditation practice and a quality of attention that you can bring to any moment in your day or life.”

Facing a growing list of unpurchased holiday gifts and unanswered invitations, I found the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center’s online description take on reducing stress to be particularly intriguing.  Why not give it a try?

So, off I went to a free drop-in mindfulness meditation experience open to anyone interested in learning how to ‘live more presently’ in life. I was a bit nervous just attending the session, which I found ironic. It was not long after the ‘mindful’ leader began his introduction into meditation techniques, however, that I found myself listening to my breathing and the sounds around me, and relaxing a bit more than I had expected.

“Mindfulness awareness is the moment-by-moment process of actively and openly observing one’s physical, mental and emotional experiences,” says Marvin G. Belzer, PhD, associate director of the Mindful Awareness Center, who led the session.

According to researchers at the center interviewed in a recent UCLA U magazine article, mindfulness meditation can have a positive impact on stress-related conditions such as insomnia, depression and anxiety. Through randomly controlled studies, the center’s research has shown that mind-body interventions, such as mindfulness meditation, yoga and Tai Chi, reduce stress, improve sleep and possibly prevent chronic illnesses. Specifically, say the researchers, mind-body interventions target behavioral and biological pathways and can alter the molecular expression of genes that are involved in the regulation of inflammation, a known factor linked to many chronic diseases.

A 2015 Forbes magazine article highlighted seven ways meditation can actually change the brain and highlighted a UCLA study showing that long-term meditators had better-preserved brains than non-meditators as they aged.  Another UCLA yoga and meditation study found that a three-month course of yoga and meditation practice helped minimize the cognitive and emotional problems that often precede Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.  In order to truly experience the benefits of mindfulness, however, experts recommend that the techniques be practiced on a regular basis.

Winston began meditating 25 years ago. In just a few short years, she’s seen a dramatic increase in the center’s services.  The program now reaches over a 100,000 people a month who access free guided mindfulness meditations on the center’s website and she often hears from people who find comfort from the online recordings.

The benefits described by the center are hard to ignore.   So, I decided to attend another free mindfulness awareness session conducted by Winston at the Hammer Museum.  And this time, I dragged two stressed-out, curious friends to accompany me.

Winston guided a packed auditorium through a half-hour session.  She asked us to envision our brains like the sky filled with clouds floating by, some angry and some wispy, just like our thoughts.  My friends and I all resonated with her message, and the experience was calming.

“Mindfulness is about paying attention in the present moment, not being lost in the past, not being lost in the future, but coming into this moment and finding a place of ease and well-being with things as they are,” says Winston.

My encounters with the Mindfulness Awareness center have made me feel as empowered as Beyoncé taking the stage at the The Grammys.  As I look beyond the holidays and into 2017, I’m grateful to the center for giving me the tools to also stay firmly anchored to the present — with a newfound peace of mind that will pay dividends in the future.

Nov 29, 2016 · Post-election recipe for health: volunteer

tovah-ucla-pac-websiteAs the election season recedes and the holidays approach, this may be the perfect time to decompress and reflect within about ourselves and our nation.

For me, the process starts with taking a fresh look at the candidates’ slogans.  Whether it’s “Make America Great Again” or “Stronger Together,” the message seems to be the same: you should take some action to help others.  And the interesting thing is that taking positive steps will not only benefit those around you, but pay dividends to your personal health as well.

A recent study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, for instance, found that volunteering may have positive health benefits for older adults. My guess is that volunteering provides value for people of all ages. According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal agency that engages more than 5 million Americans in public service opportunities, volunteering provides innumerable benefits that may not be easily measured  such as strengthening communities, connecting to others and, sometimes, even transforming our lives.

“The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something,” said President Barack Obama in a quote that resonates with me.  “Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope.”

Fortunately for all of us, there are many opportunities to do something good for our world.  The U.S. State Department, which provides a list of volunteer opportunities, both national and international, is a good place to start.   And whether you’re an active member of the workforce or a retired senior citizen, the AARP has a fun ‘volunteer wizard’ series of questions that can help you pinpoint the best volunteer opportunities for your personality and interests.

Working at a world-class medical facility such as UCLA Health, I get to see volunteers in action closer to home, contributing in a myriad of ways to the lives of patients, their families and their co-workers.

Volunteers who love their dogs, for example, can explore UCLA’s People-Animal Connection, which has provided documented health and emotional benefits to hospitalized patients and their loved ones through the power of canine companionship.  The program puts the dogs through a personality test to see whether they are well-suited for a hospital setting, and then provides training and guidance if they are.

There are also options for volunteers whose talents tend more to the written page or computer screen.  “For the writer with a love of history,” notes Carey McCarthy, director of Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center volunteer services, there might be a living history program at your local hospital.  “UCLA Health hospitals have volunteer writers who visit oncology patients who wish to share their story.  One-page bios are drafted and laminated along with graphics that blend in with their story.  This allows the medical team and caregivers to get to know their patients better.”

The volunteer living history program at UCLA Health turned out to be a perfect fit for Jo Sue Whisler, a volunteer who wanted to connect with patients using her background in psychology and education. “The patients love the process — having someone interested in them and listening to them and their story,” said Whistler. “I have received many hugs and wiped away lots of tears. It is a privilege to be trusted by complete strangers and have them open up their lives to me. I am humbled and inspired.”

Are your interests more on the musical or visual arts side, or even styling hair?  Musicians, artists, hair-cutters and people-pleasers can volunteer to bring joy to an otherwise tedious hospital stay. Volunteers play musical instruments, help with art projects, give a stylish haircut and spend time with patients in their rooms playing checkers or other games, all in an effort to bring more joy.

And when even the most accomplished doctors and state-of-the-art medicine can no longer halt the advance of a life-threatening illness and death is imminent, volunteers are there to provide crucial support.  Hospital volunteers in UCLA’s No One Dies Alone program are dedicated to giving comfort and keeping vigil with patients who have no one else to stay with them during their last days. So even patients in the direst of circumstances, whose relatives and friends cannot be at their bedside, can take comfort in knowing that they will not have to die alone.

Volunteering and altruism, whether on an international, national or local level, transform lives for the better daily – sometimes even our own.  So as the New Year, and a new political era, approach, perhaps give volunteering a try.  Chances are you’ll find it to be the most lasting and satisfying way to make a difference.

Oct 24, 2016 · Blood-cancer research, patients focus of “Light The Night” walk


With invitations to so many worthy medical causes and events, it becomes a difficult decision to figure out how to devote your time and energy.  But a colleague who was diagnosed with a blood cancer gave me a laser focus on an upcoming event.

Like my treasured co-worker, Jassmine Ahumada’s 7-year-old son, Rey, should be enjoying life to the fullest.  He should be running, jumping and playing outside like most other children his age. Instead, he’s fighting leukemia and “stuck in a bubble,” says his mom, an admissions clerk at UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica. “That word, ‘cancer,’” she adds. “We need to put an end to it.”

With that as a goal, UCLA Health became a presenting sponsor of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Oct. 22 “Light the Night Walk” at L.A. Live in a mission to raise research funds to find cures for blood cancers.  More than 60 teams composed of hundreds of UCLA Health staff members, patients, including many cancer survivors, family members, researchers and community members participated by carrying red, white or yellow lanterns in support of loved ones.

“Over the years, the society has funded about 50 UCLA researchers with almost $10 million, and its support has been vital to the development of many treatment breakthroughs, including Gleevec, a pill for a common form of adult leukemia that has dramatically improved five-year survival rates,” said Johnese Spisso, president of UCLA Health and corporate walk chair for the Los Angeles event.

Jassmine says of her son, “He’s the strongest little boy you’ve ever seen. Every month he has to have a spinal puncture for his chemotherapy. When new children come to the clinic frightened and crying, Rey offers comfort and reassurance. He shows them his own port and explains that they don’t need to be afraid and that it won’t hurt.” Funds raised from the “Light the Night” will also help improve patient access to treatment and bolster services for patients and their families.

Rey with the Laker Girls

Rey with the Laker Girls

Rey, accompanied by Jassmine and her husband, joined other cancer survivors in carrying a white lantern, signifying the power of research and hope for a cure. Supporters carried red lanterns and individuals who commemorated a loved one lost to cancer carried yellow lanterns. I carried a red one for my friend.

Another UCLA Health employee, Martin Lingard, also walked at Light the Night with a white lantern. Lingard, a four-and-one-half-year lymphoma survivor, said he was “proud and pleased to be carrying a white lantern” to raise awareness and research funds that will lead to better therapies and cancer-fighting drugs with fewer damaging side effects.

“It was an amazing event,” said Lingard.  “It was my first time walking ‘Light the Night’ and it was wonderful to see so many people come out for an amazing cause.  I was also heartened to see white lanterns of survivors walking like me. It gave me renewed hope and energy to keep fighting for this important cause.”

The American Society of Hematology explains on its website that blood cancers affect the production and function of the body’s normal blood cells. Most of these cancers start in the bone marrow where blood is produced. Stem cells in the bone marrow mature and develop into three types of blood cells: red blood cells, white blood cells, or platelets. In most blood cancers, the normal blood cell development process is interrupted by uncontrolled growth of an abnormal type of blood cell. These abnormal blood cells, or cancerous cells, prevent the blood from performing many of its functions, like fighting off infections or preventing serious bleeding.

According to UCLA blood cancer researcher Dr. John Timmerman, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society is the only organization that focuses completely on blood cancers. “They want to advocate for new research and bring exciting cures for patients with all different types of blood cancer,” said Timmerman, professor of medicine in the division of hematology and oncology at UCLA Health.

Statistics from the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society:

  • Approximately every 3 minutes someone in the United States is diagnosed with a blood cancer.
  • An estimated combined total of 171,550 people in the US are expected to be diagnosed with leukemia, lymphoma or myeloma in 2016.
  • New cases of leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma are expected to account for 10.2 percent of the estimated 1,685,210 new cancer cases diagnosed in the U.S. in 2016.

Timmerman says the future holds promise in that it may not be long before immunotherapies begin to take the place of chemotherapy in some cases. “For some lymphomas, we are seeing prolonged remissions with immunotherapies such as checkpoint inhibitors or engineered T cells.  Combining immunotherapy with other targeted therapies is also showing exciting results in the laboratory and early clinical trials. In some cases, these treatments are looking to be just as effective as traditional chemotherapy,” he says.

Immunotherapy is emerging as the “fourth pillar” of cancer treatment, joining surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, according to UCLA researchers. That means that cancer patients today, perhaps more than ever before, need to ask questions about emerging treatments, even therapies that are still in clinical trials. “In many communities, doctors are not aware of how fast this is moving,” Timmerman notes. “Patients need to be aggressive in seeking out these new treatments that are available in clinical trials.”

Oct 20, 2016 · Healthy Halloween treats


As Halloween approaches and sugary treats top the shopping list, there are some tricks you can deploy to provide healthy and fun alternatives to the customary loads of candy that are shoveled into kids’ bags and stomachs.

To stop the sugar overload this Halloween, consider handing out healthy snacks and nonedible treats like Halloween stickers, spooky school supplies and temporary tattoos.  They’re one of many creative ways – including exercise – to allow children to celebrate the holiday without adding to the sugar rush.

“Make Halloween an active holiday in your household,” says Erin Morse, chief clinical dietitian for UCLA Health. “Do not drive to a trick-or-treating location, if possible.  Walk instead or have your kids play outside before heading out for their treats.”

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics and UCLA Health dietitians, here are some ideas to consider:

  • A good meal prior to parties and trick-or-treating will discourage youngsters from filling up on Halloween treats.
  • Consider purchasing non-food treats for those who visit your home, such as coloring books or pens and pencils.
  • Wait until children are home to sort and check treats. Though tampering is rare, a responsible adult should closely examine all treats and throw away any spoiled, unwrapped or suspicious items.
  • Do not allow young children to have hard candy or gum that could cause choking.
  • Keep track of how much candy your children collect and store it somewhere other than their bedroom so you can set limits on how much they can eat.
  • Make sure kids brush their teeth after eating sugary treats.
  • Teach children to give.  Consider donating candy to a charity or to soldiers who are living abroad.

“If you’re planning a Halloween party and want to offer up some healthy treats for your guests,” UCLA dietitian Dana Hunnes advises, “I like to do fruit on a stick for my son.  Also, chocolate black-bean brownies, chocolate-covered strawberries, golden chick-pea blondies, fruit smoothies and trail mix are all healthy treats for your Halloween party guests.”  Hunnes notes that the sugar ingredients for both brownie recipes can be cut in half.

“It’s the season for everything pumpkin,” says Morse. “If you are bringing food to a party, you can make Halloween-inspired vegetable platters and also incorporate pumpkin into delicious recipes such as pumpkin ice cream or pumpkin salad.”

Other tempting and healthier options for parties and trick-or-treaters can include:

  • Healthy granola bars can be a smart way to satisfy a sweet tooth as well. They have fewer calories than a candy bar and include a dose of antioxidants and filling fiber. Make sure to read nutrition labels carefully, avoid granola bars loaded with saturated fat, and look for organic bars that are high in fiber.
  • Pumpkin seeds are superstars! Pumpkin seed packets are festive handouts that go well with a Halloween-themed celebration. As a healthy Halloween treat for trick-or-treaters, pumpkin seeds are rich in zinc, iron and magnesium. You can even make your own roasted pumpkin seeds after you make a jack-o-lantern.
  • Individually-sealed servings of apple sauce are healthy and aren’t perishable until opened.
  • Raisin packs can be handed out to trick-or-treaters, though kids will probably appreciate the dark chocolate-covered raisins best.

Halloween no longer needs to be a scary time for parents and other adults.  Simply head to your local craft store for non-edible offerings or to the grocery store for healthier treats that will be tasty enough for even the fussiest goblin!