On Tuesday evening, November 9, Dr. Mel Breite, Director and Founder of the Navigating the Medical System Lecture Series, shared his annual review in a lecture over Zoom. Dr. Breite thanked Councilman Jim Gennaro’s support for helping to start this series, and the support or Rabbi Moshe Rosenberg, rav of Congregation Etz Chaim. The lecture was dedicated in memory of Gladys Benbasset, Dr. Marshall Joffe, and Rabbi David Keehn.

Dr. Breite noted that this past year in medicine was dominated by the pandemic. Last month’s lecture covered that topic. Dr. Breite then held up his latest piece of medical equipment. It was a tape measure. He said, “No, I’m not becoming a tailor.” He went on to explain that, due to the pandemic, we’ve taken to more eating and less exercise. A medical study showed that men who had a waist greater than 40 inches and women with a waist greater than 36 inches were less healthy and died sooner.

Fat around the waist is more harmful fat than fat around the hips. It is a good idea to get that fat down. A study on morbidity of people who are obese with diabetes with a BMI over 40 live an average of nine years longer if they have bariatric surgery. Nondiabetics with BMI over 40 with bariatric surgery live five years longer.

Dr. Breite shared what is killing us besides the pandemic. Heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and cancer are the main killers. High blood pressure is defined as numbers 130/80. If a person has this number or higher, he or she needs to start therapy to lower that blood pressure.

In China, a paper was done about a study on thousands who lowered blood pressure 5-10 points and had significant success in preventing complications. This lowered morbidities.

Dr. Breite then spoke about the treatments for high blood pressure. Choice number one is a drug called Norvasc. He said it had few side effects. There are also ACE inhibitors. Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors are medications that help relax the veins and arteries to lower blood pressure. ACE inhibitors prevent an enzyme in the body from producing angiotensin II, a substance that narrows blood vessels. A third category are diuretics, sometimes called water pills, help rid your body of salt (sodium) and water. Most of these medicines help your kidneys release more sodium into your urine. The sodium helps remove water from your blood, decreasing the amount of fluid flowing through your veins and arteries. This reduces blood pressure. A fourth group are called beta blockers.

Dr. Breite advocates taking blood pressure at home with a machine. The best one is called Omron. He said you should take it one time for a few days and if the numbers are over 130/80, see your physician. “The earlier you treat high blood pressure, the better.”

Dr. Breite said it is important to decrease sodium intake in order to lower blood pressure. Read labels on food products. A study in China on thousands of people where half of the group consumed salt and half consumed a salt substitute showed a significantly lower blood pressure with those who consumed the substitute. Dr. Breite said, “We want to see a lot of 90- and 120-year-olds around.”

He then spoke about polypills which help people comply with taking medications better than having to take a lot of different pills.

He then shared some information about diabetes and the newer insulins. Ozempic is a new drug, which has to be injected and is expensive, but it’s only needed once a week. It also helps with weight loss.

He shared that diet is still the most important factor in controlling diabetes. We want to avoid complications like blindness, kidney disease, and heart attacks.

He then shared a fascinating study with the spice saffron. In a small study it was found to help in diabetes and in depression. People who took it had an overall improvement of quality of life.

He noted that turmeric is useful for arthritis either rubbed on or taking it orally. Dr. Breite mentioned how we read every morning about the spices that were offered in the Temple and medicine is learning how spices are important to us.

He said it is important to eat a diet low in saturated fats to lower cholesterol.

He shared that two studies on coffee show that it is good for your liver and your blood pressure. Dr. Breite himself drinks 6 cups a day. You have to drink it black with no sugar.

He shared information about antibiotics, as well as studies on Vitamin D.

Dr. Breite also pointed out a fascinating study done in Japan that showed some worms were attracted to the urine of patients with pancreatic cancer. This is a cancer that is difficult to diagnose early.

The community appreciates this informative lecture series. Thank you, Dr. Breite!

By Susie Garber