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Sanjay Gupta MD

Meat Recall; Children's Health Insurance; Cholesterol Control

Aired October 06, 2007 - 08:30   ET


SANJAY GUPTA, HOST: This is HOUSECALL. We're making the rounds this morning of some of the most intriguing medical stories of the week.
First up, your kids' insurance. The president makes a decisive move that could affect their health. Then, alternative therapies that really work. Empower yourself to make the right choices.

Plus, when it comes to cholesterol, there's good, there's bad, and there's downright ugly. How do you know the difference?

And another meat recall makes headlines. How to keep your family safe from E.Coli.

Let's get started, though with a story we've been following here on HOUSECALL -- health insurance, who has it, who needs it. A promised presidential veto of a bill to expand health insurance to more American children is now a reality. Ed Henry has more.


ED HENRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the privacy of the Oval Office, away from the glare of cameras, the president vetoed a bill expanding a popular health program for kids, a move so controversial within his own party with 45 House Republicans voting against him, the president knew he had some explaining to do at a town hall meeting in conservative Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I wanted to share with you why I vetoed the bill this morning. Poor kids first. Secondly, I believe in private medicine, not the federal government running the health care system.

HENRY: Mr. Bush charges the Democrats' $35 billion plan is so massive, middle-class children will jump from private insurance to the government dole, leaving poor kids in the dust.

BUSH: The intent of the program was to focus on poorer children, not adults, or families earning up to $83,000 a year.

HENRY: Eager to restore Republicans' credibility on fiscal conservativism, the president calls the Democratic plan a budget buster, claiming his $5 billion increase would suffice.

GUPTA: You have to be fiscally responsible, set priorities with your money, and keep your taxes low. HENRY: But Democrats note the president didn't veto any spending bills when Republicans were running Congress. So he's finding religion a bit late in the game.

REP. PETER DEFAZIO (D), OREGON: After an orgy of borrowing, spending, and misspending on many dubious things, his target, 10 million low-income kids.

HENRY (on camera): The president signaled he may be ready to compromise by saying he's willing to put up a little more money in negotiations with Democrats. But Republican strategists expect he may have to pony up even more money because the political pressure on the Republican Party is going to get intense.

Ed Henry, CNN, the White House.


GUPTA: And you know, the battle over S-chip isn't over just yet. The leaders of the House are scrambling right now to get enough votes to override that presidential veto. They expect that to happen sometime in the next two weeks.

You know, millions of Americans look to nontraditional medicine to do everything from easing their back pain, to even curing the common cold. In this week's "Empowered Patient," Elizabeth Cohen looks at alternative therapies that might really work.

You've been looking into this, Elizabeth. So what are some of the alternative they are think pis that might work?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Sanjay, there's a lot of good out there when it comes to alternative medicine. And there's also a lot of bad.

In fact, there are people selling things that will allegedly cure your cancer, and make you grow a full head of hair, and lose weight instantly. And so we asked a panel of experts on alternative medicine. These are people who work at some of the Ivy League schools, academic institutions who specialize in integrated medicine. And we asked them, where is their real proof, where is there proof that alternative medicine works?

And they gave us five alternative medicine practices that have studies behind them. I'm going to tell you two right now.

One of them is acupuncture for knee pain. Really excellent studies, I'm told, at the University of Maryland that that actually works very well for osteoarthritis of the knee. Also, St. John's Wort for mild to moderate depression. Some of their studies are mixed, but the experts that I talked to said that's something really worth trying as long as you're very careful that you're not mixing St. John's Wort with certain medications.

GUPTA: You know, there's a lot of alternative therapies out there. And people hear about it all the time. We talk about them. Is there a way of knowing ahead of time what's going to work and what's not going to work?

COHEN: There are some questions that you can ask. For example, when you go to someone who's going to give you acupuncture, you can ask if they're licensed. Accupuncturists are often licensed, as are other practitioners.

You can also go to an academic center, where they practice integrated medicine. You can see there's a website right there that you can go to. And these are 38 centers -- Harvard, Stanford, Columbia, UCLA, places like that where there are MDs who also specialize in integrated medicine. And they've really tried to put it all together rather than just advocate one type or the other.

GUPTA: That's why it's called integrated.

COHEN: There you go.

GUPTA: That's interesting. Used to be considered fringe medicine, but not a lot of actual scientific data.

COHEN: Not any more. Absolutely.

GUPTA: Very good stuff, Elizabeth. Thank you so much for being here.

COHEN: Thank you.

GUPTA: And make sure to check out Elizabeth's column as well on this very topic at Just look for her picture. Click on the link. Every week, she writes about ways you can empower yourself to get the most out of your health care. Really good stuff.

Now when it comes to cholesterol, do you know the difference between the good and the bad? Do you even know your numbers?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know. I would like to know, because I eat a lot of fast food. I do.


GUPTA: And later, just say yes to your kids when it comes to underage drinking. Hmm? Some research says it could stop an addiction before it even starts. We'll explain.

Finally, is your desk an occupational hazard? Coming up in just one minute, a quick tip to make your workplace healthier.


GUPTA: Is your job a pain in the neck? Sometimes. Or the back maybe, even the wrist. It could be the way you sit or maybe even hold your arms when you work. So here's a quick tip from occupational medicine specialist Dr. Steven Dawkins.


STEVEN DAWKINS, DR., OCCUPATIONAL MED SPECIALIST: For most workstations, the position should be that the arm is held at a 90- degree angle and with your arm to your elbow. And your wrist is -- should be positioned at the keyboard at about that height. Our goal is to sort of develop this 90-degree angle that minimizes the amount of stress and tension on the tendons that support the hand and the wrist.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's around 150.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a little over -- I don't know the exact number. I know it's a little over 200, like 212, I think. A little high.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, the last time I had it checked was two years ago.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know it's elevated, but I don't remember the exact number.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Borderline, actually, so -- but the exact numbers I don't know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, actually, I don't.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've never checked it, ever.

GUPTA: So do you know your cholesterol numbers? Our informal poll told us many of us do. Our this week, we asked which topic would you most like us to tackle on HOUSECALL. The difference between good and bad cholesterol was the winner. Thanks to all those voted.

We turn now to Judy Fortin with more.


JUDY FORTIN: Phil Massey's total cholesterol is 143, well within the American Heart Association guidelines. But he's had to work at it.

PHIL MASSEY, CHOLESTEROL PATIENT: I haven't had a pizza in God knows how long.

FORTIN: He spends more time exercising and has eliminated saturated fat from his diet. Dr. William Castelli says cutting out fat and refined carbohydrates can make a big difference in lowering bad cholesterol or LDL.