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Baucus Unveils Health Care Bill; Pregnant Women Get H1N1 Shot; Experts Recommend Less Cell Phone Use

Aired September 19, 2009 - 07:30   ET


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN HOST: Good morning. You're watching HOUSE CALL -- the show that helps you live longer and stronger. I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Thanks so much for watching.

First up, cell phones and your cancer risk. What you really need to know about this.

Also, find out just how close your doctor is to getting the H1N1 vaccine.

Plus, when you hear the word "diet," do you already start feeling little hungry? I do. I've got a diet that keeps you feeling full, help you lose some weight, and might even get you off some medications -- no gimmicks.

You're watching HOUSE CALL.


GUPTA: We start, though, with some new numbers out this week that paint a startling picture of what's happening with the state of our health system.

Get this -- if you're uninsured and of working age, you have a 40 percent higher risk of dying than those who have private insurance, dying of all sorts of different causes. That was based on this Harvard Medical School study which also found that nearly 45,000 deaths every year can be linked simply to the lack of health insurance.

And meanwhile, in Washington, the long-awaited great hope of a compromise health reform bill hasn't quite worked out that way so far. No Republican support.

Our senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash is on Capitol Hill to talk about this.

Dana, let me -- let me ask to you look into your tea leaves for a second if you can. And what does this all mean? What is the future of what's happening here?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think you said it very well, that this was supposed to be the great compromise. I can't tell you how many hours I spent outside a room where there were three Republicans and three Democrats negotiating, and you thought that after all of that time that they would come out with a bipartisan deal. And so, it was really striking this past week to watch the finance chairman, the Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus come out to announce his proposal alone.

But, the reality is, Sanjay, that this still is a very important move. It was a very significant shift with regard to this very long health care debate. And the reason is because that Senator Baucus doesn't have Republicans on and he, frankly, doesn't have a lot of Democrats on yet.

But everybody -- especially the people at the White House -- understands that his is probably the best chance at getting through Congress. And the reason is because it is much more moderate, much more centrist than what we saw going through the House before the August recess.

GUPTA: You mentioned some lack of Democratic support as well. So, what are the Democrats' issues with this?

BASH: We're hearing from many Democrats -- I've talked to several Democratic senators, and they are concerned about the fact that it's not affordable enough, that middle-class Americans are not getting enough help because there is a mandate for insurance coverage here. It is a very new...

GUPTA: Right.

BASH: ... a very important new proposal that everybody must have health insurance. Well, they say, you need to help people more so that they can actually pay for that. That's just one example of many concerns that Democrats have on this.

GUPTA: We should talk about this every week, I think, until something happens.

BASH: I love to.

GUPTA: So, let's just keep doing that. Dana Bash, thank you so much.

BASH: Thank you.

GUPTA: Now, developing story this week: Your doctor is one step closer to getting the new H1N1 flu vaccine. Now, the FDA has approved applications from four manufactures. That's the starting point. Two types of vaccines are going to be available, a shot or a nasal spray. Now, the spray does contain a live virus. So, only healthy individuals ages 2 to 49 are going to be eligible for this particular form.

And while manufacturers are ramping up to get the vaccine to your doctor, there are some clinical trials that are just starting for a group we know could have deadly complications with the H1N1 flu, and that's pregnant women. We talked about this before.

Our own Elizabeth Cohen talked with one woman, eight months pregnant, who decided to get the new vaccine. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SR. MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Amy Wolf is off on a historic medical mission. She's about to become one of the very first pregnant women ever to receive the new H1N1 flu vaccine.

BEN WOLF, HUSBAND: My first gut reaction was -- oh, no, what is she up to now?

I love you.

COHEN: Amy's husband isn't the only one who has reservations about the experimental vaccine. Eight months into her pregnancy, Amy is not 100 percent sure either. But still, she makes her way to the study at Vanderbilt University.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Arm pain, tenderness, maybe some fever, maybe feeling achy.

AMY WOLF, SWINE FLU VACCINE VOLUNTEER: Going through all the waivers and all the medical things you have to sign, you almost feel like you're signing your life away a little bit. So, I will say that it made me a little nervous. And it's not just me, you know, I have a baby.

COHEN: Amy who works at Vanderbilt signs the forms and gets the H1N1 shot. So, why does she do it?

A. WOLF: All of a sudden, we're in the middle of Babies "R" Us, and he turns to me and said, "You're not just doing this vaccine because you might get paid for it." And I thought, I don't even know if I'm getting paid for it. But that, you know, would be a perk.

COHEN: But she says the $300 she received for joining the study isn't why she did it. She wanted to get the shot because she's scared of swine flu. And what really clinched her decision? On Monday, she found out her neighbor's son got H1N1, and now, he's in the hospital.

A. WOLF: It terrified me. I was scared to death. I mean, pregnancy hormones and all, I just started to cry.

COHEN: Amy wants to protect herself and her unborn baby.

(on camera): Amy just got her H1N1 vaccine. Will that vaccine protect her child from H1N1 once he's born?

DR. BUDDY CREECH, VANDERBILT DEPT. OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES: What we want to vaccinated women early enough in the pregnancy so that they can give that antibody to their unborn children.

COHEN (voice-over): So, in the end, Amy got the swine flu vaccine for both of them.

A. WOLF: I hope it's the right thing to do. I will never forgive myself if it isn't. But I think it's the right thing to do. (END VIDEOTAPE)

GUPTA: One thing that's going to be important on all this is keeping in touch with Amy and bringing you updates on her and her baby's health.

And Elizabeth Cohen joins us now to talk about this.

You know, it's interesting, because we've been talking about H1N1 for some time and this whole thing about pregnant women is fascinating. You've been pregnant. I have three kids, as well. Are women worried? I mean, what are you hearing in your "Empowered Patient" mailbox?

COHEN: Oh, we get a lot of e-mails from pregnant women who are worried and are saying, "Gosh, I don't know if I should get it. I don't know what I should do."

And, Sanjay, what worries them most is that this is new. I mean, you and I both know, this is a flu shot. But it's a little different because this virus has never been used in a flu shot before. They are thinking they want this used on tens of thousands of women before -- pregnant women before they take it. And, well, of course, it hasn't been because it's new.

GUPTA: Now, there's a lot of reasons obviously to get the flu shot, to get the H1N1 flu shot as well.

COHEN: Right, exactly. So, they are worried about what are the risks of taking something that's new. But, you know, when you take -- when you get the H1N1 flu shot as a pregnant woman, you are not only protecting yourself -- and H1N1 is particularly bad for pregnant women -- so, you're protecting yourself, but you're also probably protecting your unborn child, because the woman's immunity, her antibodies, will go to that child.

GUPTA: That's interesting.

COHEN: So when the child is born...

GUPTA: They are protected and, hopefully, long enough through flu season.

COHEN: Right. Exactly. For a couple of months.


COHEN: So, that's an important thing for people to think about, an important thing to remember.

GUPTA: This topic comes up all the time. And you are a public health person. I mean, you look at this from a different prism as well, Elizabeth. How do you sort of -- sort of talk yourself through it to get it, to not get it? What are the questions that you ask?

COHEN: Well, I asked myself that question. I thought, if I were pregnant now, during swine flu -- you know, it's widespread here in Georgia where we live -- would I get the shot or not? And so, I would have to think through how scared am I of something that's new compared to how scared am I of getting swine flu as a pregnant woman?

I mean, swine flu has killed a small number but has killed pregnant. And also, my baby, when it was born, babies can't get -- newborn babies can't get a swine flu shot. They have to be over six months of age. So, really, the only way to protect that baby would be for me to get the shot while pregnant. So, I would have to weigh all those different things.

GUPTA: Elizabeth, thanks.

COHEN: Thanks.

GUPTA: We'll be talking about this, I think, throughout the season.


GUPTA: And the shots are expected mid-October.

COHEN: That's right. Or maybe even a little bit earlier.

GUPTA: All right. You can read a lot more about Elizabeth's tips, great tips there. Check out her column,

And later in the show, a diet loaded with health benefits actually helps control your hunger. It sounds good.

And the dust, the heat, the danger -- a brave soldier who went beyond the call of duty. We're going to have that story.

Plus, just about everyone has one of these, PDA, iPhone -- BlackBerry, in my case -- just how much radiation is it emitting and are you at risk? We'll talk about it.

You're watching HOUSE CALL.


GUPTA: And we are back with HOUSE CALL.

And a new report in the Senate hearing this week on whether your cell phone could increase your cancer risk. This report came from the Environmental Working Group, and it warned specifically about radiation emissions, has a best and a worst list of cell phones, BlackBerrys and similar devices as well, they're ranked according to their emissions.

Now, the group does not claim these devices cause cancer, only that the science is not conclusive. That it is linked to brain cancer or that it is not. So, basically the message is just try and use some caution. The Senate subcommittee heard similar testimony this week with experts recommending people use their cell phone less, keep them away from their body and limit children's use as well.

Not easy to do if you're in the business that we are. You know, something that I've been talking about for some time, is simply just using a wired ear piece like this. All my producers and everyone around here knows that this is how I talk on the phone. I think it's just a prudent way to go.

And for a list of cell phone emissions, you can also go to HOUSE CALL Web site and look under this week's links.

As you know, I'm just back from Afghanistan. It was an amazing trip. I met some amazing people as well who are fighting to save lives in some pretty harsh conditions. I had the chance to talk with one combat flight medic who specializes in something known as hoist maneuvers, basically being dangled from a helicopter and dropped into tough areas to rescue the injured.

I have to share this story he told me where he ended up saving 12 troops. Take a listen.


STAFF SGT. PETER ROHRS, U.S. ARMY COMBAT FIGHT MEDIC: A number of patients and (INAUDIBLE) on the ground already. I picked the worst patient and sent him to the aircraft and then told the aircraft to depart, that I would stay and continue to treat the wounded.

GUPTA: What's going through your head? I mean, how worried are you really, honestly?

ROHRS: Doc, if I stopped to think about it before I did it, I probably wouldn't do it. As what sane individual says, I'm going to stay here in the middle of this very precarious situation unarmed with a bunch of wounded people and the enemy knows where you're at and they're going to continue to shoot at you.

GUPTA: You taken fire?

ROHRS: We did have one individual who tried to attempt to charge the position. And myself and one of infantrymen made a decision that he was only going to get so close before we actually neutralized him as a threat. And so, he got a little bit too close. Infantrymen engaged the target and him and I went out and searched him, brought him back and then I treated him for a gunshot wound in the abdomen.

GUPTA: Did you hesitate? Did you worry? I mean, is that strange in any way?

ROHRS: I probably worried right up until the point where we took his rifle away from him. And then it was -- when he was no longer a threat, he just became another patient.

GUPTA: You didn't have to stay in that landing zone -- and you could have left?

ROHRS: Who would have treated the patients? You know, I'm probably my own worst critic and I would have beat myself up pretty good if I left and something would happen because I wasn't there to do something simple.

GUPTA: Did you think you were going to die?

ROHRS: No. I don't know if it's because I had just didn't think about it, but I was pretty shaken up afterwards when the adrenalin stops.


GUPTA: That's amazing. I mean, people risking their lives to save others. And Staff Sergeant Peter Rohrs, he received the Silver Star for his bravery that day. President Bush presented the medal to Rohrs at Fort Bragg back in 2008.

Did you know you can over-hydrate yourself? We don't talk about this very much. We'll tell you how much fluid your body really needs.

And also, news on a diet that helps control hunger and blood sugar.

Plus, there's a cutting edge surgical procedure out there, implanting a tooth to save someone's eyesight. You got to see this.

You're watching HOUSE CALL.


GUPTA: And we are back with HOUSE CALL.

Blind for nine years, she's now going to be able to see her grandchildren for the first time. Surgeons implant a tooth in the blind women's eye to help her see again. It's really medicine on the cutting edge.

And our woman Elizabeth Cohen is back with this fascinating story.


KAY THORNTON, REGAINED VISION: I thought about suicide. Then I thought I can't...

COHEN (voice-over): Kay Thornton lost her sight nine years ago when a bad reaction to a drug scarred her cornea, the clear covering of the eye. It was so bad even a cornea transplant wouldn't help. Doctors gave her no hope -- but Kay believes in miracles.

(on camera): Did you ever think a miracle would involve a tooth?

THORNTON: No! COHEN (voice-over): It's amazing that a tooth -- a tooth -- could help someone see again. When Dr. Victor Perez at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami first heard of this odd-sounding procedure, he couldn't believe it either.

DR. VICTOR PEREZ, THE BASCOM PALMER EYE INSTITUTE: We thought, "Oh my God, how can that -- how can people do that?" It seems to be a very, you know, far-fetched idea.

COHEN: First, Dr. Perez removed the scar tissue from Thornton's left cornea because it was blocking her vision. Then -- get this -- he took her canine tooth and part of her jawbone and whittled down. This is the actual surgery. He then used a piece of her tooth and bone to hold in place a new lens that acts as her cornea.

Just hours after the surgery, Dr. Perez removed Thornton's bandages and for first time in nearly a decade, she could see her best friend Rick Brister (ph).

THORNTON: He was the prettiest thing I believe I've ever seen.

COHEN: This procedure won't work for most blind people and Thornton can't see perfectly.

THORNTON: I can't tell exactly what color you have on, either blue or black.

COHEN (on camera): Yes, black -- I'm wearing black.


PEREZ: That's really good.

COHEN (voice-over): Her vision will get better, and meanwhile, she's thrilled by what she can see right now.

THORNTON: The blues are bluer. The clouds are bigger and just beautiful. The clouds here look like mountains.

COHEN: Elizabeth Cohen, CNN, Miami.


GUPTA: And Kay went home to Mississippi and did something she's never done. She saw her grandchildren as well. We'll be following up with her and let you know how she's doing.

You know, the Mediterranean diet is very popular nowadays, rich in fish, fruits, nuts, flavorful olive oils. You've probably heard about this. A lot of studies specifically about the Mediterranean showing all kinds of potential health benefits, reducing heart disease, for example, delaying Alzheimer's as well, lowering cancer risk -- all good things.

What's been a little bit more of an issue is: what is the impact on controlling Type II diabetes. So, a recent study looked at more than 200 overweight people who were newly diagnosed with Type II diabetes and they were assigned either a low fat diet or the Mediterranean diet, and follow it along, see how they do.

Now, those on the Mediterranean diet, again, rich in fish, the nuts, the fruits, olive oils, 50 percent of the daily calories specifically coming from carbohydrates, and 30 percent, no more than that of calories coming from fat. That's a little bit of look at the Mediterranean diet.

The low fat diet that they're talking about specifically -- they we were in whole grains, so that's a little bit of a distinction as compared to the Mediterranean diet. You have to limit your sweets. Thirty percent of you calories, no more than fat, and of that, 10 percent of your calories specifically from saturated fat.

Now, the question the researchers are trying to figure out is, what was the impact on diabetes overall? What they found four years later, a huge difference. Nearly half those on the Mediterranean diet, 40 percent were on diabetic medications. And that was compared to 70 percent of the people on the low-fat diet who are on diabetic medications.

So, there you get a little bit of an idea of just how much of an impact being on the Mediterranean diet could have. Also, people on the Mediterranean diet lost more weight, were less hungry and went longer without blood sugar-lowering medication. This goes to show you some good choices about what goes on your plate can allow you to live a longer and stronger life.

Now, making your food healthy and tasty, even saving some money at the same time. You can't beat that. We'll have it for you.

Stay with HOUSE CALL.


GUPTA: We're back with HOUSE CALL.

You know, you think, if you want an exciting meal, you're going to have to go out to a restaurant. What if you want to eat home and you want to eat at home and eat healthy as well? Well, leave it to world renowned chef Eric Ripert. He has some tips for a delicious food, eating healthy and saving money. Check it out.


GUPTA (voice-over): With the economy in a slump, families are struggling to make ends meet. But you don't have to sacrifice good nutrition. Where better to look for tips on healthy living on the cheap than a five-star French chef?

ERIC RIPERT, CHEF, LE BERNARDIN RESTAURANT: If you put a little bit of your interest into the food, it's easy to find a way to eat for a budget which is not too expensive, good food.

GUPTA: World renowned chef Eric Ripert says it's all about doing what works for you.

RIPERT: You can, for instance, buy a chicken which is very inexpensive. Instead of buying the chicken already cut or cooked, you buy it whole. And therefore, you save a lot of money.

If you want something healthy and something inexpensive, you have to think seasonal. If you want to eat tomatoes in January, it's very expensive. Now, if in January, you eat root vegetables, if you make a soup, a squash, it's going to be very inexpensive.

GUPTA: So, how does this French chef extraordinaire stay healthy himself surrounded by topnotch cuisine all day long?

RIPERT: Right before I leave the house, I have a little bit of dark chocolate of very good quality. I leave my house around 10:00, and I walk through the streets of New York. It takes about 40 to 45 minutes. I think it keeps me in a certain good health and in shape.

GUPTA: The bottom line, says Ripert...

RIPERT: I'm a strong believer that you can do a lot of things in terms of eating, which is you can eat butter, you can eat chocolate, you can have a little dessert here and there. But again, you have to be in the quantity at least controlled. And you have to compensate with some exercise.


GUPTA: Cooking healthy on a budget, just trying to help you here at HOUSE CALL.

Now, hydrating yourself, is it possible to have too much of a good thing?

Plus, the latest treatments for lupus. This is a conversation, a topic, that we get a lot. We're going to do it in "Ask the Doctor."

That's next.


GUPTA: It is time for "Ask the Doctor," our special segment, special "Fit Nation" we're going to do this morning. We'll start with a question from Dayna in Texas, who writes this, "How much liquid consumption is too much on a daily basis?"

Well, you know, this is a question we get all the time. And there's no single right answer here. Your height, your weight, where you live, how much you exercise -- many other factors determine an individual's need for fluids. However, the American Dietetic Association says to drink at least 64 ounces of fluid a day. You've heard this, eight, eight-ounce glasses.

In your question, most women will never need more than 96 ounces in a day or 12 eight-ounce glasses. If you're working out, a good guide is to weigh the same after your workout as before. If you weigh less, you need to hydrate. If you've gained weight, you need to back off on the hydration. So, that's one way to look at.

Another tip, if you're well-hydrated, your urine should be nearly colorless or at least pale yellow. Keep that in mind. Often -- thirst is often misinterpreted by the body as hunger. So, make sure to drink some water with every meal.

And a question now from Carolyn in Texas who writes this, "What is the latest treatment or drug that is showing success in treating lupus?"

Well, Carolyn, lupus is a chronic autoimmune condition. It seems to target women a little bit more discriminately. Since your body's immune system begins to attack not foreign invaders like viruses but your own tissues and your organs, your doctor will best be able to determine the treatment based on what type of lupus you have and the severity of your symptoms.

And after, you know, getting your question, getting your email, we did put a call into the Lupus Foundation, and officials there said targeted therapies hold the best hope, specifically something known as biologics. Now, biologics are these compounds that block or interfere with our body's immune response. They give us a heads up, if you will, about a large clinical trial as well ending in November on one such drug they hope will help all sorts of patients looking for new treatments.

Hope that helps you guys. That's all the time we have for today.

Unfortunately, if you missed any part of today's show, be sure to check out my podcast, Also, click over to our show page We got list there for information on today's show, and also, to my Twitter page at SanjayGuptaCNN.

Remember, this is the place for the answers to your medical questions. Thanks for watching. I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

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