by Columbia Surgery on October 1, 2014

The supposed benefits of probiotic bacteria in the gut are numerous; from decreasing the incidence of diarrhea,  to replenishing the digestive system’s micro-biome after a heavy treatment of antibiotics to cure an illness. And though there isn’t a definitive consensus amongst medical practitioners that these benefits are scientifically proven, there is agreement on what foods to eat if you’re looking to increase the level of healthy bacteria in your gut (any fermented dairy products with live cultures present, usually yogurts, dairy drinks, and some cheeses).

However, once you’ve made it a point to increase the number of these bacteria in your digestive system, they need to be fed and cultivated. That’s where “prebiotics” come in. Prebiotics are carbohydrates that the human body cannot digest, but which act as a source of food for the bacteria in our gut. They can be found in a number of foods but never in the same food in which probiotics are found. Here are 8 to try:


Jerusalem Artichoke Bananas



Chicory Root




Making these foods a part of your diet will please the helpful organisms throughout your digestive system,  and if preliminary studies indicate correctly, those helpful bacteria will please you in return.



by Columbia Surgery on September 15, 2014



September marks the beginning of a new school year and for many students and parents, the start of their college journey.  You’re preparing your child for college by buying them new polka dotted sheets for that extra long dorm bed and textbooks, which you pray they’ll open, but are you preparing your child to take care of their hearts in college?

Here are some tips to keep your child heart healthy in college and beyond…

(1) Get Medical Records in Order — Teach your student to manage their own overall health.

For many new college students, this will be their first time that they will be responsible for handling their own health care. Turning 18 makes access to medical records more restricted for parents.  Make sure your child knows where the campus or local clinic is located (Columbia University’s undergraduate health clinic is located on the third and fourth floors of John Jay Hall on the main campus). Help them transfer their records and inform them about how their health insurance works (or work with them in getting student health insurance).

Dr. Steven Stylianos, Surgeon-in-Chief of Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital of NewYork-Presbyterian recommends that: “one of the simplest yet effective ways to enhance communication about a college student’s medical history is to create a written or electronic summary of the student’s medications, allergies and key medical events/procedures with dates, provider names and contact info.  This type of documentation will truly help the student and health care providers during an unplanned medical encounter, especially during “off hours” when communication is a challenge.”

For more information and resources for this transition, check out GotTransition.org.

(2) Avoid excessive drinking — Educate your student about the effect of alcohol consumption on their heart.

We all know that alcohol can be a big temptation for many college students.  Alcohol has been associated with a lot of negative health effects beyond the heart (see our previous posting on “Alcohol Abuse and Acute Pancreatitis”), but cardiovascular health is definitely adversely affected by irresponsible drinking in particular.  Drinking too much alcohol raises the level of fats (triglycerides) in the blood and can lead to high blood pressure and/or heart failure.  Binge drinkers are at a high risk for stroke.  Don’t be deceived either; new studies show that the positive effect of Resveratrol in red wine (and dark chocolate) on your heart isn’t actually well connected as once thought (sorry, folks). 

(3) Sleep is important – Remind your student to get their rest.

Late night studying, partying, or job obligations make college students some of the most sleep-deprived people in our communities.  One study showed that up to 7 in 10 college students don’t get the recommended 8 hours of sleep.  Remind your child that sleep is essential for restoring your body’s functions.  Though the exact connection between lack of sleep and heart disease is still being explored, sleep has been shown to be highly beneficial to your heart.  Your heart rate and pressure lower while you sleep, which relieves the workload on the heart that pumps as much as 100,000 times a day.  Lack of sleep has also been linked in increased diabetes and stress hormones. 

(4) Avoid the “Freshman 15” — Encourage your student to exercise.

Exercise is of course the third pillar of health.  The American Heart Association recommends 30 minutes of moderate exercise, five days a week.  Buy your student a bike or good pair of running shoes to get to class or encourage them to use the campus gym.  Oftentimes, “activity fees” are part of tuition payments, which give access to the campus athletic facilities, and many private gyms offer student discounts.  Intramural and club sports along with dance classes and other fun activities may be other ways to stay physically active as a college student. Studies have also shown that regular exercise helps improve brain function, so grab the books and hit the gym. 

(5) Get screened for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy — Make sure student-athletes know the symptoms of HCM

On the note of exercise, the leading cause of sudden cardiac death in young people is known as Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy, or HCM, which is particularly prevalent in student-athletes—accounting for nearly a third of cardiac deaths in young athletes.  HCM is the thickening of heart muscle, which usually has a hereditary cause. The screening, a simple EKG, is straightforward and affordable, but many routine medical checkups of student-athletes still do not screen for this.  Check with your student’s athletic program to make sure that they do.  If they do not and your family has a history of heart conditions, it may be advisable to have your student screened before participating in competitive sports.  Should your child experience shortness of breath, chest pain or discomfort, fainting or dizziness (especially upon exertion), and palpitations (a rapid or irregular heartbeat), it’s advisable to have them checked out.  You can read more about HCM here.

Heart health is sometimes thought as something that only the elderly need to care about, but if you’re conscientious at a young age and develop healthy habits early, you can help stem the tide of heart disease. Good luck to all you parents and your new college students in the next chapter of your lives!


Internationally Renowned Heart Surgeon Dr. Michael Borger Joins NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center

September 4, 2014

Tweet We are excited that Michael Borger, MD, PhD, has been appointed to the faculty of the Department of Surgery at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, and director of the department’s Aortic Program and Cardiovascular Institute! Here’s the CUMC/NYPH Press Release: Internationally Renowned Heart Surgeon Dr. Michael Borger Joins NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center […]

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6 Grilling Tips to Avoid Carcinogens

August 22, 2014

Tweet Summer may be winding down, but there is still plenty of time to gather with friends and family, kick back and relax as your dinner cooks away on the grill. And while this may be good, healthy fun, the way you cook your meat might not be so healthy. Because if cooked incorrectly, grilling […]

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10 Facts You May Not Have Known About Heart Attacks

July 28, 2014

Tweet (1)  Most heart attacks happen on Monday mornings. In the early morning hours, blood platelets are stickier, a person is partially dehydrated, and stress hormones (such as cortisol) are at their peak. (2)  Women have different heart attack symptoms (nausea, indigestion, and shoulder aches) compared to classic chest pain that men might experience.  25% […]

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Could your thyroid problem actually be an autoimmune disease?

July 11, 2014

Tweet The American Thyroid Association estimates more than 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disorder. Of these disorders, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is one of the most common, believed to be the leading cause of primary hypothyroidism in North America. But it may surprise you to learn that Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, also known as chronic autoimmune […]

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Pancreatic Cancer Awareness (Hope) Day – November 8, 2014

July 5, 2014

Tweet The Pancreas Center will be holding their annual Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Day this year on Saturday, November 8th from 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM at the Vivian and Seymour Milstein Family Heart Center. “Awareness” is the appropriate name for this day. Yet, after attending several of these, a better title would be the annual […]

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Honors and Awards

July 3, 2014

Tweet Congratulations to these faculty members for receiving outstanding awards this quarter Spencer E. Amory, MD, FACS Chief, Division of General Surgery, NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center Dr. Amory has been awarded the 2014 Jerry Gliklich Award for Exemplary Clinical Care, formerly “Practitioner of the Year” award, by the NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center Society of Practitioners. […]

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Esophageal Disorders Program Tackles GERD-Related Aspiration

June 25, 2014

Tweet Team develops novel technique to assess and prevent common problem that can be serious in some patients. The Esophageal Disorders Program at NewYork-Presbyterian/ Columbia University Medical Center has wide experience in treating adults and children with esophageal diseases. According to Frank D’Ovidio, MD, PhD, Surgical Director of the Lung Transplant Program, the esophageal team’s […]

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Columbia Surgeons make New York Magazine’s 2014 Best Doctors List

June 12, 2014

Tweet We’re proud to announce that New York Magazine has chosen 15 faculty members from the Columbia University Department of Surgery for its 2014 Best Doctors list. Michael Argenziano, MD (Cardiothoracic Surgery) Jeffrey Ascherman, MD (Plastic Surgery) Emile A. Bacha, MD (Cardiothoracic Surgery) Marc Bessler, MD (Bariatric Surgery) John A. Chabot, MD (GI/Endocrine Surgery) Jean […]

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