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

(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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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% of […]

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Could your thyroid problem actually be an autoimmune disease?

July 11, 2014

TweetThe 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 thyroiditis, […]

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Cytoreduction Surgery and Heated Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy

June 1, 2014

TweetOffering long-term survival for patients with cancers of the abdominal lining Diagnosis of cancer that has spread to the abdominal wall lining (peritoneum) is typically considered a lethal diagnosis. But at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, many patients with these advanced cancers can expect long-term survival, thanks to refined surgical approaches and intra-abdominal chemotherapy. According to […]

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Surgery Research Competition

June 1, 2014

TweetThe 23rd Surgery Research Competition was held May 22, 2014 at the NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia campus. According to Henry M. Spotnitz, MD, George H. Humphreys II Professor of Surgery, “The annual Surgical Research Competition demonstrates the enthusiasm and scientific acumen of young investigators determined to push back the frontiers of research. Their work indicates that reduced federal […]

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Alcohol Abuse And Acute Pancreatitis

April 24, 2014

TweetIf I were to ask you what health risks are associated with excessive drinking, what would you say? Cirrhosis of the liver? Heart disease? A weakened immune system? You’d be correct—those are all health risks associated with excessive drinking. But another common though less talked about problem is pancreatitis. Pancreatitis is a condition in which […]

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Did the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster increase my chances of getting thyroid cancer?

April 22, 2014

TweetIt’s Oral, Head & Neck Cancer Awareness Week, so we’re revisiting this Q&A with Dr. McConnell, in which he explains why the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster is less likely have long term cancer implications for the surrounding area than did the Chernobyl disaster. The earthquake and tsunami in Japan that occurred in March 2011 not only […]

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Third Annual Peter D. Stevens Course on Innovations in Digestive Care

March 11, 2014

TweetAs patients demand greater access to interventional and minimally invasive digestive care treatments, clinicians must be knowledgeable on the newest technologies and innovations. These are the market forces of healthcare at work. – Dr. Michel Kahaleh. NewYork-Presbyterian, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, and Weill Cornell Medical College are pleased to extend an invitation […]

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