Q&A – Fall 2015


Image Here

Have a question for our doctors? Drop us a line at and we may address your query in a future issue.

What can I do to reduce the risk of getting macular degeneration?

"Macular degeneration causes us to gradually lose our sharp, central vision. We know that age plays a role. The older you are, the more likely you are to develop the disease. Other risk factors include smoking, consuming a high-fat diet, and being Caucasian and female. While we can’t control getting older, research has shown that certain lifestyle adjustments, such as not smoking, may halt the progression and reduce the development of macular degeneration. Consuming certain vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants—so-called AREDS2 'eye vitamins,' which include vitamins C and E, zinc, and copper, as well as lutein and zeaxanthin supplements—can slow the progression of macular degeneration by 25 to 30 percent, if taken regularly."

A word of caution for smokers: Some vitamin regimens on the market may contain beta-carotene, which is not for smokers. Research has shown that smokers who consume too much beta-carotene are at increased risk for developing lung cancer.

Yu-Guang He, M.D.
Professor of Ophthalmology

Why do African-Americans face a higher risk of heart disease?

"As a community, African-Americans have higher rates of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, and diabetes, which are the four major risk factors for heart disease. Identifying the reasons for that is difficult. Genetics appears to play a role. Some studies suggest that African-Americans are particularly sensitive to salt, which can lead to high blood pressure. But much of the difference is likely lifestyle, which is influenced by a variety of elements, including socioeconomic status, education, environment, stress levels, culture, and history. If you're an African-American in your 20s and hear disease runs in your family, I urge you to see a general physician or preventive cardiologist to discuss your blood pressure, to determine a healthy weight for you, and to make a plan for healthy eating and exercising."

Heart tip for any race: Building up your biceps doesn't help protect your heart. Although resistance training is important, exercise should be cardiovascular.

Kami Banks, M.D. 
Associate Professor of Internal Medicine

It there a miracle diet that will cure cancer?

"Unfortunately, there is no diet, superfood, vitamin, or drink that can cure cancer. Cancer is generally caused by multiple years of genetic damage to cells. This damage can be caused by environmental factors, including pollution, lifestyle choices, and, often, just chance. Once cancer is diagnosed, eating kale daily or removing all sugar from your diet won't make it go away. And even though some vitamins minimally reduce your risk of getting specific cancers, other vitamins can actually increase your chance of developing a cancer. All that said, while eating healthy after a cancer diagnosis doesn't slow or reverse cancer, it can help you feel better during treatment. A balanced diet will strengthen your body and spirit, which helps you fight the disease."

Dietary guidance: At UT Southwestern, all cancer patients are referred to a cancer nutritionist, who assesses each patient's needs and recommends the best diet for maximum health.

Saad Khan, M.D. 
Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine