October 23, 2012

Health Round-up: Scared to death, exercise beats crosswords, hormone replacement therapy still too risky

I've been touting fish oil since I began this blog, but I never imagined fish oil as a potential treatment for traumatic brain injury, but it is. Fish oil helped save our son

It was March 2010. Bobby Ghassemi had been driving fast along a winding road in Virginia when his car barreled off the road. By the time paramedics arrived, he was in a coma and barely alive. "For all intents and purposes, he was dead on the scene," said Dr. Michael Lewis, a physician who later advised the family. "I'm looking at the reports, and they report a Glasgow Coma Score of 3. A brick or a piece of wood has a Glasgow Coma Score of 3. It's dead."
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That's the theory behind using omega-3 fatty acids to heal brain injury. The human brain, which itself is a fatty mass, is about 30% composed of omega-3 fatty acids, according to Lewis.  In his words, high doses of omega-3 fatty acids, since they mirror what is already in the brain, could facilitate the brain's own natural healing process.

"It really gets down to what I would call my brick wall analogy," Lewis said. "If you have a brick wall and it gets damaged, wouldn't you want to use bricks to repair the wall? And omega-3 fatty acids are literally the bricks of the cell wall in the brain."

Even fit people can be suddenly scared to death.  It's called stress cardiomyopathy, rare but real.

Doctors around the world are increasingly identifying an unusual heart problem even in otherwise healthy people who have suffered a severe fright, a traumatic experience or loss of a loved one. Frightening experiences, including natural disasters, muggings and even some amusement-park rides, can cause the heart suddenly to malfunction. Victims often have the same symptoms as a heart attack, but show no sign of blocked arteries.
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While many of these patients survive, others don't. Martin A. Samuels, chairman of the neurology department at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, has collected hundreds of reports of people who have died suddenly in frightening situations. These include victims of muggings and break-ins whose assailants never touched them; children who died on amusement-park rides; car-accident victims who sustained only minor injuries and a man who jumped off the roof of Brigham and Women's Hospital in 1980 but suffered severe heart damage before hitting the ground.

Exercise Might Beat Puzzles For Protecting the Aging Brain

In a study published in the journal Neurology of almost 700 people born in 1936, researchers found physically active people showed fewer signs of brain shrinkage and other deterioration than those who got less exercise. At the same time, social and intellectual activities such as visiting family and friends, reading, playing intellectually stimulating games or learning a new language did nearly nothing to ward off the symptoms of an aging brain, the study said.

"People who exercise more have better brain health," said Alan Gow, one of the study's researchers and a senior research fellow at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.

The researchers noted, however, that "the direction of causation is unclear," meaning they couldn't tell if a healthier brain was a result of physical activity, or if people showing signs of cognitive decline weren't able to exercise. Other studies have also suggested exercise can improve brain health. Exercise increases circulation in the body and helps bring more oxygen, glucose and other needed substances to the brain.

Getting Physical Ups Seniors' Brain Volume

Older individuals who engage in regular physical activity are less likely to experience loss of brain volume and other changes in brain structure, a study found.  Note that the study found no support for a beneficial effect of more intellectually challenging or socially oriented activities on structural MRI parameters. 

Panel Calls Hormone Replacement Too Risky

In the new study, the task force, convened by the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, found that estrogen and progestin therapy is of "moderate benefit" in reducing the risk of fractures and can create a "small reduction" in risk of invasive breast cancer. But it found this plus was outweighed by "moderate harms" such as an increase of risk for stroke, dementia, gall bladder disease and urinary incontinence, and a small increase in the risk for deep-vein blood clots.

"There are pluses and there are minuses to this therapy," said Michael LeFevre, vice chairman of the task force and a professor at University of Missouri School of Medicine. "For an asymptomatic woman, the benefits do not outweigh the harms."
Posted by Jill Fallon at October 23, 2012 1:37 PM | Permalink