August 1, 2016

"47% of Americans have had their medical record hacked in the past 12 months."

On The Dark Web, Medical Records Are A Hot Commodity

More than 113 million medical records were hacked in 2015 alone, according to data compiled by the Health and Human Services. A newly released report from the Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology, a cybersecurity think tank, found that some 47% of Americans have had their medical record hacked in the past 12 months. As cardiologist and author Eric Topol points out, the majority of patients haven't ever accessed their medical record before that happens.
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On the dark web, medical records draw a far higher price than credit cards. Hackers are well aware that it's simple enough to cancel a credit card, but to change a social security number is no easy feat. Banks have taken some major steps to crack down on identity theft. But hospitals, which have only transitioned en masse from paper-based to digital systems in the past decade, have far fewer security protections in place.
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On the dark web, complete medical records typically contain an individual's name, birthdate, social security number, and medical information. These records can sell for as much as (the bitcoin equivalent) of $60 apiece, whereas social security numbers are a mere $15. Stolen credit cards sell for just $1 to $3. During the tour, we spotted one hacker who claimed to have a treasure trove of just shy of 1 million full health records up for grabs.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:28 PM | Permalink

July 15, 2016

Health Roundup Alzheimer's

Marijuana compound removes toxic Alzheimer's protein from the brain

An active compound in marijuana called tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) has been found to promote the removal of toxic clumps of amyloid beta protein in the brain, which are thought to kickstart the progression of Alzheimer's disease. The finding supports the results of previous studies that found evidence of the protective effects of cannabinoids, including THC, on patients with neurodegenerative disease.

David Schubert from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in California and his colleagues  tested the effects of THC on human neurons grown in the lab that mimic the effects of Alzheimer's disease.  He said, "Although other studies have offered evidence that cannabinoids might be neuro-protective against the symptoms of Alzheimer's, we believe our study is the first to demonstrate that cannabinoids affect both inflammation and amyloid beta accumulation in nerve cells."

Decrease in blood flow to the brain is 'earliest sign of Alzheimer's' 

A landmark study has identified the first physiological sign of late-onset Alzheimer's.  Contrary to previous understanding, brain scans show a decrease in blood flow through the brain is the earliest indicator that a patient has the disease. An increase in amyloid protein was thought to be the number one sign. But while amyloid plays a role, experts at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital have determined that blood flow decreases first in the most thorough study ever published on Alzheimer's. They also found that changes in cognition begin earlier than previously thought.

Scientists REVERSE memory loss 'for the first time' in Alzheimer's patients with changes to sleep, diet, medication and exercise

The new research was a collaboration between the Buck Institute for Research on Aging and the UCLA Easton Laboratories for Neurodegenerative Disease Research.  A study of 10 patients found they all showed memory improvements; all have since been able to return to their jobs or continue working.

Study leader Dr Dale Bredesen hopes it could pave the way for the first effective treatment for the disease since it was first described more than 100 years ago.  He said his approach is personalized, tailored to each individual patient - and is based on extensive testing to help determine the best therapies for each patient's brain.

'Imagine having a roof with 36 holes in it, and your drug patched one hole very well,' he said. 'The drug may have worked, and a single hole may have been fixed, but you still have 35 other leaks, and so the underlying process may not be affected much.' He went on: 'All of these patients had either well-defined mild cognitive impairment (MCI), subjective cognitive impairment (SCI) or had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's before beginning the regimen. 'But follow up testing showed some of the patients going from abnormal to normal.'

Vaccine to halt dementia in its tracks 'is five years away': Treatment will target problem that triggers condition and one that causes it to worsen

A vaccine which protects against dementia could be available within five years.  Scientists believe they have made a breakthrough development which could stop Alzheimer’s disease in its tracks when given to people diagnosed in the early stages. They hope it will allow patients to carry on their lives much as normal while the progression of the condition is delayed by years – and perhaps for good.
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As a preventative measure, the drug could even be given like a flu jab to over-50s or at risk groups. Experts believe delaying the development of Alzheimer’s by just five years could halve the number of people dying with the condition. The vaccine formula, worked on by researchers in the US and Australia, is the first to target both the protein believed to trigger Alzheimer’s and one which causes it to worsen.  These proteins tend to become misshapen and group together to form ‘clumps’ in the brain.

The vaccine is designed to stimulate the immune system to produce antibodies which dissolve the clumps, latch on to the proteins and take them out of the brain and into the blood stream, where they can be broken down. Researchers said the formula is boosted by a ‘turbo charger’ which makes it between 100 and 1,000 times more effective than previously tested vaccines.  Their work showed the vaccine was successful on mice. It will now be tested in humans in the US and, if trials go well, it could be available in five to six years.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:05 PM | Permalink

June 11, 2016

Health Roundup: Missing Y chromosome, Alzheimer's, Migraines

Revealed, why women live longer: Male genes that may protect against dementia and cancer 'often go missing with age'

Researchers say that the Y chromosome, or more specifically, the loss of it, may be to blame for men’s shorter lifespans. Only found in men, the Y chromosome contains the DNA that makes males male and is present in almost every cell in the body. But, in some men, it starts to disappear from some of their blood cells as they get older. Previous research has shown these men are more likely to die young and to suffer from a range of cancers.

Now, scientists have also linked loss of the Y chromosome to Alzheimer’s disease. And they say that while the missing DNA has no effect on a man’s manliness, it may help explain why males, as a whole, tend to die younger. The researchers, from Uppsala University in Sweden, came up with the theory after studying more than 3,200 men aged between 37 and 96. Tests showed the Y chromosome to be missing from white blood cells in roughly one in five men. And the older they were, the more common it was....Health records showed Alzheimer’s disease to be almost three times as common in men affected by the phenomenon.

Rowan Led Research Team Develops Highly Accurate Blood Test For Alzheimer’s Disease

Early detection of Alzheimer’s Disease may be more possible than ever thanks to a group of researchers from Rowan University.  The group announced that they have developed a blood test that uses the immune system to find early stage Alzheimer’s in patients. The study included 236 subjects.  In terms of identifying early Alzheimer’s in patients with mild cognitive impairment, or MCI, the overall accuracy rate was 100 percent, according to the researchers.

Cassandra DeMarshall, the lead author of the study, said that 60 percent of patients with MCI, have it due to an early stage of Alzheimer’s. “Our results show that it is possible to use a small number of blood-borne autoantibodies to accurately diagnose early-stage Alzheimer’s. These findings could eventually lead to the development of a simple, inexpensive and relatively noninvasive way to diagnose this devastating disease in its earliest stages.”

What's the best thing you can do to avoid dementia? EXERCISE!

Regular exercise from the age of 40 can help prevent Alzheimer's disease.  Researchers at the University of Melbourne, tracked 387 women aged 45 to 55 over 20 years.  They assessed a range of lifestyle factors over the course of 20 years including exercise, diet, education, smoking, height, weight and BMI.  They found  exercise was the most important factor in preventing dementia. Any intensity from walking the dog to mountain climbing has benefits. Experts say every year counts, so the sooner a person exercises the better.

New drug for migraines.  injection 'halves' the number of attacks by blocking chemical to blame

Trials of the new drug, which is delivered via a monthly injection, suggests it could halve the number of attacks for at least 53 per cent of people. ..Study author Dr Marcelo Bigal, of American firm Teva Pharmaceuticals which developed the TEV-48125 drug, said: ‘Most people who receive preventive medication for chronic migraine stop using them, and one reason for that is the drugs can take a long time to become effective.

Described as one of the few true ‘holy grails’ of medical research, an injection to truly tackle migraines is being pursued by drugs giants Amgen, Eli Lilly and Alder, who are each competing with Teva to get the first license for the medication.  The four companies are each developing variants of a drug which tackles a protein called calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP), which triggers the pain and nausea associated with a migraine....

CGRP causes the swelling of blood vessels intertwined with nerve endings on both sides of the head. Researchers have found that monoclonal blood proteins – antibodies specifically engineered to bind to CGRP – were able to ‘mop up’ the chemical, meaning it did not trigger a migraine.

Are migraines triggered by a lack of sunshine? Those who suffer attacks are 'often lacking vitamin D'

A lack of the sunshine could be triggering migraine attacks in children, teenagers and young adults, a study has found. Migraine attacks cause dizziness, nausea and headaches - and although painkillers and other drugs can ease the symptoms, they only work for some patients. Now a study has found a lack of vitamin D, vitamin B2 or riboflavin and coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) - an enzyme the body produces to help energy for cell growth and maintenance - in a high percentage of migraine sufferers.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:32 PM | Permalink

Health Roundup: Cannabis, autism and depression

Smoking cannabis ALTERS your DNA 'causing mutations that can trigger serious illness, including cancer'

Dr Stuart Reece, and Professor Gary Hulse from the University of Western Australia's School of Psychiatry, analyzed literary and research material to understand the likely causes.  Dr Reece said: 'Through our research we found that cancers and illnesses were likely caused by cell mutations resulting from cannabis properties having a chemical interaction with a person's DNA. With cannabis use increasing globally in recent years, this has a concerning impact for the population.'

While a person may appear healthy and lead a normal life, the unseen damage to their DNA could also be passed on to their children, and cause illness for several generations to come.'Even if a mother has never used cannabis in her life, the mutations passed on by a father's sperm can cause serious and fatal illnesses in their children,' Dr Reece said. 'The parents may not realize that they are carrying these mutations, which can lie dormant and may only affect generations down the track, which is the most alarming aspect.'

Smoking pot 'increases baby's risk of asthma, premature birth and mother's risk of high blood pressure'

Smoking both cannabis and tobacco during pregnancy creates a greater health risk to your unborn baby, than cigarettes alone, experts have warned. Though the statement may sound obvious, more women are using cannabis while they are expecting, as it becomes legal in more places.    Between 2 and 11% of pregnant American women smoke pot, experts say.

Cannabis IS addictive - and smoking it harms the brain permanently research suggests

Researchers showed long term marijuana users pictures of the drug or fruit. Brain circuit controlling pleasure was more active when they saw drug. This suggests using cannabis regularly over years changes the brain.

Now, scientists have discovered why: smoking cannabis long term disrupts certain brain circuits, leading to cravings and dependency. These changes mark the difference between occasional users and people who have become dependent, researchers said. Despite the drug causing problems in people's lives - such as family and relationship issues - they carried on using it, a sign of psychological dependence, researchers said.

Autism is NOT just a disease of the brain: Sensitivity to touch, anxiety and difficulty socializing 'may be caused by nerve problems in the legs, arms and hands'

Until now, it was believed autism was cause by abnormal brain development.  Now, scientists believe some aspects of the disorder may occur as a result of problems with nerves found in the arms, legs, hands, fingers and skin that send sensory information to the brain.

Symptoms including being sensitive to touch, having difficulties with social interaction and anxiety might be caused by defects in the sensory nerves that run through the body.  Harvard Medical School experts believe that in people with Autism spectrum disorder (ASD), these sensory nerves are defective due to gene mutations.  This means the 'volume' is turned up all the way in these nerve cells, meaning touch is felt at an exaggerated, heightened level - and this can lead to anxiety and behavioral problems. Defects in touch processing may help to explain some of the behaviors observed in patients with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Blood test to personalize depression treatment for the first time

Scientists at King's College London have developed a blood test that accurately and reliably predicts whether depressed patients will respond to common antidepressants, which could herald a new era of personalized treatment for people with depression. Guided by this test, patients with blood inflammation above a certain threshold could be directed towards earlier access to more assertive antidepressant strategies, such as a combination of antidepressants, before their condition worsens.

Approximately half of all depressed patients do not respond to first-line antidepressants and a third of patients are resistant to all available pharmacological treatments. Until now, it has been impossible to establish if individual patients will respond to common antidepressants or if they need a more assertive antidepressant treatment plan, which may include a combination of more than one medication.

As a result, patients are treated with a trial-and-error approach whereby one antidepressant is tried after another, often for 12 or more weeks for every type of antidepressant. This can result in long periods of ineffective antidepressant treatment for individuals who may not show an improvement in symptoms anyway.

Giving young people antidepressants 'may do more harm than good' and increase the risk of suicide

Most available antidepressants do not help children and teenagers with serious mental health problems and some may be unsafe, experts have warned.  A review of clinical trial evidence found that of 14 antidepressant drugs only one, fluoxetine - marketed as Prozac - was better than a 'dummy' placebo at relieving the symptoms of young people with major depression.
Another drug, venlafaxine, was associated with an increased risk of suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts.

Researchers recommended close monitoring of young people on antidepressants, regardless of what drugs they were prescribed, especially at the start of treatment.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:14 PM | Permalink

Health Roundup: Stem cell breakthroughs in treating stroke, MS and Bubble Baby disease

Major breakthrough as doctors REVERSE symptoms of a stroke- up to 3 YEARS later

Doctors have reversed the symptoms of stroke in a major medical breakthrough. Patients regained the ability to walk, speak and have a normal family life, thanks to a procedure requiring only local anesthetic and a single night in hospital.  Remarkably, the stem cell treatment was shown to work even three years after someone had suffered a stroke - meaning that millions of people could potentially benefit from the treatment.

Eighteen patients underwent the procedure in an initial trial - with stunning results. Despite the long gap between stroke and treatment, all 18 patients in the pilot showed increasing improvement for the 12 months they were tracked after the operation. Nearly half showed ‘clinically meaningful’ results - which meant the procedure had a significant impact on their lifestyle.
One patient who relied on a wheelchair, unable to properly use her legs, has since taken up jogging. Another woman, who could barely get to her feet before the operation, has since walked down the aisle and is now expecting a baby with her new husband.  And another, completely paralyzed apart from the use of her left thumb, has regained the ability to walk.

The treatment, carried out by scientists at Stanford University in California, is thought to be so effective because it triggers the rapid regeneration of brain circuits damaged during a stroke. But the team has already started on work to replicate their results on a larger scale, and if that is successful the technique has great potential to revolutionize life for stroke patients.

Hope for multiple sclerosis cure as 23 seriously ill patients recover after 'breakthrough' stem cell treatment

Multiple sclerosis patients who were severely disabled are walking, working and even downhill skiing again following a breakthrough therapy which completely destroys, then rebuilds, the immune system.  The trial, which is the first in the world to show complete long-term remission from the debilitating disease has been hailed by experts as ‘exciting’ ‘unprecedented,’ and ‘close to curative.’

Although it is unclear what causes MS it is thought that the immune system attacks the protective coating which surrounds nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord leading to inflammation, pain, disability and in severe cases, early death.

The new technique, which is a treatment usually used to fight leukemia, involves using chemotherapy to entirely eradicate the damaged immune system, before rebooting it with a transfusion of bone marrow cells.

Out of the 24 patients who were given the treatment at least seven years ago, the majority have seen significant improvements . 70 per cent of patients saw a complete stop to the progression of the disease, while 40 per cent saw a reversal in symptoms such as vision loss, muscle weakness and balance loss.

Dr Mark Freedman, of the University of Ottawa and Ottawa Hospital, where the trials were carried out, said: “Jennifer, she freaked me out one day when she came to the clinic wearing high heels. This was a girl who could barely walk.”

Stem Cell Breakthrough: UCLA Researcher Pioneers Gene Therapy Cure for Children with “Bubble Baby” Disease

UCLA stem cell researchers cured 18 children born without a working immune system due to life-threatening ADA-deficient Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID) Breakthrough stem cell gene therapy developed by Dr. Donald Kohn and team identifies and corrects faulty gene in children with ADA-deficient SCID using child’s own cells

Children born with adenosine deaminase (ADA)-deficient severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), often called “Bubble Baby” disease, a life-threatening condition that if left untreated can be fatal within the first year of life. To date, 18 children with SCID have been cured of the disease after receiving the stem cell gene therapy in clinical trials at UCLA and the National Institutes of Health.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:47 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

Health Roundup: Arthritis and Cataracts

Could tiny worm hold the key to treating arthritis?

A tiny worm could help bring relief to millions of chronic arthritis sufferers, scientists claim.A study has found that the immune response triggered by infection with a parasite called N. brasiliensis eases rheumatoid arthritis.  Experiments with the parasite could bring hope of new treatments for people with the debilitating condition, and cut the need for expensive hip and knee replacements.
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One of the most common forms of the disease, rheumatoid arthritis occurs when the immune system attacks the joints by mistake. The wrists, fingers, toes, ankles and knees are particularly susceptible.  Current drugs do not work for everyone, and one in three sufferers give up work within ten years of diagnosis. Those whose joints have been very badly damaged can undergo hip or knee replacements. However this involves a major operation, as well as months of rehabilitation, and the new joints have a limited lifespan.

When the German researchers infected arthritis-stricken mice with the worm, the creatures’ health improved. Inflammation was cut and damage to cartilage reduced, the journal Nature Communications reports.  It is thought that the immune response triggered by the worm – which normally lives in rats’ stomachs – counteracts the rogue immune response behind the disease. Parasitic worms have already been used to successfully treat other illnesses in which the immune system turns on the body, including Crohn’s disease.

Researchers Develop ‘Holy Grail’ Eye Drop to Prevent, Treat Cataracts Without Surgery

Researchers at Louisiana State University have formulated drops made of nanoparticles that are able to efficiently deliver into the eye lens the natural substance called lutein–which is plentiful in youthful eyes, but diminishes in old age....  Cataracts are a common condition in older adults that causes the lens of the eye to become cloudy and block light from the retina. There were more than 24 million cases of cataracts in the U.S. in 2010.

Professor Cristina Sabliov and assistant professor Carlos Astete in the LSU AgCenter Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering found a way to use nanoparticles to make the plant-based anti-oxidant more absorbent for humans. “The nanoparticle matrix can deliver lutein to the eye efficiently, which improves its effect against cataracts,” Sabliov said. This new product would have the unique advantage of both being able to prevent cataracts before they start or to treat cataracts after they form,” she said.

Tests on rats have been successful in reducing the size of cataracts in just one week, but the team expects further animal tests and human tests to take years before the eye drops can hit the market
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:56 PM | Permalink

May 27, 2016

Health Roundup: Superbug, antibiotics, fecal transplant, natural killer immune cells, adult ADHD

Superbug resistant to ALL drugs reaches the US

A woman in Pennsylvania has become the first American to test positive for a strain of bacteria that is resistant to all antibiotics, even those used as the last line of defense....

CDC director, Dr Tom Frieden, said: 'It basically shows us that the end of the road isn't very far away for antibiotics, that we may be in a situation where we have patients in our intensive-care units, or patients getting urinary tract infections for which we do not have antibiotics.
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Dr Gerry Wright, director of the Michael G.DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research at McMaster University said while serious, the discovery of the strain in the US was to be expected. 'The mcr-1 gene has been reported across the globe since it was first reported in November of last year. The US was actually not an anomaly in not finding it until now. I expect it's been around for some time, just not detected.  Because the patient has no reported travel history, you can predict with certainty that mcr-1 is established in the USA.'

Antibiotics that kill gut bacteria also stop growth of new brain cells

"We found prolonged antibiotic treatment might impact brain function," says senior author Susanne Asu Wolf of the Max-Delbrueck-Center for Molecular Medicine in Berlin, Germany. "But probiotics and exercise can balance brain plasticity and should be considered as a real treatment option."

Fecal transplant found to wipe out symptoms of ulcerative colitis

Scientists have found fecal microbiota transplantation is an effective approach to helping individuals who suffer from ulcerative colitis. The condition is an inflammatory bowel disease, which causes long-term inflammation and ulcers in the digestive tract. It affects the innermost lining of the large intestine and rectum, which can lead to rectal bleeding, diarrhea and abdominal discomfort.

After carrying out the transplants on a group of patients, researchers at the University of New South Wales in Australia, found marked improvement in their symptoms. One in four patients who were resistant or intolerant to conventional treatment - steroid or anti-inflammatories - reported their symptoms had disappeared and showed signs that their digestive tracts improved. Furthermore, more than half of patients reported an improvement in their symptoms after undergoing fecal transplant.

Researchers in Australia identified a mechanism that causes natural killer (NK) immune cells to show mercy to cancer.

Switching it off had a dramatic effect on mice with normally lethal skin, prostate and breast cancers.  NK action against the tumors was stepped up, preventing deadly metastasis, the spread of cancer to vital organs in the body. In the case of breast cancer, tumor growth in the mammary glands was significantly reduced.

Natural killer cells are specialized white blood cells that act as the immune system's assassins. Like murderous agents working for a totalitarian state, their job is to locate and eradicate 'deviant' cells in the body that may pose a threat.

Ground-breaking new study finds a poor immune system can lead to 'serious mental illness'

The study, from the University of Sydney and Perth-based charity Meeting for Minds, found immune treatment had already worked for a large number of mental health sufferers.

One person’s cancer can be fought using someone else’s immune cells, study finds

For the first time, scientists have shown that even if a patient’s own immune cells are incapable of recognizing and attacking tumors, someone else’s immune cells might be able to.  In a new study, scientists have shown that by inserting certain components of healthy donor immune cells (or T cells) into the malfunctioning immune cells of a cancer patient, they can 'teach' these cells how to recognize cancer cells and attack them.
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While this is just a proof-of-concept study with only three participants, the results are promising enough that the treatment will hopefully be tested in a much wider clinical study in the future.

ADHD May Not Show Up Until Adulthood

It’s not just for schoolkids. A new U.K. study may uproot everything researchers believed they knew about when attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder presents itself.
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“Although ADHD occurs in approximately 4 percent of adults, relatively few adults receive a diagnosis or treatment for the disorder,” Agnew-Blais said. “It is crucial that we take a developmental approach to understanding ADHD, and that the absence of a childhood diagnosis should not prevent adults with ADHD from receiving clinical attention.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:31 PM | Permalink

May 24, 2016

Health Roundup: Cheese, potatoes, church, belonging, 'hidden killers', long life personality traits and Oct4, the 'fountain of youth' gene

Cheese triggers the same part of the brain as hard drugs, say scientists

Researchers from the University of Michigan have revealed that cheese contains a chemical found in addictive drugs. Casein, a chemical, which is found in all dairy products, can trigger the brain’s opioid receptors, producing a feeling of euphoria linked to those of hard drug addiction.

Scientists studying dairy products found that in milk, casein has a minuscule dosage. But producing a pound of cheese requires about 10 pounds of milk — with addictive casein coagulating the solid milk fats and separating them from the liquids.  As a result the super-strength chemical becomes concentrated when in solid dairy form, so you’ll get a higher hit of addictive casein by tucking into a cheese sandwich than you will in your morning bowl of cereal.

Eating potatoes four times a week raises risk of high blood pressure: Baked are as bad as fries - but chips  have no effect

Baked, boiled, or mashed potatoes raises the risk of high blood pressure.  Researchers, from Harvard Medical School, think eating any form of potato too often can cause blood pressure problems. They suspect the starch in potatoes is to blame. Because potatoes have a high glycaemic index, these starchy carbohydrates rapidly transform into sugars in the body, triggering a sharp rise in blood sugar levels.  Over time, this may cause blood sugar problems, the researchers said.

The experts, whose work was published in the British Medical Journal, analyzed data from 187,000 men and women tracked in three large US projects for 20 years.  The results suggest women who eat regularly eat potatoes may be at slightly higher risk of suffering high blood pressure than men. Overall, however, they found men or women who ate four or more servings a week of baked, boiled, or mashed potatoes had an 11 per cent increased risk of high blood pressure compared to those who ate potatoes less than once a month.

New Harvard Study: Women Live Longer if They Go to Church

A new Harvard study published in JAMA Internal Medicine shows that women who regularly attend church services live longer. In the study, titled “Association of Religious Service Attendance With Mortality Among Women,” researchers found that women who attended church more than once per week had a 33% lower mortality rate, compared with women who never attended church.  The self-reported research took place over a 20-year period and investigated the church-going habits of 74,534 women who participated in the U.S. Nurses’ Health Study. The average baseline age of the women studied was 60 and most were Catholic or Protestant.

Tyler VanderWeele, Harvard professor and author of the study, said church attendance was an under-appreciated health resource. “Religious attendance is a relatively good determinant of health,” he said. Women who attended church regularly were more optimistic, had greater social support, lower rates of depression, were less likely to smoke and suffered less from anxiety.

A sense of belonging makes you happier:

If you feel you belong with your social group, chances are you are likely to be a happy soul.  Psychologists have found that people the more people feel connected to a group and connect with others, the more satisfied they were with their lives.  The findings show that identifying as part of a group may give people a stronger sense of purpose and security, as well as providing support them when times are tough.

Researchers from Nottingham Trent University focused on how connected people felt to certain groups, measuring the impact this had on their happiness and life satisfaction. They looked at almost 4,000 people, and focused on how much they identified with their family and local community. Additionally, participants added a group of their choice, such as a sports team, or a hobby group.

Managing your emotions can save your heart    The negative impact of emotions when your heart is already vulnerable

There are two kinds of stress that impact your brain. Helpful stress (also known as eustress) can assist you with getting things done by helping you focus your attention. Unhelpful stress (distress), on the other hand, can be so severe that it can lead to fatigue and heart disease.

If you have coronary artery disease (CAD), your heart may be deprived of oxygen. This deprivation of oxygen, called myocardial ischemia, can occur in as many as 30% to 50% of all patients with CAD.  It can be further exacerbated by emotional stress. In fact, if you have any type of heart disease, any strong emotion such as anger may also cause severe and fatal irregular heart rhythms. Expressions like “died from fright” and “worried to death” are not just hyperbole — they are physiologic possibilities. Furthermore, when patients with newly diagnosed heart disease become depressed, that depression increases the risk that a harmful heart-related event will occur within that year.

Revealed, the five 'hidden killers' that could send you to an early grave

Writing in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the Chicago University researchers said we must look at a person as a whole if we are to accurately judge their health. Lead author Martha McClintock said: ‘The new comprehensive model of health identifies constellations of health completely hidden by the medical model.’
The team, which included psychologists, sociologists and doctors specializing in the care of the elderly, analyzed a mountain of data on the health and habits of 3,000 men and women aged between 57 and 85 and discovered the 'hidden killers':

Loneliness
Losing your sense of smell
Broken sleep
Breaking a bone in middle age
Difficulty in walking

The researchers say these factors are just as important as obvious medical conditions such as weight, blood pressure and heart disease.  In fact, being obese won’t necessarily send people to an early grave. And age, it seems, really is just a number. These contained some surprises.  For instance, the members of the healthiest group were all overweight. And despite them having only a 6 per cent chance of dying or becoming very unwell, high blood pressure was also common.However, psychological health, mobility and the sense of smell were all good and the researchers said that if an older adult is otherwise healthy, obesity ‘seems to pose very little risk’.

Scientists have discovered 5 personality traits linked with a long life

For their 75-year study of 300 engaged couples who enrolled in the study in their mid-20s, researchers found that men who were seen by their friends as more conscientious, meaning they were less likely to take risks but also tended to be more thorough and efficient, lived longer.  In sum, the five traits are:

Conscientiousness
Openness
Emotional stability
Friendliness
The ability to express feelings

'Fountain of youth' gene prevents heart attacks, stroke - and could lead to drugs that DELAY aging

A single gene is thought to protect against heart attacks and stroke as well as delay aging, scientists have discovered. The strand of DNA responsible - dubbed the 'fountain of youth' gene - had previously been thought to be inactive in adults.
Scientists believed the gene, named Oct4, was active in embryos but silenced as a person reached adulthood.

However, the new discovery is now hoped to open a new avenue for those battling deadly conditions, and raises the tantalizing prospect that doctors could one day use the gene to protect or delay the effects of aging. Dr Owens and his colleagues have determined the gene plays a crucial protective role in the formation of key plaques inside the blood vessels. The rupturing of these plaques is the underlying cause of many heart attacks and strokes.

The researchers found Oct4 controls the creation of protective fibrous 'caps' inside the plaques - caps that make the plaques less likely to rupture. In addition to this finding, the scientists believe the gene promotes a number of changes in gene expression that help to stabilize these plaques
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:38 PM | Permalink

May 17, 2016

Health roundup: Risks of tylenol and heartburn drugs, daily beer good, so are gardens, advances in breast cancer, Alzheimers and depression

Acetaminophen doesn't just kill pain - it makes us less CARING

Acetaminophen may be a more powerful painkiller than we realize.  Research shows that the popular pills don’t just ease our pain, they also stop us from feeling others’ pain.  It is thought by dulling the part of the brain that feels pain, we also find it harder to imagine what others are going through.

With previous research crediting acetaminophen with blunting joy, the researchers say we have a lot to learn about the drug....Previous research has found it to take some of the pain out of making difficult choices.  The team is now starting to study ibuprofen, to see if it produces similar results.

Popular heartburn tablets 'may increase risk of dementia, heart attacks and kidney problems'

Indigestion pills taken daily by millions of people around the globe may increase the risk of dementia, heart attacks and kidney problems, research suggests. Scientists found proton pump inhibitors - available in supermarkets and pharmacies without a prescription – accelerate the aging of cells which line blood vessels. Researchers said that the discovery was a ‘smoking gun’ which backs up previous reports linking long-term use of PPI medicines to several serious illnesses. Sold in bottles and packets, the drugs are used to treat gastroesophageal reflux, a severe form of heartburn.
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In the new study, lab tests at Houston Methodist Research Institute found long-term exposure to PPIs accelerated the aging of the human endothelial cells which line the inside of blood vessels.  Writing in the journal Circulation Research, they said: ‘When healthy, these cells create a Teflon-like coating that prevents blood from sticking. ‘But older and diseased, the endothelium becomes more like Velcro, with blood elements sticking to the vessel to form blockages.’
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But the findings are supported by a German study of 74,000 people, published in the journal JAMA Neurology in February, which suggested that elderly people who used PPIs at least once every three months had a 44 percent increased risk of dementia compared with those who did not take the drugs.  And a Stanford study of 3million people, published last July, suggested that people who took PPIs were 16 to 21 per cent more likely to have a heart attack.

FORTY mutated genes are to blame for the 10 different forms of breast cancer, experts at the University of Cambridge discover

Only a fraction of these genes were previously known to be involved in the development of the disease....The information could, in the future, help design clinical trials for breast cancer patients, or give researchers more flags to look out for in liquid biopsies, a type of test used to detect genetic material in the blood that is released by dying cancer cells.

Brain scan spots Alzheimer's 15 YEARS before symptoms appear: Early detection will help delay onset of disease

Scientists are using positive emission tomography (PET) scans that can identify clumps of destructive proteins that form in the brain. These clumps build up for years  before symptoms of Alzheimer's appear.

A beer a day keeps a heart attack at bay: Even one can reduces risk of disease by a quarter

A review of 150 studies found that drinking 1.4 pints a day  reduces risk of heart problems and does not increase risk of dementia or cancers.
Alcohol and other chemicals in the drink protects heart and blood vessels.  But researchers warned binge drinking is known to harm our health

Green thumb?  Expect to see a ripe old age: Having access to a garden or living near the countryside 'helps people live longer'

Research conducted by Harvard University explored the link between higher amounts of vegetation and mortality rates. Published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, it studied the well-being of 108,630 women and adds further weight to the suggestion urban living takes a greater physical toll.  Specifically, researchers found those who live in the urban jungle had a 12 per cent higher death rate than those with access to green spaces. In addition, they also had higher chances of developing cancer or respiratory illnesses.

Those in the greenest areas had a 34 per cent lower rate of respiratory disease-related mortality and a 13 per cent lower rate of cancer mortality. The increased opportunity to get out and be active, along with breathing in less air pollution or suffering noise pollution were factors in reducing death rates.

Scientists think they've found the key to ketamine's unprecedented anti-depressant effects

Back in February, we reported how patients with severe depression have been reporting "unbelievable" relief from taking the psychedelic party drug, ketamine, with symptoms being treated within hours, and doctors reporting response rates of 75 percent.
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Now a new study, published in Nature, brings us closer to an answer. Researchers in the US report that a breakdown product of ketamine - not the drug itself - appears to be responsible for the anti-depressant effects seen in a mouse study....One of these breakdown molecules, a chemical called (2R,6R)-hydroxynorketamine, appears to be behind the benefits. 

Fountain of Youth? Drug Trial Has Seniors Scrambling to Prove They’re Worthy

What if there were a way to stave off the creaks and calamities of old age? Nir Barzilai, director of the Institute for Aging Research at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, is working on it. With word leaking out, seniors from all over the globe have been hounding Dr. Barzilai and his colleagues to get in on the action—with many writing to prove their worthiness. Never mind that formal patient recruitment is still perhaps a year away.
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Behind the mania is a widely used, inexpensive generic pill for Type 2 diabetes called metformin. Scientists are planning a clinical trial to see if the drug can delay or prevent some of the most devastating diseases of advanced age, from heart ailments to cognitive decline to cancer. To test the pill, gerontologists at 14 aging centers around the U.S. will follow 3,000 seniors for six years. Half the seniors involved would get the drug, while the others would receive a placebo.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:43 PM | Permalink

May 7, 2016

Health Roundup: Cancer Cure 'on the brink', Alzheimers stopped in its tracks, heartburn drugs, light therapy, reversing tooth decay and chocolate for your brain

Cancer Cure 'on the brink'  Starving Cancer Cells by cutting off key supply routes  'eradicates tumors'

To arrive at their findings, a team from The Australian National University, blocked gateways through which the cancer cell was obtaining the amino acid glutamine.  They found the cells almost completely stopped growing.

Professor Stefan Bröer, who led the study, said: 'This is likely to work in a wide range of cancers, because it is a very common mechanism in cancer cells.'  'Better still, this should lead to chemotherapy with much less serious side-effects, as normal cells do not use glutamine as a building material. ...Crucial white blood cells, which current treatments damage, could be spared, and it could cut out the hair loss that chemotherapy causes.'
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Lead author Angelika Bröer spearheaded the effort to identify and genetically knock out glutamine transporters.'It is an exciting time to do cancer research,' she said. ...Now the importance of glutamine gateways have been identified in cancer, the hunt is on to find drug treatments that will lock them down and kill the disease....: 'we have developed a set of tests, which make it very easy to determine if a drug is targeting glutamine transporters.This means we can set robots to work that will test tens of thousands of drugs for us over the next year or two.'  The results are published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

First drug that can stop Alzheimer's in its tracks 

A new breakthrough study shows a drug can stop the progression of Alzheimer's disease - and it could be available within five years.  Tests have shown that a cheap drug commonly used to treat diabetes called Liraglutide stopped the brain disease from advancing and in some cases even gave sufferers a cognitive boost.  No study has ever before shows such dramatic results, and it could mean those who detect the disease at an early stage could live a lifetime of normal brain function.

The breakthrough was made a Denmark's Aarthus University and trials have now begun at Imperial College London, with neuroscientists said to be 'really excited', reports The Express.  Professor Jorgen Rungby, who led the study in Denmark, said: 'This is a significant step. We now have a drug that appears to have some kind of effect on how the brain works in Alzheimer’s.

The drug is commonly used to treat diabetes and scientists recognize a link between type 2 of the disease and Alzheimer's, as the brain being unable to utilize sugar is a symptom of dementia.  A 26-week test on 38 patients resulted in 'proof in principle' that the drug halted the progression of the disease, with patients maintaining their brain metabolism.  It is now being tested on 206 people in 20 hospitals around the UK, who will be given the drug via insulin pen, then have their memory and thinking assessed by doctors.

Dr Paul Edison, consultant physician at Imperial College, London, is leading the UK trials and expects the results by 2018.  He said: 'If effective, there could be a potential new and safe treatment for Alzheimer’s in the next five years.'

WSJ A Simple Tool to Ease Cancer’s Side Effects

In a test, researchers at Mount Sinai try light therapy to help the fatigue and depression that many cancer patients feel...“We know that cancer patients are light-deprived,” says William Redd, a Mount Sinai psychologist and professor of medicine and another of the lead researchers in the trial. “You feel lousy, you stay at home, you feel even worse.” Light therapy “has had a major impact on cancer patients with fatigue and depression,”

WSJ Simple Dental Treatments May Reverse Decay

Some fillings may not be necessary.  A recent study led by Wendell Evans at the University of Sydney supports growing evidence that early tooth decay, before a cavity forms, can often be arrested and reversed with simple treatments that restore minerals in the teeth, rather than the more typical drill-and-fill approach.

The randomized, controlled trial followed 19 dental practices in Australia for three years, then researchers checked up on the patients again four years later. The result: After seven years, patients receiving remineralization treatment needed on average 30% fewer fillings.  In the study, patients in the experimental group with early decay received a fluoride varnish to the site. Dentists also gave those patients fluoride varnish preventively two to four times a year, and encouraged them to brush well and avoid sugary snacks between meals.

Commonly used heartburn drugs may lead to kidney damage

Long-term use of a common type of medication used to treat heartburn, acid reflux, and ulcers may lead to an increased risk of kidney disease and kidney failure, new research shows. The study, published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, adds to prior research that suggests proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs), a group of drugs which reduces gastric acid production, can lead to serious kidney damage.

The paper notes that an estimated 15 million Americans were prescribed PPIs in 2013, though the authors point out that the number is likely higher as many, including Prilosec, Nexium, and Prevacid, are available over the counter. ....After controlling for other factors, including age and other diseases, this translated to a 28 percent increased risk of developing kidney disease for PPI users.

Could PROBIOTICS ward off cancer? Increasing levels of 'good' bacteria in the intestines 'slows and stops the disease developing'

New study found anti-inflammatory bacteria lowers risk of cancer.  Experts at UCLA found the bacteria, used to make yogurt, kefir and sauerkraut 'slows and stops the development of lymphoma'

Eating chocolate regularly ‘improves brain function’ according to new study

Researchers used data collected from a Maine-Syracuse Longitudinal Study (MSLS), in which 968 people aged between 23 and 98 were measured for dietary intake and cardiovascular risk factors, as well as cognitive function.  They found that regularly eating chocolate was significantly associated with cognitive function “irrespective of other dietary habits”.  More frequent chocolate consumption was “significantly associated with better performance on [cognitive tests including] visual-spatial memory and organization, working memory, scanning and tracking, abstract reasoning, and the mini-mental state examination”.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:52 PM | Permalink

Art is Good for your Heart

A scientific study confirms the obvious, Art is Good for your Heart.

Experts recently studied 100 people during a visit to the monumental Basilica of Vicoforte in northern Italy's Cuneo - with surprising results.
Prior to entering the 18th century church, participants had their saliva tested for presence of the stress hormone cortisol.  The volunteers - men and women of different ages and with varying IQ levels - climbed 200 ft to the apex of the building as part of their two-hour experience. Then, following their tour of the building - which is famed for its elliptical cupola, the world's largest - the test was performed again.

 Oval-Cupola Basilica-Vicoforte


Professor Enzo Grossi, who studies the relationship between culture and physical health, told La Repubblica newspaper: 'On average, we found that cortisol levels dropped by 60 per cent. More than 90 per cent of the participants said they felt much better at the end of the experience.

'The idea of art as therapy is not new. But this is the first time that the beneficial effect of art on health has been measured.'
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:38 PM | Permalink

May 6, 2016

"Every industry gets worse when government gets involved"

The cost of federal regulations each year for each household is about $15,000.     Economy Hit With Hidden $1.9 Trillion Tax From Federal Regulations.

More than 3,400 rules were issued by agencies, while Congress only enacted 114 laws in 2015, the report said. That means there were about 30 regulations for every law passed

No one can keep up, no matter how many administrators are hired.

 Growth Drs Admin

"I am a general surgeon with more than three decades in private clinical practice. And I am fed up," wrote Jeffrey Singer in How Government Killed the Medical Profession  in Reason, 2013

Government interventions over the past four decades have yielded a cascade of perverse incentives, bureaucratic diktats, and economic pressures that together are forcing doctors to sacrifice their independent professional medical judgment, and their integrity. The consequence is clear: Many doctors from my generation are exiting the field. Others are seeing their private practices threatened with bankruptcy, or are giving up their autonomy for the life of a shift-working hospital employee. Governments and hospital administrators hold all the power, while doctors—and worse still, patients—hold none.
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Once free to be creative and innovative in their own practices, doctors are becoming more like assembly-line workers, constrained by rules and regulations aimed to systemize their craft. It’s no surprise that retirement is starting to look more attractive. The advent of the Affordable Care Act of 2010, which put the medical profession’s already bad trajectory on steroids, has for many doctors become the straw that broke the camel’s back.
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A June 2012 survey of 36,000 doctors in active clinical practice by the Doctors and Patients Medical Association found 90 percent of doctors believe the medical system is “on the wrong track” and 83 percent are thinking about quitting. Another 85 percent said “the medical profession is in a tailspin.” 65 percent say that “government involvement is most to blame for current problems.” In addition, 2 out of 3 physicians surveyed in private clinical practice stated they were “just squeaking by or in the red financially.”
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As old-school independent-thinking doctors leave, they are replaced by protocol-followers. Medicine in just one generation is transforming from a craft to just another rote occupation.

Every Industry Gets Worse When Government Gets Involved

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:17 PM | Permalink

April 20, 2016

Health Roundup: Migraines, Parkinson's, prostrate cancer and the dangers of common medicines including cold and flu tablets

The cholesterol drug 'that kills prostate cancer':

An experimental drug designed to lower cholesterol may turn out to be an effective weapon against prostate cancer, research has shown.
Tumors need cholesterol to build their cell walls. By cutting their cholesterol production a chemical compound known as RO 48-8071 causes the cancerous cells to fall apart and die. 

Professor Salman Hyder, from the University of Missouri in the US, who led the research said: 'Often, cancer patients are treated with toxic chemotherapies.  The study, to appear in the journal OncoTargets and Therapy, tells how Professor Hyder's team found that the drug killed cancer cells in the laboratory.  The compound was originally developed by the drug company Roche for the treatment of high cholesterol.

Common medicines including cold and flu tablets, heartburn drugs and sleeping pills 'SHRINK the brain and slow down thinking'

Common over-the-counter medicines should be avoided by older people as they have been linked to memory loss and problems in thinking, scientists have discovered.  Treatments for colds and flu, hay fever, allergy and heartburn tablets containing anti-cholinergic drugs had the effect for one month after treatment, a study found.  Effects associated with taking the drugs included having slower brain processing times and smaller brains overall.  Well known treatments including the heartburn medicine Zantac, Night Nurse Liquid containing Promethazine and the sleeping tablet Nytol, containing diphenhydramine, are included among drugs that may result in the effects, the research said.

The drugs block the chemical acetylcholine, which is involved in the transmission of electrical impulses between nerve cells.  The treatments are prescribed for a wide range of conditions, including Parkinson’s disease, overactive bladder, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, nausea and vomiting, sleeping problems, high blood pressure, depression and psychosis.  But the authors warn: ‘Use of AC [anti-cholinergic] medication among older adults should likely be discouraged if alternative therapies are available.’

Previous studies have linked the drugs with cognitive impairment, increased risk of dementia and falls. However, the new study by Indiana University School of Medicine, is the first to explore their impact on brain metabolism and atrophy through brain scans.

Parkinson's disease drugs 'are likely to turn more sufferers into sex and gambling addicts than previously feared'

Parkinson's disease drugs are more likely to turn patients into sex and gambling addicts than was previously thought, according to new research.
Scientists at Loyola University found the pills can also increase the risk of compulsive shopping and binge eating leading to disastrous consequences.
Previous research has suggested up to one in seven people taking the medications develop these impulse control disorders (ICDs) - but the problem is 'probably more prevalent', according to a review.

The jab that could end the misery of migraines  New 'holy grail' drug slashes the number of attacks by up to 75%

Millions of people who suffer migraines have finally been offered hope of an effective treatment, after trials showed that a new injection could prevent attacks.  In a trial of 600 people, the drug, code-named ALD403, significantly slashed attacks in a third of patients, Alder BioPharmaceuticals  claims

Described as one of the few true ‘holy grails’ of medical research, an injection to truly tackle migraines is the being pursued by drugs giants Amgen, Eli Lilly and Teva, who are each competing with Alder BioPharmaceuticals to get the first license for the medication.  Each of the four companies are developing variants of a drug which tackles a protein called calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP), which triggers the pain and nausea associated with a migraine.  CGRP causes the swelling of blood vessels intertwined with nerve endings on both sides of the head.

Researchers have found that monoclonal blood proteins – antibodies specifically engineered to bind to CGRP – were able to ‘mop up’ the chemical, meaning it did not trigger a migraine.The research has now come to a point where we understand the condition enough that we have worked out how to treat it.

‘All the studies that have been done are positive, and there has been an almost-embarrassing lack of side effects.For a group of people who have never had a proper treatment, this is fantastic news.’

On the horizon.  Flexible spinal cord implants will let paralyzed people walk

Doctors dream of helping the paralzyed walk through implants that stimulate their spinal cords, but current technology makes that impossible; these stiff, unnatural gadgets usually end up damaging or inflaming nervous tissue over time. Swiss researchers may have just solved this problem once and for all, though. Their bendy e-Dura implant combines flexible electrodes (made of platinum and silicon microbeads), cracked gold electronic tracks and fluidic microchannels to deliver both electrical impulses and chemicals while mimicking the spine's movements and avoiding friction. Paralyzed rats in lab tests could both walk again after a few weeks and keep wearing their implants after two months.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:36 PM | Permalink

Health Roundup with news you can use

Chocolate, cheese and red wine: Key to weight loss is the bugs in YOUR gut rather than counting calories

Professor Tim Spector, of King’s College London, said that everything we think we know about diets is wrong.  He says bacteria in the stomach is more important than calorie counting.  By eating the right foods we can cultivate more good bacteria to stay slim. ‘The more diverse foods we eat, the more varieties of microbes in our bodies, which makes us healthier.’  That includes cheese, chocolate, dairy, nuts and red wine are all on the menu.  But avoid processed foods and they are limited in microbe levels because they are mainly made up of chemicals.

A handful of walnuts a day keeps heart disease at bay:

Doctors from the Hospital Clinic of Barcelona and Loma Linda University in Barcelona tracked cholesterol levels in more than 700 elderly men and women. Half added around 2oz of walnuts – roughly a handful - to their daily diet while the others ate as normal. After a year, levels of LDL cholesterol, the harmful form blamed for clogging arteries had fallen in the walnut-eaters. Those given the nuts as part of their diet did not experience weight gain.

How brushing your teeth can ward off Pancreatic Cancer. Bacteria found in the mouth 'linked to deadly strains of the disease'

Since childhood we are told to brush our teeth twice a day, or risk painful cavities and rotting teeth.  But new research suggests that properly cleaning our teeth may also help ward off a pancreatic cancer.  Pancreatic cancer has the worst survival rate of all 22 common cancers - at just 3 per cent.  Scientists have discovered that pancreatic cancer is linked to two types of bacteria that also cause gum disease.  A team in the US found that people who had these two bugs in their mouths were up to twice as likely to develop pancreatic cancer over the next decade.

Why being in a choir could help the body fight cancer:

Singing in a choir boosts the immune system and even helps the body fight cancer, according to research.  Scientists found that just one hour of singing significantly increased levels of the immune proteins that the body uses to battle serious illnesses including cancer.

The new research, conducted by scientists at Imperial College London, University College London and the Royal College of Music, found that it also has a profound impact on the immune system.  The team found that singing for an hour resulted in significant reductions in stress hormones, such as cortisol, and increases in cytokines, immune proteins that boost the body’s ability to fight serious illness.  Doctors suspect that reducing stress and anxiety takes strain off the immune system, allowing it to better use its resources at fighting disease.

Never get blisters again! Scientists spend two years studying runners to discover a single strip of surgical tape is all you need

Researchers studied 128 runners participating in an 155-mile ultramarathon.. They applied paper tape to just one of each of the runners' feet and the untaped areas of the same foot served as a control.  For 98 of the runners, no blisters formed where the tape had been applied

Watercress could be an unlikely weapon in the fight against smoking, experts have revealed.

Taking the plant extract several times a day significantly inhibits the activation of a tobacco-derived carcinogen in smokers, a new study suggests.
The findings also show how the extract detoxifies environmental carcinogens and toxicants found in cigarette smoke.  Furthermore, scientists at the University of Pittsburgh say the effect is stronger in people who lack certain genes involved in processing carcinogens.....Dr Yuan warned that while eating cruciferous vegetables, such as watercress and broccoli, is good for people, they are unlikely to have the same profound effect as the extract.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:20 AM | Permalink

April 7, 2016

Good and Rogue Immune Cells Affect the Brain

From the MIT Technology Review, The Rogue Immune Cells That Wreck the Brain

Beth Stevens thinks she has solved a mystery behind brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s and schizophrenia.

Microglia are part of a larger class of cells—known collectively as glia—that carry out an array of functions in the brain, guiding its development and serving as its immune system by gobbling up diseased or damaged cells and carting away debris.
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In one groundbreaking paper, in January, Stevens and researchers at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard showed that aberrant microglia might play a role in schizophrenia—causing or at least contributing to the massive cell loss that can leave people with devastating cognitive defects. Crucially, the researchers pointed to a chemical pathway that might be targeted to slow or stop the disease. Last week, Stevens and other researchers published a similar finding for Alzheimer’s.

This might be just the beginning. Stevens is also exploring the connection between these tiny structures and other neurological diseases—work that earned her a $625,000 MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant last September.  All of this raises intriguing questions. Is it possible that many common brain disorders, despite their wide-ranging symptoms, are caused or at least worsened by the same culprit, a component of the immune system? If so, could many of these disorders be treated in a similar way—by stopping these rogue cells?

Not so long ago, it was accepted that the immune system had little effect on the brain.  But in the past two years, that assumption has blown up. 

Already this year, a coalition of Alzheimer's researchers have urged scientists to reassess the evidence that Alzheimer's could be spread by microbes.  The herpes virus - the kind that causes cold sores - and two types of bacteria, all of which have already been linked to Alzheimer's disease. ..."We are saying there is incontrovertible evidence that Alzheimer’s Disease has a dormant microbial component," said Douglas Kell, a chemist from the University of Manchester in the UK, who was one of the editorial's authors. "We can’t keep ignoring all of the evidence."

A new study at the University of California, Irvine, new study revealed key immune cells located outside of the brain actually help rid the brain of the plaques that build up and trigger the disease.  Study co-author Dr Mathew Blurton-Jones said: ‘We were very surprised by the magnitude of this effect.

A study last year  shows that our immune system,… plays a part in the debilitating disease.  The Duke University study in mice found that in Alzheimer's disease, certain immune cells that normally protect the brain begin to abnormally consume an important nutrient: arginine.  Blocking this process with a small-molecule drug prevented the characteristic brain plaques and memory loss in a mouse model of the disease.

Alzheimer's could be prevented and even cured by boosting the brain's own immune response, scientists at Stanford University believe.  Researchers discovered that nerve cells die because cells which are supposed to clear the brain of bacteria, viruses and dangerous deposits, stop working.  These cells, called 'microglia' function well when people are young, but when they age, a single protein called EP2 stops them operating efficiently.  Now scientists have shown that blocking the protein allows the microglia to function normally again so they can hoover up the dangerous sticky amyloid-beta plaques which damage nerve cells in Alzheimer's disease.  The researchers found that, in mice, blocking EP2 with a drug reversed memory loss and myriad other Alzheimer’s-like features in the animals.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:11 AM | Permalink

April 6, 2016

What an untreated strep infection could lead to

Catching’ a mental illness: one family’s story 

Connor was in the midst of full-blown obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Bewildered by the dramatic change, his parents were trying desperately to help him, and to figure out what had happened to their son.
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OCD is a common, chronic, and long-lasting disorder in which a person has uncontrollable, reoccurring thoughts (obsessions) and behaviors (compulsions) that he or she feels the urge to complete over and over. .....Connor had been exhibiting increasing and multiplying signs of the disorder, launched by an overwhelming fear of germs. He developed rituals to rid himself of perceived contaminants by taking multiple, lengthy showers a day, and washing his hands until “they looked like he was wearing red gloves,” Lucia recalls. He began avoiding conversations, fearful that traces of spittle might fall on him from the other person. At times, he would only touch light switches and other objects around the house with his shirtsleeves wrapped over his hands, so some family members wore rubber gloves to help buffer Connor’s fears. Midnight runs to the grocery store for special soaps and scrubbing utensils that Connor needed became frequent.
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Saving Sammy: A Mother’s Fight to Cure Her Son’s OCD by Beth Alison Maloney is the story of a mother who fought to find a cure for her son, who had inexplicably been afflicted with OCD and Tourette’s syndrome. In her mission to heal her child, Maloney uncovered research that linked his mental illnesses to a previously unknown strep infection. Despite ignorance and some opposition from parts of the medical community, Maloney found doctors who were willing to help treat Sammy with the crucial assistance of prolonged antibiotics to rid his system of the strep virus.

As soon as Lucia cracked open the pages of Saving Sammy, she felt like she’d found the missing puzzle piece that had been eluding her for so long: Connor’s OCD might be rooted in a simple strep infection....Controversy or not, when Lucia Odom stumbled upon Beth Maloney and her book, it unlocked a once impenetrable door. With antibiotic treatment and behavioral therapies, Connor has emerged, saying he feels like a new person.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:36 PM | Permalink

April 4, 2016

Health Roundup: Breast cancer, melanoma patch, gut bacteria, sugar, chocolate and exercise

Bombshell Study Finds 58-108% Increased Breast Cancer Risk for Women Having Abortions

The most recent study is yet another one from India, making the total number of South Asian studies (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka) 15, all since 2008. Every one of them reports increased breast cancer risk with abortion, with risk increases as high as almost 2,000 percent (20-fold)

On the horizon.  A skin patch to treat melanoma..

Scientists developed a revolutionary skin patch with microneedles, filled with antibodies to help T cells attack cancer cells and delivering slow-releasing cancer immunotherapy directly to the site of melanoma.  Scientists say patch is more effective than injections or drug cocktails.

Tweaking our gut bacteria could help protect our brain from strokes   Experiments with animals saw 60% less brain damage.

Recent research has shown how fundamentally important the bacteria in our gut are to the rest of our mental and physical health, affecting everything from our appetite to our state of mind.  Now a new study suggests that our gut bacteria could even play a role in protecting us from brain damage, with an experiment involving mice showing that certain types of stomach microbes can actually help reduce the severity of strokes.
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The findings, reported in Nature Medicine, suggest that the microbiota do not interact with the brain chemically, but somehow influence immune cells to promote neural survival. These immune cells end up making their way to the meninges – the outer covering of the brain – where they organize a response to mitigate the stroke.

Revealed, your body on sugar:

From weakening the immune system to triggering thrush, this terrifying tool reveals exactly how the white stuff harms our health.  Beneden, a healthcare insurance provider, has created an online tool showing how sugar affects the body which shows the differing effects of too much sugar on men, women and children.  The sugar bowl tells you everything you need to know about sugar from how much sugar is in our grocery carts, how sugar affects our mental performance to breaking the sugar addiction and healthy alternatives

Chocolate Can Boost Your Workout. Really.

Adding a little dark chocolate to a training diet may effortlessly improve endurance performance, according to a new study of sports nutrition  by researchers at Kingston University in England.
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For some time, dark chocolate has been touted as a relatively healthy treat, with studies showing that small amounts may have benefits for the heart and brain. Most of this research has focused on the role of a substance called epicatechin, a plant nutrient found in cocoa. Dark chocolate is generally rich in epicatechin, though levels vary, depending on how the sweet was produced. Levels of epicatechin tend to be much lower in milk chocolate, which contains little cocoa.

Statin intolerance is real, researchers find. Another (more costly) drug may get around the problem.

The Food and Drug Administration approved PCSK9 inhibitors last year, but only for small groups of people, including those with an inherited disease that dramatically elevates their LDL cholesterol levels.
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The PCSK9 inhibitor works by blocking a substance that hinders the liver’s ability to remove cholesterol from the blood. Ezetemibe, by contrast, decreases cholesterol absorption in the small intestine.  The monthly injections of the PCSK9 inhibitor proved far more effective after 24 weeks, cutting patients’ LDL cholesterol by an average of 52.8 percent, compared with 16.7 percent for the other drug.
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PCSK9 inhibitors, she added, are “going to be, possibly, an option for patients who are statin-intolerant.” But that may not happen for a while. In addition to requiring FDA approval, the drugs are much more expensive — from $10,000 to $15,000 a year. And because evidence of statin intolerance is largely subjective, insurance companies may balk until there are ways to more conclusively prove that patients are unable to take the cheaper drugs.

EXERCISE is the fountain of youth: Secret to feeling young is 'superb fitness and young muscles'

The true secret to remaining youthful has been right under our nose the whole time - exercise. Scientists say it is 'superb' fitness that keeps people young. Experts from University of Guelph, in Canada, revealed elderly people who were elite athletes in their youth – or later in life – have much ‘younger muscles.’ ...Their legs were 25% stronger and had 14% more muscle mass

The Amazing Links Between Exercise & Anti-Aging from Yahoo Beauty

Aside from the obvious perks (better mood, weight loss, toned muscles), recent studies indicate a direct link between your skin’s ability to stay young-looking and your exercise schedule. Here, we pulled together five ways your skin’s health is linked to exercise....
1. Sweat Is Antibacterial....recent studies have shown that perspiration contains a natural antibiotic known as Dermcidin, which kills E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:06 PM | Permalink

March 30, 2016

Impact of Vaccines

I've yet to see a more startling and convincing set of graphs than those published in the Wall St Journal showing  The Impact of Vaccines in Battling Infectious Diseases in the 20th century

 Impact Of Vaccines-2

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:31 PM | Permalink

March 24, 2016

“We’re attacked about every 7 seconds, 24 hours a day,” CIO Beth Israel Deaconess hospital

5 Major Hospital Hacks: Horror Stories from the Cybersecurity Frontlines

In real-world war, combatants typically don’t attack hospitals. In the cyber realm, hackers have no such scruples. “We’re attacked about every 7 seconds, 24 hours a day,” says John Halamka, CIO of the Boston hospital Beth Israel Deaconess. And the strikes come from everywhere: “It’s hacktivists, organized crime, cyberterrorists, MIT students,” he says.
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These attacks may all sound like nightmare scenarios, but the experts say they’re becoming almost routine. And hospitals have not made cybersecurity a priority in their budgets, Halamka says: “In healthcare, we spent about 2 percent on IT, and security might be 10 percent of that.” Compare that percentage to the security spending by financial firms: “Fidelity spends 35 percent of its budget on IT,” he says. 
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:23 AM | Permalink

March 23, 2016

Health roundup: Switching off Cancer, Reversing Osteoporosis, Reversing Diabetes and Hope for Stroke Victims

Cancer breakthrough as scientists uncover HOW diseased cells take first steps away from their tumor to spread through the body

Cancer cells remodel their environment in order to reach nearby blood vessels, scientists have revealed. Doing so allows them to more easily spread – or metastasize – throughout the body. Cancer metastasis is responsible for 90 per cent of cancer deaths, according to experts from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. And, scientists have found that high levels of a certain protein – called MenaINV - are linked to metastasis and earlier death among breast cancer patients, in particular. Thus, finding a way to block that protein could help prevent metastasis, experts revealed.

Scientists discover how to 'switch off' cancer: Remarkable breakthrough means diseased cells can be made healthy again

Scientists have found a code for turning off cancer, it was announced today. In exciting experiments, they made cancerous breast and bladder cells benign again. And they believe many other types of cancer should be in their grasp. They said that their work reveals ‘an unexpected new biology that provides the code, the software for turning off cancer’. Most importantly, it uncovers ‘a new strategy for cancer therapy’.

The work is still at an early stage but brings with it hope that cancer will take fewer lives in the future. Unlike conventional cancer drugs, which work by killing cancer, the US work aims to disarm it and render them harmless. The breakthrough focuses on a protein called PLEKHA7 that helps healthy cells clump together.

The research, from the Mayo Clinic in Florida, showed it to be missing or faulty in a range of cancers. When this happens, key genetic instructions to the cells are scrambled and they turn cancerous. A research team, led by Panos Anastasiadis, was able to reset the instructions – turning off the cancer. Experiments in a dish showed that human cells from highly dangerous bladder cancers can be made normal again.
Dr Anastasiadis said: ‘Initial experiments in some aggressive types of cancer are indeed very promising.’ He thinks the approach, detailed in the journal Nature Cell Biology, would apply to most cancers, other than brain and blood cancers.

However, much more research is needed before the technique is tried out on people for the first time. And even if the therapy did help patients, it is likely they would still need chemotherapy. British experts described the research as ‘beautiful’ and ‘absolutely fascinating’. But they cautioned that it is still a long way from helping people.

Henry Scowcroft, Cancer Research UK’s senior science information manager, said: ‘This important study solves a long-standing biological mystery, but we mustn’t get ahead of ourselves. 'There’s a long way to go before we know whether these findings, in cells grown in a laboratory, will help treat people with cancer.’ He added that such work is ‘crucial’ if ‘the encouraging progress against cancer we’ve seen in recent years’ is to continue.

Hope for stroke victims: Zapping the brains of patients with electricity can restore strength and grip after just nine treatments

Zapping the brains of stroke patients with electricity could greatly improve their recovery, Oxford University research suggests.
Men and women whose arms and hands had been weakened by a stroke found it easier to reach, lift and grasp after nine short sessions of electrical brain stimulation.  One was able to peel a banana and another could cut a steak for the first time in years.

While such improvements may seem small to the able-bodied, they could have a big impact on quality of life.
Even small changes strength or dexterity that allow people to do up their buttons or brush their teeth could boost independence.
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The technique trialled in Oxford involved a technique called transcranial direct current stimulation, or tDCS.  It involves passing a gentle 'tingling' current through the damaged part of the brain, in the hope of increasing the number of messages passed between brain cells.....
Tests showed the improvements lasted for three months and the patients say they are still feeling the benefit today, four years on.

Osteoporosis in mice reversed with single injection of stem cells

Age-related osteoporosis, where the bone structure deteriorates and becomes more vulnerable to fracture, is said to affect more than 200 million people worldwide. Drugs are available to treat or delay the condition, but a cure has remained elusive. Much-needed help may now be on the way, however, with scientists discovering healthy bone structure can be restored in mice with a single injection of stem cells.

Researchers at the University of Toronto and The Ottawa Hospital had previously found a causal effect between mice developing age-related osteoporosis and a deficiency in mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). One of the promising attributes of MSCs is that, while they can grow into different cells in the body just like other stem cells, they can be transplanted without the need for a match.  "We reasoned that if defective MSCs are responsible for osteoporosis, transplantation of healthy MSCs should be able to prevent or treat osteoporosis," says William Stanford, senior scientist at The Ottawa Hospital and Professor at the University of Ottawa.

To put this reasoning to the test, the scientists injected MSCs into mice with the condition. Six months later, which is one quarter of the life span of the animal, they observed a healthy functional bone in place of the damaged one. "We had hoped for a general increase in bone health," says John E. Davies, co-author of the study. "But the huge surprise was to find that the exquisite inner 'coral-like' architecture of the bone structure of the injected animals – which is severely compromised in osteoporosis – was restored to normal."

According to the scientists, these results could form the basis for new ways of treating or indefinitely postponing the onset of osteoporosis. The team is currently waiting on the results of trials where elderly patients were injected with MSCs to investigate various outcomes. If these show improvements to bone health, the team hopes dedicated trials will commence in the next five years.

Dieting for just eight weeks can reverse your diabetes: Experts say restricting food for two months could eradicate the disease

A crash diet lasting just eight weeks can reverse type 2 diabetes, experts have found.  Even people who had suffered with diabetes for a decade saw their condition eradicated after they restricted their eating for two months.  And six months after stopping the diet, participants in the Newcastle University trial were still free of the disease, suggesting that the condition had effectively been reversed.

Type 2 diabetes occurs either when the body does not produce enough insulin to control the blood sugar – or the cells don’t react to it. The condition is often linked to obesity and usually occurs in middle age, coming with a risk of limb amputations, heart attacks and vision loss.
Experts used to think that once the disease had taken hold, it was incurable. But a growing body of evidence suggests that losing weight could reverse the condition. Scientists think that this is because removing fat from the pancreas allows insulin production to return to normal, eradicating the problem at the root of the disease.  Now, a British trial has suggested that the condition could not only be reversible – but that the reverse could come in a matter of weeks.
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‘Type 2 diabetes can now be understood to be a metabolic syndrome potentially reversible by substantial weight loss, and this is an important paradigm shift.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:43 PM | Permalink

Health Roundup: Alzheimer's

Breakthrough MIT study: Memories lost to Alzheimer’s may be recovered

An MIT neuroscientist has made a breakthrough discovery that researchers say will open countless doors for future treatments: memories obscured by the devastating illness have the potential to be restored.  “The big message is that there is a way to strengthen these memory cells,” said Dheeraj Roy, doctoral student at MIT and lead author on the study. “If we had a way of restoring the memory of patients, we think this could have a huge impact on society.”

A paper published today online in the science journal “Nature” outlines the study by Roy and his colleagues, which found genetically engineered mice with early-stage Alzheimer’s could recall seemingly “lost” events when memory cells in the brain were stimulated. The study involved both healthy and memory-impaired mice that were put in boxes and given a shock. Those that did not suffer from memory-loss froze out of fear when placed back in the box. The Alzheimer’s mice were not afraid. The researchers used a technique known as optogenetics on the mice with memory loss: They injected the memory cells, called “engram cells,” with a light-sensitive protein and activated them using blue light. The mice immediately showed fear.

The MIT researchers noted that the engram cells of Alzheimer’s mice were missing tiny buds called dendritic spines, which allow neurons to communicate with each other. The study’s revelations have sent a ripple through the Alzheimer’s research community, and have effectively “shattered a 20-year paradigm of how we’re thinking about the disease,” said Rudy Tanzi, a Harvard neurology professor, who is not involved in the research.  “Since the mid-’80s, it’s been thought that these memories just weren’t getting stored,” Tanzi said. “This paper shows that the information is getting stored — we just can’t access it.”

Another reason to floss.  Gum disease may signal faster Alzheimer’s decline

For people with Alzheimer’s disease, having gum disease is tied to faster cognitive decline, according to a new study. “What we have shown is that regardless of the severity of dementia (within this mild to moderate impaired group) that patients with more severe gum disease are declining more rapidly,” said senior author Clive Holmes of the University of Southampton in the UK.

Could this implant PREVENT Alzheimer's? Capsule under the skin 'releases antibodies to fight the disease'

Scientists develop an implantable capsule that can prevent Alzheimer's.  The capsule is implanted in tissue under the skin before cognitive symptoms appear and releases a steady flow of antibodies into the bloodstream that target Alzheimer's plaque in the brain. Tests on mice found that the antibodies prevent the plaques from forming.
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A team of experts at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland developed the implantable bioactive capsule to deliver a steady and safe flow of antibodies to clear the brain of amyloid plaques. The capsule  is made of two permeable membranes that are sealed together with a polypropoylene frame – and contains a hydrogel that facilitates cell growth. The capsule’s cells must be compatible with the patient, so that the immune system isn’t triggered against them – just like a transplant. The capsule’s membranes shield the cells from being identified and attacked by the immune system.

The cells are taken from muscle tissues – and permeable membranes allow them to interact with surrounding cells, so that they are able to get the necessary nutrients and molecules. The team of scientists tested the device on mice genetically modified with Alzheimer’s disease. The results showed a ‘dramatic reduction’ of the plaque load. Furthermore, the constant flow of antibodies produced by the capsule over 239 weeks prevented the formation of amyloid plaques in the brain. The team found that the capsule also reduced the altering of a protein called tau – which is another hallmark of Alzheimer’s. The study was published in the journal Brain.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:17 PM | Permalink

March 16, 2016

Health Roundup: Astonishing breast cancer treatment, Talc, Viagra, Chronic stress, Antibiotic fail, Happy gardeners, Curing blindness with stem cells and more

Terminal breast cancer could be wiped out by tweaking an EXISTING treatment, 'astonishing' study declares

Terminal breast cancer has been wiped out, in ‘astounding’ research that raises hope of a cure for thousands of women with the disease.
In tests on mice, their cancer vanished completely for at least eight months.  This is the equivalent of 24 years for a woman and would be judged a lasting cure.  In contrast, current treatments extend life by as little as six months.....Mauro Ferrari, president of the Houston Methodist Research Institute, said: ‘I would never want to over-promise to the thousands of patients looking for a cure but the data is astounding.’
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While the initial tumor that appears on a woman’s breast rarely kills, once the disease starts to eat away at other parts of the body it becomes incurable. Drugs struggle to get to tumors hidden deep in the lungs or liver and once there, they risk being pumped out by cells that have become resistant to treatment.

Dr Ferrari, of the Houston Medical Research Institute, has found an ingenious way of getting round these defenses - and so of potentially curing metastatic cancer. He has taken a widely-used cancer drug called doxorubicin and packed it in microscopic discs made of silicon. The silicon packaging hides the drug from the cancer, allowing it to sneak into its cells. Once inside, the silicon is broken down, releasing the drug, which is in an inactive form. The drug then moves out of reach of the pumps that are poised to eject it and towards the very heart of cell. Once there, the drug is activated and the cell is killed. In tests on mice with terminal disease, all the animals given conventional treatment died. In contrast, half of the creatures given the new treatment were still cancer-free after eight months – roughly 24 years in human terms.

Dr Ferrari says that in future, women with metastatic breast cancer could be given a jab of billions of drug-filled silicon discs into their arm.
This would home in on the tumors riddling their lungs or liver and destroy them.  He hopes to test the treatment on women for the first time next year and says that some of the early drug trials could be in the UK.

Talc 'IS linked to ovarian cancer': Risk of disease is ONE THIRD higher for women who use talcum powder on their genitals.

Women who regularly powder their genitals with talc have a one-third higher risk of being diagnosed with ovarian cancer, scientists have warned. A new study asked 2,041 women with ovarian cancer - and 2,100 free of the disease - about their talcum powder use. Those who routinely apply talc to their genitals, sanitary napkins, tampons and underwear were found to have a 33 per cent higher risk of ovarian cancer.

Lead study author Dr Daniel Cramer, of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, told Reuters that there must be warning labels on talcum powder. He said: 'This is an easily modified risk factor."  The study comes a week after a St. Louis jury ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $72 million in damages to the family of a woman who allegedly died of the disease after using their baby powder.

Chronic stress turns cancer deadly by opening up new routes for the disease to spread quickly through the bloodstream' 

Chronic stress accelerates the spread of cancer, scientists have revealed. A new study found that stress builds lymphatic ‘highways’ that allow cancer cells to move around the body faster. The lymphatic system normally transports immune cells throughout the body to fight illness.

A global wake-up call: common antibiotics are failing in up to half of all children

The most common antibiotics are failing in up to half of children, a study published in the British Medical Journal has found.  The researchers, from Bristol University and Imperial College London, reviewed 58 studies from 26 countries involving 78,000 E.coli patients — in particular those with urinary tract infections, which are common in children. In half of the children the bacteria were resistant to ampicillin. In a quarter of the children the bacteria were resistant to trimethoprim, while co-trimoxazole failed in a third of the children.  The figures were higher still in developing countries. The researchers say that if the trend continues, future treatments could be rendered ineffective.

Viagra promotes the growth of aggressive skin cancer

The drug, sildenafil which is marketed as Viagra and Revatio, is commonly prescribed to treat erectile dysfunction,  A long-term study, published in 2014, of nearly 15,000 men in the US suggested that sildenafil increased the risk of malignant melanoma.
The correlation was confirmed in 2015 in a study of nearly 24,000 men in Sweden.

A new study by researchers at the University of Tübingen in Germany found that sildenafil  has a stimulating effect on the messenger molecule cyclic guanosine monophosphate - or cGMP, cGMP, in turn, promotes the growth of existing malignant melanomas. The scientists reached this conclusion through animal experiments and human cell cultures.

Obese women on the Pill are '30 times more likely to suffer a rare type of stroke

Obese women taking oral contraceptives are up to 30 times more at risk of suffering a rare type of stroke, a new study warned.
Dutch researchers found women with a body mass index is above 30 were at a greater risk of cerebral venous thrombosis (CVT) - a blood clot on the brain.  Although the risk is still low, scientists said women should be informed of the risk and offered alternative contraceptives that are not linked to thrombosis.

How Dirt Makes You Happy: Antidepressant Microbes In Soil

Did you know that there’s a natural antidepressant in soil? It’s true. Mycobacterium vaccae is the substance under study and has indeed been found to mirror the effect on neurons that drugs like Prozac provide. The bacterium is found in soil and may stimulate serotonin production, which makes you relaxed and happier. Studies were conducted on cancer patients and they reported a better quality of life and less stress.

Lack of serotonin has been linked to depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder and bipolar problems. The bacterium appears to be a natural antidepressant in soil and has no adverse health effects. These antidepressant microbes in soil may be as easy to use as just playing in the dirt.

Is Your Medicine Right for Your Metabolism?

People can respond to drugs very differently. A medication that brings relief for some patients might show no benefit at all in others, or even cause harmful side effects.  A growing array of genetic tests is designed to help predict how people are likely to respond to many common medications, from antidepressants and antihistamines to pain relievers and blood thinners. The tests, which are controversial, look for tiny variations in genes that determine how fast or slow we metabolize medications.

Because of such gene variations, codeine, frequently prescribed to relieve pain, has little effect on as much as 20% of the population, while 2% of people have such a strong reaction that a normal dose can be life-threatening. About 25% of people can’t effectively absorb Plavix, a clot-busting drug, putting them at increased risk for a heart attack or stroke. Even everyday drugs such as Advil and Motrin, for pain relief, and Zocor, to lower cholesterol, can have widely varying effects.
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How people’s genes affect their response to medications is called pharmacogenetics. One of the first such drug-gene interactions was identified at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., in the 1970s. Researchers discovered that about 1 in 300 children being treated for childhood leukemia had a gene variation that made the drug thiopurine destroy their bone marrow. Now, children are routinely tested before undergoing treatment with the drug.

Scientists have since discovered that about 75% of prescription and over-the-counter drugs depend on a handful of liver enzymes to be absorbed and eliminated from the body. Minor variations in the genes that regulate those enzymes are very common—95% of people have at least one.

On the horizon. New technique to detect cancer and HIV 'could prove 10,000 TIMES more effective, and lead to earlier diagnosis', experts claim

Early detection of most diseases significantly increases the chance of successful treatment.  While one aspect of early diagnosis is luck - whether a patient is screened at the right time, another important aspect is that tests are sensitive enough to pick up on the minuscule changes that diseases leave in the blood stream.  Now scientists at Stanford University have developed a new technique, which they hope will prove thousands of times more sensitive than those currently used in lab experiments.

When a disease, whether it is cancer or a virus like HIV, begins growing in the body, the immune system responds by producing antibodies.
Fishing these antibodies or related biomarkers out of the blood is one way that scientists can discover the presence of a disease.  The new technique looks for a short strand of DNA.  Experts say the new technique is much more sensitive and is better at picking up subtle changes in the blood stream. These changes indicate the presence of disease, they say. Noticing small changes earlier 'increases the chances treatment will work'

The researchers tested their technique, with its signature DNA flag, against four commercially available, FDA-approved tests for a biomarker for thyroid cancer. The new technique outperformed the sensitivity of all of them, by at least 800 times, and as much as 10,000 times.
By detecting the biomarkers of disease at lower concentrations, doctors could theoretically catch diseases far earlier in their progression, the chemists noted.

On the horizon Pioneering stem cell op 'could bring back sight for millions'

A revolutionary technique that harnesses the power of stem cell therapy promises to restore the sight of millions.
Taking as little as 45 minutes, the procedure offers hope to those with age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in adults globally.  In the breakthrough developed at University College London, doctors inserted a patch of stem cells into the retina of a woman who has lost her central vision.

The procedure, which has attracted the support of medical giant Pfizer, is carried out under local anaesthetic. It involves taking a single embryonic stem cell and growing it into a 6mm patch of 100,000 retinal pigment cells. That patch is then rolled into a thin tube, which is injected through a tiny slit in the eye. Once unfurled, it is placed behind the retina where scientists hope it will replace the faulty cells.

Retinal surgeon Professor Lyndon Da Cruz, who conducted the operation, said at the time: ‘There is real potential that people with wet age-related macular degeneration will benefit in the future from transplantation of these cells.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:29 PM | Permalink

Children need lots of 'free play' to ward off anxiety and depression

There's a reason kids are more anxious and depressed than ever.  They don't play enough.  In 2010,  Lenore Skenazy wrote Free-Range Kids, How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children (Without Going Nuts with Worry) and started a movement which she documents on her blog. Free Range Kids.  In 2014 The Atlantic examined The Overprotected Kid and the preoccupation with safety that has stripped childhood of independence, risk taking, and discovery—without making it safer

Now psychologist Peter Gray looks at the statistics and the studies.  The Decline of Play and Rise in Children's Mental Disorders

Rates of depression and anxiety among young people in America have been increasing steadily for the past 50 to 70 years. Today... five to eight times as many high school and college students meet the criteria for diagnosis of major depression and/or anxiety disorder as was true half a century or more ago. ...
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The increased psychopathology seems to have nothing to do with realistic dangers and uncertainties in the larger world. The changes do not correlate with economic cycles, wars, or any of the other kinds of world events that people often talk about as affecting children's mental states. Rates of anxiety and depression among children and adolescents were far lower during the Great Depression, World War II, the Cold War, and the turbulent 1960s and early ‘70s than they are today. The changes seem to have much more to do with the way young people view the world than with the way the world actually is.
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One thing we know about anxiety and depression is that they correlate significantly with people's sense of control or lack of control over their own lives. People who believe that they are in charge of their own fate are less likely to become anxious or depressed than those who believe that they are victims of circumstances beyond their control. ---- Yet the data indicate that young people's belief that they have control over their own destinies has declined sharply over the decades.

The standard measure of sense of control is the Internal-External Locus of Control Scale developed by Juien Rotter.  Modified for use with children 9-14 is the Nowicki-Strickland Scale. 

Many studies over the years have shown that people who score toward the Internal end of Rotter's scale fare better in life than do those who score toward the External end. They are more likely to get good jobs that they enjoy, take care of their health, and play active roles in their communities—and they are less likely to become anxious or depressed.
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Julien Twenge analyzed many previous studies from 1960-2002 and the dramatic shift from the Internal to the External end of the scale...the same linear trend as did the rise in depression and anxiety.  The average young person in 2002 was more External than were 80% of young people in the 1960s....

Twenge's own theory is that the generational increases in anxiety and depression are related to a shift from "intrinsic" to "extrinsic" goals. Intrinsic goals are those that have to do with one's own development as a person—such as becoming competent in endeavors of one's choosing and developing a meaningful philosophy of life. Extrinsic goals, on the other hand, are those that have to do with material rewards and other people's judgments. They include goals of high income, status, and good looks. ...

We have much less personal control over achievement of extrinsic goals than intrinsic goals. I can, through personal effort, quite definitely improve my competence, but that doesn't guarantee that I'll get rich. I can, through spiritual practices or philosophical delving, find my own sense of meaning in life, but that doesn't guarantee that people will find me more attractive or lavish praise on me. To the extent that my emotional sense of satisfaction comes from progress toward intrinsic goals I can control my emotional wellbeing. To the extent that my satisfaction comes from others' judgments and rewards, I have much less control over my emotional state.

Of course this shift from intrinsic to extrinsic goals reflects our increasing materialistic culture.  How could it not with constant ads and shows delivering the message that happiness depends on good looks, popularity and material goods.  The author suggests another: Play.

As I pointed out ....children's freedom to play and explore on their own, independent of direct adult guidance and direction, has declined greatly in recent decades. Free play and exploration are, historically, the means by which children learn to solve their own problems, control their own lives, develop their own interests, and become competent in pursuit of their own interests.

By depriving children of opportunities to play on their own, away from direct adult supervision and control, we are depriving them of opportunities to learn how to take control of their own lives. We may think we are protecting them, but in fact we are diminishing their joy, diminishing their sense of self-control, preventing them from discovering and exploring the endeavors they would most love, and increasing the odds that they will suffer from anxiety, depression, and other disorders.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:00 AM | Permalink

Alzheimer's Roundup : Herpes virus a cause? Strong immune system, blueberries, maple syrup and exercise wards off

Scientists identify a virus and two bacteria that could be causing Alzheimer's

An international group of 31 Alzheimer's researchers has published an editorial urging the science world to change its focus when it comes to Alzheimer's disease. The message is clear - after a decade of failed attempts to treat and prevent the disease, it's time to reassess the evidence that Alzheimer's could be spread by microbes. The editorial specifically implicates the herpes virus - the kind that causes cold sores - and two types of bacteria, all of which have already been linked to Alzheimer's disease.
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Right now, the leading hypothesis is that Alzheimer's is caused by the build-up of sticky amyloid plaques and mis-folded tau proteins in the brain, which break down communication between neurons and lead to memory loss, cognitive decline, and eventually death.

Now the editorial claims it's time to consider the idea that certain viruses or bacteria are triggering this plaque build-up in the first place, and investigate whether antimicrobial drugs could help stop it. They say that the first microbes we should investigate are the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV1), the chlamydia bacteria, and a type of spiral-shaped bacteria called spirochaetes. ....

"We are saying there is incontrovertible evidence that Alzheimer’s Disease has a dormant microbial component," said Douglas Kell, a chemist from the University of Manchester in the UK, who was one of the editorial's authors. "We can’t keep ignoring all of the evidence."

Remember when stomach ulcers were thought to be caused by spicy food?    Well, in 2005, the Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded to 2 Australian scientists who showed that  inflammation of the stomach and stomach ulcers result from an infection of the stomach caused by H. pylori bacteria. 

Immune cells found to be vital in protecting against Alzheimer's

It was long thought that the immune system does not have much of an effect on Alzheimer’s disease. However, a new study revealed key immune cells located outside of the brain actually help rid the brain of the plaques that build up and trigger the disease.   A team of scientists from the University of California, Irvine genetically modified a group of mice with Alzheimer's to lack those immune cells - B-cells, T-cells and NK-cells.  They were found to have a far larger accumulation of Alzheimer's plaque than mice whose immune systems were intact.
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Study co-author Dr Mathew Blurton-Jones said: ‘We were very surprised by the magnitude of this effect.  We expected the influence of the deficient immune system on Alzheimer’s pathology to be much more subtle.’

Brain scan to diagnose Alzheimer's disease developed by US scientists

Alzheimer’s disease could be definitively diagnosed for the first time after scientists proved brain scans can pick up the condition in its earliest stages.  Currently the only way to determine whether Alzheimer’s is present is to look at the brain of a patient after death.
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Researchers at the University of California have proven that it is possible to spot the sticky amyloid plaques and tau protein tangles which cause the disease and pinpoint the moment that they trigger Alzheimer’s disease.
The US scientists were able to track the progressive stages of Alzheimer’s disease, even in adults who showed no symptoms. It means that people at risk from the condition – such as one in five of the population who carry the APOE gene variant – could be regularly screened.

What you can do.  Eat more blueberries

Snacking on blueberries from middle age could prevent dementia developing decades later, scientists say.
Experts told a major US conference that a compound in the berries may strengthen the brain’s defenses against Alzheimer’s....
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....The  benefits are due to anthocyanins, the plant chemicals that give the berries their deep blue/purple color.  They are thought to act on the brain in various ways, including boosting blood flow, cutting inflammation, and enhancing the passage of information between cells. The chemicals may also boost cells’ defenses, an American Chemical Society conference heard. In a second study of people who hadn’t been diagnosed with any memory problems, but simply felt they were becoming more forgetful, the berries also helped boost cognition, although to a lesser extent.

Maple Syrup is another food that could ward off Alzheimer's by protecting the brain against rogue proteins which destroy memory'

Just like blueberries, broccoli and fish, maple syrup  is rich in antioxidants that boost immunity.  Already linked with reducing the risk of cancer and diabetes, maple syrup has been included at the annual American Chemical Society meeting in a list of healthy natural products that could prevent the kind of damage found in dementia.
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The effect was similar to resveratrol, a chemical found in red wine which has been found to help slow dementia. The findings come after scientists from the University of Cincinnati told the same conference in San Diego earlier this week that regularly eating blueberries from middle age could prevent dementia developing decades later. Researchers found an extract of maple syrup may help prevent the misfolding and clumping of two types of proteins found in brain cells - beta amyloid and tau peptide.

In Europe, the LipiDiDiet project is investigating how nutrition impacts the development of Alzheimer's. We have known for a while that diet can reduce the risk of developing dementia. Indeed, certain nutrients have been found to have a neuroprotective effect on the brain," said researcher Tobias Hartmann from Saarland University in Germany and coordinator of the LipiDiDiet project. Nutrient drink helps protect memory in early Alzheimer's patients, study finds

Early results from an ongoing study into Alzheimer's disease in Europe suggest that a commonly available, over-the-counter nutritional supplement could help conserve memory function in patients with the early stages of the disease.  Scientists in Finland have been examining the effects of regular consumption of 'Fortasyn Connect', a patented combination of nutrients, sold under the brand name Souvenaid. While the early findings offer mixed results, the two-year clinical trial of 311 Alzheimer's patients suggests drinking Souvenaid daily does confer benefits to the memory function of people with prodomal (early stage) Alzheimer's...Just one drink a day brought back personal memories.

Don't forget that regular exercise can protect the brain.

In their quest to discover how to prevent the onset of the debilitating condition, a team of experts from University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and University of California, Los Angeles Medical Center, found that those who are physically active cut their risk of dementia by 50 per cent...Virtually any form of exercise, including jogging, walking, dancing and even gardening, boosts brain volume in older people.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:00 AM | Permalink

March 12, 2016

Medical breakthroughs: leukemia, organ transplants, breast cancer, schizophrenia and HIV

With all the bad news in the world, it's good to realize how much good news there is in the medical field.

The breakthrough that could halt leukemia in its tracks

Eliminating a protein essential for leukemia cell growth can stop the disease from progressing, scientists have revealed. The protein Hhex is produced in excess in patients with the disease – enabling cancerous cells to ‘grow uncontrollably'; however, the protein isn’t needed by healthy blood cells.  Removing this protein essential for leukemia cell growth can stop the disease from progressing, scientists have revealed and does not cause patients any harm, researchers noted.


And so, scientists from Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne targeted Hhex in preclinical disease models. They found they can put a ‘handbrake’ on acute myeloid leukemia cell growth and division. This finding could pave the way for new therapies for leukemia, they said...Acute myeloid leukemia is an aggressive blood cancer that develops suddenly, grows quickly and has a poor prognosis.  Currently, AML treatments are associated with serious side-effects. Nearly three-quarters of patients relapse after only a short period of treatment.

New therapy 'alters the immune system, allowing the body to accept incompatible kidneys'.  Breakthrough means patients could receive organs from ANY donor.

The breakthrough procedure, known as desensitization therapy, allows patients to receive kidneys from live donors, who are not exact matches. Desensitization therapy filters out antibodies that would attack the non-matched organ, from the patient's blood.  Patients who undergo the procedure are more likely to be alive after eight years than those who wait for a kidney from a deceased donor - or don't receive a transplant, according researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

Senior study author Dr Dorry Segev, of Johns Hopkins University, told Reuters: 'We used to say if you had a compatible donor, you could do a transplant.  'Now you can say, if you have an incompatible donor, we can make that transplant happen. That's very exciting to those on the waiting list.'

More than 100,000 people are currently on the waiting list in the US for a kidney, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing.

Breast cancer Tumors shrunk 'dramatically' in 11 days

 Breast Cancer, Mri Scan-Spl-1

A pair of drugs can dramatically shrink and eliminate some breast cancers in just 11 days, UK doctors have shown.
They said the "surprise" findings, reported at the European Breast Cancer Conference, could mean some women no longer need chemotherapy.  The drugs, tested on 257 women, target a specific weakness found in one-in-ten breast cancers.
Experts said the findings were a "stepping stone" to tailored cancer care. The doctors leading the trial had not expected or even intended to achieve such striking results. They were investigating how drugs changed cancers in the short window between a tumor being diagnosed and the operation to remove it.

The drugs were lapatinib and trastuzumab, which is more widely known as Herceptin.They both target HER2 - a protein that fuels the growth of some women's breast cancers. Herceptin works on the surface of cancerous cells while lapatinib is able to penetrate inside the cell to disable HER2.

Breast cancer is now thought of as at least ten separate diseases, each with a different cause, life expectancy and needing a different treatment.  Matching the specific errors in a tumor to targeted drugs is considered the future of cancer medicine.

Scientists crack what causes schizophrenia: Process that 'tidies the brain' in the teenage years goes haywire, landmark study reveals

A game-changing study described as a 'turning point' in tackling mental illness has revealed the biological cause of schizophrenia. For the first time scientists have linked the devastating disease to a physical process, the 'pruning' of unwanted connections between brain neurons.  During the teenage years, the brain undergoes widespread re-wiring that involves 'synaptic pruning'.
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The new study, based on a genetic analysis of nearly 65,000 people from around the world, pinpointed a defective gene that appears to trigger excessive pruning.  Scientists believe it is this that underlies the symptoms of schizophrenia, a severe psychotic condition marked by a loosening grip on reality, delusions, paranoia and hallucinations.

They hope the discovery will lead to more effective treatments targeting the disorder's roots rather than its symptoms. Schizophrenia affects more than 21 million people worldwide and typically begins in late adolescence or early adulthood.

Breakthrough as researchers find HIV virus manipulates 400 genes

HIV produces a key protein call Tat that directly binds to 400 human genes which in turn creates an environment in which HIV can thrive and cause AIDS, scientists found at the UT Southwestern Medical Center. Study author Dr Ivan D’Orso said: ‘The findings clearly suggest that blocking Tat activity may be of therapeutic value to HIV patients.’

HIV causes AIDS to develop by hijacking immune cells and killing off cells that normally fight disease.
Also, HIV hides in cells and undermines the host’s immune system – even if antiretroviral therapy is being used.
An estimated 1.2 million people in the US were living with HIV in 2012, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:55 PM | Permalink

More on how foods increase or decrease your risk for developing certain diseases

White bread, bagels and rice 'increase the risk of lung cancer by 49%

Many studies suggest carbohydrates are bad for your waistline.  But a new study has warned they may also be bad for your lungs.  Specifically, foods with a high glycemic index - such as white bread or bagels, corn flakes and puffed rice - may increase the risk of lung cancer, scientists say. And non-smokers, who account for 12 per cent of those killed by the disease, appear to be particularly at risk.

The glycemic index is a measure of the quality of dietary carbohydrates - and is defined by how quickly blood sugar levels are raised after a meal. The theory now is that a high-GI diet triggers higher levels of blood glucose and insulin. This, in turn, increases levels of a type of hormone called Insulin-Like Growth Factors (IGFs).  Elevated levels of IGFs have previously been linked with a higher risk of lung cancer.

Lead study author Dr Stephanie Melkonian, of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, said: 'We observed a 49 per cent increased risk of lung cancer among subjects with the highest daily GI compared to those with the lowest daily GI.'
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Previous studies have found that dietary factors may have an influence on a person's risk of developing lung cancer.
Diets high in fruits and vegetables were found to decrease the risk - while increased consumption of red meat, saturated fats and dairy products are know to increase the risk of the disease.
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The study recommended that people limit foods and beverages with high GI.
Examples of low GI foods include whole-wheat or pumpernickel bread, rolled or steel-cut oatmeal and pasta.

Grapes that are great for your eyes - and could reduce the risk of blindness later in life

The fruit protects against a chemical process known as oxidative stress, which releases harmful molecules called free radicals into the retina, the study found. Grapes are rich in antioxidants that protect healthy cells from DNA damage and it is believed these compounds are behind the eyesight benefits.
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Widely recognized as a superfood, grapes are packed with vitamins C and K and beta- carotene, which help rid the body of free radicals, by-products of oxygen use that cause cellular damage.  Previous research by scientists at the University of Glasgow found that the antioxidant benefits of drinking purple grape juice could also reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. Another study, by scientists at Washington State University, found that eating grapes can help prevent weight gain. They contain a compound called resveratrol – also found in blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and apples – that converts bad, white fat in the body into good ‘beige fat’, which burns up calories.


 Grapes-Bunches

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:14 AM | Permalink

The continuing failure of Obamacare

NPR and Harvard agree: Obamacare is a complete failure.

National Public Radio collaborated with Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to survey Americans’ recent experience with health care. As to the Affordable Care Act, the survey’s findings are damning. They suggest that Obamacare has been worse than a complete waste of money.
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The survey says more people think health care has gotten worse (26%) than better (15%).  Forty-nine percent of people think health care has stayed about the same.
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Remember how we were all supposed to save $2,500 a year in health insurance premiums? Only 4% say they have saved anything, and those respondents are probably wrong. For the vast majority, Obamacare has either done nothing, or has increased the cost of health care, counting premiums, deductibles and co-pays. Good going, Barry!
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The federal government has had its share of failures over the years, but it is hard to think of a federal program that has proved such a comprehensive disaster, in such a short period of time, as the Affordable Care Act. Which, by the way, still hasn’t been fully implemented, as the Democrats have postponed some of its more baleful effects until 2017. So the number of people who are hurt by Obamacare, e.g. by losing the employer-based coverage with which they were content, is destined to rise.

Over half of the nonprofit health insurance co-ops formed by Obamacare have failed.

These failed ObamaCare co-ops have not repaid $1.2B in federal loans. and still owe more than $1 billion in additional liabilities, according to recent financial statements cited Thursday at a congressional hearing.

“In some states, these losses will be absorbed by other insurance companies—which means, by the policyholders of other insurance companies who have to pay increased … premiums,” he said. “In other states, doctors, hospitals and individual patients stand to suffer large out-of-pocket losses due to the co-op failures—as our report details
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:08 AM | Permalink

March 7, 2016

Health Roundup - Food

Citrus fruit intake has been associated with reduced stroke risk.

The key may lie with a citrus phytonutrient called hesperidin, which appears to increase blood flow throughout the body, including the brain....When subjects drank straight orange juice instead of the hesperidin solution, their blood flow was even better. In other words, the stroke-reducing effects of oranges extend beyond just the hesperidin. When it comes to food, the whole is often greater than the sum of its parts.

 Cruciferous

Forget wonder drugs, you need broccoli and spinach to protect against deadly diseases

Broccoli is incredible. It can prevent DNA damage and metastatic cancer spread; activate defenses against pathogens and pollutants; help to prevent lymphoma; boost the enzymes that detox your liver; target breast cancer stem cells; and reduce the risk of prostate cancer progression.

The component responsible for all this is thought to be sulforaphane, which is formed almost exclusively in cruciferous vegetables — including rocket, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, spring greens, horseradish, kale, mustard greens, radishes, turnip tops and watercress. Sulforaphane may also help protect your brain and your eyesight, reduce nasal allergy inflammation and manage type 2 diabetes. It was even recently found to help treat autism....
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Popeye was right about spinach: dark green, leafy vegetables are the healthiest food on the planet. As whole foods go, they offer the most nutrition per calorie.  Of all the food groups analyzed by a team of Harvard University researchers, greens turned out to be associated with the strongest protection against major chronic diseases.  That meant about a 20 per cent reduction in risk for heart attacks and strokes for every additional daily serving. Yet today, only about one in every 25 people even eat a dozen servings in a month, let alone a week.

A healthy diet slows the damaging effects of smoking and helps to prevent lung cancer from spreading 

Lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma are the biggest killers.  One potential cause of lung cancer may be the fumes from frying food

A healthy diet may help mitigate the DNA-damaging effects of tobacco smoke, as well as perhaps helping prevent lung cancer from spreading...In one study of long-term smokers, as little as a single stalk of broccoli a day resulted in  41 per cent fewer DNA mutations in their bloodstream over ten days — and it seems the broccoli wasn't just helping their livers work better, but making them more resilient at a subcellular level. ...
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Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema, makes it difficult to breathe and gets worse over time. Data going back 50 years show that a high intake of fruit and vegetables aids good lung function. Just one extra serving of fruit each day may mean a 24 per cent lower risk of dying from COPD.
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Researchers in Sweden decided to test out a plant-based diet on a group of 35 severe asthmatics who weren't getting better despite the best medical therapies.  Of the 24 patients who stuck with the plant-based diet, 70 per cent improved considerably after four months and 90 per cent improved within a year.

Lack of vitamin D 'significantly speeds up the growth of breast cancer tumors and causes the disease to spread'

The Stanford University School of Medicine study highlights a direct link between circulating vitamin D levels and the expression of a gene called ID1, known to be associated with tumor growth and breast cancer metastasis.
It adds to previous findings that a vitamin D deficiency not only increase a person's risk of developing breast cancer, but are also correlated with more aggressive tumors and worse prognoses.

Vitamin pills don't have the cancer-fighting effects of real food

After following more than 60,000 people for more than a dozen years, University of Oxford researchers found those who consume a plant-based diet were less likely to develop all forms of cancer combined.  The greatest protection appeared to be against blood cancers. The incidence of leukemia, lymphoma, and multiple myeloma among those eating vegetarian diets is nearly half that of meat-eaters.  Green, leafy vegetables - including salad and cooked greens - and citrus fruits seemed to offer the most protection

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:30 AM | Permalink

February 18, 2016

Health Roundup: T-cell immunotherapy, liquid biopsy for cancer, statins for the brain, breast cancer, heartburn drugs and sleep

T-cell immunotherapy.  Is this the cure for cancer? Genetically modified blood turned into 'living drug' in stunning new therapy that hunts down and destroys diseased cells and prevents them from returning - possibly FOREVER

The treatment is created from T-cells – white blood cells that normally fight off viruses and bacteria – which are removed from the patient and genetically tweaked to recognize and attack their cancer.  The genetically-modified cells are then grown in their millions in a lab before being infused back into the patient, where they hunt down and destroy the cancer cells.
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Two landmark studies have revealed the therapy’s stunning potential. One suggests it will last for at least 14 years in the body, raising the tantalizing prospect of a permanent cure for cancer.  In the other, 94 per cent of terminally ill patients saw the disease vanish completely. Scientists around the world are perfecting the technique, and a series of trials have shown it to have remarkable potential.

Liquid Biopsy: A new 10-minute test for cancer developed by scientists can be taken at home with just a drop of saliva.

David Wong, a professor of oncology at California State University says it is possible to detect tumor DNA when is it circulating in bodily fluids – an approach known as a liquid biopsy.  The saliva test is 100 per cent accurate and is so simple that it could be carried out at a pharmacist, the dentist or even in the privacy of someone's own home.  The test is non-invasive and cheap, costing around just $22.  It is due to enter full clinical trials in lung cancer patients later this year, and is expecting approval within two years from the Food and Drug Administration in America.

Too much diversity New test 'accurately' spots the most deadly forms of breast cancer BEFORE they spread

According to initial trials of the test, developed by the Institute of Cancer Research in London, doctors were able to spot women at the highest risk of dying from their disease. The test could now be used to tailor treatment for women at the highest risk.

Scientists modified methods initially developed by wildlife experts to identify ecological diversity in the natural world. They adapted the ecologists’ computer algorithm to use it on tumor samples.  Tumors with a greater diversity of types of cell tend to be the most aggressive, and most likely to eventually become fatal.  The cancer team found that they could use the naturalists’ approach to give each tumor a ‘diversity score’ - which they showed was an accurate predictor of how dangerous it would become.  In a trial of 1,000 women, they found that those whose tumors had the highest diversity score were three times more likely to die within three five than those with the lowest score.

Common antibiotics may trigger DELIRIUM:  Drugs can cause confusion, hallucinations and agitation for weeks.

The research suggests antibiotics may be more strongly linked to delirium than was previously believed
....Dr Shamik Bhattacharyya, of Harvard Medical School, and the study's author reviewed all available scientific literature on delirium and found case studies on 391 patients, over seven decades, who were given antibiotics and later developed the condition as well as other brain problems....A total of 54 different antibiotics were involved.  Some 47 per cent of people taking the drugs had delusions or hallucinations, 14 per cent had seizures, 15 per cent had involuntary muscle twitching and 5 per cent had loss of control of body movements.  Data from electroencephalograms (EEG) - a test that detects electrical activity in the brain - was also abnormal in 70 per cent of the cases. Additionally, 25 per cent of people who developed delirium

Heartburn Drugs Tied to Dementia Risk

The popular heartburn drugs known as proton pump inhibitors have been linked to a range of ills: bone fractures, kidney problems, infections and more. Now a large new study has found that they are associated with an increased risk for dementia as well.  Proton pump inhibitors, or P.P.I.s, are widely available both by prescription and over the counter under various brand names, including Prevacid, Prilosec and Nexium.

German researchers found that regular use of P.P.I.s increased the risk for dementia in men by 52 percent and in women by 42 percent, compared with nonusers....“Our study does not prove that P.P.I.s cause dementia,” said the senior author, Britta Haenisch of the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases. “It can only provide a statistical association. This is just a small part of the puzzle.

'Statins for the brain' may prevent the proteins that cause Alzheimer’s from ever forming

Cambridge University scientists have discovered drugs that could stop the cruel disease ever developing.
After searching the medical literature for a drug that interfered with the very first stage of the process, they tested this drug, bexarotene, in a test-tube and it stopped the clumps from forming.

Good as bexarotene was, Professor Vendruscolo has since found several that are even more powerful.  Much more research is needed before their Alzheimer’s prevention powers are tested on people but the professor is optimistic that it will one day be possible to stop the amyloid-beta protein from poisoning the brain.

One per cent. Reversing the symptoms of schizophrenia for some (about 1%) who carry a genetic mutation known as the 22q11.2 microdeletion.

Scientists have found people with schizophrenia carry key mutations in DNA.  These, in turn, disrupted genes involved in the transmission of chemical messengers across the brain.

The balance of the messengers plays a crucial role in ensuring the brain develops healthily and functions normally.
Some chemical messengers, known as neurotransmitters, 'excite' brain cells into an action, whereas other 'inhibit' the activity of cells.  Disruptions to neurotransmitters can therefore change whether cells function, and researchers believe this may be what causes schizophrenia.

Using a drug candidate designed to block the activity of Gsk3β in mice, researchers found it prompted neurons in the animals' brains to branch out and form new connections. Test showed the communication between brain regions was restored. Although the findings have yet to be replicated in human patients, the scientists behind the study said the compound could eventually lead to new treatments for schizophrenia.

One per cent. Reversing autism 'at the flick of a switch': 'Turning on' a single gene in mice has been found to reduce autistic behaviors

Autism is a complex spectrum of disorders caused by numerous underlying factors. But around one per cent of cases are caused by a missing gene called Shank3. Neuroscientists report that by switching on this single gene they were able to reverse changes to the brain in animals with the condition.
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Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) found that in mice lacking the gene, switching it back on later in life could reverse some of the autism-like behaviors in the animals.  According to the team, the findings show that the brain may be capable of adapting to genetic changes even after it is fully developed and can make and break connections.

Too much sleep 'is a bigger stroke risk than too little': More than eight hours a night can increase risk by 146%

A study of nearly 290,000 people found seven to eight hours’ sleep a night may protect against the chance of a stroke.
But the US researchers, from the New York University School of Medicine, found that those who sleep for longer than this increase their risk of having a stroke by 146 per cent. And less than seven hours of sleep also increases the risk, by 22 per cent.

Sleeping seven to eight hours a night and taking 30 to 60 minutes of exercise three to six times a week gave the maximum benefits for stroke prevention.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:00 PM | Permalink

February 4, 2016

Health roundup: Fats and garlic for your heart, Statins, new uses for old drugs and more

How eating fat could SAVE one million lives: Adding nuts, seeds and tofu to diets 'prevents early death from heart disease'

Study author Dr Dariush Mozaffarian, of the Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, said: ‘Worldwide, policymakers are focused on reducing saturated fats. ‘Yet, we found there would be a much bigger impact on heart disease deaths if the priority was to increase the consumption of polyunsaturated fats as a replacement for saturated fats and refined carbohydrates, as well as to reduce trans fats.’
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Polyunsaturated fats help reduce bad cholesterol levels in the blood. That, in turn, can lower the risks of heart disease and stroke. Furthermore, oils that are rich in polyunsaturated fats provide essential fats that the body needs – including long chain fatty acids. Polyunsaturated fats can be found in foods including soybeans, corn and sunflower oils, tofu, nuts and seeds. They are also contained it fatty fishes, such as salmon, mackerel, herring and trout.

The study sought to estimate the number of annual deaths related to various patterns of fat consumption.
The team of scientists used 2010 data from 186 countries....eating too little healthy omega-6 polyunsaturated fats  accounted for 10.3 per cent of total global heart disease deaths.... excess consumption of trans fats accounted for 7.7 per cent of global heart disease deaths.

Garlic REALLY is good for you: Extract 'reverses build-up of deadly plaque that clogs arteries and triggers heart attacks'

Aged garlic extract reduces dangerous plaque buildup in arteries, according to the study from Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center.  That helps prevent the progression of heart disease – which is the leading cause of death worldwide. 

The study involved 55 patients between the ages of 40 and 75, each of whom were diagnosed with metabolic syndrome.  The participants were screened at the beginning of the study to measure their total coronary plaque volume as was their dense calcium, non-calcified plaque and low-attenuation plaque using cardiac computed tomography angiography (CCTA), an imaging technology that measures deposits and build up in arteries.

One year later, a follow-up screening was conducted. The study determined those who had taken aged garlic extract had slowed the total plaque accumulation by 80 per cent. Furthermore, they reduced soft plaque and demonstrated regression for low-attenuation plaque.
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The findings fall in line with a study last year from the University of Missouri. That study revealed garlic offers the brain protection against aging and disease.It also suggested garlic could even prevent age-related neurological diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

Antidepressants can raise the risk of suicide, biggest ever review finds

Antidepressant use doubles the risk of suicide in under 18s and the risks to adults may have been seriously underestimated, researchers find after an analysis of 70 trials of the most common antidepressants - involving more than 18,000 people.

Like mother, like daughter: 'Emotional' brain circuit is passed down through the female line and may be a factor in depression

It has been long suspected that mothers can 'pass on' depression to their daughters. Researchers believe the wiring in the brain structure, known as the corticolimbic system, may be an inherited factor contributing to risk, or resistance to depression being passed on.


Teenagers who use sunbeds are up to SIX times more likely get lethal skin cancer by the age of 40

132,000 cases of the often-fatal melanoma occur globally every year.  Those under diagnosed with melanoma began using sunbeds at about 16 and used them more frequently than older women.  All but 2 of 63 diagnosed with melanoma under 30 reported tanning indoors

Two energy drinks a day 'increases the risk of heart palpitations, fast heart rate and chest pain in healthy people'

70% of patients at emergency department with heart palpitations had consumed an energy drink - 36% in the last 24 hours.

Statins DOUBLE the risk of diabetes according to 'alarming' 10-year study

Healthy patients taking the heart drug statins have a significantly higher risk of new diabetes and a very high risk of serious diabetic complications, a study has found.
The research, published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine in May 2015, tracked individuals in a database for almost ten years. It discovered statin users had a higher incidence of diabetes and also weight gain.
Patients using the drugs were also more likely than the others to develop diabetes with complications including eye, nerve and kidney damage.

But Statins found to clear away deposits that cause blindness in the elderly

An estimated 20 million people worldwide suffer with dry age-related macular degeneration - known as dry AMD - a disease which causes blurred vision and eventually blindness.  Known as the ‘Alzheimer’s of the eye’ because of the way it robs elderly people of their sight, the condition affects a quarter of British over-60s.  Until now there have been very few treatments for the condition, but experts have discovered that statins - a cheap cholesterol drug already taken by millions - may provide a solution....

Scientists at Harvard Medical School in the US found that high-dose treatment with the statin Lipitor cleared away fatty deposits behind the retina, leading to visual improvement in ten patients with dry AMD.  They hope that future larger trials will show that the drug has the potential to halt progression and even reverse the disease in some cases.

A pound-a-day pill that has revolutionized the treatment of malaria – and is based on a Chinese herbal remedy – could be the latest weapon against bowel cancer.

Scientists say artesunate could be effective for the estimated 40,000 Britons who are diagnosed with the disease every year. ..Artesunate is derived from the leaves of sweet wormwood, an aromatic herb used to treat fever for more than 2,000 years. Chinese scientist Tu Youyou was awarded the 2015 Nobel Prize in Medicine for her discovery that the herb could be used to treat malaria.

Early trials show that bowel-cancer patients who took the drug for two weeks before surgery were six times less likely to have a recurrence of the disease compared to those who took a placebo.  Patients taking the drug did not suffer any side effects, giving hope that the pill could provide a safe, affordable treatment....Only one patient taking artesunate had a recurrence of cancer after three-and- a-half years, compared to six in the placebo group.  Now the treatment is being rolled out in a larger UK trial involving 140 patients.

Could a pill help people with autism chat more easily? Drugs used to treat high blood pressure 'improve social skills'

One of the most commonly recognized symptoms of autism is problems with social interaction and communication including difficulty understanding and being aware of other people's emotions and feelings as well as problems taking part in, or starting, conversations

But a new study used a common drug taken for high blood pressure pill helped to improve the both verbal and non verbal conversational skills.  Researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia gave 20 volunteers either a 40-milligram dose of propranolol or a placebo pill....It found the total communication scores were significantly greater when the individual took propranolol compared to the placebo.

'Though more research is needed to study its effects after more than one dose, these preliminary results show a potential benefit of propranolol to improve the conversational and nonverbal skills of individuals with autism,' associate professor Dr David Beversdorf.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:39 PM | Permalink

January 21, 2016

On the health horizon

In five or so years. The gastric bypass in a PILL:

Capsule filled with natural oils suppresses appetite and stops 'even the hungriest person from eating'. Fish oil-type capsule is thought to trick the stomach into thinking it's full. Scientists: 'It should have the same effect as gastric bypass surgery' but will not be expensive or carry the risks of major invasive surgery.  Developers hope the product could be on the market within five years.

Or there's this new operation that's  less invasive and cheaper than gastric bypass surgery - and 'reduces weight by 54%'

Gastric bypass surgery is invasive, costly and carries risks. Only two per cent of people who need the surgeries actually get them.  Doctors from Mayo Clinic have developed an alternative procedure called endoscopic sleeve gastroplasty.  By inserting a flexible tube with a light and camera attached to it, doctors can reduce the size of a stomach by creating a ‘sleeve’ with sutures, a new study revealed.  The procedure falls under the umbrella of endoscopy – the nonsurgical procedure that gastroenterologists use to examine a person’s digestive tract.

The Mayo Clinic conducted a study on 25 obesity patients who underwent the procedure. They found it reduced excess body weight within one year.  Additionally, the procedure delayed solid food emptying from the stomach – creating an earlier feeling of fullness during a meal.  That feeling of fullness resulted in a more significant and long-lasting weight loss.

It required less than two hours of procedure time – and patients returned to their normal lifestyles within one to three days.  The doctors utilized standard ‘off-the-shelf’ endoscopic tools instead of specific weight loss devices or platforms. The procedure ended up costing just one-third the price of typical bariatric surgeries.  But, the study authors said randomized control studies with longer follow-up must be conducted to confirm the findings in a larger patient population.

'Invisibility cloak' makes chemotherapy drug '50 TIMES more powerful - and shields patients from grueling side effects'

The new technique involves packaging the drug paclitaxel in containers derived from a patient's own immune system.  By doing so, scientists believe they can protect the drug from being destroyed by the body's own defenses, and as a result direct the full-force of the medication at the tumor.
Dr Elena Batrakova, an associate professor at the University of North Carolina's School of Pharmacy, said: 'That means we can use 50 times less of the drug and still get the same results.

Researchers focused on exosomes, tiny spheres harvested from the white blood cells that protect the body against infection. The exosomes are made of the same material as cell membranes, meaning the patient's body does not recognize them as a foreign body.  Researchers said this has been one of the toughest hurdles to overcome in the last decade, using plastic-based nanoparticles to deliver drugs into the body. Paclitaxel is a potent drug used in the United States as a first- and second-line treatment for breast, lung and pancreatic cancers

Dr Batrakova said: 'Exosomes are engineered by nature to be the perfect delivery vehicles.
'By using exosomes from white blood cells, we wrap the medicine in an invisibility cloak that hides it from the immune system. 'We don't know exactly how they do it, but the exosomes swarm the cancer cells, completely bypassing any drug resistance they may have and delivering their payload.'

Dissolvable Brain Sensors Disintegrate Once Their Job Is Done

They can measure pressure, temperature, and much more before being safely absorbed into the body.

A Microrobotics Army to Defend Your Health

Remember the movie Fantastic Voyage from way back in 1966? In that film, a submarine with its crew was somehow shrunk to microscopic size and injected into the bloodstream of an injured scientist to repair damage to his brain. In addition to featuring Raquel Welsh in a clingy body suit, the film had great special effects showing the sub passing through various parts of the body.

Miniaturized tools that move through the bloodstream to repair damage was science fiction then, but they may now be on the verge of becoming reality. Instead of a mini sub with a crew, a swarm of microrobots (also called nanobots or nanorobots) could be injected into the body to deliver a highly targeted dose of a drug or radioactive seeds to treat cancer, or to clear a blood clot, or perform a tissue biopsy, or to build a scaffold around an area where new cells need to be grown.

Tomorrow’s Heart Drugs Might Target Gut Microbes

Scientists can stop gut bacteria in mice from making a chemical that causes arterial disease.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:13 PM | Permalink

January 19, 2016

Poop in the News

Ed Driscoll writing on Instapundit :

THE 21st CENTURY ISN’T TURNING OUT THE WAY I HAD EXPECTED: Scientists Think Eating Poop May Help You Lose Weight.
Or as Iowahawk recently tweeted:  Eat Shit and Diet

Gut bacteria from the stool samples of thin people could help treat obesity

In March 2016, researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston will launch a clinical trial (“Fecal Microbiota Transplant for Obesity and Metabolism”) to study the impact of gut bacteria on weight....using freeze-dried poop pills.

How Gut Bacteria Help Make Us Fat and Thin

....researchers found that the gut community in lean people was like a rain forest brimming with many species but that the community in obese people was less diverse—more like a nutrient-overloaded pond where relatively few species dominate. Lean individuals, for example, tended to have a wider variety of Bacteroidetes, a large tribe of microbes that specialize in breaking down bulky plant starches and fibers into shorter molecules that the body can use as a source of energy.

In the New Yorker, Emily Eakin writes about Bacteria on the Brain  A brilliant surgeon offered an untested treatment to dying patients. Was it innovation or overreach?

....before he replaced the “bone flap”—the section of skull that is removed to allow access to the brain—he soaked it for an hour in a solution teeming with Enterobacter aerogenes, a common fecal bacterium. Then he reattached it to Egan’s skull, using tiny metal plates and screws. Muizelaar hoped that inside Egan’s brain an infection was brewing.....
The procedure was heretical in principle: deliberately exposing a patient to bacteria in the operating room violated a basic tenet of modern surgery, the concept known as “maintaining a sterile field,” which, along with prophylactic antibiotics, is credited with sharply reducing complications and mortality rates.
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“I know several neurosurgeons who would say, ‘If I ever have a glioblastoma, I would have it infected.’ ”
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The prognosis for glioblastoma is grim. Even with the standard treatment—surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy—the median survival time from diagnosis is little more than fourteen months. But for decades talk has circulated in the field about glioblastoma patients who, despite hospitals’ efforts to keep the O.R. free of germs, acquired a “wound infection” during surgery to remove their tumors. These patients, it was said, often lived far longer than expected. A 1999 article in Neurosurgery described four such cases: brain-tumor patients who developed postoperative infections and survived for years, cancer-free.

Three of the patients were infected with Enterobacter, the fecal bacterium, and although the cases were anecdotal, and the alleged connection between the bacterium and survival was unproven, the notion became operating-room lore. One neurosurgeon, currently in private practice, told me that his former boss would joke during operations, “If I ever get a GBM, put your finger in your keister and put it in the wound.”

The Rise of the Do-It-Yourself Fecal Transplant  something I do not recommend.

Because the stool is about 50% bacteria, the theory behind the transplant is that it can replace bacteria that have gone missing from the gut. It can have dramatic results, even after a single treatment.The process of doing it at home is surprisingly simple.
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Fecal transplants, in which stool is obtained from a healthy friend or relative and injected into the colon during a colonoscopy procedure, have been shown to cure C. diff about 90% to 95% of the time. It’s a cure rate that Silverman and other experts call “utterly remarkable.”

Fecal transplants have become standard care for people who have repeated bouts of C. diff. It’s much easier to get them in a medical setting than it was even 2 years ago. And the stool doesn’t even have to be delivered via colonoscopy anymore. Doctors can order new capsules of carefully screened, freeze-dried donor stool made by a biotech startup company called OpenBiome that patients swallow to get nearly the same benefits.

Quiz: The Scoop on Poop

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:26 PM | Permalink

January 7, 2016

Health Roundup: Another reason to...

Another reason to floss.:    GUM DISEASE increases your risk of breast cancer:

In a study that monitored 73,737 postmenopausal women without breast cancer, those with gum disease had a 14% higher chance of breast cancer.  Researchers from the University of Buffalo suggest that bacteria ‘enters the blood stream triggering the disease’.  Periodontal disease – or gum disease – is a common condition that is known to be associated with heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Previous studies also found links between gum disease in oral, esophageal, head and neck, pancreatic and lung cancers.

Another reason to get enough sleep:.  A lack of sleep can increase YOUR risk of dementia.

During sleep the brain clears out toxins that trigger Alzheimer's..  Too little sleep and the toxins build up and damage the brain.  Dr Jeffrey Illif, a brain scientist at Oregon Health and Science University, told NPR that ‘changes in sleep habits may actually be setting the stage’ for dementia.  With previous research showing deep sleep to ‘power cleanse’ beta-amyloid from the brain, the researchers believe lack of sleep to be a key part of a vicious circle in which memory gets worse and worse. University of California, Berkley researcher Matthew Walker said: ‘The more beta-amyloid you have in certain parts of your brain, the less deep sleep you get and, consequently, the worse your memory.

Another reason to take vitamin C:  Migraine breakthrough  the process that triggers EVERY symptom

Jonathan Borkum, a clinical psychologist and professor at the University of Maine, studied 2,000 papers on migraines to look at a range of triggers, such as dehydration or air pollution, and compared how each of them affected the brain. He concluded that a surplus of free radicals, the corrosive molecules produced by our bodies as we process oxygen, were at the root of all headaches.  The surplus creates an imbalance in the body called ‘oxidative stress’ when there are not enough antioxidant defenses to fend off the free radicals.  The discovery means that headaches could be prevented or alleviated using supplements such as beta carotene and vitamin C which bind and shut down free radicals. However they may have health risks and one study found that antioxidant supplements were associated with higher risk of death than those who did not take them.

Another reason to exercise:  Regular exercise may be the best medicine for prostate cancer:

Exercise could be the best medicine for many men with prostate cancer if the disease is caught early, doctors believe.
Walking, cycling, swimming and other regular physical activity may have the power to keep the disease in check, they suggest. This would mean that fewer men would need radiotherapy, chemotherapy and other powerful treatments that can have distressing and long-lasting side effects.  A world-first trial underway at  Sheffield Hallam University in the U.K.

Another reason to take vitamin D:  82% of IBS sufferers 'are deficient in vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin'

Scientists found a link between irritable bowel syndrome and vitamin D when their findings revealed that  82% of IBS patients are vitamin D deficient.  Doctors suggest people with IBS,  a chronic disorder of the gastrointestinal tract, take vitamin D supplements.

Another reason to maintain a healthy weight:  Being overweight raises the risk of 10 different types of cancer

Being overweight, which is defined as having a Body Mass Index of more than 25, increases the risk of developing 10 different cancers including esophagus, bowel, breast, liver and pancreatic cancer. It also raises the risk of kidney, womb, ovary, gallbladder and advanced prostate cancer.  The World Cancer Research Fund says a third of the most common cancers could be prevented through choosing a healthy diet, being physically active and maintaining a healthy body weight.

'It doesn't have to be anything too difficult – cutting down on high calorie foods and sugary drinks, drinking less alcohol, or even 10 to 15 extra minutes each day of physical activities such as brisk walking could all decrease a person's cancer risk.'

Another reason to maintain and nourish your relationships: Loneliness is 'AS deadly as a lack of exercise and diabetes': Poor social network 'drastically increases risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer'

Previous studies found that aging adults live longer if they have more social connections.  Scientists from the University of North Carolina  builds on that research with a new study that demonstrates how social relationships reduce the risk of poor health at each stage of life.  They determined that weak relationships in younger years can increase your risk of inflammation – at the same rate as lack of exercise.  Furthermore, hypertension in old age is more likely to occur as a result of loneliness than clinical risk factors, including diabetes.  Yet, people who have the support of loved ones are less likely to develop health conditions – and more likely to have a longer life expectancy.
Dr Kathleen Mullan Harris, of UNC and the Carolina Population Center, said: ‘Based on these findings, it should be as important to encourage adolescents and young adults to build broad social relationships and skills for interacting with others as it is to eat healthy and be physically active.’
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:31 AM | Permalink

December 15, 2015

Identity Politics is Poison

In Spiked, Brendan O'Neill examines identity politics and the death of the individual in The Crisis of Character

The subjectivity of human identity in the 21st century is striking, and alarming. Today, to feel something is to be something....Politics has become an arena for the pitting of personalized identities against one another: a new caste system, in effect...

This desire to treat the world as a mirror, as a thing that must validate our self-esteem, is far more pronounced today than it was in the 1970s. The cult of self-identification, the insistence that grammar, education and institutions reorganize themselves around what individuals feel themselves to be, takes to the extreme the reduction of public life to the level of mere validator for insecure individuals.
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Where earlier celebrators of the individual emphasised our capacity for autonomy and for governing our own minds and sense of ourselves, today’s self-identifiers cannot exist without the blessing of new forms of therapeutic authority.....The self-identifiers are enslaved by the 21st-century validation machine, their esteem locked in a danse macabre with the self-esteem industry
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What is today referred to as the rise of identity politics is in truth the hollowing out of the institutions, beliefs and freedoms around which life and identity were shaped and cohered for centuries. It is a crisis not merely of politics, or class, or the left; it is a crisis of character, a questioning of what it means to be human, an uncertainty as to how we become fully human. Addressing the emergence of new, weak identities, and the corresponding creation of a therapeutic industry and new forms of moral censure to prop up these identities, will require more than ridiculing the new left or the so-called ‘identitarian movement’. It demands nothing less than the reconstruction of public life, and the rediscovery of our faith in the strong individual who both makes and is made by the world, rather than simply needing to be consoled by it. It requires that we refuse to acquiesce to alienated, subjective identity-making, and instead recreate the conditions in which people can develop their identity through the exercise of moral autonomy, and through creating and engaging in new institutions, new ideas and new societies.

As Bill Clinton said,

"I believe that in ways large and small, peaceful and sometimes violent, that the biggest threat to the future of our children and grandchildren is the poison of identity politics that preaches that our differences are far more important than our common humanity,"

And Christopher Hitchens wrote,

"People who think with their epidermis or their genitalia or their clan are the problem to begin with. One does not banish this specter by invoking it. If I would not vote against someone on the grounds of "race" or "gender" alone, then by the exact same token I would not cast a vote in his or her favor for the identical reason. Yet see how this obvious question makes fairly intelligent people say the most alarmingly stupid things."
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“For years, I declined to fill in the form for my Senate press credential that asked me to state my 'race,' unless I was permitted to put 'human.' The form had to be completed under penalty of perjury, so I could not in conscience put 'white,' which is not even a color let alone a 'race,' and I sternly declined to put 'Caucasian,' which is an exploded term from a discredited ethnology. Surely the essential and unarguable core of King's campaign was the insistence that pigmentation was a false measure: a false measure of mankind (yes, mankind) and an inheritance from a time of great ignorance and stupidity and cruelty, when one drop of blood could make you 'black.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:00 AM | Permalink

December 9, 2015

New evidence for the body-brain connection: Fit body, fit mind

NYT Does Exercise Help Keep Our Brains Young?

Physical fitness may be critical for maintaining a relatively youthful and nimble brain as we age, according to a new study of brain activation patterns in older people.

For most of us, our bodies begin to lose flexibility and efficiency as we enter our 40s....our thinking becomes less efficient. We don’t toggle between mental tasks as nimbly as we once did or process new information with the same aplomb and clarity.
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The results suggest that “higher aerobic fitness is associated with improved cognitive function.” Fit older people’s brains require fewer resources to complete tasks than do the brains of older people who are out of shape....
..... daily mild exercise such as walking and mild jogging may affect the way the brain works, so that an older person’s brain “acts like a younger brain.”

Strong legs contribute to a healthier brain in old age, study finds

Researchers find leg muscle force to be more closely linked to age-related changes in mental function than any other lifestyle factor tested...Researchers found a “striking protective relationship” between high leg power and better preserved mental ability and brain structure over a period of 10 years.

Dancing, Sudoku, fish and fruit – the keys to a mentally alert old age

Researchers in Finland tested more than 1,000 people aged 60 to 77 in a long-term study that could improve treatments for Alzheimer’s and dementia.....Researchers in Finland recruited 1,260 people aged between 60 and 77, and effectively re-organized the lives of half of them. They were given regular gym sessions with physiotherapists to strengthen their muscles one to three times a week and took part in aerobic exercises, sometimes in groups, two to five times a week. They had brain training using computer programs not unlike commercial games, where success leads to another layer of difficulty. And they were advised to eat a Nordic diet – not dissimilar to the Mediterranean diet – containing fish at least twice a week, lots of fruit and vegetables, and olive and other vegetable oils. The other group were given standard health advice.

At the end of two years, those who had been eating a better diet, getting active and training their brains scored on average 25% higher in mental tests than those in the other group. In some of the tests, the difference was even more striking. For executive function – the brain’s ability to organize and regulate thought processes – the intervention group scored 85% higher and in processing speed, 150% higher.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:13 PM | Permalink

Health Roundup: High blood pressure, Alzheimer's, loneliness, popcorn lung, 2 minute exercise bursts

Persistent high blood pressure could be cured by 'dirt cheap' drug that's been around for 50 years, doctors discover

Spironolactone was first used in 1959 as a water pill to treat fluid retention.  New study shows it works in 60% of patients with unregulated high blood pressure. Experts today said the finding offered hope of 'spectacular' cost savings.  New findings 'should now lead to a re-writing of current guidelines'

How Loneliness Wears on the Body  study by researchers from the Universities of California and Chicago

The results suggested that people suffering from social isolation may be more prone to inflammation and less able to fight viral infections—which could be one reason why lonely elderly people are more susceptible to illnesses ranging from the common cold to dementia, and why they have higher mortality rates than their peers.

Anti-depressants 'no more effective than counselling'

New research published in the BMJ suggests that for moderate to severe depression, talking therapies can be just as effective as anti-depressants...Researchers led by Danube University analyzed the results of 11 randomized controlled trials, involving more than 1,500 patients.

Men undergoing testosterone-lowering therapy for prostate cancer are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease,

Androgens are male hormones that play a key role in stimulating prostate cell growth.  And as a result, therapies that suppress androgen activity are a common treatment for prostate cancer....Nearly half a million men in the US receive androgen deprivation therapy at any given time.....Scientists are not yet sure precisely how low testosterone would lead to increased Alzheimer’s risk.  However, there is some evidence that testosterone has a 'general protective effect' on brain cells.

Pill that may wash away the cause of Alzheimer's: Treatment dissolves toxic plaques on the brain that are warning sign of the disease

Scientists say they have taken the first steps towards developing a pill that could one day stop Alzheimer’s in its tracks.  The treatment, tested on mice, dissolved toxic plaques in the brain that can be a warning sign of the incurable disease.  The animals, genetically engineered to develop symptoms of Alzheimer’s, also showed improvements in memory and learning....
Experts say more work needs to be carried out before the drug, known as EPPS, can be tested on humans.  Korean researchers say the treatment could be best targeted at those at risk from inherited forms of the disease.

Worrying about getting old 'increases the risk of dementia'  Positive thinking is the key to a healthy brain in old age

Dreading growing old may raise your risk of Alzheimer’s, scientists have warned.  They have shown that middle-aged people who view aging as a handicap are more likely to have dementia-like changes to their brain decades later. It is thought the stress generated by such thoughts and fears eats away at the brain over time.

The US researchers said while there has been a lot of focus on how a healthy diet can help keep the mind young, we should also consider the benefits of positive thinking.  Easier than exercise and cheaper than drugs, it could help stem the rise in Alzheimer’s disease. ....Dr Levy has previously shown that thinking positive adds an average of seven and a half years to life – more than exercising or not smoking.

Men with big muscles cut cancer risk by 40 per cent

Men with stronger muscles from regular weight training are up to 40 per cent less likely to die from cancer than men who do not pump iron, according to new research.  The findings, by an international team of researchers, suggest muscular strength is as important as staying slim and eating healthily when it comes to protecting the body against deadly tumors....A team of experts, led by scientists from Sweden's Karolinska Institute, tracked the lifestyles of 8,677 men aged between 20 and 82 for more than two decades.

Vegetarianism can come with some unexpected side effects.

"I hear from vegetarians every day; they have this terrible depression and anxiety, and they don't understand why," says Lierre Keith, author of The Vegetarian Myth. "People think they're eating a beautiful, righteous diet, but they don't realize there's a potential dark side."

Smokers who use e-cigs 'are risking harm to their lungs'- Popcorn lung.:

Tests on 50 types of device find most contain chemical responsible for incurable condition known as 'popcorn lung'.....The chemical diacetyl... is used to give popcorn its buttery taste and found in many other artificial flavorings. But, when inhaled, it is thought to scar tiny air sacs within the lungs, causing coughing and shortness of breath. In severe cases, only a lung transplant will help.The condition came to light in popcorn factories, leading it to be nicknamed 'popcorn lung'.

Just two minutes of hopping a day can strengthen bones and reduce the risk of suffering a fracture, scientists have found

It may not be the most dignified form of exercise, but hopping may help protect older people from hip fractures.
Just two minutes a day can strengthen bones in the area and reduce the risk of breakage in a fall, scientists believe.....Researchers at Loughborough University in The Hip Hop study saw 34 men aged between 65 and 80 perform a program of hopping exercises on a randomly assigned exercise leg only. They were told to avoid any other changes to their physical activity or dietary habits during the year-long trial…..Increases of up to 7 per cent were identified in the bone mass of some parts of the outer shell (cortex) and in the density of the layer of spongy bone underneath this. They said that, importantly, there were improvements in the thinnest areas of the bone most at risk of fracture after a fall.

Just TWO-MINUTE bursts of exercise can help fight heart disease

'Strong benefits’ in repeated short bouts of intense activity like star jumps. ‘The key is to get your heart rate up,’ Newcastle University experts said.  Patients asked to do short spells on a cycling machine, repeated five times, three times a week for 12 weeks

Cure for alcoholism now one step closer: Scientists pinpoint specific cells in the brain that make drinkers crave more booze

Scientists have discovered the specific neurons that incite cravings. Dopamine D1 receptors are part of a 'go' pathway in the brain. When D1 neurons are stimulated they compel us to perform an action. By suppressing D1 neurons experts suppressed the compulsion to drink
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:21 PM | Permalink

November 8, 2015

Medical Quarterbacking

WSJ Medical Quarterbacking.  A review of The Patient's Playbook by Leslie Michelson
Providers are drowning in patients. As a result, you need to fight tenaciously to make sure that you get the best care.

As Leslie D. Michelson explains  in “The Patient’s Playbook,” people who are confronted by a serious illness discover that “there is no map.” There is no one with the time, information and stamina to coordinate, or “quarterback,” their care.

Mr. Michelson seeks to change all this. He isn’t a physician, but he has spent the past decade delivering what might be called concierge medical quarterbacking—helping patients, generally people with a high net worth, manage complex medical challenges. Now he’s ready to share his “playbook” with the rest of us.

The advice is often disarmingly simple. Prepare for illness when you are healthy. Get hold of your medical records. (You have a legal right to them.) Figure out which hospital you would want to go to in an emergency. He tells the harrowing story of parents who brought their jaundiced 2-day-old infant to the hospital where she was born, only to discover that the emergency-room staff there were used to adult patients and had minimal experience taking care of children.

Above all, Mr. Michelson implores patients to be intensely involved in their own care. Many people, when speaking with a doctor about a health problem, “behave as if they were powerless,” he writes. Some become deferential; others just want to leave as fast as possible. He urges patients instead to “bring their A-game” to the doctor’s office. Use a trusted resource like the National Institutes of Health or the UpToDate medical website to educate yourself about your condition; then, during your appointment, take notes and ask questions.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:38 PM | Permalink

November 2, 2015

"I see firsthand in my company why not enough people are signing up and premiums are rising."

The Wall Street Journal  on the The Slow-Motion Implosion of ObamaCare by Andy Puzder, CEO of CKE Restaurants.

I see firsthand in my company why not enough people are signing up and premiums are rising.

Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell announced recently that she expects 10 million people to be enrolled in health-care coverage through ObamaCare’s exchanges by the end of next year. What she didn’t mention was that in March of last year the Congressional Budget Office predicted that 21 million people would be enrolled in 2016—more than double the new estimate.
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Supporters credit ObamaCare with helping nine million uninsured Americans find coverage in 2014. But a new paper from the Heritage Foundation, however, suggests that nearly all of the increase came from adding nearly nine million people to the Medicaid rolls.

In other words, ObamaCare expanded coverage in 2014 to the extent that it gave people free or nearly free insurance. That goal could have been accomplished without the Affordable Care Act. To justify its existence, ObamaCare must make affordable private insurance available to a broad cross-section of uninsured Americans who are ineligible for Medicaid.

But with fewer people buying insurance through the exchanges, the economics aren’t holding up. Ten of the 23 innovative health-insurance plans known as co-ops—established with $2.4 billion in ObamaCare loans—will be out of business by the end of 2015 because of weak balance sheets.

One problem is that nearly half of the 10.5 million uninsured people eligible for ObamaCare are between the ages of 18 and 34—and young people tend to be healthy and unwilling to pay for pricey coverage they don’t need.

But propping up ObamaCare requires this group’s subsidizing the medical costs of the aging and ill. So far, no luck. It makes sense for healthy young people to pay a penalty rather than purchase the insurance. And in 2015 that’s what 6.6 million people did, according to the IRS. Next year the minimum penalty increases to $695 or 2.5% of income above $10,000, whichever is greater. In many cases, that’s still much cheaper than insurance.
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It is easy to avoid or limit exposure to the penalty with some simple tax planning, as there are 30 different exemptions (which 12 million people claimed last year) and the IRS collects the penalty by reducing an employee’s tax refund.

The uninsured also know they can receive medical care at the emergency room. And if they fall ill, they can always purchase insurance during the next enrollment period, because ObamaCare eliminated existing conditions as a justification for denying coverage.

Our employees are smart enough to figure this out. Of our company’s 5,453 eligible employees, only 420 enrolled.

How have things changed under ObamaCare? Wealthy Americans continue to have health insurance, albeit at a higher price. But they can afford it. Many middle-class Americans are paying higher premiums they can hardly afford. And then millions more low-income Americans have heavily subsidized insurance or Medicaid coverage.

However, millions of other Americans who enjoyed good individual insurance before ObamaCare have found themselves forced out of affordable plans, with their new premiums rising rapidly. Other middle- and working-class Americans who were uninsured are still uninsured and paying the penalty or claiming an exemption. That isn’t affordable care. In many cases, it isn’t care at all.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:39 PM | Permalink

September 30, 2015

Musical medicine

Byron Janis pens a personal account of the power of music in the Wall Street Journal, How Music Soothes the Troubled Soul.

What an extraordinary gift music has given us besides its beauty. It has a scientifically proven ability to help heal both physical and psychological problems. Listening to your favorite music does help, but playing an instrument has a greater success. Playing well or badly doesn’t matter; just using one finger to plunk out a tune is sufficient—you can come away with a feeling of well-being. Music’s healing powers, which Pythagoras called “musical medicine,” have been the leitmotif of my career.
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Music has also helped me conquer physical challenges. From an accident at age 11 that left me with a permanently numb little finger to living with arthritis for 40-plus years, music has been a constant healing force. In the late 1980s after a botched operation on my arthritic left thumb, I fell into a devastating depression lasting many months. Then one day my wife, Maria, asked me to compose a theme for a film documentary on her father entitled “Gary Cooper: American Life, American Legend” (1989). I didn’t feel up to it, but as it was “family” I wanted to try.

After a few days I came up with a theme and played it for her. She suddenly began crying. “Why are you crying?” I asked. “Because your music totally captures my father’s spirit.” It also recaptured me! That wonderful feeling of hope was coming back, and my depression slowly began to lift. Music had started working its magic.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:45 AM | Permalink

September 11, 2015

Heart Health Roundup: Hearts older than bodies, Rx, intermittent fasting, vitamin C, pros and cons of statins

Nearly three out of four U.S. adults have a heart that is older than the rest of their body, CDC report reveals.

The average U.S. man's heart age is nearly eight years older than his real age  Meanwhile, average woman's heart is about five-and-a-half years higher.  Mississippi is the state with highest proportion of adults with advanced heart age, followed by West Virginia, Kentucky, Louisiana and Alabama.

 Heart Age Us

This is alarming. Heart disease is the nation's number one killer,' said the report's lead author, CDC scientist Quanhe Yang.
'But the bottom line is you can do some very simple things' to become younger at heart, he said..  Rx for a young heart

 Rx For Young Heart

Live Science Does Intermittent Fasting Have Benefits? Science Suggests Yes

Instead of eating three square meals a day, an eating schedule that involves "intermittent fasting" could help fight not just obesity but many related diseases of modern life, such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer's, researchers say….

Mounting evidence reveals that other key aspects of diet — when and how often people eat — can also play a major role in health. In fact, the most common eating pattern in modern societies of three meals daily, plus snacks, is abnormal from the perspective of human evolution, an international group of researchers wrote in an article published online Nov. 17 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"Fasting alone is more powerful in preventing and reversing some diseases than drugs," said Satchidananda Panda, an associate professor of regulatory biology at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in San Diego, California, and one of the co-authors of the article.

Could vitamin C be a replacement for EXERCISE?   

A daily vitamin C supplements of 500mg 'is as effective as walking in improving the heart health of obese people', claims a study of 35 overweight and sedentary people. 

The blood vessels of people who are overweight or obese show elevated activity of the small vessel-constricting protein, endothelin (ET)-1. Narrowed blood vessels mean it is harder to pump blood around the body.  While past studies have show that exercise helps to reduce ET-1 activity, many overweight use a lack of time as an excuse for not incorporating exercise into their daily routines.

Scientists at the University of Colorado examined whether vitamin C supplements, which have been found in the past to improve vessel function, can also lower ET-1 activity. Their findings, which will be presented at the 14th International Conference on Endothelin: Physiology, Pathophysiology and Therapeutics, suggest the supplement can have similar benefits to a person's heart health as exercise.

Giving patients statins before ANY operation could halve the risk of dying and slash complications dramatically

Statins, the cholesterol-busting drugs are usually prescribed for at risk cardiac patients.  When given  before planned heart surgery to prevent complications, statins were linked to a 43 per cent lower chance of dying from any cause and a 52 per cent reduced risk of dying from a heart-related problem.

While Healthy patients using statins are 'more likely to suffer side-effects than gain health benefits'

Fewer than one in every 200 healthy patients who take statins actually benefit, doctors have warned.  Reigniting the debate over the cholesterol-busting drugs, the experts warn that too many patients are given statins without proper information about their drawbacks.
They say people should stop using them if they are suffering side effects - and call for patients to have a greater choice over taking the pills in the first place.

People should be advised to take up more exercise and improve their diet before they are directed towards statins, the experts say.
Their editorial, published last night in the Prescriber medical journal, points to industry-sponsored studies which found that only 0.5 per cent of healthy people avoided a heart attack or stroke by taking statins for five years.

While accepting that those with a history of heart disease can benefit from statins, they say that a tiny minority of people who take it as a ‘preventative’ medicine will actually live longer.

The authors - London cardiologist Dr Aseem Malhotra, Canadian pharmacist Professor James McCormack, and US physician Professor David Newman - called for a complete rewrite of British and American guidance.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:37 PM | Permalink

August 31, 2015

Health roundup: Naps, steak or salmon daily, aspirin, antibiotics + type 2 diabetes, mutant head lice + selfies

The blood test that predicts if breast cancer will return:

Breakthrough can detect warning signs eight months before a relapse.  Test detects uncured cancer eight months before the patient feels a lump,  That extra time could be used to delay or prevent breast cancer’s return Experts hope the test can also be used to detect others types of tumors

Taking antibiotics increases the risk of type 2 diabetes:

People who receive more than four courses of antibiotic  drugs over 15 years are 53 per cent more likely to get the disease, according to the results of a large study of 1.4 million Danish patients

The authors of the new study suspect that this is the reason for the between antibiotics and diabetes, with alterations in gut bacteria meaning people absorb sugar and fat in different ways. But an alternative explanation could be that people with as-yet undiagnosed diabetes may be more prone to infection, and therefore use more antibiotics, the scientists said.  ‘This latest study only shows a possible link between the two, rather that proving that antibiotics could cause diabetes.’

Selfies are causing a rise in MUTANT head lice:

Physician Sharon Rink warns trend for touching heads in pictures is to blame for increase in treatment-resistant nits.  She dubbed the phenomenon 'social media lice'  has It is being caused by group selfie snaps that cause friends to bump heads
Recent research suggests head lice have developed a 'high level' of resistance to some of the most popular treatments

Hormone jabs cut bone fractures:

Growth hormone injections reduced the risk of brittle bone fractures in older women long after treatment was stopped, a ten-year study found. They halved the fracture rate in those with osteoporosis over the period.  Osteoporosis is a progressive condition that causes the bones to become weak and more likely to break.  Women are three times more likely to experience an osteoporosis-related bone fracture in their lifetimes than men.

During an 18-month-long trial, 80 post-menopausal women with osteoporosis received daily injections of either a placebo, a single unit of growth hormone or a 2.5-unit dose of growth hormone. Researcher Doctor Emily Krantz, of Sodra Alvsborgs Hospital in Sweden, said: ‘Our study is the largest and longest controlled study of growth hormone treatment for osteoporosis in postmenopausal women to date.  ‘Years after treatment stopped, women who were treated with growth hormone still experienced improved bone density and reduced fracture risk.’


A nap a day could save your life

It is the news that nap afficionados have been waiting for.  A mid-day snooze doesn’t just have the power to revive – it could reduce blood pressure and prevent a future heart attack.

Research involving almost 400 middle-aged men and women found that those who had a nap at noon later had lower blood pressure than those who stayed awake through the day. The findings, presented at the European Society of Cardiology annual conference in London, showed pressure was lower both when awake and later, during their night time sleep.  The small difference – of around 5 per cent – was enough to have a significant impact on rates of heart attack, researchers said.  Far smaller reductions have been found to reduce the chance of cardiovascular events by 10 per cent, the cardiologists said……Longer naps of up to an hour achieved the best results, the study found.

Eating steak or salmon every day or drinking a pint of milk could be 'as good for your heart as giving up smoking'

Eating a small steak every day could be as good for you as stopping smoking, scientists say. People who eat lots of protein-rich food were found to have lower blood pressure and more healthy arteries, significantly lowering the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Scientists say the benefit is down to amino acids - the building blocks of proteins - which help strengthen the cells, tissues and muscles in our body.  People who ate high levels of certain amino acids saw benefits on similar scale to those expected for stopping smoking, reducing salt intake or increasing exercise.

The team, from the University of East Anglia, said that protein-rich foods including meat, fish, dairy produce, beans, lentils, broccoli and spinach all contain the beneficial compounds.Their study, published in the Journal of Nutrition, was based on health data from 2,000 British women.  Different food source had different benefits, they found. Amino acids from vegetables and pulses - such as beans, lentils, broccoli and spinach - were associated with lower blood pressure.  Whereas amino acids from dairy, meat and fish were linked to lower levels of arterial stiffness.  Lead researcher Dr Amy Jennings, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, said: ‘This research shows a protective effect of several amino acids on cardiovascular health.

A daily dose of aspirin appears to cut the risk of a common type of cancer  But you have to make if a habit and do it for 5 years.

Colorectal cancer is one of the most common types of cancer, and researchers say they have found a way to reduce one’s risk of it by up to 45% – by taking aspirin, Advil, Motrin, Aleve or certain other painkillers.
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NSAIDs, appeared to reduce the risk even more. People who took non-aspirin NSAIDs for at least five years were 30% to 45% less likely to have colorectal cancer than those who didn’t take the painkillers. Ibuprofen (the active ingredient in Advil and Motrin, among others) and naproxen (the active ingredient in Aleve) are two examples of this type of NSAIDs.

Cancer up close: Stunning 3D simulations show tumors growing in treatment breakthrough

Videos reveal the growth, mutation and evolution of a lethal cancer and shed new light on how cancers develop resistance to drugs and chemotherapy.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:05 PM | Permalink

August 26, 2015

Health Roundup: Programming cancer cells, stomach bug and lung disease, coffee and tea

Cancer cells programmed back to normal by US scientists

Scientists have turned cancerous cells back to normal by switching back on the process which stops normal cells from replicating too quickly.  For the first time aggressive breast, lung and bladder cancer cells have been turned back into harmless benign cells by restoring the function which prevents them from multiplying excessively and forming dangerous growths.

Scientists at the Mayo Clinic in Florida, US, said it was like applying the brakes to a speeding car.  So far it has only been tested on human cells in the lab, but the researchers are hopeful that the technique could one day be used to target tumors so that cancer could be ‘switched off’ without the need for harsh chemotherapy or surgery.

New hope for lung disease sufferers… in a stomach bug

Bacteria that is common among patients with pulmonary conditions can be detected by a simple breath test and can treated with antibiotics.  The bacteria helicobacter pylori often found in pulmonary disease patients with levels of the bacteria up to three times higher in COPD patients

Why a splash of milk in your tea keeps teeth white: Protein found in dairy prevents staining - and is BETTER than whitening toothpaste

Tea contains dark-colored tannins that make it bitter and stain the teeth. Casein, the main protein in milk, binds to the tannin and prevents staining. Milk is more effective than whitening toothpaste and as good as bleaching

Why green tea could prevent colon cancer

Green tea could lower the risk of colon cancer, say researchers at Seoul National University Hospital in South Korea. Compounds in green tea prevent rogue cells that could lead to polyps from developing. They are testing this in a study involving 180 people who have had polyps - benign growths - removed from their colon; these polyps can be a precursor to colon cancer. The patients will be given a daily green tea extract pill (nine cups of green tea) or no treatment. The researchers believe compounds in green tea prevent the rogue cells that could lead to polyps from developing

How coffee could help fight bowel cancer:

Coffee could prove to be a powerful medicine for bowel cancer patients.  A study of 1,000 patients that looked at caffeinated coffee and cancer recurrence found the disease was almost half as likely to return in men and women who drank at least four or five mugs a day.  It is thought the caffeine cuts inflammation which the cancer feeds on.

The research, from the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, found that consuming around 460mg of caffeine a day cut the odds of bowel cancer coming back by 42 per cent.It also made people 33 per cent less likely to die from cancer or any other cause.
Smaller amounts of caffeine brought lower benefits.  A mug of instant coffee contains around 100mg of caffeine and an espresso, the base for many High Street coffees, 80mg.

'You'd have to drink six glasses of almond milk to get the same amount of protein as just half a cup of nuts' New video reveals truths about six 'healthy' eating habits

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:02 PM | Permalink

August 13, 2015

Health Roundup: Universal plaque-busting drug, saturated fat and fish oil for psychosis

Great news Universal plaque-busting drug could treat various brain diseases

A virus found in sewage has spawned a unique drug that targets plaques implicated in a host of brain-crippling diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD).

Results from tests of the drug, announced this week, show that it breaks up plaques in mice affected with Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s disease, and improves the memories and cognitive abilities of the animals. Other promising results in rats and monkeys mean that the drug developers, NeuroPhage Pharmaceuticals, are poised to apply for permission to start testing it in people, with trials starting perhaps as early as next year.

The drug is the first that seems to target and destroy the multiple types of plaque implicated in human brain disease. Plaques are clumps of misfolded proteins that gradually accumulate into sticky, brain-clogging gunk that kills neurons and robs people of their memories and other mental faculties. Different kinds of misfolded proteins are implicated in different brain diseases, and some can be seen within the same condition (see “Proteins gone rogue”, below).

More good news. 'No link' between eating fatty food and early death: Findings raise further doubts over advice to avoid butter, full-fat milk and other meat and dairy products

Researchers trawled through the health records of hundreds of thousands of patients and found no statistical link between eating saturated fat and falling ill with heart disease, strokes or type 2 diabetes. The findings, published in the British Medical Journal, raise further doubts about 32-year-old guidelines that warn people to avoid butter, full-fat milk and other meat and dairy products with high levels of saturated fats.

Academics at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada, looked at 12 previous studies, involving between 90,000 and 340,000 patients in each study, and calculated the overall link between saturated fat and different health conditions.

But Cutting saturated fat doesn't necessarily reduce heart disease risk

It's just that people who reduce their intake of fat usually end up eating more sugar, white flour and empty calories, said co-author Russell de Souza, an assistant professor and registered dietitian at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada. His review, which examined 73 earlier studies, was published in the BMJ, formerly known as the British Medical Journal.
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For children, the government still advises diet sodas anytime, milk once in a while

David Ludwig, director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center at Boston Children’s Hospital said  the government still hasn’t completely caught up with the science.

The National Institute of Health’s We Can! program, which aims to help children maintain a healthy weight, steers families toward low-fat foods. The program lists diet soda and ketchup as foods to eat “almost anytime,” but says low-fat milk should be consumed only “sometimes.” The NIH program puts whole milk in the most restricted category as cookies, doughnuts and French fries, to be consumed only “once in a while'.

Could fish oil protect against psychosis? Taking omega-3 for 12 weeks 'lowers the risk of developing schizophrenia' for up to 7 years afterwards

Young people who take omega-3 are at lower risk of schizophrenia. Those at risk of the mental illness were four times less likely to suffer psychotic episodes up to 7 years after three months taking supplement. Scientists say no other intervention - including drugs - are as effective
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:20 PM | Permalink

August 11, 2015

Roundup: Eating and drinking

Drink pear juice for a hangover. Pear juice can reduce effects of a night's drinking by up to a fifth

Eating a juicy pear before a night of heavy drinking could help alleviate the effects of a hangover, scientists claim.
Researchers say those who are suffering from the consequences of the evening before could feel up to 21 per cent better thanks to the fruit's juice. It helps increase concentration, reduces memory loss and even decreases the amount of alcohol in your bloodstream, according to Australian government scientists. Pears also reduce a person's sensitivity to light and sound.
The only type of pear tested in the study was the Asian pear, but researchers are now planning to widen their scope to see whether varieties of Western pear produce the same results.

More is not better, Woman 'going blind' after drinking 28 Red Bulls every day.

Lena Lupari, 26, has gained so much weight from drinking seven liters  of the energy drink that her brain has swollen. The mother-of-three was ingesting 3,000 calories every day and was unaware of the harm she was doing to her body until she collapsed in June.

Eat celery, beetroot , lettuce, spinach and parsley They're rich in nitrates which help lower blood pressure

It's already known that nitric oxide, a gas produced naturally by the body and carried in the blood, tells your blood vessels to expand, so lowering blood pressure. That's why beetroot in particular is so good for blood pressure — the body converts the nitrites in this veg into nitric oxide. Researchers have since found nitric oxide does a lot more, including helping you to sleep and fight off infections. And now it turns out we have large, totally unexpected stores of it under our skin, and that our blood cells don't work properly without it.

Until a few years ago, no one knew that blood cells even carried nitric oxide. Now we realize that it plays a vital role in ensuring cells get the oxygen they need, as research at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland in the U.S. has found.
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The thinking is that a lack of the gas could cause problems generally linked to poor blood flow, such as heart attack, heart failure, stroke, damage to the kidneys and poor circulation in the legs. Nitric oxide is thought to be particularly important for older people, whose levels drop with age,

But the best way to keep your supplies topped up is through diet, especially foods rich in nitrates, which your body turns into nitric acid with the help of bacteria found in your saliva. These include beetroot (particularly rich in nitrates), along with celery, lettuce, rocket, spinach, celeriac and parsley.Our bodies can also make nitric oxide from an amino acid called L-arginine, found in nuts, meat, fruits, dairy products, chocolate and raisins.

Eat spicy food. Three times a week reduces the risk of early death from cancer or heart disease'

A study of nearly 500,000 middle-aged people found that those who ate a spicy meal every one or two days were far less likely to die than those who infrequently ate the food. Scientists suspect that capsaicin — a chemical contained in chili peppers — has anti-obesity, antioxidant, anti-inflammation and cancer fighting properties.

The research, published in the British Medical Journal, was based on a study of 487,000 Chinese people, each aged between the ages of 30 and 79 who were tracked for 7 years.

Drink coffee. Science: Coffee is The World’s Biggest Source of Antioxidants

Coffee is Linked to a Reduced Risk of Many Diseases:  A 23-50% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes and a much lower risk of liver cirrhosis. Coffee may also lower the risk of liver and colorectal cancer, and several studies have shown a reduced risk of heart disease and stroke. Consuming coffee on a regular basis may also reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease by 32–65%. Some studies have shown that coffee may also benefit mental health. Women who drink coffee are less likely to become depressed and commit suicide.  Above all, drinking coffee has been linked to a longer lifespan and up to a 20–30% lower risk of premature death.

However, keep in mind that most of these studies are observational. They cannot prove that coffee caused the reduction in disease risk, only that coffee drinkers were less likely to get these diseases.

Then take a 15-minute walk everyday and reduce chance of dying in over-60s by 22%

Regular exercise reduces obesity, increases bone strength and cuts the risk of heart disease, stroke, type two diabetes and cancer. The World Health Organization recommends all adults do 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week,  but the latest research suggests that the guidelines are too stringent - and the authors suggest halving the recommendations to just 75 minutes a week for over-60s.  Advising people instead to go for a brisk 15-minute walk five times a week will be far more achievable, and will still have a beneficial effect on health, enough  to extend life expectancy for the over 60s, experts say.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:57 PM | Permalink

August 7, 2015

Health roundup: Breast cancer test, HIV, depression, placebo effect and French kissing

Breast cancer: Test that could predict breast cancer nine years before it strikes

Measuring levels of methyl in women's blood could show if they will suffer the disease later. Those with low levels in white blood cells most likely to get breast cancer

The team from Imperial College London analysed blood samples from around 2,600 women from the UK, Norway, Australia and Italy, looking at changes to the DNA of white blood cells.  In a series of studies that tracked the women for an average of nine years, they found that those who went on to contract breast cancer had lower levels of a chemical called methyl in their white blood cells’ make-up compared to those who did not.

HIV: Cocktail of drugs stops HIV in its tracks: Treatment is 93% successful in preventing virus being transmitted through sex

A combination of drugs known as antiretroviral therapy (ART) stops HIV from being passed on from infected men and women to their uninfected partners, the results of a landmark study show.  Antiretroviral therapy (ART) consists of the combination of at least three antiretroviral (ARV) drugs to suppress the HIV virus and stop the progression of the disease.  Researchers found the drugs were able to reduce the transmission of the virus by 93 per cent in couples assigned to ART treatment.

Depression: Could depression be triggered by a stomach bug?

Imbalance of bacteria in the gut 'may lead to mental health problems'. Scientists say the roots of depression may lie in the gut and the trillions of bacteria that live there.

Although you might not realize it, the average human stomach is home to around 2 pounds of microbes – roughly the same weight as a bag of sugar.  Some members of this ‘gut microbiome’ help with digestion. But others are increasingly being linked to overall health, with conditions from autism to multiple sclerosis said to have links to the bugs in our bodies. 

Now, a series of animal experiments suggests that intestinal bugs play an important role in triggering depression. Canadian researchers showed that if newborn mice are subjected to the stress of being repeatedly separated and reunited with their mothers, they appear anxious and depressed.  However, if their guts are germ-free, the stress does not affect their mental health. But give them a transplant of bugs and depression strikes.

It is thought that severe stress, particularly in childhood, affects the chemistry of the stomach, allowing some bugs to thrive more than others. These then produce compounds that affect the chemistry of the brain, leading to symptoms of depression. Researcher Premysl Bercik said: ‘We have shown for the first time…that bacteria play a crucial role in inducing this abnormal behavior.  But it's not only bacteria, it's the altered bi-directional communication between the stressed host - mice subjected to early life stress - and its microbiota, that leads to anxiety and depression."  Writing in the journal Nature Communications, Dr Bercik said small changes in the balance of the bugs in the gut could have ‘profound’ effects on behavior.

Matter over mind The placebo effect IS real - even when patients know the treatment they are getting is fake

Scientists found patients given a fake painkiller continued to feel benefits from it after they were told it was not genuine…. Scientists applied 47.5C heat on subjects' forearms and gave 'cooling gel'.  Individuals needed four sessions to believe the placebo gel worked
But there was a catch. In order to feel these effects, the subjects had to be conditioned into thinking that the treatment was real – and needed enough time for this belief to become ingrained.  Those told it was fake after just one session did not continue to experience pain relief, the US study found, but those told after four sessions still felt the benefits.

Senior author Tor Wager, of the University of Colorado Boulder, said: "We’re still learning a lot about the critical ingredients of placebo effects. …What we think now is that they require both belief in the power of the treatment and experiences that are consistent with those beliefs….Those experiences make the brain learn to respond to the treatment as a real event….After the learning has occurred, your brain can still respond to the placebo even if you no longer believe in it.’

French Kissing  KISSING overtakes smoking as leading risk for head and neck cancers

The humble French kiss can pass on human papilloma virus (HPV). A top doctor, Head of Maxillofacial and Head and neck Surgery at the Royal Darwin Hospital, warns of 'tsunami' of oral human papilloma virus cases.  The virus was responsible for 70% of head and neck cancer cases…. If you became infected by HPV in the oropharynx, your risk of developing head and neck cancer was 250 times higher than that of someone without the virus.

Dangers of some OTC drugs Over-the-counter medicines for hayfever and insomnia raise the risk of serious falls in older men.

Men over 65 were twice as likely to have been hurt like this if they took one of a powerful class of drugs called anticholinergics, says a study of 2,700 pensioners. The medicines under scrutiny affect the brain by blocking a key chemical messenger called acetylcholine which moderates many brain functions including moods, behavior and response to pain.  Up to half of elderly Britons are prescribed at least one medication with anticholinergic properties, including anti-depressants, antihistamines, sleeping pills and antipsychotics…..
A previous study suggested that people who regularly took the drugs in high doses for three years or more had an increased risk of dementia.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:46 PM | Permalink

July 30, 2015

It's healthier to cook with LARD than sunflower oil

 Lard

From the BBC    It's healthier to cook with LARD than sunflower oil

A team from BBC's Trust Me, I'm A Doctor conducted new research that revealed what we thought we knew about cooking oils is plain wrong. Most people had come to the seemingly obvious, conclusion that frying with vegetable oils has to be healthier than cooking with animal fat. But is it?  For the problem is that when fats and oils are heated they change, and as they do so they produce chemicals that may cause heart disease and cancer.

When fats and oils are heated to a high temperature, they undergo what is called oxidation: they react with oxygen in the air to form substances such as aldehydes and lipid peroxides. At room temperature something similar happens, though more slowly. When fats go rancid they have been oxidized, and it results in the same by-products. It is these aldehydes they form that are the problem. Consuming or inhaling them, even in small amounts, has been linked to increased risk of cancer and heart disease.

'We found that oils which were polyunsaturated-rich - corn oil and sunflower oil - generated very high levels of aldehydes,' Professor Grootveld told me….Aldehydes, which are known promoters of cancer, heart disease and dementia when eaten or inhaled, were present in levels up to 20 times higher than recommended by the World Health Organization.

Sunflower and corn oil are fine, but only as long as you don't subject them to heat, such as frying or cooking,' said Professor Grootveld. 'It's a simple chemical fact that something which is thought to be healthy for us is converted into something that is unhealthy at frying temperatures.'

They advise:

• To reduce production of harmful aldehydes, go for a product high in mono or saturated fat (preferably greater than 60 per cent) and low in polyunsaturates (less than 20 per cent).
• The ideal compromise for cooking purposes is olive oil 'because it is about 76 per cent monunsaturates, 14 per cent saturates and 10 per cent polyunsaturates'.
• In view of its high saturate content, coconut oil is also recommended.

Lard vs. Coconut Oil

if you mix 1 part olive oil with 1 part coconut oil, the resulting mixture of fats will match lard’s fat composition numbers almost exactly. Butter and ghee are a little more balanced than olive oil and coconut oil but they have nearly twice the percentage of saturated fat that lard has.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:47 PM | Permalink

Health Roundup: Longevity and Well-being

Want Great Longevity and Health? It Takes a Village in the Wall Street Journal
The secrets of the world’s longest-lived people include community, family, exercise and plenty of beans.

In a string of whitewashed villages in the mountains of the Italian island of Sardinia, there are 21 centenarians in a population of 10,000. Only about four in 10,000 Americans reach the 100-year mark. So what do the Sardinians know that our own diet-and-health obsessed country doesn’t?
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The notion of a genetic advantage has been called into question. According to Dr. Pes, several studies have shown that the genetic markers of the centenarians—including markers associated with cardiovascular mortality, cancer and inflammation—don’t diverge significantly from those of the general population.
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The cornerstone of every longevity diet in the world was the humble bean. One five-country study showed that beans were the only food that predicted a longer life—for each 20-gram serving (about two tablespoons) eaten a day, the chance of dying dropped by 8%. Fava beans in Sardinia, black beans in Costa Rica, lentils in Ikaria, soybeans in Okinawa. Seventh-Day Adventists, America’s longest-lived subculture, eat all kinds of beans, taking their cue from God’s injunction, in the book of Genesis, to eat the fruits of “seed-bearing plants.”
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When it comes to longevity, the long-standing support of a community is significant. In the U.S., you’re likely to die eight years earlier if you’re lonely, compared with people who have strong social networks. In Sardinia, “One hand washes the other, and they both wash the face,” as Mr. Pinna told me, summing up the social symbiosis.
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A fanatic zeal for family has also survived here. Neither work, hobbies, friends nor a sports team would ever divert serious attention away from a spouse or children. In turn, parents and grandparents move serenely into old age, secure in the knowledge that their children will care for them. There are no retirement homes here.
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they lived in cultures that made the right decisions for them. They lived in places where fresh vegetables were cheap and accessible. Their kitchens were set up so that making healthy food was quick and easy. Almost every trip to the store, a friend’s house, work or school occasioned a walk. Their houses didn’t have mechanized conveniences to do house work, kitchen work or yard work; they did it by hand. People in the blue zones were nudged into physical activity every 20 minutes, my team estimated. This activity not only burned 500 to 1,000 calories a day; it also kept their metabolisms humming at a higher rate.

Drink tea.  Warm or iced Two cups of tea a day "dramatically increases longevity in women". It's the flavonoids that seem to protect against the ravages of heart disease and cancer.  Flavonoids are health-boosting plant compounds that are found in chocolate, fruit, red wine and coffee; however, tea made the biggest contribution to the flavonoid count in the 1000 women over 75 studied….Previous research has credited flavonoids a host of health benefits, including lowering blood pressure, cutting the risk of dangerous blood clots and strengthening bones. 

Get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation 'as bad as smoking'

Prof Russell Foster, a neuroscientist from the University of Oxford, said lack of sleep is damaging the health of the nation, with too many early risers trying to function with brain skills so damaged they could be drunk.
The comments follow studies which suggest that working night shifts speeds up the ageing process, and is linked to increasing risks of cancer, heart disease and type two diabetes.
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“We see this too much with really senior people,” he said. “Lack of sleep damages a whole host of skills - empathy, processing information, ability to handle people, but right at the top of the chain you get overly impulsive, impaired thinking, because of this problem.”
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Last year French research showed the brains of workers who had done night shifts for about 10 years had aged by an extra 6 and a half years…..Lack of sleep has been linked with factors such as disrupted metabolism and raised levels of the ‘stress hormone’ cortisol, all of which may lead to higher blood pressure and increased stroke risk.

Shape up .Unhealthy lifestyle can knock 23 years off lifespan

Suffering from heart disease, stroke and type two diabetes could knock 23 years off life and yet they are preventably for eight out of 10 people. It is estimated that around 80 per cent of cases could be prevented by keeping weight under control, exercising more, eating a healthy diet, and not smoking or drinking too much.

For a man in his 40s, suffering from all three conditions reduces life by 23 years. It means that a 40-year-old's life expectancy would drop from 78 to just 55. Likewise someone in their 60s could lose 15 years, meaning a 60-year-old man might have just three years of life left.

Drinking and smoking 'raises dementia risk'
Drinking and smoking may raise the risk of dementia in later life because they shrink key parts of the brain.
Obesity, diabetes, smoking and drinking are each associated with smaller volumes of grey matter in crucial parts of the brain linked to memory, the researchers found.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:37 PM | Permalink

Medical miracles

Doctors save man's hand by grafting it on to his leg for a month

Chinese surgeons have saved a hand severed in an industrial accident by grafting it on to the man’s ankle for a month before reattaching it to his arm….The surgical team were unable to reattach the hand to Zhou’s arm straight away as the severed nerves and tendons needed time to heal.  So his hand was sewn onto his leg in order to keep it “alive” until the arm was ready.

 Hand-Attached To Leg

Baltimore's Zion Harvey who lost both of his hands at the age of two when an infection turned to gangrene receives  double hand transplant.

An 8-year-old Baltimore boy who lost his limbs to a serious infection has become the youngest patient to receive a double-hand transplant, surgeons said Tuesday.  Zion Harvey received the hands earlier this month at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, though doctors did not publicly disclose the 11-hour operation until now.

A 40-person medical team used steel plates and screws to attach the old and new bones. Surgeons then delicately reconnected arteries, veins, muscles, tendons and nerves.

 Zion Harvey Double Hand Transplant

Zion is currently working with occupational therapists several times a day, and is not allowed to move his hands when not in their presence.  Right now they are working on small movements, like picking up light objects.
However, he appears to be transitioning back to life with hands just find, and has started instinctively scratching his nose with his new fingers.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:34 AM | Permalink

July 29, 2015

Health Roundup: Heart disease

Good fat Fat 'helps FIGHT heart disease': Discovery could explain why some obese patients live LONGER after a heart attack than their slimmer peers

Certain types of body fat can help a person fight heart disease…..A team at the University of Oxford found the fat surrounding a person's blood vessels can help protect the body, triggering a defense against heart disease.  They discovered how the heart, and the arteries supplying blood to it, send out an SOS to the fat surrounding these tissues.  The result is, that the body stimulates a defense mechanism against the early stages of coronary heart disease.

The study, led by the British Heart Foundation, revealed that during oxidative stress, a process that leads to the furring of the arteries, known as atherosclerosis, the fat surrounding the vessels and heart releases chemicals that minimize this oxidative stress and help prevent the development of coronary heart disease.  These chemicals are anti-inflammatory to minimize the inflammation triggered by oxidative stress and anti-oxidant to target the damaging process itself. Researchers are now focusing on how these healthy processes can be weakened if the fat is unhealthy, as can be the case if a person has type 2 diabetes.

Good News   As hospitals get more efficient, heart attack deaths are reduced.

The NYT reports on how U.S. hospitals have dramatically lowered the time it takes to treat a heart attack patient, with lower times contributing to the 38 percent reduction in heart attack deaths we saw between 2003 and 2013. The lower wait times happened “with no new medical discoveries, no new technologies, no payment incentives”—rather, hospitals made a systematic effort to locate places where different stages of care could be undertaken more quickly and efficiently, and acted on that knowledge.

Yes to grapefruit. Daily glass of grapefruit juice 'protects against heart disease',

A daily glass of grapefruit juice keeps blood vessels healthy and could protect against heart disease, a new study shows.
Just half a pint a day was enough to improve circulation.  Scientists have identified that health-boosting chemicals, called flavanones, that are naturally found in citrus fruits are responsible for the benefits.  Flavanones help to improve the structure of blood vessel walls. The more elastic blood vessels are, the better blood flow to the heart is

The findings, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, suggest regular grapefruit juice consumption could play a vital part in warding off heart disease.  However, patients with existing heart disease should be careful about drinking grapefruit juice as it can interfere with medication.  Levels of drugs used to treat raised cholesterol or high blood pressure can increase significantly after just one glass of the juice, exposing patients to a greater risk of side-effects.

No to cocaine. How cocaine damages the heart:  

Gruesome video shows barely functioning organ swollen to 3 times its normal size due to drug use…..
Dr Klaus Witte, a consultant cardiologist at Leeds General Infirmary, said cocaine causes changes to the structure of the arteries and the heart - and this, in turn, causes the heart to swell.  Studies have shown cocaine users have higher blood pressure, stiffer arteries and thicker heart muscle walls than non-users – all of which can cause a heart attack.

"Every tablet I use for treating cardiac conditions, cocaine does the opposite,’ Dr Witte continued. ‘Cocaine changes the body’s lipid [fat] profiles, makes the blood sticky, makes the heart work harder and faster, changes the body’s hormonal profile. It leads to heart attacks, strokes and heart failure."  The class A drug is much more dangerous than alcohol and cigarettes in terms of toxicity to the heart, he added.
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The American Heart Association warns that cocaine kills 15,000 people each year in the US due to overuse or related accidents.  And many more deaths occur due to heart damage.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:59 PM | Permalink

Health Roundup: Alzheimer's

Alzheimers Scientists just took a major step forward in understanding Alzheimer's

Alzheimer's is a terrible disease that is slowly damaging the brains of an estimated 5.3 million Americans, most of them over age 65, according to the Alzheimer's Association….Many years before any symptoms of Alzheimer's show up, amyloid has already begun to build up in the brain. Progressive brain damage and the various symptoms of the disease only show up after the amount of amyloid in the brain has stabilized.

MIT Technology Review:  The earlier Alzheimer’s disease is treated, the better. Maybe even before symptoms arise. That’s the idea behind experimental drugs designed to remove plaques from the brain and prevent cognitive changes.

Eli Lilly (solanezumab) and Biogen (aducanumab.) presented new data suggesting that antibodies designed to break up or clear the beta-amyloid plaques can slow the advancement of Alzheimer’s, particularly in patients with the mildest form of the disease.  The drugs are based on the “amyloid hypothesis,” that the buildup of starchy amyloid in the brain is the cause of Alzheimer’s.

The brain scans are a key innovation, and a recent one. In 2012, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a fluorescent imaging dye made by Lilly that sticks to the plaques and makes them light up in a PET scanner (see “Brain Scan for Alzheimer’s”). Before that, Alzheimer’s plaques were usually diagnosed with certainty after death, during an autopsy.

That has meant as many as 25 percent of patients in drug studies haven’t actually had Alzheimer’s, but instead a different form of dementia. What’s more, scientists have discovered that the plaques start building up 10 to 20 years before outward symptoms arise, suggesting that drugs ought to be given much sooner.

Two early detection tests for Alzheimers on the horizon 

New saliva test may catch Alzheimer’s disease early

The saliva test was presented at the 2015 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Washington this week.  Once validated, the saliva test once would be a good screening tool, indicating a patient’s need for further, more invasive testing.

“This is important because the earlier you detect this disease,” said Sherzai, “the more we can have an effect on the outcome.”.  The study was presented at the conference but has not been published or peer-reviewed, which is the gold standard of scientific research. As a result, experts emphasize more research is needed before the saliva test can be used as a detection tool. Alzheimer’s risk reduction and prevention is the new frontier in the disease, according to Isaacson. So the only way to put a dent in the disease is to find some sort of biomarker decades before symptoms start.

15-year-old schoolboy develops test for Alzheimer's disease

A 15-year-old British boy has developed a potential test for Alzheimer’s disease which could allow the condition to be diagnosed 10 years before the first symptoms appear.  Currently Alzheimer’s can only be detected through a series of cognitive tests or by looking at the brain after death.

But Krtin Nithiyanandam, of Epsom, Surrey, has developed a ‘trojan horse’ antibody which can penetrate the brain and attach to neurotoxic proteins which are present in the very first stages of the disease, some of which can occur a decade before symptoms are prevalent.  The antibodies, which would be injected into the bloodstream are also attached to fluorescent particles which can then be picked up on a brain scan.

Krtin submitted his test to the Google Science Fair Prize and learned that he had made it through to the final last week. He will find out next month if he has won a prestigious scholarship and mentoring to take his idea further.

Major Alzheimer's breakthrough as scientists unveil new drug that slows progression of the disease by 30%

Landmark drug to stop Alzheimer's disease has been unveiled today.  Solanezumab has been shown to slow or even halt the illness by tackling beta amyloid, the toxic protein that clogs the brain in Alzheimer's, destroying vital connections between cells.  Existing drugs simply address the symptoms - and failure to deal with the underlying causes means they quickly wear off, and the disease soon takes its devastating course.

Patients with mild Alzheimer's disease who took solanezumab early in the course of their disease preserved more of their cognitive and functional ability, the company said. Results suggest that if given to patients early enough, the antibody therapy will be able to slow cognitive decline - by around 30 per cent.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:59 PM | Permalink

July 21, 2015

Health Roundup: Medical Breakhroughs

5 Exciting Ways Health-Tech Startups Are Improving Lives

1. Expanding access to healthcare knowledge
2. Building communities
3. Increasing accountability
4. Advancing research
5. Driving personalization


HIV / AIDS
Experimental Vaccine 'completely protects against the HIV virus and could have an enormous impact,' say experts

An experimental vaccine completely prevented HIV infection in half of monkeys given the jab, a new study found.
The monkeys were given the vaccine and then exposed to high doses of an aggressive virus that is the equivalent of HIV in humans.The results were so positive they spurred Johnson & Johnson to test the vaccine in people.
The international trial is underway in 400 healthy volunteers in the United States, East Africa, South Africa and Thailand.

Since it began spreading 30 years ago, AIDS has killed 40 million people worldwide.  Today, some 35 million people are infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.  Despite progress in treatments, experts believe a vaccine is the best hope for eradicating the disease.

Cystic Fibrosis Breakthrough for cystic fibrosis sufferers as scientists use gene therapy to significantly improve the function of patients' lungs

A breakthrough treatment for cystic fibrosis has offered hope for thousands of patients. A landmark British study showed the gene therapy treatment significantly improved the working of patients’ lungs. The condition, which is caused by the faulty gene CFTR, leads to recurring chest infections and patients have to undergo physiotherapy up to four times a day to clear their lungs.

Scientists from Oxford University and Imperial College London have developed a treatment which repairs the faulty CFTR gene by adding a healthy gene on top, the Lancet Respiratory Medicine journal reported.  Patients inhale a virus, delivered via a nebuliser, which contains the healthy gene and ensures it reaches the cells in the lungs where it is needed.
Once inside the cells, the healthy genes help them function properly and clear mucus from the lungs.

The treatment is still in the early stages of development and has been tested on only a few patients. Professor Eric Alton, of Imperial College London, said: ‘Patients who received the gene therapy showed a significant, if modest, benefit. The results are encouraging.’ Current treatments include enzymes, proteins, or salt solutions which are inhaled through nebulisers to help thin and clear mucus from the lungs.

Pancreatic cancer.  Blood Test IDs Pancreatic Cancer in 250 of 250 Patients

“This study creates enthusiasm that early detection of pancreatic cancer, which is incurable unless removed during very early stages, might become a reality.”

Medical advance.  Blood Test The simple blood test that reveals ANY virus you've ever had - and could help doctors diagnose patients with 'mystery illnesses'

A simple test could reveal any viruses a person has ever had - allowing for better diagnosis of disease. The new tool can detect hundreds of viruses at a time from just a single drop of blood.  The test, called VirScan, makes it possible to test for all current and past infections, rather than testing for specific viruses at a time. It also only costs $25 (£16), a fraction of the cost of existing tools, and uses smaller samples of blood, US researchers say. VirScan works by screening the blood for antibodies against any of the 206 species of viruses known to infect humans.

Testing for a wider range of viruses can uncover unexpected factors affecting individual patients' health – and can help doctors make better diagnoses. It also allows researchers to see similarities and differences in large populations. This could be helpful when studying conditions such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which is suspected to be caused by viruses, although the link has not been established

Tuberculosis Could a common heartburn drug cure TUBERCULOSIS? Prevacid offers 'excellent' hope of new treatment, say scientists

TB continues to be a global pandemic, second only to Aids as the greatest single-agent killer in the world.
In 2013 alone, the TB bug mychobacterium tuberculosis was responsible for 1.5 million deaths and almost nine million new infections. Resistance to TB drugs is widespread, creating an urgent need for new medicines.
Swiss scientists screened a number of existing drugs in hope of finding new treatments to counter TB, which caused 1.5 million deaths in 2013. Lansoprazole, marketed as Prevacid, is an antacid used to treat heartburn. They say the class of drug offers 'an excellent opportunity to treat TB'

Lansoprazole belongs to a class of drugs known as 'proton-pump inhibitors' that keep the stomach from pumping too much acid, thus preventing heartburn and ulcers.  Professor Stewart Cole, who led the research, said: 'Proton-pump inhibitors are both safe and widely sold around the world.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:31 PM | Permalink

July 12, 2015

Health Roundup: Cancer Edition: immuno-oncology, skin, breast and lung cancers

The Economist Doctors are trying—with some success—to recruit the immune system to help with the war on cancer .  There are four ways of dealing with cancer: surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and targeted therapies.  Now scientists are adding a fifth: "immuno-oncology" like Bristol Myers' Opdivo or the arthritis vaccine currently in trials.

Like targeted treatments, these new approaches often use antibodies—proteins that match up to other proteins with great specificity. Unlike the targeted therapies, though, the new treatments do not directly attack cancerous cells, but instead unleash the immune system on them.


Skin cancer
Skin cancer jab 'can give TEN more years of life':

Trials have shown that Opdivo boosts average survival rates by 56 per cent.  Doctors said it marked a ‘major milestone’ in the fight against skin cancer. Trials have shown that Opdivo – a brand name for the drug nivolumab – boosts average survival rates by 56 per cent and some patients who had been given months to live have since returned to work.

It is one of a new type of drugs in so-called immunotherapy, which work by teaching the body’s immune system to attack cancerous cells. Experts describe them as a ‘paradigm shift’ in the war against cancer and they are particularly effective against some of the deadliest tumors.

The FDA granted accelerated approval for Skin Cancer Drug Opdivo in Dec 2014

The drug developed by Bristol-Myers Squibb costs about  $12,500 per month, or  $150,000 annually.  Opdivo, is a PD-1 inhibitor. PD-1 helps cancer cells masks their presence in the body, which allows them to grow and metastasize before the immune system can detect and attack them.

Lung cancer  The FDA expanded the approved use of Opdivo (nivolumab) to treat patients with advanced (metastatic) squamous non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) with progression on or after platinum-based chemotherapy.
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States, with an estimated 224,210 new diagnoses and 159,260 deaths in 2014.

Arthritis. Jab that targets agony of arthritis using patient's own cells: Could help hundreds of thousands by preventing painful swelling

Rheumatoid arthritis is caused by immune system mistakenly attack joints. The Vaccine 're-educates' the immune system not to attack healthy tissue and the jab is also said to be kinder to the body than existing drugs.  While longer trials of the drug are needed,  experts are so far excited by results.

Breast cancer Fresh doubts over breast cancer tests: Harvard finds routine screening fails to cut deaths

A Harvard study of 16 million women has cast doubt on the benefits of routinely offering breast cancer screening.
The data suggests that routine screening is leading to significant numbers of ‘false positives’ – in which women are wrongly told they might have breast cancer when, in fact, they do not. Other women might undergo grueling chemotherapy to treat small, slow-growing tumors which might never have troubled them if they lived on in ignorance.

Breast cancer Hormone in The Pill 'shrinks tumors in half of cases', say scientists

Progesterone could help treat half of all breast cancer patients, say experts.  The hormone, found in many contraceptive pills, is involved in signals between cell molecules that can hold back tumor growth
Experts reveal progesterone receptor 'talks to' other receptors sensitive to estrogen, which fuels breast cancer in many cases Has the effect of applying a brake on the estrogen receptor's ability to stimulate tumors, research reveals.

Breast Cancer: Eradicating a single protein in the blood could stop breast cancer in its tracks, scientists say

Scientists have identified a key molecule, a single protein which triggers the growth of blood vessels in tumors that have spread to the brain - a common secondary site for breast cancer to spread. By withholding the protein, called DOCK4, a particular part of the blood vessel did not form as quickly, meaning tumors grew at a slower rate, scientists found.
Dr Georgia Mavria, from the University of Leeds, said the discovery could help develop new drugs and identify people at risk of their breast cancer spreading.


Melanoma. Deadly Melanoma May Not Show Up as a Mole

But a new study finds that the sometimes-deadly skin cancer melanoma usually arises in normal skin, where there is no dark spot or sign of cancer until the melanoma suddenly shows up.  Moreover, melanomas that arise in non-mole areas of the skin tend to be more aggressive and deadly than those that do arise from moles, the study found.
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People whose melanomas did not arise from moles (called de novo melanomas) tended to do worse than people with mole-associated melanoma, the researchers said in their findings, presented June 1 at the annual American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting…..In general, between 20 and 30 percent of melanomas are mole-associated, but themajority of melanoma cases are de novo cases — they arise in skin that looks normal until the melanoma forms.

How being obese could help you FIGHT cancer 

Overweight patients survive 3 months longer than thinner peers surprising study reveals. While the study does not indicate that being overweight is in any way protective for patients undergoing cancer treatment, Dr Zafar said…. the results suggest that there could be an aspect of biology that could put thinner patients at a higher risk for poor outcomes.. Dr Zafar continued,  'There may be a relationship between having a lower BMI and how much treatment patients can tolerate.'I would hypothesise that the lowest weight patients in our analysis received or tolerated less treatment, or received adequate treatment at first, but became too sick to receive additional therapy.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:40 PM | Permalink

July 11, 2015

Health Roundup: Autism, depression, diabetes, dementia, hospital stays and delirium

Mental Illness: Schizophrenia. Have scientists discovered what causes schizophrenia? Condition may occur because 'gene mutations disrupt chemical balance of the brain'

Autism. People with autism have 'supercharged' brains: Those with the condition are 'over-sensitive to the world - and not impaired'

Scientists found rats reared in a predictable environment were less likely to exhibit some of the symptoms of autism
Findings consistent with the theory that autism is the consequence of supercharged brains that make the world an intensely painful place  Experts hope their findings will help develop new therapies to treat autism.

Can autism be diagnosed by a child's sense of SMELL? Children with the disorder continue to sniff a bad odor for longer than those without

Children without autism have a sniff response in which they try and limit the flow of air through their nose when they smell something bad But children with the disorder continue to smell the odor . New sniff test was accurate in diagnosing autism in 81% of children.  Increasingly abnormal sniff response was associated with more severe symptoms of autism

Depression Depression SHRINKS key part of the brain responsible for creating new memories, scans reveal

The large study of nearly 9000 people compared brain volumes in those with/without depression.
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Those who suffer chronic depression have a significantly smaller hippocampus than healthy individuals, researchers discovered.  The mental illness tends to shrink this area of the brain which is  associated with creating new memories, storing memories and connecting them to our emotions.  The study highlights the need to treat depression in teenagers to stop further bouts.


Diabetes. Is type 2 diabetes caused by BACTERIA in the gut? Toxins trigger insulin resistance and high blood sugar levels, study finds

Bacteria responsible for common skin infections, food poisoning and MRSA could also trigger one of the most prevalent diseases of our time - type 2 diabetes.  Type 2 diabetes comprises 90 per cent of all people with diabetes. Scientists at the University of Iowa  discovered exposure to Staphylococcus aureus bacteria causes  insulin resistance, glucose intolerance, and systemic inflammation - hallmark symptoms of the disease in rabbits.  Professor Patrick Schlievert, who led the study, said: 'We basically reproduced type 2 diabetes in rabbits simply through chronic exposure to the staph superantigen."

Obesity,  a known risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes, alters a person's microbiome - the ecosystem of bacteria that colonize a person's gut, and affect their health.  Professor Schlievert said: 'What we are finding is that as people gain weight, they are increasingly likely to be colonized by staph bacteria - to have large numbers of these bacteria living on the surface of their skin.  'People who are colonized by staph bacteria are being chronically exposed to the superantigens the bacteria are producing.'  Professor Schlievert's past research has shown that superantigens - the toxins produced by all strains of staph bacteria - disrupt the immune system.

Diabetes and Dementia Could diabetes trigger DEMENTIA? People with type 2 suffer 'memory loss and declining decision-making skills'

People with type 2 diabetes lose brain power as their ability to regulate blood flow drops, research suggests.
A study by experts at Harvard Medical School suggests that the impact can be seen in memory and cognition tests - with the decrease in thinking skills dropping over just two years.  They found a significant decrease in cognitive power, which impacted their ability to cook and bathe themselves.

The study size was small. The US researchers tracked 40 people over two years.  Of those, 19 had type two diabetes and 21 did not have diabetes.Study leader Dr Vera Novak, whose work was published in the journal Neurology, said: ‘Normal blood flow regulation allows the brain to redistribute blood to areas of the brain that have increased activity while performing certain tasks.

Dementia.  Blocking a protein that builds up in the blood 'helps combat memory loss'

A protein that accumulates in the blood as we age may provide the basis for new treatments to reverse dementia, research has shown. The molecule, dubbed B2M, is found in higher concentrations in the blood and cerebral spinal fluid of aging humans, scientists said.  And in mice, inhibiting B2M improved learning and memory in laboratory experiments.  And mice genetically bred not to have B2M did not develop memory decline
'We are very excited about the findings because it indicates that there are two ways to potentially reverse age-related cognitive impairments,' study co-author Dr Saul Villeda of the University of California, San Francisco.

Delirium Delirium: A Surprising Side Effect of Hospital Stays

Often misdiagnosed as dementia, delirium can cause hallucinations and delusions…….Turpin’s experience illustrates the consequences of delirium, a sudden disruption of consciousness and cognition marked by vivid hallucinations, delusions and an inability to focus that affects 7 million hospitalized Americans annually. The disorder can occur at any age — it has been seen in preschoolers — but disproportionately affects people older than 65 and is often misdiagnosed as dementia.

While delirium and dementia can coexist, they are distinctly different illnesses. Dementia develops gradually and worsens progressively, while delirium occurs suddenly and typically fluctuates during the course of a day. Some patients with delirium are agitated and combative, while others are lethargic and inattentive.
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Patients treated in intensive care units who are heavily sedated and on ventilators are particularly likely to become delirious; some studies place the rate as high as 85 percent. But the condition is common among patients recovering from surgery and in those with something as easily treated as a urinary tract infection. Regardless of its cause, delirium can persist for months after discharge.
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A recent meta-analysis led by Harvard researchers found that a variety of non-drug interventions — which included making sure patients’ sleep-wake cycles were preserved, that they had their eyeglasses and hearing aids and that were not dehydrated — reduced delirium by 53 percent. These simple fixes had an added benefit: They cut the rate of falls among hospitalized patients by 62 percent.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:56 AM | Permalink

June 4, 2015

Health Roundup: Cancer edition

Ovarian cancer is very difficult to detect in the early stages because there are so few symptoms, yet ovarian cancer is the 5th most common cancer among women and fewer than 50% survive more than 5 years.New ovarian cancer test diagnoses twice as many cases as previous tests.

In the world's largest ovarian cancer screening trial, the new method correctly diagnosed 86 per cent of women with invasive epithelial ovarian cancer (iEOC). The new technique tracks changing levels of a protein in the blood called CA125 which is linked to ovarian cancer.  It then uses a computer program to interprets the variations, predicting the risk of developing the disease based on factors including age, the original level of the protein and how that changed over time.

Breast Cancer  Cheap osteoporosis drugs could stop breast cancer from spreading to bones.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the UK, with around 50,000 cases a year, and 12,000 deaths. Almost nine in ten deaths occur because disease has spread to the bone.

A study at the Institute of Cancer Research has an identified an enzyme which causes disease to spread to the bone, causing the majority of breast cancer deaths.  The new trials, in mice, identified an enzyme which is triggered by tumours in the breast, causing holes in the bones, which make them susceptible to the spread of disease. Tests found that a cheap class of drugs, already used to prevent osteoporosis, could prevent the changes in the bone, blocking the spread of disease.

The research, conducted at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, found that the enzyme LysYl Oxidase (LOX) released from the primary tumour causes holes in bone and prepares the bone for the future arrival of cancer cells.
Identifying LOX in oestrogen receptor negative (ER negative) breast cancer patients early, could allow doctors to block the enzyme’s activity, preventing bone damage and the spread of tumour cells to the bone (metastasis), halting the progression of the disease.

Prostate Cancer Study finds men with 'untreatable tumors' could be helped by drugs already on hospital shelves

Prostate cancer treatment could be transformed by a landmark study described as the disease’s 'Rosetta Stone'.
The breakthrough in cancer genetics means that many men whose illness was thought untreatable could be given drugs that are already on hospital shelves
. Some patients have already benefited and are alive more than a year on, despite only having been given weeks to live.
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Professor Bono, who led the British team, said: ‘We're describing this study as prostate cancer's Rosetta stone - because of the ability it gives us to decode the complexity of the disease, and to translate the results into personalized treatment plans for patients…..What's hugely encouraging is that many of the key mutations we have identified are ones targeted by existing cancer drugs

Skin Cancer Genetically engineered virus 'cures' patients of skin cancer

Currently most cancers are treated with using invasive chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery, all of which carry the risk of further harm.  In a breakthrough which raises hopes of an end to chemotherapy, a genetically engineered virus has ‘cured’ patients of cancer for the first time

In a worldwide study which was led by the Institute of Cancer Research in the UK, scientists showed that the new treatment allowed some patients with skin cancer to live for more than three years – the benchmark many oncologists use to define a cure. The therapy – called T-VEC - works by infecting and killing cancer cells while also sparking the immune system into action against tumors.  T-VEC is a modified form of herpes virus which multiplies inside cancer cells and bursts them from within. It has been genetically engineered to produce a molecule called GM-CSF, which stimulates the immune system to attack and destroy the tumor. The new therapy has far fewer side effects and does not damage healthy tissue or cells.

The clinical trials, which have been ongoing for more than three years, have been conducted in 64 centres across the UK, US, Canada and South Africa. The results show that 163 patients with stage three and early stage four melanoma who were treated with T-VEC lived for an average of 41 months. That was compared with an average survival of 21.5 months for 66 patients who were given the current best immunotherapy drugs.  And the response was most pronounced in patients with less advanced cancers, underlining the potential benefit as a first-line treatment for metastatic cancers which cannot be surgically removed.

Melanoma New Cancer Drug Combination Shrinks Tumors in 60% of Patients with Advanced Melanoma

Two cancer drugs, when taken in concert, can shrink tumors in nearly 60% of people with advanced-stage melanoma, according to a new study.  The trial, which enrolled 945 patients at 137 sites worldwide, found that treating the cancer with medications ipilimumab and nivolumab stopped its advance for almost a year in more than half of cases, the BBC reports.....While the immune system is generally a potent agent in combatting disease, certain built-in “brakes” keep the body from attacking its own tissue — a loophole that cancers can use to continue growing unchecked. But both medications turn those “brakes” off.

Liquid biopsies. New blood tests, liquid biopsies may transform cancer care

A new type of blood test is starting to transform cancer treatment, sparing some patients the surgical and needle biopsies long needed to guide their care. The tests, called liquid biopsies, capture cancer cells or DNA that tumors shed into the blood, instead of taking tissue from the tumor itself. A lot is still unknown about the value of these tests, but many doctors think they are a big advance that could make personalized medicine possible for far more people.

They give the first noninvasive way to repeatedly sample a cancer so doctors can profile its genes, target drugs to mutations, tell quickly whether treatment is working, and adjust it as the cancer evolves.  Two years ago, these tests were rarely used except in research. Now, several are sold, more than a dozen are in development, and some doctors are using them in routine care.

Chemo brain. Researchers find first evidence cancer treatment can lead to 'chronically wandering mind'

Researchers have found the first clear evidence that 'chemo brain' where patients find it difficult to concentrate after undergoing chemotherapy, is real.  The new research shows that chemotherapy can lead to excessive mind wandering and an inability to concentrate. The negative cognitive effects of the cancer treatment have long been suspected, but the study is the first to explain why patients have difficulty paying attention.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:37 AM | Permalink

Health roundup: oral edition

Not brushing your teeth can trigger dementia and heart disease: A unique experiment shows how bad dental hygiene wrecks your entire body’s immune system.  For a two-part BBC series on dental health, Dr Van Tulleken put a gum guard on one side of his mouth whenever he brushed his teeth so that side didn't get cleaned.  When he took it off after two weeks, his gums bled a bit and there was pink, blood- spattered spit in his bathroom washbowl. He had developed mild gum disease.

Tests showed that not brushing his teeth for two weeks had damaged Dr Van Tulleken's immune system ...Lab tests using my white blood cells — the soldiers of the immune system — showed they had become less effective at moving towards an infectious invader when it was introduced to them.  Instead of heading straight towards the invader to attack it, the white cells were heading there slowly in random, inefficient ways.  This result indicated that my whole body had become inflamed as a result of an infection in my gums.

Inflammation is the medical term for our body’s reaction to infection — typically seen on the outside of the body as red, swollen tissue....A swathe of recent science has revealed that if you have chronic inflammation, it will seriously affect the rest of your health and your life.  It is strongly linked with the development of illnesses such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s, stroke and cancer.

Professor Chapple reassured me this inflammation is completely reversible if you induce it for only a couple of weeks.
But if you leave gum disease for significantly longer, you will be doing yourself chronic, irreversible damage. Gum disease isn’t just bad for your teeth, it shortens your life — simple as that. So, looking after your teeth is one of the most important health interventions you can make....Yet, this  crucial connection between the health of your gums and the health of your entire body is relatively neglected by doctors.

New toothbrush technology. Toothbrush that checks your DNA for onset of cancer and Alzheimer's could revolutionise health care  Tiny microchips in toothbrushes could warn us about onset of diseases. Nanopore sequencers analyse DNA as it passes through tiny hole on chip and that decodes it into digital format that can be assessed against genetic markers.

Protect your toothbrush Brush your teeth but never leave your toothbrush in communal bathrooms.  Study discovers toothbrushes in shared bathrooms contain feces other than your own.

A new study held in bathrooms at the Quinnipiac University in Connecticut claims to have found there is a 60 per cent chance your toothbrush is covered in poop.  Even more concerning, the study found people using communal bathrooms with an average of nine people had around an 80 per cent chance that the faeces belonged to another person.

They discovered that these coliforms made contact with toothbrush after spreading through the air as a result of actions such as flushing the toilet. Researcher Lauren Aber said the phenomenon presented a dangerous health risk.
“The main concern is not with the presence of your own fecal matter on your toothbrush, but rather when a toothbrush is contaminated with fecal matter from someone else, which contains bacteria, viruses or parasites that are not part of your normal flora,"

Regularly rinsing your toothbrush with mouthwash, hot water or cold water had no effectiveness in decontamination, nor did toothbrush covers.

Whether you floss before or after brushing your teeth doesn't matter so long as you floss once a day and brush twice.

From WikiHow, How to Brush Your Teeth

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:13 AM | Permalink

June 3, 2015

Health Roundup: Asthma, malaria vaccine, Alzheimer's, anorexia and leaky gut

Asthma Asthma could be cured within five years after drug breakthrough

Asthma could cured within five years after scientists discovered what causes the condition and how to switch it off.
In a breakthrough which could change the lives of Britain’s five million sufferers, researchers at Cardiff University and Kings College London identified which cells cause the airways to narrow when triggered by irritants like pollution.
Crucially, drugs already exist which can deactivate the cells. They are known as calcilytics and are used to treat people with osteoporosis.

The scientists are hopeful that in the future asthmatics take the drug to prevent an attack ever happening and ending the need to constantly carry an inhaler."Our findings are incredibly exciting," said Professor Daniela Riccardi, from Cardiff University School of Biosciences.

Scientists knew that asthma was caused by inflammation in the small tubes which carry air and out of the lungs, but did not know what was triggering it. However experiments on mice and human airway tissue found that calcium sensing receptor (CaSR ) cells - which detect changes in the environment - go into overdrive in asthmatics, triggering airway twitching, inflammation, and narrowing.But when calcilytic drugs are inhaled, it deactivates the cells and stops all symptoms.

Vaccine for Malaria. Malaria vaccine that will prevent millions of young children catching disease could be available within months

The vaccine named RTS,S could be available by October.  Designed for use in children in Africa, it can prevent up to half of cases.  Experts hail 'extraordinary achievement' for British firm  - GlaxoSmithKline - that developed it.  Scientists have worked on the vaccine for more than 20 years – at a cost of more than £330million, but experts say there is a long way to go.

The disease is difficult to treat because the malaria parasite has a complicated life cycle and has learned how to evade the human immune system over hundreds of years.  The latest World Health Organisation figures show that of the 198 million cases in 2013, 584,000 people died. Most victims are children in Africa, where one dies every minute.
Currently, the most effective prevention measure is the use of mosquito nets

Among those who had three doses of RTS,S and a booster shot, the number of clinical cases of malaria – those confirmed by a doctor – was reduced by 36 per cent after four years.  But the protection waned over time, boosters worked less well than the initial dose and the vaccine was not as effective in younger children, a report in The Lancet journal says.

Alzheimer's Alzheimer hope in epilepsy drug:

Brivaracetam, an epilepsy drug used to reduce severity of seizures, was found to completely reverse memory loss in rats suffering from Alzheimer's.  Previous trials on rats and humans found the anti-convulsant drug levetiracetam could slow some Alzheimer's symptoms.  Brivaracetam which is still in clinical development for epilepsy is ten times more potent than levetiracetam.  The study, in the journal Alzheimer's Research & Therapy, reinforces a theory that brain hyperexcitability plays an important role in the disease.

Dr Haakon Nygaard, of the University of British Columbia in Canada who tested the effects of brivaracetam said:
"Now we have many different research groups using anti-epileptic drugs that engage the same target, and all point to a therapeutic effect in both Alzheimer's disease models, and patients with the disease. Both of these drugs are likely to be tested in larger clinical trials in Alzheimer's disease over the next five to 10 years."

Anorexia Scientists claim they have discovered the gene responsible for eating disorders

While the Western 'obsession' with thinness plays a role, scientists believe 50 to 70% of the risk of developing anorexia is genetic. Experiments on mice have located the defective gene

High Blood Pressure Scientists discover how the body regulates blood pressure - and say discovery could slash risk of heart attacks and stroke  Scientists found release of protein ERAP1 lowers blood pressure. ERAP1 breaks down a hormone which causes blood vessels to constrict.  Drugs prompting the natural release of ERAP1 could be developed which wil lower blood pressure and thus lower the risk of heart attack, stroke and diabetes

Leaky Gut  The Cure for Brain Diseases Is in Your Gut

Researchers are just now starting to link inflammation in your gut with some of the most deadly and debilitating diseases we have...This is beyond groundbreaking, it is iconoclastic in that it represents a break from the long-held mentality that brain disease must arise in the brain.
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Dr. Christopher B. Forsyth and his team have recently demonstrated significant gut permeability, more commonly referred to as “leaky gut” in Parkinson’s patients. Their research has further revealed that this increase in gut leakiness enhances inflammation as well as the production of a unique protein—alpha-synuclein—both of which are characteristic of this disease.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:34 PM | Permalink

April 28, 2015

Treating patients at home

Great idea Admitted to Your Bedroom: Some Hospitals Try Treating Patients at Home

When Martin Fernandez came into Mount Sinai Hospital’s emergency room one recent afternoon, with high fever and excruciating abdominal pain, he and his family were asked an unexpected question. Mr. Fernandez, 82, would have to be officially admitted to receive intravenous antibiotics for his urinary tract infection. But he could stay at Mount Sinai, or he could receive treatment at home.

If he chose to be hospitalized at home, doctors and nurses would visit daily. He would receive lab draws and intravenous medications, even X-rays or ultrasound scans if he needed them. The costs to him would be no greater than if he were physically in the hospital. In three or four days, he would be discharged — and he would not have to go anywhere….He was hospitalized at his daughter’s apartment, just a couple blocks away, a few hours later.

He had a urinary catheter, but Mr. Fernandez could still wear his own clothes during the day and his pajamas at night. His wife and his daughter cooked him meals of arepas, vegetables and black beans, and served them to him in bed.

“Hospitals help you, but there’s so much noise that you can’t sleep and you’re lonely,” said Mr. Fernandez’s daughter, Ana Vanessa Fernandez. “Here, there was no timing for visitors. There was no curfew. It’s like being at home, but the hospital is home with you.”
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Dr. Bruce Leff noticed that back in the late 1980s while making house calls to homebound patients, part of his primary care training at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. When some of his patients fell ill, they simply refused to go to a hospital.

He understood why: He had seen firsthand the delirium, infections and deconditioning that too often land older patients in nursing homes after hospitalization. “Being in the hospital could be toxic,” said Dr. Leff, a geriatrician who is now a professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins.
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Dr. Leff and his colleagues settled on four diagnoses that could be treated without the patient’s being physically in the hospital: heart failure, exacerbations of emphysema, certain types of pneumonia, and a bacterial skin infection called cellulitis.
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The findings, published in The Annals of Internal Medicine, were promising. Offered the opportunity, most patients agreed to be treated at home. They were hospitalized for shorter periods, and their treatments cost less. They were less likely to develop delirium or to receive sedative medications, and no more likely to return to the emergency room or be readmitted.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:44 PM | Permalink

April 22, 2015

Health roundup: Depression, Alzheimer's, MS, Cancer, Genetic Treatments and Vaccinations

Depression.
Probiotics May Help Ease Pain of Negative Thoughts/Depression.    Linking probiotics and mood
Probiotics are live microorganisms which, when administered in adequate amounts, are fundamental in improving digestion and immune function.  A new study found that people focus less on bad feelings and experiences from the past (i.e. rumination) after four weeks of probiotics administration.  The study was published in the journal, Brain, Behavior and Immunity.

Mindfulness therapy as good as medication for chronic depression - study
"Whilst this study doesn't show that mindfulness-based cognitive therapy works any better than maintenance anti-depressant medication in reducing the rate of relapse … these results suggest a new choice for the millions of people with recurrent depression on repeat prescriptions," said Willem Kuyken of Oxford University, who worked with Byng on the research.

Alzheimer's

WSJ A Diet Might Cut the Rick of Developing Alzheimer's. Researchers at Chicago's Rush University Medical Center spent two years developing the MIND diet, which includes many brain-healthy foods like berries and greens.  The MIND diet combines elements of the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet, which aims to reduce high blood pressure. The MIND diet also includes ‘brain-healthy’ foods such as lots of green leafy vegetables, blueberries and nuts. A study found adhering strictly to any of the three diets lowered the risk for Alzheimer’s disease. But only the MIND diet had significant benefits - a 53% reduced risk for developing Alzheimer's.

Alzheimer's 'breakthrough': Addenbrooke's Hospital recruits first humans for testing diabetes drug
Patients over 50 with early Alzheimer's recruited for research in Cambridge after study finds drug Liraglutide might reverse some damage caused in later stages of disease.  A landmark study last autumn on mice found that the drug Liraglutide, which is already used in the treatment of diabetes – appeared to reduce the damage caused by dementia and result in memory improvements.  Mice with late-stage Alzheimer's given the drug performed significantly better on an object recognition test and their brains showed a 30 per cent reduction in the build-up of toxic plaques.

If the drug is found to reverse damage to the brain, or to stall disease progression, the drug could be the first treatment to prevent Alzheimer’s disease, and offered more widely within five years, scientists said.

MS

Creams used to treat athlete's foot and eczema 'could REVERSE multiple sclerosis'
Active ingredients in creams were found to cure multiple sclerosis (MS). They prompted stem cells to reverse the nerve damage caused by MS
and regenerate myelin, the coating around nerve fibers that MS destroys.

Miconzanole is sold over the counter in most pharmacies as a cream to treat athlete's foot, while clobetasol cream is commonly prescribed to treat eczema.  Although both drugs are widely used, a way must be found to use them safely as internal human treatments rather than creams or ointments before clinical trials can be considered.
The researchers are confident this problem can be solved, but have warned patients not to jump the gun by using the drugs prematurely.

Cancer

Exceeding the recommended daily amount of vitamins can do more harm than good.  Taking too many vitamins 'increases risk of heart disease and cancer', study warns

Compound in the green cruciferous veg broccoli is found to 'stop the growth of tumors'
Broccoli has long been hailed as a superfood, and it could soon protect people from cancer of the mouth, throat, neck and head, a study claims.  Scientists are developing a new treatment known as 'green chemoprevention' in which broccoli and other vegetables are used to prevent the disease. They explained that cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage and garden cress have a high concentration of sulforaphane – which is why they have a slightly bitter taste. Previous studies, including large-scale trials in China, have shown sulforaphane helps 'undo' the effects of cancer-causing agents in the environment.

Hope for prostate cancer patients as scientists discover breast cancer drug can also prolong the lives of men
Olaparib is the first cancer drug to target inherited genetic mutations. Up to 30 per cent of men with advanced prostate cancer have tumors with genetic defects - and they responded well to olaparib which prolongs the time a sufferer can live without disease getting worse.

Cancer patient's giant tumor is 'completely destroyed' and 'dissolves' after doctors trial pioneering new drugs cocktail to treat melanoma
Doctors at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York were trialling a new combination of drugs to treat advanced skin cancer
Combined standard drug ipilimumab with new drug nivolumab
Woman, 49, had one dose of the therapy and within weeks her tumor had completely disappeared, leaving a hole in the skin under her left breast

This is one of the most astonishing responses I have seen,' said medical oncologist Paul Chapman.
'It reminds us of the potential power of the immune system if we can remove the "brakes" that keep it from attacking cancer cells.'

In Wired, The Future of Cancer Treatment is (Almost) Here

One of the newest developments in cancer detection and monitoring is something called a liquid biopsy. It’s a test that can detect tumor DNA circulating in the blood. I think it’s the most exciting thing I’ve seen since I started my career.

Genetic Treatments

New era of medicine begins as first children cured of genetic disorder  The pioneering therapy offers hope to the hundreds thousands of people suffering from inherited conditions.

British doctors have cured youngsters of a deadly inherited disorder using a ground-breaking stem cell treatment which heralds a new dawn for genetic therapies. Patients with the most severe form of the rare blood condition Wiskott-Aldrich Syndrome have now been free of the disease for four years.

The treatment works by removing bone marrow stem cells – the type of cells which create new blood cells – and replacing the faulty part of the genetic code with a healthy gene. When the stem cells are replaced in the patient they then begin producing healthy blood cells, free from disease.

Vaccinations

There is NO link between MMR and autism - even in high-risk children, landmark study declares
The findings, in the Journal of the American Medical Association, are based on a study of about 95,000 young people. Some children in the study had elder siblings with autism but researchers found vaccines had no effect on autism risk, whether or not a sibling in the family was diagnosed

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:55 PM | Permalink

April 20, 2015

Health roundup: Turbo-charging cancer-killing T cells, MS drug repairs myelin, how Alzheimher's is caused, increased risks for dementia, talking therapy and more

New drug could reverse the damage of multiple sclerosis
A new experimental drug, called anti-LINGO-1, has been found to repair myelin, radically improving nerve signalling.

Scientists find key to 'turbo-charging' immune system to kill all cancers
In a breakthrough described as a ‘game-changer’ for cancer treatment, researchers at Imperial College found a previously unknown molecule which boosts the body’s ability to fight off chronic illnesses…..This is a completely unknown protein. Nobody had ever seen it before or was even aware that it existed. It looks and acts like no other protein.”  The protein – named lymphocyte expansion molecule, or LEM, promotes the spread of cancer-killing ‘T cells’ by generating large amounts of energy.

Normally when the immune system detects cancer it goes into overdrive trying to fight the disease, flooding the body with T cells. But it quickly runs out of steam.  However the new protein causes a massive energy boost which makes T cells in such great numbers that the cancer cannot fight them off.  It also causes a boost of immune memory cells which are able to recognize tumors and viruses they have encountered previously so there is less chance that they will return.

Alzheimer's breakthrough as researchers say they may have discovered how disease is caused and say it 'opens new doors' in search for a treatment.  Researchers have made a major breakthrough in discovering how Alzheimer's is caused - and say it could lead to new treatments. The new study shows that our immune system,… plays a part in the debilitating disease.  The Duke University study in mice found that in Alzheimer's disease, certain immune cells that normally protect the brain begin to abnormally consume an important nutrient: arginine.  Blocking this process with a small-molecule drug prevented the characteristic brain plaques and memory loss in a mouse model of the disease.

Having depression or diabetes raises the risk of dementia by up to 80% - and even more if you suffer both
Having diabetes is associated with a 20% greater risk of developing dementia.  A depression diagnosis was associated with an 83% increased risk.  Being diagnosed with both conditions increases the risk by 117%
As many as one in five people with type 2 diabetes also have depression.

Antidepressants? You might be better off TALKING: Psychotherapy can 're-wire' the brain - without the side-effects of drugs
People with depression show hyperactivity in certain areas of the brain. Eight weeks of psychotherapy was shown to correct this hyperactivity . The talking treatment can 're-wire' the brain without drugs, said the researchers, using brain-imaging technology at the University of Kassel in Germany.

Prescriptions for anti-depressants have more than trebled since 1998 in the world’s richest countries, a study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development found.Some 62 per cent of depression sufferers are now treated with drugs. However, many anti-depressants have side effects including nausea, a dry mouth, blurring of vision, constipation, dizziness, drowsiness, insomnia and sexual dysfunction.

The popular painkiller Tylenol can reduce feelings of sadness AND happiness, claims study
Previous research has shown that when people take acetaminophen for three weeks, their feelings get hurt less when they are socially rejected. That could be because pain is pain; whether it comes from a bump or a break-up, pain seems to travel through the same neurochemical pathways. In another study published in 2013, people who took acetaminophen thought about their own death less negatively than those who weren’t on anything. And a study this year found that when faced with a tough choice, acetaminophen helps dull the discomfort

Contraceptive pill can 'make women more anxious by shrinking part of their brain', study warns
UCLA study found the Pill shrinks two parts of the brain linked to emotion.  Synthetic hormones found in the contraceptive are thought to be at blame. Neuroscientists at UCLA believe it could account for increased anxiety and depressive episodes

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:01 AM | Permalink

April 10, 2015

Health Roundup: Cancer vaccine, more eggs, cheese and knitting, over-prescription of anti-depressants

Israeli Company's Vaccine Blocks 90% of Cancer Types Vaxil BioTherapeutics's ImMucin trains immune system to fight cancer cells and prevent the disease's return for early stages and remission.

The secret to staving off diabetes? Eat four eggs a week and plenty of cheese and yogurt

Researchers claim eating an egg every other day may keep diabetes at bay. Regular consumption cut the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by a third, according to a new study. A second study found similar health benefits from eating high fat dairy foods, such as cheese.  Second study found eating high fat cheese and yogurt lowered risk by 25%

French cheese diet 'reduces the risk of a heart attack'.  Experts claim that brie, camembert, roquefort - and any other variety - helps cut the amount of dangerous cholesterol in people's bodies, leading to a reduced risk of suffering a heart attack. The discovery is being hailed a new piece in the 'French paradox' puzzle which already shows that drinking red wine cuts cardiovascular disease rates.  Researchers found that those who consumed cheese had higher levels of butyrate, a compound produced by gut bacteria.  Higher levels of the chemical were linked to a reduction in cholesterol.

A passion for knitting and crocheting could protect against dementia  Arts and crafts enthusiasts are 75% less likely to suffer memory loss…Scientists at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota believe the findings highlight the importance of engaging the mind.  They found people who participate in arts and crafts, and those who socialize in middle and old age, were 73 per cent less likely to develop memory loss, which often leads to dementia.  The key, they believe, lies in the fact the activities stimulate the mind and help protect vital neurons - the building blocks of the brain.

So can middle-age spread

While traveling in certain foreign countries, think about a daily handful of peanuts a day. Handful of peanuts a day can shield you from food poisoning: Nuts found to improve health in the gut and body's ability to ward off bugs including E.Coli

Binge drinking as a teenager 'may damage the brain for life': Alcohol puts young people at risk of anxiety disorders and addiction
Binge drinking as a teenager can cause long-lasting damage to the brain well into adulthood, a new study has warned.
This is because drinking excessive amounts of alcohol when young can damage the brain and cause permanent changes to DNA.  This, in turn, can put teenagers at risk of anxiety disorders and alcoholism, researchers found.  Alcohol changes genes in brain cells, which stop the cells developing connections between them, altering behavior.

More than two thirds of people taking antidepressants 'may NOT actually have depression': Doctors discover many do not meet the official criteria

A study analyzed those taking selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and found that  69% did not meet the criteria for clinical depression and 38% did not meet the criteria for other mental conditions like anxiety
Experts: 'Drugs are prescribed without an evidence-based diagnosis'

Commenting on the study, Dr Howard Forman, medical director of the Addiction Consultation Service at Montefiore Medical Center, said clinical depression is distinct from temporary feelings of sadness. 'We all experience periods of stress, periods of sadness, and periods of self-doubt. These don’t make us mentally ill, they define us as human.'

In the U.S., official guidelines say clinical depression should be diagnosed if a person has five or more depressive symptoms over a two week period, most of the day, nearly every day. The symptoms include a depressed mood; a loss of interested or pleasure in activities; weight loss, weight gain or changes in appetite; insomnia or increased desire to sleep.  Other symptoms included restlessness or slowed behavior; fatigue or loss of energy; feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt; difficulty making decisions or trouble concentrating, and thoughts of death or suicide.

Prescriptions for anti-depressants have more than trebled since 1998 in the world’s richest countries, a study by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development found.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:06 PM | Permalink

March 31, 2015

Health Roundup: Anger, power naps, milk, spinach, chocolate and a 1000 year old remedy for MRSA

WSJ Angry Outbursts Really Do Hurt Your Health, Doctors Find From heart disease to sleep problems, medical researchers increasingly are finding just how toxic anger can be

New evidence suggests people increase their risk for a heart attack more than eightfold shortly after an intensely angry episode. Anger can also help bring on strokes and irregular heartbeat, other research shows. And it may lead to sleep problems, excess eating and insulin resistance, which can help cause diabetes.
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Over time, chronic anger can cause long-term damage to the heart, according to Dr. Williams of Duke.
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Strong anger releases the hormones adrenaline and cortisol into the bloodstream, which can trigger an increase in heart rate, blood pressure and sugar metabolism. This is useful if the body requires a burst of energy to mount a physical attack…..But too much anger can be harmful, especially for people already at risk for heart disease, the leading cause of death in the U.S.

Cosmic radiation exposure, an atmosphere drier than a desert and the dangers of DVT: The scary ways air travel affects your health

Yes! A power nap of just 45 minutes can boost the memory five-fold, according to new research

The scientists, from Saarland University in Germany, said that during sleep, bursts of brain activity known as sleep spindles play an important role in consolidating newly learned information.

Three glasses of milk a day 'to beat dementia': People who drink large amounts of the white stuff have higher levels of antioxidant that helps protects brain cells

A new US study shows a link between milk consumption and higher levels of a naturally-occurring antioxidant called glutathione in the brain in older, healthy adults.  The powerful antioxidant may minimize damage to brain cells from free radicals, destructive groups of atoms made as a by-product of metabolism that can damage cells.
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A study from Oxford University suggested milk drinking might mitigate neurological damage leading to diseases such as Alzheimer’s due to its vitamin B12 content.  A randomized, controlled trial that seeks to determine the precise effect of milk consumption on the brain is still needed and is a logical next step, the researchers said.

1,000-year-old onion and garlic eye remedy kills MRSA

Scientists recreated a 9th Century Anglo-Saxon remedy using onion, garlic and part of a cow's stomach.
They were "astonished" to find it almost completely wiped out methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, otherwise known as MRSA…..They found the remedy killed up to 90% of MRSA bacteria and believe it is the effect of the recipe rather than one single ingredient.
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"We were absolutely blown away by just how effective the combination of ingredients was,"

Popeye was right. Eat spinach to stay sharp: Two helpings a day knocks 11 YEARS off your brain age

Men and women who had just one or two helpings a day had the brainpower of people 11 years younger….Men and women who had just one or two helpings a day had the brainpower of people 11 years younger.
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The researchers, from Rush University in Chicago, quizzed 950 men and women about their diet.  The volunteers, who had an average age of 81, then did a battery of mental tests every year for up to ten years.  The brains of those who ate leafy green vegetables, such as spinach and kale, aged more slowly, the Experimental Biology conference in Boston heard…..It is thought that vitamin K, folate or vitamin B9, and the natural colourings lutein and beta-carotene were behind the effects.

Chocolate is so good and good for you. New study reveals that eating chocolate doesn't affect your Body Mass Index … and can even help you LOSE weight!

This research only adds to the reputation amongst medical studies that now suggest chocolate is good for you in a myriad of ways. It's been found to help your heart by reducing the risk of atherosclerosis (thickening and hardening of the arteries), boost your brain power by enhancing blood flow to the brain (associated with enhancing memory) and also reduces stress levels by correcting chemical imbalances related with stress.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:11 AM | Permalink

Health roundup: New drugs for cholesterol, heart failure, leukemia and Alzheimer's

NYT Tests of Cholesterol Drugs Offer Hope of Reducing Heart Attacks and Strokes

A new class of experimental cholesterol drugs might sharply reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes, researchers reported on Sunday, citing what they described as preliminary evidence.  The drugs, one being developed by Amgen and the other by Sanofi and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, are already known to sharply reduce so-called bad cholesterol, sometimes to levels lower than those achieved by statins like Lipitor, the mainstay lipid-lowering medicines.

How stem cells can fix a broken heart – with just one jab 15-minute procedure could transform lives of patients with heart failure

The 15-minute procedure involves cells taken from a patient’s own body, which are then re-injected into their heart to repair damaged muscle.  It is hoped that the procedure could improve the quality of life for patients suffering from heart failure, the condition caused by the heart failing to pump enough blood around the body at the right pressure because the heart muscle has become too weak or stiff to work properly.
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First, bone marrow is removed from the patient – via a needle inserted into the hip bone – from which it is possible to separate stem cells. These cells have the unique ability to change into different cell types. The cells are processed in a laboratory before being injected back into the patient’s heart to repair the damaged tissue. The procedure is carried out under general anesthetic.

Alzheimer's Drug Shows Startling Promise

Biogen Idec's drug aducanumab has been shown to slow mental decline in patients with early or mild Alzheimer's disease in a small drug trial…the drug proved to be the first to both ease plaque and slow cognitive decline.

Pill Used To Treat Parkinson's Disease Makes People More Empathetic

Researchers at UC Berkley and UCSF say Tolcapone prolongs the effects of dopamine, a chemical in the brain associated with reward and motivation in the prefrontal cortex

A miracle cancer vaccine? Scientists hail breakthrough cancer treatment as a 'game changer'

Scientists have worked out how to teach the body’s immune system to identify cancer cells, allowing patients to be primed to destroy cancer.  In one case an American woman given just weeks to live  was cleared of advanced blood cancer. She is still alive three years later, and her doctor says she is not a one-off.

British and American researchers are working on two related approaches …Both methods involve taking T-cells, which fight infection, and giving them the ability to recognize a special tag on the surface of cancer cells, called the WT1 protein. ..
The research is being carried out on patients with leukemia.

Doctors hail drug that can 'turn off cancer' : Once-a-day tablet could spare blood cancer patients effects of traditional chemotherapy

Ibrutinib has shown to be 'extremely effective' in treating mantle cell lymphoma and chronic lymphocytic leukemia after 2 trials in 28 British hospitals.  Professor Stephen Devereux, consultant hematologist at King’s College Hospital in London, says it is a new class of targeted medications, known as a Bruton’s tyrosine kinase inhibitor. It works by targeting and switching off a protein in the cancer cells.

‘Chemotherapy kills cancer cells but it also kills normal cells and therefore has lots of side effects,’ he says.
‘As this drug is targeted at the B-cells, the side effects are minor. In addition, patients don’t have to go into hospital to have it administered.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:48 AM | Permalink

March 26, 2015

Roundup of Alzheimer's news

Unconscionable. Most Alzheimer's patients not given diagnosis by their doctors say 55% of patients and their caregivers.

The reasons doctors give range from diagnostic uncertainty and fear of causing emotional distress to time constraints, lack of support, and stigma…

Alzheimer's advocates stress the importance of giving a patient all the facts, as early as possible, so they can work with their family to organize legal and health directives and have time to fulfill life-long desires. It's just as important for the caregiver…. "Right now, the big studies that are underway in prevention are really looking at people in the early stages of Alzheimer's, so by waiting, they can lose out on clinical trials as well."

 Alzheimer's

A large Mayo Clinic study has found that when it comes to what causes Alzheimer’s disease, researchers may have been barking up the wrong tree.

Every 67 seconds someone develops Alzheimer’s, and it remains an elusive, incurable disease for now. However, a new breakthrough in Alzheimer’s research may make the path clearer for diagnosing and even preventing the disease one day. 

Amyloid – a sticky, toxic protein found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients — has been the focus of research and diagnosis for decades. But a new Mayo Clinic study published in the journal Brain shows that another toxic protein, called tau, may be a bigger culprit in cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s over the lifetime of the disease.  Researchers say the discovery could lead to better diagnosis, treatments, and prevention tools.

Biogen's Alzheimer's drug slows mental decline in early study

An experimental drug from Biogen Idec Inc became the first Alzheimer's treatment to significantly slow cognitive decline and reduce what is believed to be brain-destroying plaque in patients with early and mild forms of the disease, according to a small study likely to reignite hopes of a treatment…..
…"It's a bigger treatment effect than we had hoped for,"  said Alfred Sandrock, Biogen's chief medical officer
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The Biogen treatment led to reductions in brain amyloid and the plaque reduction was more pronounced as the dose of the drug increased and over time.

Biogen will begin enrolling patients later this year for a large Phase III trial, whose results could be used to seek approval of its drug.  The Biogen drug faces years of testing and would not reach the market much before 2020, even if all goes well, analysts said.

More on that new treatment - New Alzheimer’s treatment fully restores memory function Of the mice that received the treatment, 75 percent got their memories back.

Australian researchers have come up with a non-invasive ultrasound technology that clears the brain of neurotoxic amyloid plaques - structures that are responsible for memory loss and a decline in cognitive function in Alzheimer’s patients.

If a person has Alzheimer’s disease, it’s usually the result of a build-up of two types of lesions - amyloid plaques, and neurofibrillary tangles. Amyloid plaques sit between the neurons and end up as dense clusters of beta-amyloid molecules, a sticky type of protein that clumps together and forms plaques.

Neurofibrillary tangles are found inside the neurons of the brain, and they’re caused by defective tau proteins that clump up into a thick, insoluble mass. This causes tiny filaments called microtubules to get all twisted, which disrupts the transportation of essential materials such as nutrients and organelles along them, just like when you twist up the vacuum cleaner tube.

Publishing in Science Translational Medicine, the team describes the technique as using a particular type of ultrasound called a focused therapeutic ultrasound, which non-invasively beams sound waves into the brain tissue.  By oscillating super-fast, these sound waves are able to gently open up the blood-brain barrier, which is a layer that protects the brain against bacteria, and stimulate the brain’s microglial cells to move in. Microglila cells are basically waste-removal cells, so once they get past the blood-brain barrier, they’re able to clear out the toxic beta-amyloid clumps before the blood-brain barrier is restored within a few hours.

The team reports fully restoring the memories of 75 percent of the mice they tested it on, with zero damage to the surrounding brain tissue. They found that the treated mice displayed improved performance in three memory tasks - a maze, a test to get them to recognize new objects, and one to get them to remember the places they should avoid.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:55 PM | Permalink

March 19, 2015

Cheap, mobile and drug-free way to treat Alzheimer's in the works

Let's hope this works.  Hope for Alzheimer's sufferers with scientists developing a treatment to RESTORE memory loss

Australian scientists have made a major breakthrough in treating Alzheimer's with a new drug-free method that can restore memory loss.  Researchers at the University of Queensland's Brain Institute hope to be able to trial their new 'cheap and mobile' ultrasound device within two years on humans.

The treatment attacks the neurotoxic amyloid plaques that cause memory loss and cognitive failure with ultrasound waves.

Research director Professor Jürgen Götz hopes the new method will revolutionize Alzheimer's treatment by restoring memory for sufferers.

'We're extremely excited by this innovation of treating Alzheimer's without using drug therapeutics,' Professor Götz said, according to The Australian. 'The word 'breakthrough' is often misused, but in this case I think this really does fundamentally change our understanding of how to treat this disease, and I foresee a great future for this approach.'
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:34 AM | Permalink

March 16, 2015

Health roundup: Double chins, classical music, IGT, the Pill+Crohn's, brain cancer+tetanus, HIV+cellular scissors

New drug that gets rid of double chins WITHOUT surgery receives unanimous recommendation for FDA approval
ATX-101 is a noninvasive, in-office procedure that takes five minutes and patients heal in 2-3 days and can walk out without wearing a bandage.  The  drug is injected in grid of tiny dots where 'max amount of fat' under chin is
destroying membranes of fat cells, causing them to burst and permanently disappear. Side effects include short-term swelling, bruising and numbness. The drug now just needs final FDA approval 

Classical music can help slow down the onset of dementia say researchers after discovering Mozart excerpts enhanced gene activity in patients
Classical music can help slow down the onset of dementia, new research has found.  Scientists discovered that patients who listened to experts of Mozart had enhanced gene activity in the brain in areas including memory and learning. The music also affected the activity of a risk gene connected to Parkinson's disease.

The Finnish researchers found the changed activity was only present in 'musically-experienced' patients, who listened to music regularly, suggesting the importance of familiarity with music.

A new class of drugs will dramatically slow the aging process
The new medicines, known as senolytics, have been shown to alleviate symptoms of frailty, improve heart function and extend a healthy life. …Senior author and Mayo Clinic Professor James Kirkland:  "It may eventually become feasible to delay, prevent, alleviate or even reverse multiple chronic diseases and disabilities as a group, instead of just one at a time."

The problem they faced was how to identify these cells without harming other healthy cells.  They discovered that like cancer cells, senescent cells have increased expression of "pro-survival networks" that help them resist apoptosis or programmed cell death. So they used a cancer drug dasatanib and an antihistamine and anti-inflammatory known as quercetin to target senescent cells.The combination wiped out these cells, leaving the healthy ones untouched.

High cholesterol LOWERS the risk of diabetes: New study reveals why taking statins may be harmful
A study of 25,000 found that patients with hypercholesterolemia were half as likely to have diabetes.

New York Times: Protection Without a Vaccine

Scientists at Scripps Research Institute said they had developed an artificial antibody that, once in the blood, grabbed hold of the virus and inactivated it. The molecule can eliminate H.I.V. from infected monkeys and protect them from future infections.  But this treatment is not a vaccine, not in any ordinary sense. By delivering synthetic genes into the muscles of the monkeys, the scientists are essentially re-engineering the animals to resist disease. Researchers are testing this novel approach not just against H.I.V., but also Ebola, malaria, influenza and hepatitis.

….The first human trial based on this strategy — called immunoprophylaxis by gene transfer, or I.G.T. — is underway, and several new ones are planned. I.G.T. is altogether different from traditional vaccination. It is instead a form of gene therapy. Scientists isolate the genes that produce powerful antibodies against certain diseases and then synthesize artificial versions. The genes are placed into viruses and injected into human tissue, usually muscles…..The viruses invade human cells with their DNA payloads, and the synthetic gene is incorporated into the recipient’s own DNA. If all goes well, the new genes instruct the cells to begin manufacturing powerful antibodies.

Women on the Pill face increased risk of Crohn's disease
New study of 230,000 women suggests women may be three times as likely to develop the bowel condition if they are on the Pill and have high-risk genetics

Woman with brain cancer who was given just two months to live has survived for NINE years and seen five grandchildren born after being given experimental vaccine      Sandra Hillburn, 68, was diagnosed with terminal glioblastoma in April 2006.  She was offered to be in a experimental 12-patient study at Duke University

The patients were treated with a combination of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy and tetanus-diphtheria shot 
Study found that patients who got the tetanus shot lived years longer than those who didn't

Scientists find a way to cut out the HIV virus from infected areas with ‘cellular scissors’
Scientists claim they are one step closer to creating a drug that can cure HIV. A team of researchers has been customizing a defense system used by bacteria and training this scissor-like machinery to recognize the HIV virus.  In their tests, they found that the technique could completely remove up to 72 per cent of cells that had been infected with HIV.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:46 AM | Permalink

March 10, 2015

Health roundup; Everyday pills, game-changing drugs, peanuts and nuts

The professor who 'cured' his cancer with a cocktail of everyday pills. 20 years on, he remains disease-free
Ben Williams' aggressive brain tumor was treated with conventional therapies - and with a mix of common drugs, including those for acne, insomnia and high blood pressure, as revealed in a new documentary. Could this approach work for others?

Pancreatic disease successfully targeted with 'game-changing' drugs
Treatment of the most deadly type of cancer could be revolutionized after scientists achieved ‘exceptional’ results with a platinum-based therapy.  Currently just 1 per cent of all people with pancreatic cancer survive for ten years after diagnosis. Most die within weeks or months because symptoms haven’t shown until the disease is well-advanced.

But researchers say they have now discovered what makes pancreatic cancer ‘tick’ by looking at the DNA of its tumors. They found these can be classified into four types, and the 15 per cent of patients with one of these types could be helped with platinum-based drugs that are already used to treat ovarian and testicular cancer.
Scientists said the results of early trials had been so dramatic that they had never expected to see them ‘in their lifetimes’.

Anti-depressant can also help repair failing hearts: Widely-used pill found to work 'far better' than standard treatments
Researchers from Temple University in Philadelphia gave the widely-used anti-depressant Seroxat to mice that had suffered heart attacks. Tests showed it to be far superior to beta-blockers, the drugs routinely used to treat heart failure.The damaged heart started to heal itself – and continued to improve after the Seroxat was stopped.
Experiments showed that the benefits had nothing to do with the pills’ effect on the brain chemicals involved in mood. Instead, they are due to a fortuitous side-effect of the drug, in which it happens to block a protein that weakens already-damaged hearts.  The effects were seen at doses similar to those used to treat depression in people, although the researchers caution there is no guarantee that Seroxat, which is also known as paroxetine, will work as well on human hearts.

In the WSJ  About-Face on Preventing Peanut Allergies
Study finds introducing peanuts in many infants’ diets could help avoid the allergies later in childhood. A diet that includes peanuts in the first year of life may greatly reduce the chance of developing peanut allergies in children at risk for getting them, according to a highly anticipated new study.

The findings appear to be the most definitive evidence yet to discount the medical community’s longtime recommendation that parents avoid giving peanut products to young children. That practice has failed to stem the growing rate of peanut allergies. Some doctors now suggest that not eating peanuts may actually have helped spur more allergies.

“We have had a whole ethos within the practice of pediatrics and pediatric allergy that the way to avoid any allergy was avoidance,” said Gideon Lack, a professor of pediatric allergy at King’s College London and senior author of the study, which was published online Monday in the New England Journal of Medicine. “At least with respect to peanuts, avoidance may actually worsen the problem.”

How NUTS could be nature's statin: Even peanuts reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke and early death
Eating nuts and peanuts reduces the risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke, a new study claims.  Researchers found they were linked with a reduced risk of death from heart disease across different ethnic groups and among people on low incomes. They said their findings suggest peanuts may be a cost-effective measure to improve cardiovascular health because they are so cheap.

The study, led by Dr Xiao-Ou Shu, of the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Tennessee, analyzed various groups of people. One involved 72,000 low-income black and white men and women living in the US, the other 134,000 men and women living in Shanghai, China.  In the US, the highest consumption resulted in a risk reduction of 21 per cent - in the Chinese group, 17 per cent. The research was published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Nuts are rich in nutrients and peanuts, although classified as legumes, have nutrients similar to tree nuts.  They add to the diet a valuable source of protein, dietary fiber, healthy fats, vitamins B1, B6, folic acid, vitamin E, magnesium and zinc.

Early signs of Alzheimer's disease found in patients as young as 20: 'Unprecedented' findings say disease eats away at cells 50 years before symptoms develop
Researchers, from Northwestern University in Chicago, examined the brains of elderly people with and without Alzheimer’s, as well as samples taken from 13 people aged between 20 and 66. These younger people were free of memory problems when they died.  Tests showed that beta-amyloid, the toxic protein that clogs up the brain in Alzheimer’s, had started building up in people as young as 20. Lead researcher Professor Changiz Geula said: ‘Discovering that amyloid begins to accumulate so early in life is unprecedented.’

I'm fitter at 70 than I was at 25
Age is no barrier to exercise, as Liz Hodgkinson shows - even if you don't need to go to the gym at 6.30am every morning.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:54 PM | Permalink

For men only: Off-label uses for pregnancy tests

Teenager diagnosed with testicular cancer after pregnancy test

A teenager was diagnosed with testicular cancer after taking a pregnancy test that came back positive. Byron Geldard, then 18, had finished school and had just returned from a summer holiday with friends when he received the diagnosis the day before he was due to get his A’ Level results.

Pregnancy tests are increasingly used to diagnose, or rule out, testicular cancer as the illness produces the same hCG hormone that is produced by the developing placenta.
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The Teenage Cancer Trust said pregnancy tests had been used to diagnose testicular cancer for around six years.  A spokeswoman said they were considered reliable as the same proteins are detected in the urine of testicular cancer patients and of pregnant women. “It is relatively unknown as patients don’t really talk about it,” she said.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:34 AM | Permalink

March 6, 2015

Who do you depend on for nutrition advice?

NYT Op Ed by Nina Teicholz The Government’s Bad Diet Advice

First, last fall, experts on the committee that develops the country’s dietary guidelines acknowledged that they had ditched the low-fat diet. On Thursday, that committee’s report was released, with an even bigger change: It lifted the longstanding caps on dietary cholesterol, saying there was “no appreciable relationship” between dietary cholesterol and blood cholesterol. Americans, it seems, had needlessly been avoiding egg yolks, liver and shellfish for decades.

How did experts get it so wrong? Certainly, the food industry has muddied the waters through its lobbying. But the primary problem is that nutrition policy has long relied on a very weak kind of science: epidemiological, or “observational,” studies in which researchers follow large groups of people over many years. But even the most rigorous epidemiological studies suffer from a fundamental limitation. At best they can show only association, not causation. Epidemiological data can be used to suggest hypotheses but not to prove them.
Instead of accepting that this evidence was inadequate to give sound advice, strong-willed scientists overstated the significance of their studies.
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In 2013, government advice to reduce salt intake (which remains in the current report) was contradicted by an authoritative Institute of Medicine study. And several recent meta-analyses have cast serious doubt on whether saturated fats are linked to heart disease, as the dietary guidelines continue to assert.

Uncertain science should no longer guide our nutrition policy. Indeed, cutting fat and cholesterol, as Americans have conscientiously done, may have even worsened our health. In clearing our plates of meat, eggs and cheese (fat and protein), we ate more grains, pasta and starchy vegetables (carbohydrates).
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Since the very first nutritional guidelines to restrict saturated fat and cholesterol were released by the American Heart Association in 1961, Americans have been the subjects of a vast, uncontrolled diet experiment with disastrous consequences. We have to start looking more skeptically at epidemiological studies and rethinking nutrition policy from the ground up.

Until then, we would be wise to return to what worked better for previous generations: a diet that included fewer grains, less sugar and more animal foods like meat, full-fat dairy and eggs. That would be a decent start.

What you can - and can't - eat  We speak to experts to consider the latest findings that flip our food wisdom on its head

Butter can be good for you in small amounts.
Full-fat milk is fine to drink. It is still less than four per cent fat and contains some healthy fats
• Dietary cholesterol has little impact on blood cholesterol levels. Eggs are full of all sorts of nutrients and vitamins, and are very good for you. They are rich in protein, so may also keep you fuller for longer and help with appetite control.”
Olive oil  Olive oil is fine on salads but not necessarily for frying. “Olive oil is very good for you but some olive oils have a very low smoke point, and produce small amounts of carcinogens when heated,”
Yoghurt. Switch to full-fat.  When you get rid of the fat, you lose a lot of the fat-soluble vitamins, so you lose the goodness,

Red cabbage is the new health craze: Sales soar 50% as consumers seek to benefit from ten times more vitamin A than its green counterpart and twice the iron

Study says salt may not be all bad for you  Sodium fights infections; health drawbacks exaggerated.

I depend on Authority Nutrition and its evidence-based approach where I learned today that the Healthiest Oil for Deep Frying is Coconut Oil. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:33 AM | Permalink

February 25, 2015

Recent advances in medical and health technology

Apple's Health Kit Apple is taking over healthcare: Firm's HealthKit tracking system now being trialled in more than HALF of top US hospitals

Apple's HealthKit which acts as a repository for patient-generated data Health information like blood pressure, weight or heart rate stored

Printing prosthetic hands. Hand of a Superhero  3-D Printing Prosthetic Hands That Are Anything but Ordinary
The proliferation of 3-D printers has had an unexpected benefit: The devices, it turns out, are perfect for creating cheap prosthetics. Surprising numbers of children need them: One in 1,000 infants is born with missing fingers, and others lose fingers and hands to injury. Each year, about 450 children receive amputations as a result of lawn mower accidents, according to a study in Pedatrics..

E-nable, an online volunteer organization, aims to change that. Founded in 2013 by Jon Schull, the group matches children like Dawson in need of prosthetic hands and fingers with volunteers able to make them on 3-D printers. Designs may be downloaded into the machines at no charge, and members who create new models share their software plans freely with others.  The materials for a 3-D-printed prosthetic hand can cost as little as $20 to $50, and some experts say they work just as well, if not better, than much costlier devices. Best of all, boys and girls usually love their D.I.Y. prosthetics.

Thought-controlled robotic hands  Researchers Find Way to Harness Brain to Control Bionic Hands

Fitted With Robotic Hands, Three Austrian Men Are Able to Perform Tasks Such as Buttoning a Coat

Man-made blood?  A major component of blood has been grown in the laboratory by scientists, bringing man-made blood transfusions a step closer.
Biomedical engineers have for the first time produced functional blood platelets - the cells that cause clots to form - from human bone marrow grown in the laboratory.
The achievement raises hopes that it will soon be possible to produce fully functional blood in a similar way.

Scientists hope that by using a patient's stem cells, it should be possible to grow blood that is a perfect match.  The new research demonstrates that it is possible to use human stem cells to grow bone marrow on a matrix of porous silk, which then create blood cells.  The scientists from Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts, and the University of Pavia in Italy were able to produce millions of human platelets.

New chocolate reduces wrinkles. Anti-aging chocolate which reduces wrinkles developed by Cambridge University spin-off
A daily 7.5g bar of the chocolate can change the underlying skin structure of a 50 year old to that of someone in their 30s, say developers

Map of human epigenomes. Recipe for the human body revealed could lead to personalized medicine
Epigenome differentiates cells, telling heart muscle cells to not make brain chemicals, for instance.  The human genome is the blueprint for building an individual person.
The epigenome can be thought of as the cross-outs and underlinings of that blueprint: if someone's genome contains DNA associated with cancer but that DNA is 'crossed out' by molecules in the epigenome, for instance, the DNA is unlikely to lead to cancer.

Scientists have for the first time mapped out the molecular 'switches' that can turn on or silence individual genes in the DNA in more than 100 types of human cells.  The groundbreaking accomplishment,  that reveals the complexity of genetic information and the challenges of interpreting it . Researchers unveiled the map of the 'epigenome' in the journal Nature, alongside nearly two dozen related papers. The mapping effort is being carried out under a 10-year, $240 million U.S. government research program, the Roadmap Epigenomics Program, which was launched in 2008.

'The only way you can deliver on the promise of precision medicine is by including the epigenome,' said Manolis Kellis of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who led the mapping that involved scientists in labs from Croatia to Canada and the United States.

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Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:08 PM | Permalink

February 24, 2015

Health Roundup: Coffee, slumping, saunas, Vit D + diabetes, statins, anti-depressants, donating eggs risky, new anti-HIV drug

Britain's National Health Service is rationing hearing aids. - To save money, patients are getting only one device to to be worn on left OR right ear.

Government panel recommends FIVE CUPS of coffee a day to ward off heart disease, liver cancer and Parkinson's
A panel of experts from the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, which convenes every five years, did a detailed assessment of the caffeinated beverage for the first time. They recommend drinking three to five cups a day or 400 mg.For pregnant women, the report suggests limiting coffee consumption to two cups a day

SLUMPING could be causing your headaches: Increased pressure on the neck not stress or dehydration is to blame, experts say
But experts suggest most headaches are actually caused increased pressure on the neck, made worse by bad posture.  Experts say 80 per cent of all tension-type headaches - the most common type of headache - are caused by muscles in the neck.

Regular SAUNAS could save your life: Getting sweaty even once a week halves the risk of dying from heart disease
Regular sessions appear to protect against early deaths from any cause and those who visit saunas most often get the greatest benefit.
Study: 'Time spent in the sauna is time well spent, but it's not clear why'

The vanishing cream for TATTOOS: Lotion offers pain-free alternative to laser removal by targeting pigmented blood cells  created by a Alec Falkenham, a PhD student in Pathology at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Lack of sunshine increases the risk of diabetes MORE than being obese
The new Spanish study, published in the Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, found it was a deficiency in vitamin D - dubbed the 'sunshine vitamin' - rather than what a person weighs that increased their risk of diabetes.  This is because there was a direct link between low vitamin D levels and how the body metabolized glucose.  Dr Manuel Macías-González, of the University of Malaga, Spain, said: 'Our findings indicate that vitamin D is associated more closely with glucose metabolism than obesity.

Pill that could help tell if you have CANCER: Scientists hope drug will allow blood tests to replace painful biopsies
The latest research by John Ronald and Sanjiv Gambhir is to be published today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences……The Stanford team’s approach involves giving people a drug containing circular pieces of DNA which are to break into tumor cells.  The DNA - called minicircles - prompts the cancerous cells to secrete a specific protein into the bloodstream.

The benefits of taking statins have been exaggerated, two leading experts claim.
Although they can dramatically cut cholesterol levels, they have ‘failed to substantially improve cardiovascular outcomes’, says an analysis of data in clinical trials….The two authors say in the analysis, published in the Expert Review of Clinical Pharmacology: ‘The adverse effects suffered by people taking statins are more common than reported in the media and at medical conferences…‘Increased rates of cancer, cataracts, diabetes, cognitive impairments and musculoskeletal disorders more than offset the modest cardiovascular benefits of statin treatment.’…Statin advocates have used statistical deception to create the illusion that statins are “wonder drugs,” when the reality is that their modest benefits are more than offset by their adverse effects’, they claim.

The science behind commonly used anti-depressants appears to be backwards, researchers say

The authors of the paper, published by the journal Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, combed existing research for evidence to support the theory that has dominated nearly 50 years of depression research: that depression is related to low levels of serotonin in the gaps between cells in the brain.

The low-serotonin theory is the basis for commonly prescribed serotonin re-uptake inhibitor (SSRI) anti-depressant medications which keep the neurotransmitter's levels high by blocking its re-absorption into the cells that release it.  Those serotonin-boosting medications actually make it harder for patients to recover, especially in the short term

Young women Don’t donate your eggs for research. The risks are too great
Young women are being exploited. Clinics are offering hefty compensation to donors despite the fact that donating for mitochondrial research offers NO medical benefit to the donor.  Even the tiniest risk of complication needs to be taken seriously especially when dealing with perfectly healthy young women, who have no need to undergo a potentially life-threatening procedure. Procedures with risk are performed on sick patients with the understanding that the benefits of the procedure outweigh the risks or the consequences of doing nothing. But in egg donation for mitochondrial research there is no medical benefit, only risk.
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In the U.S. Dr Suzanne Parisian, former Chief Medical Officer at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), warns, in this short, two minute video, about the harms, risk and lack of studies done on egg donors, from both the drugs and the procedures to get the eggs: ‘There are no numbers. [The donor] doesn’t appear anywhere, in the medial literature, tracking or Government oversight…The studies have never been done.’
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In England The Government admits that there is no definitive data on the number of women who have been hospitalized for ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) after egg donation. But we do know that just under half of 864 reported clinical incidents between 2010-2012 were due to OHSS. And: ‘Each year approximately 60 instances of severe OHSS and 150 cases of moderate OHSS are reported to the HFEA.’

Scientists say they have created an anti-HIV drug so powerful that it could work as a vaccine.
Macaque monkeys given the drug were able to fend off high, repeated doses of the simian version of the disease.
The protein-based drug (ECD4-LG} has been 'astonishingly effective' at blocking every major strain of HIV tested, marking a major step towards a cure for AIDS, the researchers claim.  The technique works by using gene therapy to introduce a new section of DNA inside healthy cells.  How the ECD4-LG Drug Works

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:41 AM | Permalink

February 19, 2015

Nevermind

Our government has been wrong about cholesterol for 40 years and is finally admitting it. The U.S. government is poised to withdraw longstanding warnings about cholesterol

The nation’s top nutrition advisory panel has decided to drop its caution about eating cholesterol-laden food, a move that could undo almost 40 years of government warnings about its consumption.

The glorious return of the egg: Why Uncle Sam is a horrible nutritionist

The story of the changing American diet over the last 60 years is a story of junk science funded by both government and corporate interests, as well as a cascade of health panics and regulations aimed at one "demon" ingredient after another. The result is an unhealthier, more obese population than the one that ate more dairy and nearly three times as much red meat a century ago.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:39 PM | Permalink

February 16, 2015

Health Roundup: probiotics, drinking, chronic fatigue now SEID, best yoga post, and pot

What friendly bacteria really CAN do for you… but probiotic makers are banned from telling us about -easing IBS, improving mood, soothing eczema, boosting immunity and more. 

We're taking much better care of ourselves and it shows.  Turning 60 no longer means that you're getting old: Number being affected by age-related illnesses almost halves in a decade

Drinking is only good for you if you are a woman over 65: Sobering study finds medicinal qualities of a daily tipple have been overstated - except in older females and then only a small glass of wine each day.

Chronic fatigue IS 'a real and serious disease': Doctors draw up new guidelines on how to diagnose the condition

A panel from the U.S. Institute of Medicine. panel sought to redefine chronic fatigue syndrome, setting five main symptoms as simple criteria for doctors to use in making a diagnosis.  Experts also called for a new name for the condition, ... they argue it should be called Systemic Exertion Intolerance Disease, or SEID, to reflect that symptoms worsen after exertion.

Its hallmark is persistent and profound fatigue where, on a bad day, a simple activity like grocery shopping can put someone to bed.
It is often accompanied by memory problems or other symptoms. These include joint and muscle pain, incapacitating headaches, food intolerance, a sore throat or enlarged lymph nodes and sensitivity to light.  However there is no specific treatment and the IOM found less than a third of medical schools teach about the disease.
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Last year Stanford University researchers revealed the brains of those diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome are distinctly different to those of healthy people.  First, an MRI scan showed that overall white matter content of CFS patients' brains was reduced compared to that of healthy participants' brains.  Using advanced imaging techniques, they identified a consistent abnormality in a particular part of a nerve tract in the right hemisphere of CFS patients' brains.  The tract, which connects the frontal lobe with the temporal lobe, assumed an abnormal appearance in CFS patients.  Furthermore, the study identified a strong link between the degree of abnormality in the patient's tract and the severity of their CFS.

The NEW health rules: Get your hands dirty, be unproductive and do something you love for 10 minutes every day

The New Health Rules is a new wellness book offering 175 tips to readers covering eating habits, healing, energizing the body and getting active.  Dr Frank Lipman, co-author, said the aim is to help people improve their health and wellbeing in small, easily achievable steps with bite-size nuggets of information designed to be adopted gradually .

Like this one: IF YOU ONLY LEARN ONE YOGA POSE…. . . let it be supta baddha konasana.
It’s a heart-opening, lung-stretching, deeply restorative posture you can do with or without props - a chance to get a sense of the magic of yoga without straining yourself.  Whether you spend your days at a computer, or working with your hands, or on the floor playing with kids, you’re likely to be closed and tight in the front of your body (most of us are).  This pose helps.
 Yoga Restorative Pose
With a bolster under your shoulder blades, and your choice of folded blankets, firm pillows, or yoga blocks supporting knees, spine, and head, you’ll feel a gentle (and gradually deepening) release in your hips, chest, shoulders, and throat.
Stay for five minutes; it’s an amazing way to start or end your day.

'This pose to me, is like the best chill out pill you can ever get,' Dr Lipman told MailOnline.
'It is better than any drugs. Whenever I am stressed I will take myself off and go into supta baddha konasana. 'There is something amazing about opening up your chest and hips completely at the same time, while being supported.
'If you can lie there for five to 10 minutes in the pose, it is truly incredible. 'It is another of those things, that once you have tried it for yourself, you will understand.'

Study Shows Heavy Adolescent Pot Use Permanently Lowers IQ.

A study more than thirty years in the making found that smoking marijuana permanently lowers intelligence, or IQ.  Frequent pot smokers (even those who had given up marijuana) tended to have deficits in memory, concentration, and overall IQ. The reduction in IQ for those who smoked pot heavily prior to age 18 was most pronounced: an average of eight points.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:09 PM | Permalink

February 12, 2015

"This is a once-in-a-generation advance in stroke care"

Brain Stents Show Big Promise for Certain Stroke Patients

Stroke experts are reporting a major advance: Stents similar to the ones used to open clogged heart arteries also can be used to clear a blood clot in the brain, greatly lowering the risk a patient will end up disabled.

Patients treated with these brain stents were far more likely to be alive and able to live independently three months after their stroke, doctors said Wednesday at an American Stroke Association conference in Nashville. The treatment was so successful that three studies testing it were stopped early, so it could be offered to more patients. One study also found the death rate was cut almost in half for those given the treatment.

"This is a once-in-a-generation advance in stroke care," said the head of one study, Dr. Jeffrey Saver, stroke chief at the University of California, Los Angeles.

An independent expert, Dr. Lee Schwamm of Massachusetts General Hospital, called it "a real turning point in the field." For many patients, "this is the difference between returning home and not returning home," although only certain types of patients can be offered it, he said.

Stroke care "needs to be completely changed" to make the treatment more widely available, said Dr. Walter Koroshetz, acting director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. "This has taken stroke therapy to the same place that heart attack therapy is now," he said.
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Most of the 800,000 strokes in the U.S. each year are caused by a blood clot lodged in the brain. The usual treatment is clot-dissolving medicine called tPA. When that doesn't work, doctors sometimes try devices pushed through blood vessels to pluck out the clot, but several studies found they didn't help.

However, newer devices — metal mesh cages called stent retrievers — open an artery much faster and with less damage to the blood vessel. Unlike heart stents, which stay in place to prop the artery open, the brain stents flatten the clot, trap it and are removed with it.
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 Stroke Survivor Don Sadoway in foreground

Don Sadoway, 64, a chemistry professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was having a holiday lunch on Dec. 23, 2012, at a Boston restaurant when he suddenly found he couldn't lift his wine glass for a toast. His wife was perplexed.

"I said something unintelligible to her and all of a sudden my right side collapsed," he said.

Doctors at Massachusetts General gave him tPA but it didn't work, so they tried a Solitaire stent.

"Two hours later I was sitting up, talking to my kids," said Sadoway, who is fine now except for small problems with memory and fine motor skills.
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The warning signs of a stroke are sudden onset of any of these: numbness or weakness on one side, severe headache with no known cause, confusion, and trouble walking, speaking or seeing.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:07 PM | Permalink

February 8, 2015

How secure is your personal information with your medical insurer?

Health insurer Anthem hit by massive cybersecurity breach

Health insurer Anthem Inc , which has nearly 40 million U.S. customers, said late on Wednesday that hackers had breached one of its IT systems and stolen personal information relating to current and former consumers and employees.
The No. 2 health insurer in the United States said the breach did not appear to involve medical information or financial details such as credit card or bank account numbers.

The information accessed during the "very sophisticated attack" did include names, birthdays, social security numbers, street addresses, email addresses and employment information, including income data, the company said.
Anthem said that it immediately made every effort to close the security vulnerability and reported the attack to the FBI. Cybersecurity firm FireEye Inc said it had been hired to help Anthem investigate the attack.
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Medical identity theft is often not immediately identified by patients or their provider, giving criminals years to milk such credentials. That makes medical data more valuable than credit cards, which tend to be quickly canceled by banks once fraud is detected.

Anthem didn't encrypt data stolen in hack

Health insurer Anthem Inc. did not encrypt the 80 million Social Security numbers stolen by hackers last week, but that's probably more common than you think….The Wall Street Journal explained, and though it appears Anthem  encrypted data moving out of its database, it didn't do so for information simply being stored.  Instead, a spokesperson told the WSJ, the company used other security measures to protect that information.

Security experts say cyber criminals are increasingly targeting the $3 trillion U.S. healthcare industry, which has many companies still reliant on aging computer systems that do not use the latest security features. 

Anthem said it would send a letter and email to everyone whose information was stored in the hacked database. It also set up an informational website, www.anthemfacts.com, and will offer to provide a credit-monitoring service.  The company said on the website's FAQ page that 'The impacted (plan/brand) include Anthem Blue Cross, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia, Empire Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Amerigroup, Caremore, Unicare, Healthlink, and DeCare.' 

New York Times. What Anthem Customers Should Do Next After Data Breach

Although Anthem says the attackers did not get any medical records, they did get access to medical identification numbers found on insurance cards. ….. “You don’t need a complete medical record to commit medical identity theft if you have the correct name and Social Security number,” said Pam Dixon, executive director of World Privacy Forum. “The chief harm for medical identity theft is that your medical record will change without your knowledge.”

THEFT TYPES In large-scale breaches like the one at Anthem, experts said the criminals could pose as medical billers and fraudulently charge consumers’ insurance companies for medical services and drugs. Not only is your insurer paying for something that you didn’t ask for, but the fraudsters can also alter your medical record, Ms. Dixon said.
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WHAT TO DO Consumers should try to create their own copy of their medical file so they have an accurate version of their history should a fraudster make any changes, said Ms. Dixon, who has worked with many medical identity theft victims. Think about any significant or chronic medical conditions, surgeries or accidents — particularly for the last few years — and get a record from your doctors’ offices, hospital or other provider. Also get a record of your blood type and any drug allergies. If you have access to an online patient portal, try to print out or save a copy of those files elsewhere.

“You want to print a baseline record so that if it is altered without your knowledge by fraudulent activity,” Ms Dixon said, “you have something that is really clean.” That will help prove your case, she said, and rebuild an accurate history.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:49 PM | Permalink

Health Diagnostic Dongle on a Smartphone

A remarkable advance in medical technology.

Now HIV and syphilis can be diagnosed in just 15 minutes: Revolutionary smartphone app 'could save millions of lives'

A new smartphone app that tests blood samples for HIV and syphilis in just 15 minutes could save millions of lives across the world, scientists claim.  The software, developed by biomedical experts at Columbia University, analyses blood samples taken with a finger-prick dongle.  The kit, which attaches to any smartphone or computer, replicates a lab test and can give a diagnosis in the field in just 15 minutes. The device is nearly 540 times cheaper than current lab testing machines, and has already been tested on patients in Rwanda during a pilot study.

How Science magazine explains it.  Lab on a chip turns smart phones into mobile disease clinics

Researchers have designed a cheap, easy-to-use smart phone attachment (shown above) that can test patients for multiple deadly infectious diseases in 15 minutes. All it takes is a drop of blood from a finger prick. Pressing the device’s big black button creates a vacuum that sucks the blood into a maze of tiny channels within its disposable credit card–sized cartridge. There, several detection zones snag any antibodies in the blood that reveal the presence of a particular disease. It only takes a tiny bit of power from the smart phone to detect and display the results: A fourth-generation iPod Touch could screen 41 patients on a single charge, the team says.

The researchers conducted a field test of the device at three Rwandan community clinics, where health care workers rapidly screened 96 patients for HIV and active and latent forms of syphilis. Compared with gold standard laboratory tests, the dongle was 96% as accurate in detecting infections, missing just one case of latent syphilis, the team reports online today in Science Translational Medicine. Despite a 14% false alarm rate, the researchers say the device’s high sensitivity and ease of use make it a powerful tool for diagnosing these deadly diseases in the field, particularly among pregnant women. The researchers are now preparing a larger scale trial for the $34 device, which they hope will let mobile clinics and health workers provide rapid and reliable disease screening in the remotest areas of the world.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:14 AM | Permalink

February 7, 2015

Health Roundup: fizzy drinks bad, grow your own bones, probiotic pill for diabetes, green tea, 'Ow'

Why fizzy drinks (and even sparkling water) are WORSE than you thought They speed up aging, trigger sugar cravings, may damage bones, cause bloating, attack your teeth, increase cancer risk and more.

Goodbye hip replacements… hello grow-your-own bones: Doctors claim jab can regenerate damaged tissue after one injection  A pioneering stem cell treatment could avoid thousands of hip replacements – by helping patients 'regrow' damaged bone. Avascular Necrosis (AVN) is a joint condition where bone tissue dies and collapses due to loss of blood.  The cause is unknown but triggers include injury and rheumatoid arthritis. It can also be a side effect of treatments such as steroids, chemotherapy or radiotherapy. Five NHS hospitals will trial the jabs, which doctors claim can regenerate damaged tissue after just one injection.  Bone marrow is extracted from the patient.  Stem cells are cultivated from it and injected back into the patient at the site of the AVN such as the hip.  Damaged bone tissue in the joint 'regrows', meaning the patient does not need invasive surgery.
And a leading specialist says it has the potential to be 'life-changing' for those with bone disease avascular necrosis (AVN). Patients often face years of pain before being considered for a hip replacement.

Both types of diabetes could be CURED by a daily probiotic pill that 'rewires' the body, scientists claim
Researchers at Cornell University discovered a probiotic, commonly found in the human gut, can 'rewire' the body to help combat diabetes. It shifted control of blood sugar levels from pancreas to the upper intestine.  The pancreas controls glucose levels by secreting insulin in healthy people; in diabetics the organ produces no insulin or not enough of the hormone.  The treatment lowered diabetic rats' blood glucose levels by up to 30%.  Scientists say higher doses could reverse both type 1 and 2 diabetes

How saying 'ow' can ease your pain by interfering with signals to the brain
Vocalizing in and of itself is potentially analgesic. We found that a simple vocal act such as saying "ow" helps individuals cope with pain.' Exactly how the process works is not clear, but they think the automatic messages traveling to the vocal part of the brain interfere with the pain messages.

How green tea can KILL cancer cells: Compound destroys disease while leaving healthy cells unscathed
Compound EGCG kills mouth cancer cells leaving healthy ones alone . Past studies revealed the drink could help fight the disease
Scientists at Penn State University explored the specific mechanism by which the green tea compound is able to target the diseased cells.

Is depression caused by inflammation in the brain? Findings could reveal why sufferers experience physical symptoms
Canadian psychiatrists took brain scans from 20 patients and 20 controls.  Depressed patients showed a third more brain inflammation than controls.  Those with the most severe forms of depression also had the most inflammation.
The finding may help to explain why depression can cause physical symptoms such as loss of appetite and poor sleep.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:44 PM | Permalink

February 3, 2015

Health Roundup: To reduce the risk of Alzheimer's avoid hay-fever pills and drink beer. Fight Parkinson's with exercise.

Hay-fever pills in Alzheimer's link Over-the-counter sleeping aids and hay-fever treatments can increase the risk of Alzheimer's, a study has found.

The sleeping aid Nytol and anti-allergy pills Benadryl and Piriton all belong to a class of medication highlighted in a warning from researchers.
Each of these drugs has "anticholinergic" blocking effects on the nervous system that are said to raise the likelihood of developing Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia significantly at higher doses over several years. Other drugs on the risk-list include older "tricyclic" antidepressants such as doxepin, and the bladder control treatment Ditropan.

Anticholinergic drugs block a nervous system chemical transmitter called acetylcholine, leading to side effects that may include drowsiness, blurred vision and poor memory. People with Alzheimer's disease are known to lack acetylcholine.

US study leader Professor Shelly Gray, director of the geriatric pharmacy program at the University of Washington School of Pharmacy, said: "Older adults should be aware that many medications - including some available without a prescription, such as over-the-counter sleep aids - have strong anticholinergic effects. And they should tell their health-care providers about all their over-the-counter use.

The scientists tracked the health of 3,434 men and women aged 65 and over for around seven years while monitoring their use of anticholinergic drugs. For those taking the highest doses of anticholinergic drugs over the study period, the relative risk of dementia was increased by a statistically significant 54% compared with no use. The risk of Alzheimer's alone was raised by 63%.

To fight Parkinson's, Exercise May Be the Best Therapy

Dr. Daniel Tarsy, director of the Parkinson's disease program at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston sees meaningful change in a lot of patients who go into these exercise program.  "I'm a believer," Tarsy says. "Patients look a lot different walking out an hour later than they did walking in. They literally have a bounce to their step."  Tarsy says patients often report that their movements become more fluid. That's the opposite of the rigid, jerky movements typical of Parkinson's…..

Research has shown that exercise can improve gait, balance tremor, flexibility, grip strength and motor coordination.",,,Among more than 43,000 Swedes followed for nearly 13 years, the risk of Parkinson's was almost cut in half for those who engaged in moderate levels of exercise.  One clue is that animals with a form of the disease have higher levels of dopamine — the brain chemical deficient in Parkinson's — if they're made to exercise.

Beer could help 'protect brain against Parkinson's and Alzheimer's'  Researchers in China have found that a compound in hops could help fight off degenerative brain diseases.

A team of researchers at Lanzhou University have published a study which claims that xanthohumol, a type of flavonoid found in hops, could help protect the brain against the onset of diseases such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and dementia.  According to Jianguo Fang, who led the research, xanthohumol [Xn], known for its antioxidant properties, helps guard the brain against oxidative stress, an imbalance that occurs as the body metabolises oxygyen, which is believed to be a contributing factor in the development of neurodegenerative conditions…..

"In traditional Chinese medicine, hops have been used to treat a variety of ailments for centuries," said Dr Fang.  "Xn has attracted considerable interest because of its multiple pharmacological functions, including anti-oxidation, cardiovascular protection, anti-cancer and cancer chemoprevention, antivirus, anti-obesity, and anti-inflammation," he added.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:29 PM | Permalink

January 23, 2015

Health roundup: Coffee, nuts, brain food, a drink a day, a lunch hour walk and chilly feet

From Well at the New York Times

The Benefits of a Lunch Hour Walk - even gentle lunchtime strolls can perceptibly — and immediately — buoy people’s moods and ability to handle stress at work.

A Drink a Day to Lower Heart Failure Risk - A new study, in the European Heart Journal, followed 14,629 people for 24 years, starting at an average age of 54. It found that moderate drinkers have a lower risk of heart failure than either heavy drinkers or abstainers.  Compared with abstainers, men who drank up to a drink a day — a glass of wine, a 12-ounce beer or a shot of liquor — had a 20 percent reduced risk, and women a 16 percent reduced risk, of heart failure. The advantage gradually declined with heavier drinking.

Coffee May Cut Melanoma Risk -  slightly.  Drinking four or more cups of coffee was associated with a 20 percent risk reduction compared with those who drank none.

Eating nuts may be better for you than taking statins

London Telegraph. Brain food: 6 snacks that are good for the mind  .Blueberries, salmon, avocado, whole grains, broccoli, dark chocolate.

Chewing gum for 10 minutes can be just as effective as flossing

Salt 'is less of a health threat the older we get': Study finds there is no link between consumption in over-70s and mortality

Why juicing might not be so healthy after all…experts have warned of its dangers labelling it ‘as bad as Coca-Cola’ They claim juice is to blame for weight gain, diabetes and dental problems.  Whole fruit is better.

Chilly feet CAN increase the risk of catching colds and flu, leading expert warns 
Many people carry the bugs which cause colds and flu in their nose already, without it causing symptoms that make them ill.  But if the temperature of their feet drops, it causes a change in the whole body which leads to their nose becoming cold, he explained. …and the blood vessels in the nose to constrict,' ....
‘Your skin goes white, the inside of your nose and throat goes white and blood flow to the nose is reduced.
‘The white cells that fight infection are found in the blood, so then there are fewer white cells to fight the virus.’

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:06 AM | Permalink

January 9, 2015

Health Roundup: From Stanford's possible cure to porridge and an imaginary meal pill

Has Stanford University found a cure for Alzheimer's disease

Alzheimer's could be prevented and even cured by boosting the brain's own immune response, scientists at Stanford University believe.  Researchers discovered that nerve cells die because cells which are supposed to clear the brain of bacteria, viruses and dangerous deposits, stop working.  These cells, called 'microglia' function well when people are young, but when they age, a single protein called EP2 stops them operating efficiently. 

Now scientists have shown that blocking the protein allows the microglia to function normally again so they can hoover up the dangerous sticky amyloid-beta plaques which damage nerve cells in Alzheimer's disease.  The researchers found that, in mice, blocking EP2 with a drug reversed memory loss and myriad other Alzheimer’s-like features in the animals.

A step closer to developing a pill to cure dementia  A common form of dementia is 'frontotemporal dementia' which occurs as neurons become damaged.  It runs in families and there is no cure.  A team in Belgium  were able to repair diseased brain cells after identifying  a gene variant that prevents neurons from forming properly and correcting it through genetic engineering.  They found a gene variant that prevents neurons from forming normally and used  a compound that inhibited a chemical causing the gene mutation

A new Harvard study has found that weight training is a better way of keeping the middle-aged spread at bay than aerobic activity, Why weight training is better for your waistline than running

The key to a long and healthy life? A bowl of porridge every day, say scientists. A Harvard study of more than 100,000 people for more than 14 years found that whole grains reduce the risk of dying from heart disease.  A daily one ounce serving of whole grains is associated with a 5% lower mortality and also cut deaths from cardiovascular disease by 9%.  Whole grains are whole because they contain the 'germ', or seed embryo, which is packed with nutrients.    Here are 10 Oatmeal Recipe Ideas for Breakfast

Vision problems. Joint pain. Dementia… Is there anything fish oils can't beat?
The current medical advice is to eat two portions of fish a week.  Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish, proven to help with many conditions

Revolutionary new drug could help patients with advanced skin cancer and resistant to standard treatments  Skin cancer patients can become resistant to standard drugs within a year.  A new drug called a panRAF inhibitor could help advanced skin cancer patients  The new drugs hit several cancer cell survival routes at once and suppress tumous without any significant side-effects. Clinical trials focusing on safety and dosage will begin next year

Safe and effective testing must be done, so it's still several years away from the market, but a real breakthrough in fighting obesity.  'Imaginary meal' pill of fexaramine tricks the body into feeling full - AND lowers cholesterol and blood sugar

Researcher Ronald Evans of the Salk Institute in California, said: 'This pill is like an imaginary meal.
'It sends out the same signals that normally happen when you eat a lot of food, so the body starts clearing out space to store it. But there are no calories and no change in appetite.' When the drug hits the stomach, it kick-starts digestion. Fexaramine also spurs the body into burning off fat to create space to store the incoming nutrients. The medicine doesn't pass into the bloodstream and circulate round the body but stays in the stomach, which should cut the risk of side-effects.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:31 AM | Permalink

January 8, 2015

From a grassy field in Maine, a new super-antibiotic

Just when it looked like we were heading into a apocalyptic post-antibiotic era,  a new super-antibiotic was found lurking in the soil of a grassy field in Maine.  Super-antibiotic that could wipe out diseases from MRSA to TB is hailed as a 'game-changer' by scientists

A super-antibiotic capable of wiping out everything from MRSA to TB has been found lurking in soil.  In tests, the new medicine rapidly cured infections that should have been fatal.  The drug also worked ‘exquisitely’ well against hard-to-treat bugs that damage the heart.

Crucially, it could be a powerful weapon in the war against antibiotic resistance, in which once easy-to-treat infections become deadly after finding sneaky ways of evading powerful drugs.  With no new type of antibiotic hitting the market for almost 30 years and bacteria becoming harder to treat by the day, experts have warned medical treatment could soon be dragged back the 19th century.
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The new drug, which has been named teixobactin, was discovered after British, German and US scientists went back to basics and studied bacteria from a grassy field in Maine in the US.  Many bacteria and fungi naturally make antibiotics to keep themselves safe and kill competitors for food and space and most of the antibiotics we use today have their roots in nature.

Convinced that the soil held more secrets, researchers from Northeastern University in Boston devised a gadget that allowed them to grow and study the bugs in their native earth. Of the 10,000 sorts of bacteria that grew, 25 pumped out substances that could potentially be used as antibiotics.  And of these, teixobactin was the most promising.

The researchers… are particularly excited about the fact that they couldn’t produce any bacteria that were resistant to the drug, no matter how hard they tried.  They say the way teixobactin works will make it exceptionally hard for bacteria to find a way of evading it and predict it will take at least 30 years for resistance to develop.  They are refining the recipe and hope to start testing the drug on people in two years.
If all goes well, teixobactin, which would be an injection rather than a pill, could be on the market by 2019.

And then there's Viagra  A pill containing Viagra could cure illnesses from Ebola to brain cancer, hepatitis to MRSA 

Scientists have identified a protein GRP78 key to treating a range of illnesses including Ebola, brain cancer, hepatitis, MRSA and influenza.  By attacking the protein,  cancer cells are killed, viruses are prevented from infecting and reproducing and antibiotic-resistant bacteria are killed
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:09 PM | Permalink

January 6, 2015

Keep your nose warm. Always wear a scarf in winter

-Smoking-Bird Byianplant

You ARE more likely to get a cold in winter - but keeping your nose warm may be the secret to avoiding it

The key to avoiding a cold could be as simple as keeping your nose warm with a scarf when you venture outside in winter.Research shows that low temperatures make it harder for the body to fight off the bug that causes half of colds in adults and almost all colds in children.  The finding backs up the popular idea that people are more likely to come down with a cold if they get chilly, perhaps by not putting on a coat in winter or going out with wet hair.  Many people carry this rhinovirus bug in their nose at all times.  The virus multiplies more quickly in the nose than the body as it's colder

Yale University has found that when core body temperature inside the nose falls by five degrees the immune system does not work as well to fight the cold virus.

One in five people carry the rhinovirus – the most frequent cause of the common cold – in their nasal passages at any one time. Mostly the immune system stops the virus taking hold, but as the temperature drops, so does the body’s ability to fight off the intruder.  So wearing a warm scarf over the nose may not stop the virus entering in the first place, but could boost the ability to tackle it.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:35 PM | Permalink

December 31, 2014

Easy resolutions you can keep for your health

From the UK comes The 25 easy resolutions to transform your health:

Put your toothbrush in the dishwasher
Toothbrushes can be a breeding ground for bacteria. Scientists at Manchester University found that the average toothbrush contains ten million germs, including a high percentage of potentially dangerous bacteria such as E. coli.

Stop using armrests to get out of a chair
This will strengthen your muscles and help protect you against falls in later years. Place your feet firmly on the floor, tighten your stomach muscles, clench your buttocks and ease yourself slowly up to a standing position without using your hands for support.Each lift equates to a squat - the perfect exercise to tone the major muscles in the thighs and buttocks. Double the effect by also lowering yourself into every chair without using your hands

Drink cocoa at bedtime
The antioxidants in cocoa can improve memory in older people by improving blood flow to certain parts of the brain.

Turn the heating down by a degree
Being slightly chilly has been shown to increase levels of 'healthy' brown fat, a form of body fat that burns up calories and fat reserves, and helps keeps blood sugar levels stable.

Blow one nostril at a time.
Continually blowing your nose through both nostrils can push mucus back into your sinuses, triggering the possibility of a secondary infection.

Get regular kicks with a coffee
Drink up to four cups of coffee a day. Whether it's instant, espresso or decaffeinated, experts believe the phytochemicals - or antioxidants - in coffee offer some protection against diabetes, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.
It also appears to improve cognitive function. The stimulating effect of caffeine can increase neuronal firing in the brain, improving reaction time, memory, mood and brain power.

Eat a portion of leafy veg A day
Eating just one daily serving (around two tablespoons) of green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale or broccoli could be enough to reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 14 per cent….Increase that to one and a half servings per day and studies show you can double that reduction to 30 per cent. One theory is that green vegetables are a rich source of magnesium (along with some beans, peas, nuts and seeds), which appears to help regulate blood sugar.

Keep your eye out for Celtuce ., a new vegetable to try

An obscure Chinese vegetable that is as of yet hard to come by may well become the new kale in the months to come. The celtuce - which is known as wosun in China, where it is a popular ingredient in many dishes - is a translucent green type of lettuce that can be sliced, roasted, pickled, pureed for sauces or used as a garnish, among many other uses.

All About The Cool Obscure Veggie Of The Moment

One bite told me I'd never eaten anything quite like it either. The texture of the vegetable -- and the waiter assured me it was a vegetable -- reminded me of cooked leek. But it also had the homogeneity of a noodle and some of the crunch of shaved jicama. Its bright flavor was a little like a mix between bok choy, celery root and water chestnut, but was far milder than any of those. By the end of the plate, I was a celtuce fan.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:01 AM | Permalink

December 19, 2014

Health Roundup: Ibuprofen, breakthroughs, depression and more

Surgical Tool Gets Strongest Warning    Morcellator Used in Hysterectomies Can Spread Undetected Cancer, FDA Says.

Is Ibuprofen the key to a longer life? Study finds ibuprofen may provide 12 extra years of good health

To those with a headache, it already works miracles. But ibuprofen could also hold the key to a long and healthy life. In a series of experiments, the popular painkiller extended the life of yeast, worms and flies by around 15 per cent. What is more, the extra years were healthy ones.  In human terms, this would equate to an extra 12 years of good quality life. Put another way, people would be in good health for longer.

It is not clear exactly how the drug slowed down aging, but it appears to be something to do with it stopping cells taking up tryptophan, a compound found in eggs and chocolate and turkey.

Other studies have shown that ibuprofen can make your lungs feel younger and keep skin cancer at bay.

Major breakthrough for paralyzed people after drug that restores movement shows 'extraordinary promise'

New drug, known as intracellular sigma peptide, or ISP, helps damaged nerve cells regenerate, allowing vital messages to be passed to muscles….

Rats with badly damaged spinal cords given drug daily for seven weeks while their ability to walk, balance and control their bladder muscles were monitored. The vast majority of rats got something back in terms of function. Some went from barely moving to being able to walk like healthy creatures.  Overall, 21 of the 26 animals improved on the drug – an unparalleled success rate.

'Off switch' for pain discovered: Brain receptor could hold key to alleviating suffering in cancer patients

Researchers from Saint Louis University in Missouri managed to block a pain pathway in rodents with chronic neuropathic pain. They did this by turning on a receptor, known as A3, in an animal’s brain and spinal cord to counteract intense feelings of discomfort.The technique could one day be used to alleviate suffering of cancer patients.  It would be better than current medication because it doesn't have side effects like addiction and increasing tolerance to drugs

What Does It Cost to Develop a New Drug? Latest Study Says $2.6 Billion

The Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development, a nonprofit think tank that maintains nearly $2.6 billion is needed to get a new drug from the lab to the launchpad.

'My teeth were turning to mush':

Bleaching your teeth more often than is recommended can erode tooth enamel permanently.  It can also lead to receding gums,  painful hypersensitivity and mushy teeth.

Could depression be an INFECTIOUS DISEASE?

Depression should be re-defined as an infectious disease rather than an emotional disorder, argues one scientist, Dr. Turhan Canli, of Stony Brook University. 'It is time for an entirely different approach," he writes in the journal Biology of Mood and Anxiety Disorders.

The condition could result from a parasitic, bacterial or viral infection and future research into the condition should search for these micro-organisms, he argues  If his theory is true, he hopes a vaccination to protect against depression could be developed in future.

The relationship between the sun and melanoma is unclear, despite what dermatologists tell us

There is a link between excessive sun exposure and melanoma, the form of skin cancer that carries a high risk of death.  But the link is not clear cut. Melanoma occurs in the mouth, the anus and on the soles of the feet, areas that get little or no sun, as well as on the face, which may get a lot. So the relationship with the sun is not obvious. And despite what dermatologists tell us, the evidence shows that in the UK people are less likely to get melanoma if they spend weekends mostly outdoors, where they inevitably get more sun exposure.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:30 AM | Permalink

Health Roundup: Food and Diet Edition

Why Exercise.  Could you BREATHE away those excess pounds? 80% of fat leaves the body via the lungs, say experts (so the more you exercise the better)

More than 80% of body fat leaves the body through breathing out.  Human fat cells store triglyceride, made up of three atoms: carbon, hydrogen and oxygen  To shed fat, you have to break down the atoms in triglyceride via oxidation.  When 10kg of fat is oxidized, 8.4kg leaves the body as CO2 via the lungs

Overweight  A Lack of Bacteria Can Make You Overweight  Genetics and Microbes in Your Gastrointestinal Tract Offer Clues to Metabolism and Obesity.  Researchers at Cornell University have identified a family of microbes called Christensenellaceae that appear to help people stay lean—and having an abundance of them, or not, is strongly genetic.

Eat Potatoes How a chemical compound found in spuds is shown to prevent weight gain

Don't bother counting calories… it's the type of food that matters: Items high in fat may actually be good at keeping the weight off  High-fat nuts, olive oil, fish and full-fat milk could help keep you slim. And supposedly healthy low-fat foods may be the real diet villains.  Expert says focusing on calories may 'mislead and harm public health'

Authority Nutrition 9 Lies About Fat That Destroyed The World's Health

1. Back in 60s and 70s, many prominent scientists believed that saturated fat was the main cause of heart disease, by raising the "bad" cholesterol in the blood. This idea was the cornerstone of the low-fat diet. Because of a few bad studies and misguided political decisions, this diet was recommended to all Americans in the year 1977.  However, there wasn't a single study on this diet at the time. The American public became participants in the largest uncontrolled experiment in history.

This experiment didn't turn out very well and we are still suffering the consequences. This graph (at link ) shows how the obesity epidemic started at almost the exact same time the low-fat guidelines came out.

A low carb/high fat diet  might be better for diabetics

A few years ago, Dr Unwin began to suspect that the advice favoring complex "high–carbohydrate foods" such as wholemeal bread, pasta and rice might have the reverse effect to that intended, by acting to increase the blood sugar level in those with diabetes. Accordingly, he proposed that all the patients in his practice who had been newly identified as having type 2, or "pre–", diabetes should adopt a high–fat diet.

The results, published in the journal Practical Diabetes, are truly astonishing – an average weight loss of 9kg with a reduction in waist circumference from 120cm to 105cm. There was also a striking improvement in both their blood sugar levels, with only two still in the abnormal range. Seven patients were able to come off their medication.Their blood pressure also improved and the average cholesterol reading fell from 5.5 to 4.7 – seeming to disprove the persistent rhetoric of the past 20 years implicating "high–fat" foods as a cause of raised cholesterol.

The obesity pill that could replace exercise by turning 'bad' fat to 'good'

Harvard Stem Cell Institute at Harvard and Massachusetts General Hospital have identified two compounds that can turn white or 'bad' fat cells into brown 'good' fat cells in the body.  They believe they have made a breakthrough in the battle against the bulge.  They said the discovery could be 'the first step towards a pill that can replace the treadmill'.
When a person eats too many calories without burning them off, they are stored as white fat cells by adult stem cells. That is what causes people to pile on the pounds.  The new study found two small molecules that convert fat stem cells, which would normally produce white fat, into brown-like fat cells.  These brown fat cells burn excess energy and subsequently reduce the size and numbers of white fat cells.

One of the two molecules is already approved to treat rheumatoid arthritis, but scientists warned a pill is some way off.  They warned the compounds could damage the immune system.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:50 AM | Permalink

November 21, 2014

Elizabeth Holmes, America's youngest billionaire

America's Youngest Female Billionaire Explains Where Her Transformative Idea Came From

She spent a lot of time with her uncle when she was a kid.  But one day he was diagnosed with skin cancer, and doctors soon realized the cancer had already spread.  That illness "all of a sudden was brain cancer and in his bones," she said. "He didn't live to see his son grow up and I never got to say goodbye."

Elizabeth Holmes uses what happened to her uncle as a way of explaining why she started Theranos, a company valued at $9 billion that's transforming medicine by re-inventing the blood test.

 Elizabeth- Holmes
Holmes says she wants to offer individuals an easier, faster, cheaper way of getting access to their own health information, allowing them to transform their own behavior or to get treatment for serious health conditions earlier, giving them more time to get help.
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"I believe the individual is the answer to the challenges of healthcare but we can't engage the individual in changing outcomes unless the individual has access to the information they need to do so,"
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Theranos has partnered with Walgreens, so that anyone who needs (or just wants) a blood test can walk into a drug store — and not just during working hours. After submitting to a painless fingerprick, Theranos can run over 70 tests on a tiny sample of blood, checking for anything from blood sugar abnormalities to sexually transmitted infections, all for 50-90% cheaper than Medicare reimbursement rates.

You can watch her TEDMED talk at the link.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:03 AM | Permalink

November 13, 2014

Health Roundup: MRSA breakthrough, Vit D and asthma, curing leukemia with HIV, reversing Type I diabetes and more

Scientists develop antibiotic-free drug for MRSA  Scientists have developed the first effective alternative to antibiotics in what is being described as a major development in the battle against superbugs.  A patient trial showed the drug was effective at eradicating the MRSA superbug. Scientists say it is unlikely the infection could develop resistance against the new treatment which is already available as a cream for skin infections.

The new treatment attacks infections in an entirely different way from conventional drugs and exclusively targets the Staphylococcus bacteria responsible for MRSA and leaves other microbes unaffected.  The treatment relies on naturally occurring viruses that attack bacteria using enzymes called endolysins. It uses a “designer” endolysin, Staphefekt, which the scientists engineered to latch on to the surface of bacteria cells and destroy them.

Conventional antibiotics target the inside of the cell to work, and part of the reason they are becoming less effective is that certain strains of bacteria, such as MRSA, have evolved impenetrable membranes. However, endolysins target basic building blocks on the outside of bacterial cells that are unlikely to change as infections genetically mutate over time.

Vitamin D Deficiency Aggravates Asthma  For the study, Dr. Confino-Cohen and her team of researchers measured the vitamin D levels of 307,900 patients between 2008 and 2012, taking into account key predictors of asthma, such as smoking and obesity. Of the roughly 21,000 patients with physician-diagnosed asthma, those with a vitamin D deficiency were 25% more likely than other asthmatics to have experienced at least 1 acute attack in the recent past and were at a higher risk for an asthma attack. -

Have researchers found a way to REVERSE type 1 diabetes? Common heart drug found to work in mice and set for human trial  A common blood pressure drug could be the key to reversing diabetes, researchers have said. Called verapamil, it is widely diagnosed to treat blood pressure, irregular heartbeat and migraines. Researchers were stunned to find that in mice, it completely reversed the effects of the disease.

The University of Alabama at Birmingham has now been given a three-year, $2.1 million grant to begin human trials of the drug.  ...Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in children and young adults, and was previously known as juvenile diabetes.  Only 5% of people with diabetes have this form of the disease, when the body does not produce insulin.

5 ways to reduce the risk of breast cancer  New research has shown that 15 minutes of exercise every day could cut the risk of developing breast cancer.

Doctors cure father, 30, of leukemia by injecting him with HIV in experimental trial  Marshall Jensen was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in 2012 and has spent the last two years searching for an effective treatment
He found a solution at Penn Medicine, where he was accepted into a trial to receive an experimental new gene therapy
The treatment involved implanting white blood cells with deactivated HIV and injecting them back in the body to fight off cancer . Of the 30 patients involved in the trial, 23 are still alive and 19 are in remission - like Jensen

The drug that could give elderly people the immune system of a 20-year-old and dramatically reduce deaths from flu
Once injected with the new chemical, the elderly and vulnerable will have a much for effective immune system, British scientists say.  The compound, called spermidine, has been shown to have a significant impact in tests on mice - and scientists have already patented it as a potential treatment for humans….The research, published yesterday in the journal eLife, showed that the compound restores the immune system’s inbuilt ‘memory’ enabling it to mount a more powerful protective response following vaccination.
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Scientists think vaccines lose effectiveness in older people because as we age, our immune system loses its ‘memory’.
It becomes less effective at recognizing infections, including those we have had in the past and those we have been vaccinated against….A key factor is that the white blood cells that coordinate the response to an infection – called T cells – lose the ability to form a ‘memory’ of the infection….By targeting this process with spermidine, the scientists managed to restore immune memory, boosting the effectiveness of a vaccine….Spermidine works by enhancing a normal cellular process called autophagy, where parts of the cell that have become defective or damaged are broken down and destroyed within cells.
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Daniel Puleston, who co-authored the research, said of the drug: ‘It’s the equivalent of a 90 year old responding to a vaccine better than a 20 year old'"….. However, we expect it to be at least five to ten years before a drug reaches the clinic.’

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:35 PM | Permalink

November 11, 2014

What we are learning about marijuana

Smoking cannabis every day 'warps your brain and shrinks grey matter', scientists warn

Smoking cannabis every day warps key structures of the brain, a scientific study suggests.  Regular use of the drug seems to shrink the brain’s ‘grey matter’ - the cells that crunch information - according to head scans of heavy drug users.

The wiring of the brain – the ‘white matter’ that connects different parts - grows to compensate for the loss of the vital cells, scientists found.  But eventually that also breaks down, impairing a drug users’ ability to use and react to information.

The brain scan study is one of the first to investigate the drug’s long-term neurological impact in living people.  The findings add to a growing weight of evidence that suggests cannabis is more harmful than legalization campaigners would have us believe.

It comes after a review of 20 years of cannabis research, published last month by a professor at King’s College London, revealed that one in six teenagers who use cannabis become dependent on the drug, as do one in 10 adults.

Examining brain scans, the scientists found that chronic marijuana users - who smoked an average of three times a day - had smaller average volumes of grey matter in the orbitofrontal cortex, the part of the brain involved in mental processing and decision making.

The cannabis users were also seen to have more ‘white matter’ - the connections between cells which affect how the brain learns and functions.  The researchers suspect that those extra connections are forged as the brain tries to compensate for the lack of crucial grey matter.  But even those extra connections were seen to break up within six to eight years under prolonged cannabis abuse, they found.

The team studied MRI scans of the brains of 48 adult cannabis users aged 20 to 36 who were compared with a group of 62 non-users.  That review also suggested that cannabis use in teenagers doubles the risk of developing psychotic disorders including schizophrenia.

The authors of the new study, from the universities of Texas and New Mexico, warn that people who take the drug in heavy quantities for prolonged periods are likely to suffer damaging effects.

The orbitofrontal cortex region of the brain, where the biggest differences in cannabis users’ brains was seen, is strongly linked to empathy - the ability to sense other people’s feelings.  Neuroscientists believe damage to the orbitofrontal cortex may underpin many cases of personality disorder and psychopathy.

The researchers found that the effect differed markedly depending on the age they started smoking and the number of years they continued to abuse the drug.
The earlier someone started smoking cannabis, the greater the structural change to the brain and the larger the growth in white matter connections.

But after six to eight years of continually taking cannabis the increases in structural wiring declined, they found.
The scientists said that because their study represented a simple snapshot of users’ brains, and did not monitor them over time, they could not be certain that the damage was directly caused by the drug.
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A definitive 20-year study into the effects of long-term cannabis use has demolished the argument that the drug is safe.  Cannabis is highly addictive, causes mental health problems and opens the door to hard drugs, the study found.

The paper by Professor Wayne Hall, a drugs advisor to the World Health Organization, builds a compelling case against those who deny the devastation cannabis wreaks on the brain.

Professor Hall found:
• One in six teenagers who regularly smoke the drug become dependent on it
Cannabis doubles the risk of developing psychotic disorders, including schizophrenia
• Cannabis users do worse at school. Heavy use in adolescence appears to impair intellectual development
• One in ten adults who regularly smoke the drug become dependent on it and those who use it are more likely to go on to use harder drugs
• Driving after smoking cannabis doubles the risk of a car crash, a risk which increases substantially if the driver has also had a drink
• Smoking it while pregnant reduces the baby's birth weight
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:38 AM | Permalink

November 10, 2014

The "Stupid" Virus explains a lot

Virus that 'makes humans more stupid' discovered

A virus that infects human brains and makes us more stupid has been discovered, according to scientists in the US.  The algae virus, never before observed in healthy people, was found to affect cognitive functions including visual processing and spatial awareness.

Scientists at Johns Hopkins Medical School and the University of Nebraska stumbled upon the discovery when they were undertaking an unrelated study into throat microbes.

Found: The viral infection that makes nearly HALF of us more stupid (and it lasts for YEARS)

Nearly half of us could be infected with a virus which makes us more stupid, scientists have found.  The startling discovery suggests that millions may be carrying a long-lasting infection which dulls the brain.  Scientists found the virus living in the throats of 44 per cent of patients tested in a small US study.

Those who were carrying the infection performed worse in intelligence tests, even when education and age were taken into account.  The virus - called chlorovirus ATCV-1 - was previously only known to appear in green algae in freshwater lakes.
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The research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that the ATCV-1 virus alters the genes in the brain.

The team found the virus in throat swabs from 40 out of 92 volunteers, and discovered those with the virus performed measurably worse in cognitive testing.  They then confirmed their findings in tests on mice. Giving the virus to mice resulted in a decrease in recognition memory and other brain functions, they found.

Tests showed the virus had broken through the barrier between blood and tissue, altering the activity of genes in the brains of the mice.  The genes affected including those producing dopamine - a vital hormone which influences memory, spatial awareness, emotion and pleasure.

Instead it could be that humans have long carried the virus, but it had not previously been looked for by doctors. Study author Professor Robert Yolken, of Johns Hopkins medical school, said the millions of viruses living in the human body are being investigated by experts for the first time.
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Professor James Van Etten, a biologist from the University of Nebraska who first identified the virus in algae 30 years ago, said: ‘There’s more and more studies showing that microorganisms in your body have a bigger influence than anything anyone would have predicted, and this could be something along those lines.’
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:16 PM | Permalink

No medicine approved for potentially fatal Chagas, the "kissing bug disease" affecting 300,000 Americans

'Kissing bug' disease (Chagas) infects OVER 300,000 people in the US…most of whom don't know they have the parasite referred to as 'the new AIDS'

Over 300,000 Americans have already been infected with the potentially fatal 'kissing bug disease' called Chagas but U.S. healthcare workers lack of knowledge about the illness is letting many cases of the parasite unnoticed. Some doctors are calling it the 'new AIDS' because of the way it develops.

Researchers who gathered on Tuesday at the annual American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene meeting in New Orleans said that if caught early the disease can be cured however sometimes the disease can be asymptomatic and there is a dearth in medication for the condition.

The CDC reports that the initial symptoms of the disease caused by a parasite, Trypanosoma cruzi, which is spread through the feces of kissing bugs includes fever, fatigue, body aches, rash, diarrhea and vomiting. One of the first visual signs can be a skin lesion or a purplish swelling of the lid of one eye.

 Swelling Eyelid Chagas

The disease can develop in the body causing eventual heart failure and other deadly complications that by the time they are realized cannot be helped with medicine. Chagas is being called the new AIDS because of its asymptomatic beginnings that can turn to a fatal end if the disease progresses.

'We were astonished to not only find such a high rate of individuals testing positive for Chagas in their blood, but also high rates of heart disease that appear to be Chagas-related,' said Nolan Garcia, an epidemiologist at the Baylor College of Medicine.

The CDC has said that they believe most of the people infected with Chagas got the parasite in Mexico or South America before coming to the U.S.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:41 AM | Permalink

November 5, 2014

"Today is epic. I got my life back. I can hear nearly normally for the first time in decades" "

If you know of anyone with profound hearing loss, this is a must-read piece.

Anthony Watts at Watts Up With That in a very personal and moving note writes How I got my life back – my hearing has been restored to near-normal

[H]earing loss is a terrible social isolation. People that are blind actually do better socially than people with severe hearing loss.  And many people who have severe hearing loss such as myself get symptoms that further exacerbates the social isolation. Much of my life over the past 40 years has been a great deal of social isolation. But it has gotten worse lately as my hearing deteriorated further in 2008 and it was about that time that I discovered that blogging opened a whole new world for me and allowed me to form friendships with people around the world something I’ve never experienced before. Even though I was no longer on television, blogging became my social outlet while my hearing suffered further.
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I credit my wife for giving me the “giant kick in the ass” that led to the transformation that I experienced a week ago in Minneapolis Minnesota at a company called Starkey laboratories and their hearing foundation which serves people worldwide. Without her, I would have given up on myself.

He credits the Center of Excellence at the Starkey Laboratories "where miracles are performed every day by a staff of caring and talented people that exist nowhere else in the world."

The walls are lined with photographs, autographs, and letters from heads of state, celebrities, astronauts, the Pope, and even a letter from Mother Teresa thanking the man that formed this company and the miracle that it produces for restoring their hearing. That  man’s name is Bill Austin….There are also dozens of photographs, no make that hundreds, of children around the world that have been helped by this man and the foundation he has started to spread goodness and the American initiative throughout the world.

Bill wasn’t in that day, he was off in Afghanistan fitting children who had their hearing damaged by the ravages of war with new hearing aids to help them in their own social isolations.

In very short order and with customization right on the spot, his hearing approached the normal level.  He was able to converse with a bartender, listen to a waiter explain the specials, carry on a conversation on an airplane and on his cellphone.   

So he posted on Facebook, "Today is epic.  I got my life back.  I can hear nearly normally for the first time in decades"

And to my amazement dozens and then hundreds of accolades and comment started pouring in while I was sitting there at the bar. I began to cry and tears were streaming down my face. I was so happy and I couldn’t stop it because the weight and pain of the last 40 years were suddenly lifted from me. It truly was epic.

There were two people sitting at the end corner of the bar who looked at me and asked with concern, “Sir, are you okay?”  I proceeded to tell them what happened and I had a glorious conversation with two people who I had never met and I understood every word. They were thrilled for me.

And so am I.    And my hat goes off to Bill Austin, the man that made the company that "spread goodness and the American initiative throughout the world."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:11 PM | Permalink

October 29, 2014

Flu Shots Not Effective for the Elderly

Govt. Researchers: Flu Shots Not Effective in Elderly, After All  Sharyl Attkinson

An important and definitive “mainstream” government study done nearly a decade ago got little attention because the science came down on the wrong side. It found that after decades and billions of dollars spent promoting flu shots for the elderly, the mass vaccination program did not result in saving lives. In fact, the death rate among the elderly increased substantially.

So the NIH launched an effort to do “the” definitive study that would actually prove, for the first time, once and for all, that flu shots were beneficial to the elderly. The government would gather some of the brightest scientific minds for the research, and adjust for all kinds of factors that could be masking that presumed benefit.

But when they finished, no matter how they crunched the numbers, the data kept telling the same story: flu shots were of no benefit to the elderly. Quite the opposite. The death rate had increased markedly since widespread flu vaccination among older Americans. The scientists finally had to acknowledge that decades of public health thought had been mistaken.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:13 PM | Permalink

A glass of win, a cup of cocoa will help your memory

Daily glass of wine aids memory (if you're over 60)

Older people who consume between one and six alcoholic drinks a week have a 'significantly' better ability to recall memories    Moderate alcohol consumption - up to two alcohol beverages a day – amongst the over 60s was found to preserve the region of the brain responsible for memory and cognition.

Cocoa could be the secret to good memory in old age

Scientists find that elderly people who had consumed higher volumes of cocoa bean flavanols performed better in a cognitive task
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Researchers at Columbia University Medical Centre in the United States, who conducted the new study, said it provided the first direct evidence that one component of age-related memory decline in humans is caused by changes in a specific region of the brain and that this form of memory decline can be improved by a dietary intervention.

Scott A. Small, one of the paper’s authors, said: "If a participant had the memory of a typical 60-year-old at the beginning of the study, after three months that person on average had the memory of a typical 30 or 40-year-old."

The findings still needed to be replicated in a larger study, he added. Dementia charities offered a cautious welcome to the results, which were published in Nature Neuroscience, but agreed more research was needed.

Scientists discover blood test that may predict Alzheimer's 20 YEARS before the disease starts

A blood test being developed by a group of Australian scientists could predict Alzheimer's disease two decades before patients show signs of the illness.  University of Melbourne researchers, who discovered the test, previously helped identify changes in the brain happened 20 years before people started presenting symptoms of the disease, which can be detected by performing brain-imaging procedures.

The blood test would have a 91 per cent rate of accuracy in predicting Alzheimer's and could be available within five years as further testing is yet to be carried out.

Initial research carried out on a trial group resulted in one of five participants positive for the disease despite having no memory loss.  Further tests carried out using brain-imaging procedures showed these patients had signs of degeneration associated with Alzheimer's.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:32 AM | Permalink

October 24, 2014

Bringing House Calls Back with UberHEALTH

From AEI ideas, a recurring feature called Markets in Everything

Now there’s an Uber for flu shots. Today the ride-sharing service announced a one-day UberHEALTH pilot program in partnership with Harvard Medical School to deliver free flu shots on-demand. From 10 a.m.- 3 p.m. today Uber drivers delivered a registered nurse to customers anywhere within the three test cities of New York, Boston, and Washington.

This is one more reason Big Taxi is doomed — Uber is running circles around them with cutting-edge innovation and the constant introduction of new services – services that Big Taxi, which has been around for more than half a century, would never in a million years think of offering!
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:06 AM | Permalink

October 23, 2014

Health Roundup: Paralysis and stem cells, pill for alcoholics, Parkinson's drugs side effects, Ketamine for depression or eat 8 a day

Paralyzed man walks again after cell transplant

The pioneering therapy that involved transplanting cells from his nasal cavity into his spinal cord. The treatment, a world first, was carried out by surgeons in Poland in collaboration with scientists in London.

Darek Fidyka, 40, from Poland, was paralyzed after being stabbed repeatedly in the back in the 2010 attack. He said walking again - with the support of a frame - was "an incredible feeling", adding: "When you can't feel almost half your body, you are helpless, but when it starts coming back it's like you were born again."

Prof Geoff Raisman, chair of neural regeneration at University College London's Institute of Neurology, led the UK research team.  He said what had been achieved was "more impressive than man walking on the moon".

A Pill Could Help Alcoholics, and Let Them Drink in Moderation

The key, says Wim van den Brink,a spirited Dutch psychiatrist  who co-founded the Amsterdam Institute for Addiction Research, is a pill to curb drinking. The drug, nalmefene, acts as an alcohol antagonist; it binds to opiate receptors in the brain and reduces the rush of pleasure associated with alcohol. (It has also been tested, with less success, to treat compulsive gambling.) In one double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, sponsored by Lundbeck A/S, a Danish pharmaceutical company that manufacturers nalmafene, van den Brink and his colleagues studied 604 people who took the drug.

Over six months, they found that those taking the drug reduced the number of heavy drinking days from 19 to eight per month, and effectively cut overall drinking by two-thirds. Van den Brink admits there was also a profound reduction in consumption in the placebo group, which nearly halved daily drinking—but the effects were amplified with the nalmefene tablet, to the equivalent of drinking a large glass of wine instead of an entire bottle. ….The drug, sold as Selincro, is available in Europe. In August, a clinical trial began enrolling patients for a U.S. study.
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Nalmefene (Selincro) is the first drug approved anywhere for the reduction of alcohol consumption. It’s also taken “as needed,” so it puts the patient in control.

Pay close attention if someone you know and love is taking drugs for Parkinson's.  Drugs for Parkinson's disease can turn patients into gamblers, sex addicts and compulsive shoppers

Parkinson’s is a degenerative condition that occurs when nerve cells in the brain die, causing a lack of the chemical dopamine.  This, in turn, interferes with movement and co-ordination.

The disease is incurable - the aim of treatment is to alleviate the symptoms. There are two types of medication: ‘levodopa’ drugs, used since the Sixties, and ‘dopamine agonists’, introduced 12 years ago.
Both attempt to replace the missing dopamine, but the levodopa group restores it artificially, while dopamine agonists mimic its role by stimulating nerve cells.
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The Parkinson’s Disease Foundation says in one earlier study, dopamine agonists were linked with compulsive behaviours in up to 14 percent of patients….Dopamine agonist drugs were 277 times more likely to result in a report of specific impulse control symptoms than other drugs

Eat your greens to fight the blues: Scientists say eating large amounts of fruit and vegetables can make you happy

A study by The University of Queensland found that eight or more portions of fruit and vegetables drastically improves mental wellbeing. Dr Redzo Mujcic collected data from 12,000 Australians.
It found that eight fruits and vegetables each a day is ideal. Less than 10 per cent of Australians are eating this amount. The study found that fruit has a larger impact on mental health than vegetables and women experience the benefit more than men.

Ketamine Restores Ability to Experience Pleasure in Depressed Patients Within Minutes

There are many faces to depression: sadness, hopelessness, trouble sleeping, lack of motivation, an inability to experience pleasure. That last one has a medical name—anhedonia—and people experiencing it often no longer enjoy activities that used to bring happiness. Anhedonia is not found just in depression; it can be an important part of other disorders, including schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder and addiction.

In a study published this month in Translational Psychiatry, researchers have found that a drug called ketamine can help quickly reverse anhedonia in patients with treatment-resistant bipolar depression (also known as manic-depression or bipolar disorder).
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Ketamine has previously been shown to help rapidly reverse other aspects of depression in a number of studies; doctors use the drug to treat patients at several hospitals around the country, although it remains illegal to possess without a prescription and hasn’t yet been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for psychiatric purposes. On the party drug circuit it’s sometimes called “Special K” and is abused for its anaesthetic and hallucinogenic effects.

The researchers found that a single injection of ketamine led to a significant improvement in normal pleasure-seeking behavior in as little as 40 minutes, and this dramatic improvement lasted as long as two weeks for some of the 36 participants.

The Internet of Things Can Lower Cost of Eldercare The Silver Economy in the Financial Times:

Lively, a US-based company, sticks sensors on everything from medications to food and drink to learn an older person’s routine, sending alerts at any abnormalities to an app on the carer or child’s phone.
As the cost of care rises, Lively is being used by some care companies as a “last mile solution”, charging $40-$45 a week to wrap services and monitoring around the system, on top of the $25 a month Lively costs, he said.

“It is about a tenth of the price of full home care, “ Mr Fanlo said. “Care providers can look after many many more families than they did before by using technology. It is a smart and intelligent way to use human resources.”

And it mentions Jibo, the first family robot developed at MIT and now being crowdfunded as a device to care for the elderly.

 Jibo Black White- Video of the cute robot

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:13 PM | Permalink

October 16, 2014

Health Roundup: Poop pills, cancer blood test, fruit juice, 5 a day, broccoli, ibuprofen

Fecal transplants made easier with A Promising Pill, Not So Hard to Swallow developed at MGH.  Already called the 'poop pill'.

Their study was small and preliminary, but results were striking: 19 of 20 patients with C. difficile infections were cured of diarrhea and related symptoms. Most saw improvements after one two-day round of pills, the rest after two or three rounds, said Dr. Ilan Youngster, the lead investigator….
The patients, 11 to 89 years old, had each experienced at least two episodes of C. difficile that antibiotics had failed to control. After one round of dosing (two days, 15 capsules per day), diarrhea cleared up in 14 patients. Five others, sicker than the rest beforehand, responded after a second two-day dosing about a week later.

New startup Miroculus could make regular cancer screenings as simple as a getting blood drawn

The Miroculus technology is based on microRNA, a class of small molecules that can act as a type of biological warning sign, appearing and disappearing based on what is happening in our bodies at that moment. As a result, they’ve become effective indicators of diseases—including cancer—ever since they were first discovered in 1993. They can reveal not just whether a person may have cancer, but what specific type of cancer that person might have.

A daily glass of fruit juice leads to people having significantly higher central blood pressure - which can increase the risk of problems such as a heart attack or angina as Australian scientists have discovered….

Study author, Dr Matthew Pase said their findings were important because 'there is a common perception that fruit juice is healthy. Although juices may have essential vitamins, they commonly contain high amounts of sugar with negligible fibre.  …..An 8 oz glass of fruit juice contains 7 tsp of sugar.  The WHO recommends people have no more that 6 tsp a day.

On the other hand, eating five servings of fruit and vegetables will not only enhance your mental well-being, it will enhance your creative brain power. Fruit, the thinking man's food.

Could symptoms of autism be improved by eating broccoli? Chemical which gives veg its bitter taste 'helps autistic teens become calmer and more sociable'

The chemical - suforaphane- that gives broccoli its distinctive bitter taste made teenagers and young men with autism calmer and more sociable, a study found.

‘Remarkable’ improvements were seen in as little as four weeks and by the end of the study, some of those given a capsule a day felt able to look the researchers in the eye and shake their hand. The finding suggests it may be possible to create a pill that gets to the root of autism for the first time.

Existing drugs simply control symptoms such as aggression, hyperactivity or sleep problems, but do not address the underlying cause of the condition.  Researcher Dr Paul Talalay, a professor of pharmacology in the US who has spent the last 25 years researching nature’s medicine cabinet, said:It was a small study but the effects were very, very large.
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We believe that this may be preliminary evidence for the first treatment for autism that improves symptoms by apparently correcting some underlying cellular mechanisms.’British experts described the research as ‘intriguing’ but said it is simply too early to say if broccoli is beneficial in autism.

The research, from the respected MassGen Hospital for Children and Johns Hopkins University, both in Boston, comes amid concern about rising rates of autism.

Ibuprofen can make your lungs look younger and could help fight Tuberculosis

Research has already established that the inevitable inflammation that comes with aging is linked to such conditions as Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.  Researchers found lungs become more inflammatory with age and that Ibuprofen can lower that inflammation.Old mice on ibuprofen were able to fight the disease like young mice
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:50 AM | Permalink

October 15, 2014

The Unpreparedness of the CDC and NIH and Ebola Czar

16 Members of Doctors Without Borders Infected with Ebola, Nine Dead

Where is WHO Africa? Where is the African Union?" said Ekambaram who worked in Sierra Leone from August to September. "We've all heard their promises in the media but have seen very little on the ground."

Ebola cases could hit 10,000 a week by December, WHO states, fatality rate now estimated at 70 per cent

Ebola Preparation ‘Will bankrupt my hospital!’ Director Reacts to CDC Prep Call

“Treating one Ebola patient requires, full time, 20 medical staff. Mostly ICU (intensive care unit) people. So that would wipe out an ICU in an average-sized hospital….doctors and nurses are not ready for the challenge of using this personal protective equipment even if you see them with the helmet, the respirator, the full suits, as the CDC said on the call today, even all that equipment is not enough to guarantee the safety of health care workers because it is so perilous to put it on and particularly to remove it once it’s become contaminated.”

Embattled Centers for Disease Control (CDC) director, Dr. Tom Frieden, laid out a new game plan to counter further contamination of health care workers dealing with Ebola patients – including sending rapid response teams to any hospital where a new case is confirmed.  >

Where is Dr. Nicole Lure, Obama's Ebola Czar?   

the federal government not ten years ago created and funded a brand new office in the Health and Human Services Department specifically to coordinate preparation for and response to public health threats like Ebola. The woman who heads that office, and reports directly to the HHS secretary, has been mysteriously invisible from the public handling of this threat. And she’s still on the job even though three years ago she was embroiled in a huge scandal of funneling a major stream of funding to a company with ties to a Democratic donor—and away from a company that was developing a treatment now being used on Ebola patients.

In Wired, What Would Keep Ebola from Spreading in the US? Investing in Simple Research Years Ago Instead.The CDC's emergency preparedness budget has fallen by half since 2006 from $1091 million in 2007 to $585 million in 2013. None of the money spent for pandemic preparedness involved investing in health systems at the front line of epidemics: hospitals.

Dr Francis Collins, head of the National Institutes of Health  decried the budget 'cuts' over the past 10 years ' which he said  prevented the development of an Ebola vaccine.  But that's not true.

According to data compiled by the Cato Institute from the non-partisan Office of Management and Budget, the NIH’s inflation-adjusted outlays skyrocketed between 1996 and 2005, more than doubling from $14.8 to $32.4 billion while the CDC's budget " catapulting from $3.1 billion in 1996 to $5.8 billion in 2003. From there the budget kept rising, soaring to $7.5 billion in 2010 before gently declining to $6.8 billion in 2014."

So what did they spend all this money on?

Well, first a fancy new headquarters and fitness center for their employees at a cost of $110 million, including $10 million for new furniture (about $12,000 per employee).
$517.3 million on "community transformation" -better sidewalks, more bike lanes and farmers' markets.
* $1.7 million on a Hollywood liaison to make sure medical portrayals in TV shows were accurate
$386,000 to study the appropriate length of massage sessions for rabbits,
$2.4 million for a new origami condom design whose inventor is now being investigated for fraud
$592,000 to determine that chimpanzees with the best poop-flinging skills are also the best communicators, and another $117,000 to learn that most chimps are right-handed
$257,000 went to create a companion website for first lady Michelle Obama's White House garden
$939,000 to find out that male fruit flies prefer to romance younger females because the girl-flies' hormone levels drop over time.
• Part of a $666,000 NIH grant supported a University of Buffalo researcher who determined that watching sitcom reruns like 'Seinfeld' or re-watching old movies helps older people feel re-connected with pseudo-friends from their past.
$181,000 went to University of Kentucky researchers who studied how cocaine use 'enhanced' the sex drive of the Japanese quail
$548,000 to a University of Missouri team to find out if 30-something partiers feel immature after they binge drink while people in their mid-20s don't.
$832,000 went to learn if it was possible to get uncircumcised South African tribesmen into the habit of washing their genitals after having sex.
$1.1 million funded research into how athletes perceive their in-game surroundings,
•  $484,000 for a study to determine if hypnosis can reduce hot flashes in postmenopausal women
• a $702,558 grant for the study of the impact of televisions and gas generators on villages in Vietnam.
• $55,382 to study hookah smoking in Jordan.
$509,840  to pay for a study that will send text messages in “gay lingo” to meth-heads.
•  NIH has spent about $3 million to date to study why lesbians are fatter than straight women or gay men
* $385,005 to survey what bus riders thought of HIV videos

Apparently, there is a $12.5 billion slush fund created by the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that is used to fight the privatization of liquor stores.  Surely, that could be used to better effect.

Ebola and the great forgetting: the best of times, the worst of times

WHO director Margaret Chan said yesterday that the current ebola epidemic is “the most severe, acute health emergency seen in modern times.”….But if Chan actually considers “modern times” to include the WWI era, and is ignorant of the scope and course of the great flu pandemic towards the end of that war, it would be exceptionally troubling, since she is speaking in her role as director of one of the most influential worldwide institutions tasked with dealing with epidemics.
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Dr. Alfred Crosby, author, America’s Forgotten Pandemic: The epidemic killed, at a very, very conservative estimate, 550,000 Americans in 10 months, that’s more Americans than died in combat in all the wars of this century, and the epidemic killed at least 30 million in the world and infected the majority of the human species.

Was Ebola Behind the Black Death?

Controversial new research suggests that contrary to the history books, the "Black Death" that devastated medieval Europe was not the bubonic plague, but rather an Ebola-like virus.

History books have long taught the Black Death, which wiped out a quarter of Europe's population in the Middle Ages, was caused by bubonic plague, spread by infected fleas that lived on black rats. But new research in England suggests the killer was actually an Ebola-like virus transmitted directly from person to person.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:08 AM | Permalink

October 9, 2014

Health Roundup: Breakthroughs in Type 1 diabetes, arthritis, brain scans for early warning of Alzheimer's and peanuts

Cure for Type 1 diabetes imminent after Harvard stem-cell breakthrough

A cure for diabetes could be imminent after scientists discovered how to make huge quantities of insulin-producing cells, in a breakthrough hailed as significant as antibiotics.  Harvard University has, for the first time, managed to manufacture the millions of beta cells required for transplantation.

It could mean the end of daily insulin injections for the 400,000 people in Britain living with Type 1 diabetes.
And it marks the culmination of 23-years of research for Harvard professor Doug Melton who has been trying to find a cure for the disease since his son Sam was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes as a baby.

Arthritis breakthrough could end agony for millions of sufferers

They have developed a pioneering simple new technique to generate cells which can go on to re-grow damaged cartilage and even bone. The process offers major hope for people suffering in daily pain from the degenerative joint condition. It paves the way for a quick treatment - possible as a single injection of the stem cells - directly into the effected joint to end the agony.
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Researchers from the University of Texas Health Science Centre in the US, have used a combination of small molecules to generate mouse cells that can form bone and cartilage.  They say the new method could allow them to re-grow broken bones and mend cartilage damage to back discs and joints. …. It would revolutionize treatment for the condition because it would not have the side effects of many of the current drug-based treatments for the condition.
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The research team, led by Dr Naoki Nakayama, created special stem cells known as pluripotent stem cells from mouse embryos. This type of stem cell has the ability to become any cell type in the body. The team then used small molecules to persuade them to turn into cells that can form cartilage, called chondrocytes.

Scan to give warning of Alzheimer's: Five minute test will spot differences in the brain that allow a patient to take preventative measures

A five-minute brain scan could give healthy people early warning of dementia, scientists believe. They found that by measuring blood flow in the brain, it is possible to distinguish healthy people whose memory will decline from those who stay mentally sharp.In other words, tell-tale signs are present in the brain long before the memory fades.

Those given warning of the disease could take preventative measures such as changing their diet and taking more exercise.
Quicker detection would allow earlier treatment and, with the help of new drugs, some who test positive might never develop the disease.

Memory loss is reversed in Alzheimer's patients for the first time, scientists claim

A small study of 10 patients found nine showed improvements in their memories within three to six months of treatment.
The findings, from the University of California, Los Angeles, are the first to suggest that memory loss in patients can be reversed.
Six patients taking part had stopped working, or been struggling with their jobs at the time they joined the study. All have since been able to return to their jobs or continue working, with improved performance.

The patients all suffered memory loss associated with Alzheimer's disease. One, who had been diagnosed with late stage Alzheimer's did not improve.  The treatment involved a complex, 36-point therapeutic programme, combining comprehensive diet changes, brain stimulation, exercise, sleep optimisation, specific drugs and vitamins, and other steps affecting brain chemistry.

Dr Bredesen said the findings are 'very encouraging', but added the results are anecdotal, and a more extensive, controlled clinical trial is needed. No single drug has been found to stop or even slow the progression of Alzheimer's, and drugs have only had modest effects of symptoms.

Could UV light eradicate peanut allergies?  Pulses eliminate 80% of allergens without ruining flavor or texture?

A University of Florida scientist has used pulses of UV light to remove 80 per cent of allergens from peanuts.  Dr Yang says it could one day be used to remove 99 per cent of allergens.  In the research he used concentrated bursts of light to modify the peanut allergenic proteins. By doing this human antibodies can't recognize them as allergens.  And the method does not ruin the flavor or texture of the peanuts

Using Google, a 47-year-old woman came up with the proper diagnosis that her doctors over 7 years couldn't

Sallie Powell was so bloated she looked nine months pregnant and the excruciating pains in her joints and overwhelming tiredness had forced her to give up work as a wedding photographer.  Despite seeing several doctors - and even undergoing major surgery - her crippling symptoms continued.

In desperation, she turned to the internet - and just moments later found the answer that would change her life. The search results indicated she was suffering from a condition called hyperparathyroidism. Here, tiny parathyroid glands in the neck which control calcium levels malfunction, causing an excess of calcium in the blood. This, in turn, was causing her symptoms such as memory loss, depression, extreme tiredness and bloating.
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Shocked, Ms Powell printed off her findings and took them to her GP - only to be proved right…..Ms Powell was told she would require surgery to remove the affected parathyroid gland…..'I went into surgery feeling 95, but after the operation I  woke up feeling 35.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:46 PM | Permalink

October 7, 2014

"Total pandemonium" in upstate New York nursing home, "The lights turned back on in people' eyes"

A wonderful article by Atul Gawande.  Can life in a nursing home be made uplifting and purposeful?

One young doctor in upstate New York thought so and he came up with a highly eccentric way of demonstrating it. In this extract from his book Being Mortal, Atul Gawande tells the story of Bill Thomas and his miraculous menagerie.

In 1991, in the tiny town of New Berlin, in upstate New York, a young physician named Bill Thomas performed an experiment. He didn’t really know what he was doing. He was 31 years old, less than two years out of family residency, and he had just taken a new job as medical director of Chase Memorial Nursing Home, a facility with 80 severely disabled elderly residents. About half of them were physically disabled; four out of five had Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of cognitive disability.

Up until then Thomas had worked as an emergency physician at a nearby hospital, the near opposite of a nursing home. People arrived in the emergency room with discrete, reparable problems – a broken leg, say, or a cranberry up the nose. If a patient had larger, underlying issues – if, for instance, the broken leg had been caused by dementia – his job was to ignore the issues or send the person somewhere else to deal with them, such as a nursing home. He took this new medical director job as a chance to do something different.

The staff at Chase saw nothing especially problematic about the place, but Thomas with his newcomer’s eyes saw despair in every room. The nursing home depressed him. He wanted to fix it. …

He didn’t give up, though. He came to think the missing ingredient in this nursing home was life itself, and he decided to try an experiment to inject some. The idea he came up with was as mad and naive as it was brilliant. That he got the residents and nursing home staff to go along with it was a minor miracle.

He brought in a dog, four cats, live plants and a bird in every room, children in the afternoon, and a big garden in back.

It was ‘total pandemonium,’ Thomas said. The memory of it still puts a grin on his face. He is that sort of person. He, his wife, Jude, the nursing director, Greising, and a handful of others spent hours assembling the cages, chasing the parakeets through a cloud of feathers around the salon and delivering birds to every resident’s room. The elders gathered outside the salon windows to watch.
‘They laughed their butts off,’ Thomas said. He marvels now at the team’s incompetence.

‘We didn’t know what the heck we were doing. Did, Not, Know what we were doing.’ Which was the beauty of it. They were so patently incompetent that almost everyone dropped their guard and simply pitched in – the residents included. Whoever could do it helped line the cages with newspaper, got the dogs and the cats settled, got the children to help out. It was a kind of glorious chaos – or, in the diplomatic words of Greising, ‘a heightened environment’.
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‘People who we had believed weren’t able to speak started speaking,’ Thomas said. ‘People who had been completely withdrawn and nonambulatory started coming to the nurses’ station and saying, “I’ll take the dog for a walk.” ’ All the parakeets were adopted and named by the residents. The lights turned back on in people’s eyes. In a book he wrote about the experience, Thomas quoted from journals that the staff kept, and they described how irreplaceable the animals had become in the daily lives of residents, even ones with advanced dementia.
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The most important finding of Thomas’s experiment wasn’t that having a reason to live could reduce death rates for the disabled elderly. The most important finding was that it is possible to provide them with reasons to live, period. Even residents with dementia so severe that they had lost the ability to grasp much of what was going on could experience a life with greater meaning and pleasure and satisfaction. It is much harder to measure how much more worth people find in being alive than how many fewer drugs they depend on or how much longer they can live. But could anything matter more?
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:54 PM | Permalink

Health Roundup: Marijuana, Statins, Mental well-being, Multi-tasking, and Happiness at 70

Marijuana, the terrible truth: Expert's devastating 20-year study finally demolishes claims that smoking pot is harmless

Cannabis is highly addictive, causes mental health problems and opens the door to hard drugs, the study found.
The paper by Professor Wayne Hall, a drugs advisor to the World Health Organisation, builds a compelling case against those who deny the devastation cannabis wreaks on the brain. Professor Hall found:

• One in six teenagers who regularly smoke the drug become dependent on it,
• Cannabis doubles the risk of developing psychotic disorders, including schizophrenia,
• Cannabis users do worse at school. Heavy use in adolescence appears to impair intellectual development
• One in ten adults who regularly smoke the drug become dependent on it and those who use it are more likely to go on to use harder drugs,
• Driving after smoking cannabis doubles the risk of a car crash, a risk which increases substantially if the driver has also had a drink,
• Smoking it while pregnant reduces the baby’s birth weight.

Statin users more at risk of piling on the pounds:

People who take statins are more likely to gain weight, researchers say. British scientists have warned that the millions who are given the cholesterol-busting drugs should also be advised to do more exercise in a bid to counter the unwanted side effect.

Eating five portions of fruit and veg a day is also good for the BRAIN and helps prevent depression

Five daily portions of fruit and vegetables won't just help stave off disease - they could also keep the blues away. A new study has found a person's mental wellbeing may be closely linked to how much fresh produce they eat.  Mental wellbeing was was defined as a state in which people feel good and function well, the researchers said.

Optimism, happiness, self-esteem, resilience and good relationships with others are all part of this state, they added.
More than a third of people with good mental wellbeing ate five or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day, compared with only 6.8 per cent who ate less than one portion.  A further 31 per cent of those with high mental wellbeing ate three to four portions and 28 per cent ate one to two portions.

Previous research has shown that eating plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables helps prevent people from developing more than one chronic disease such as high blood pressure, very high cholesterol, diabetes, arthritis, hepatitis, heart disease, asthma, stroke and cancer.

The study - carried out by Warwick University's medical school - used figures from the Health Survey for England. It found the effect on mental wellbeing from eating more fruit and vegetables was found in both men and women. Dr Saverio Stranges, who led the study, said: 'Along with smoking, fruit and vegetable consumption was the health-related behavior most consistently associated with both low and high mental wellbeing.

Multi-tasking makes your brain smaller: Grey matter shrinks if we do too much at once

People who multitask with multiple media devices have less grey matter, that part of the brain that processes information
Older studies found multitasking on media devices led to poor attention and emotional problems such as depression and anxiety

Happiness index: life begins at 70

Forget the idea that school days are the best days of our lives, a happiness study suggests that turning 70 marks the start of a golden decade.  New figures from the Office for National Statistics show that, far from preparing to take life more slowly, people turning 70 are just embarking on a golden decade.  The main indicators used to measure the nation’s “well-being” show that general contentment and having a sense of worth peak when people are in their early 70s.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:33 PM | Permalink

October 6, 2014

What is the origin of the enterovirus that's killing our children?

Polio-like illness claims fifth life in U.S. by Sharyl Atkinson

At least five children infected with the respiratory illness known enterovirus D68 (EV-D68) have died in the U.S. in the past month.
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The CDC reports that in the past month and a half, at least 538 people in 43 states and the District of Columbia have become ill with EV-D68. Most of them are children and some developed limb paralysis. Polio, which can cause paralysis and death, is a type of enterovirus. EV-D68 is one of more than a hundred “non-polio” enteroviruses.

The actual number of EV-D68 infections is likely significantly higher than reported since some state health officials are not testing every suspected case.
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The CDC hasn’t suggested reasons for the current uptick or its origin. Without that answer, some question whether the disease is being spread by the presence of tens of thousands of illegal immigrant children from Central America admitted to the U.S. in the past year.

The origin could be entirely unrelated.

However, a study published in Virology Journal, found EV-D68 among some of the 3,375 young, ill people tested in eight Latin American countries, including the Central American nations of El Salvador and Nicaragua, in 2013.  (See Fig. 3)

Though the U.S. government is keeping secret the locations of the illegal immigrant children, there are significant numbers of them in both cities in which the current outbreak was first identified, Kansas City, Missouri and Chicago, Illinois, according to local advocates and press reports.

Eileen F. Toplansky writes though he has been repeatedly warned by credible sources of the health risks of illegal immigration, Barack Hussein Obama refuses to use the legal power within his authority to "seal the borders to any class of aliens who pose a threat to the United States."

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And still the stream of illegal immigrants not only continues, but is actively pursued by the Department of Justice, which mandates that unaccompanied minors be sent to various U.S. locations to live with relatives or, in some cases, to live as foster wards.  The children would be allowed to enroll in local, taxpayer-funded public schools with no questions asked – by law.  Clearly "[t]he Obama administration is fully aware of the health risks presented by its policy of forcing potentially unvaccinated, diseased immigrants into public schools."

Moreover, school districts have been ordered to "accept illegal immigrant children even if they have no home and no documentation concerning their health or immunization status."  In fact, local schools "cannot exclude from school attendance those homeless children who do not provide the requisite health or immunization information required of other students.”
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Obama's ongoing disregard of federal law on immigration has been the cause of this now emerging potential for a pandemic in this country.  But when this is pointed out, charges of racism completely subvert the conversation.  That protecting all Americans is racist belies logic, since germs do not select black, brown, or white Americans to sicken. 

IBD. A New Border Surge Opens Us To Surge Of Epidemics

The next wave may be worse than the first, however, because monsoon conditions, a harsh drought and the globalization of transport are ensuring that the 50,000 or so unscreened new entrants will be bringing a raft of new diseases with them.

In throwing open our border for political purposes, the U.S. is exposing itself to a host of nasty diseases and epidemics, among them

chikungunya, known as "the virus of pain." Its Tanzanian-origin Bantu name means "to contort," describing the agony it leaves in joints for years.

Some 183,000 cases were detected in the region this year as it spreads from the same mosquitoes that transmit dengue and yellow fever. Central America, according to a report in El Pais, is the epicenter. Puerto Rico has reported 2,000 cases and three deaths.
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there's also a monster dengue fever epidemic raging through Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala right now, with 120,000 cases, 60 deaths and public health emergencies declared in those countries, also a result of the rainy season.
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There's tuberculosis, which has infection rates in Central America roughly 10 times that of the U.S.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:54 PM | Permalink

October 2, 2014

Health roundup: Viagra & blindness, losing sense of smell, bowel cancer breakthrough, new breast cancer drug cocktail, on-off switch for aging cells

A lot of men are going to be unhappy about this. Viagra 'may cause blindness': Ingredient in the drug can permanently affect sight, doctors warn

One theory is that erectile dysfunction drugs may obstruct an enzyme which is important for transmitting light signals from the retina to the brain.  It is already known that sildenafil, the active ingredient in the erectile dysfunction medication, can cause temporary vision problems in some healthy people.

Doctors have now warned it could also cause permanent damage to the eyes of people with retinitis pigmentosa.  People with normal sight that carry the gene for the condition may also be at risk, experts warn.

Retinitis pigmentosa is a rare hereditary condition that causes the cells in the retina - the area of the back of the eye which detects light - to degenerate and die.  This can lead to difficulty seeing in dim light, loss of peripheral vision, and sometimes blindness.
About one in 50 people are likely to be carriers of genes which lead to the degeneration of cells in the retina.
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Previous studies have linked Viagra and other anti-impotence drugs to side effects such as deafness.  American researchers also found that men who used Viagra increased their risk of developing skin cancer.

Your nose knows death is imminent

Losing the sense of smell predicts death within five years, according to new research…. the sense of smell is the canary in the coal mine of human health. A study published today in the open access journal PLOS ONE, shows that losing one’s sense of smell strongly predicts death within five years, suggesting that the nose knows when death is imminent, and that smell may serve as a bellwether for the overall state of the body, or as a marker for exposure to environmental toxins.

The study involved more than 3,000 participants, all of them between 57 and 85 years old, from the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project (NSHAP), a longitudinal study of factors affecting the well-being of older people living in America.

In 2005-6, Jayant Pinto of the University of Chicago and his colleagues asked all the participants to perform a simple test that involved identifying five common odors (rose, leather, fish, orange, and peppermint), using the number of incorrectly identified odours as a score of the severity of smell loss.
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Loss of the sense of smell predicted death more accurately than did a diagnosis of cancer, heart failure or lung disease, the only other common cause of predicting it more accurately being severe liver damage. But the researchers stress that it is unlikely to be a cause of death itself, arguing only that it is a harbinger for what is to come, and suggesting two possible reasons why this might be so.

Scientists make bowel cancer breakthrough that targets 80 PER CENT of tumours… using existing arthritis drugs

Dr Toby Phesse, of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne, said early data showed medication currently used to treat psoriasis, arthritis and minor fibrosis could help in the fight against the country's second deadliest form of cancer.  He said the lab's focus was directed in signaling pathways and finding how to locate the pathways that stop tumors from growing.

'We identified a weak pathway that we found had a certain mutation in 80 per cent of tumous but there was a considerable risk since the pathway requires normal cells of the intestine. If the pathway is targeted directly you could be affecting normal cells of the intestine.We had to come up with a new method and target a parallel pathway.'

This is what brought scientists to the existing medicines, JAK inhibitors. The scientific breakthrough found 'JAK inhibitors' responded to 80 per cent of the colon tumors that possess the certain mutation.The treatment has caused excitement because the drug only targeted cancer cells, leaving normal cells unharmed, leaving no side effects.
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Dr Phesse said this is an exciting breakthrough that will help thousands of people who have colon cancer or face risk of developing tumors.  'The main point is that the inhibitors already exist and have been approved,' he said.

New breast cancer drug cocktail shows 'unprecedented' boost to patient's lifespan

A new breast cancer drug from Roche has shown 'unprecedented' benefits in extending lives in a clinical trial….Experts urged its widespread use for women with an aggressive form of the disease. 
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Patients with a type of breast cancer known as HER2 positive, which makes up about a quarter of all breast cancers, who were given Perjeta on top of older medicine Herceptin and chemotherapy lived 15.7 months longer than those on Herceptin and chemotherapy alone.    That is the longest extension to survival ever seen for a drug studied in metastatic breast cancer and also an unusually good result for any type of metastatic cancer, where disease has spread to other parts of the body.

Scientists discover an on/off switch for aging cells

The switch controls the growth of telomeres, the timekeepers of cells…In a new study published September 19th in the journal Genes and Development, scientists at the Salk Institute have discovered that telomerase, even when present, can be turned off.
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Understanding how this “off” switch can be manipulated–thereby slowing down the telomere shortening process–could lead to treatments for diseases of aging (for example, regenerating vital organs later in life).
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:07 PM | Permalink

September 24, 2014

Health roundup: Sweeteners, depression, wine and junk food

Low-calorie sweeteners found in diet drinks RAISE the risk of obesity and diabetes by affecting how the body processes sugar

The sweeteners under the microscope are saccharin, which is found in Sweet’N Low, sucralose, which is found in Splenda, and aspartame, which is found in many diet drinks.
The Israeli researchers that ‘today’s massive, unsupervised consumption’ of artificial sweeteners needs to be reassessed.

The researchers, from the Weizmann Institute of Science, first showed that all three sweeteners made it more difficult for mice to process sugar. This is known as glucose intolerance and is important because it raises risk of developing diabetes and obesity.


In a study of almost 400 people, the researchers linked artificial sweetener with being fatter and glucose intolerance.And, worryingly, volunteers who didn’t normally eat or drink artificially-sweetened foods began to become glucose intolerant after just four days of consumption. The numbers affected were small – just four out of seven men and women in the trial – but the research overall was judged significant enough to be published in Nature one of the world’s most prestigious scientific journals.

Blood test for depression developed after scientists discover the condition causes a spike in certain chemicals

At present, clinical depression can take several months to diagnose as doctors try to decide whether the patient has the condition or whether they are simply experiencing natural feelings of sadness caused by an event or tragedy.
But scientists from Northwestern University in Chicago say they have identified nine chemicals in the blood which are raised during depression.  They have devised a blood test which measures three of these chemicals to diagnose depression.

Antidepressants can affect the brain in just three HOURS - not weeks, as previously thought

A single dose of antidepressant medication is enough to produce dramatic changes in the brain within three hours, a study has found. Volunteers had their brains scanned after taking the widely-prescribed drug escitalopram, marketed in the UK as Cipralex and Lexapro in the U.S.  The drug is a serotonin re-uptake inhibitor (SSRI) and aims to boost the level of this ‘feel-good’ chemical in the brain.  SSRIs are believed to change brain connectivity in important ways, but the effects had generally been thought to take place over a period of weeks, not hours.

Exercising during chemotherapy can 'dramatically help shrink tumors', scientists find

Combining exercise with chemotherapy boosts the cancer-fighting effects of the drugs more than the treatment alone.
U.S. researchers discovered those who exercised while receiving chemotherapy had 'significantly smaller' tumors after two weeks than those that had only received common chemotherapy drug 'doxorubicin'.
They believe this could be because exercise increases blood flow to the tumor, bringing with it more of the drug in the bloodstream.

A lot of people are going to use this as an excuse.  Is Drinking Wine Better Than Going To The Gym? According To Scientists, Yes!

Jason Dyck and other science researchers in the University of Alberta in Canada found that red wine, nuts and grapes have a complex called resveratrol which improves heart, muscle and bone functions; the same way they’re improved when one goes to the gym. Resveratrol proved to be an effective antioxidant when tested on rodents which is why scientists are planning on testing it with diabetics. If results are positive for the benefits of the complex, patient’s heart health could be improved just as much as it does when they work out vigorously.

I Had a Stroke at 33.  A stroke that saved her life because they found a hole in her heart.

For a month, every moment of the day was like the moment upon wakening before you figure out where you are, what time it is. I was not completely aware of what had happened to me. I was not completely aware of my deficits, in an ignorance-is-bliss sort of way. I was unable to fret about the past, or the uncertainty of the future.
The sun is bright. The leaves rustle. This is the wind on my face. I am alive.
This is the thing: People pay a lot of money to live like that. To live in the present tense.

10 Similarities Between Sugar, Junk Food and Abusive Drugs

1. Junk Foods Flood The Brain With Dopamine…stimulating the same areas as drugs of abuse like cocaine.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:57 AM | Permalink

September 17, 2014

Health roundup: MS, Breast cancer, healthy drinking, bottled water and hold the sugar

MS. Breakthrough hope for MS treatment as scientists discover how to 'switch off' autoimmune diseases

A team at Bristol University have described their work as a 'breakthrough' after discovering a way  to stop cells from attacking healthy body tissue

In the study, scientists were able to selectively target the cells that cause autoimmune disease by dampening down their aggression against the body's own tissue, while converting them into cells capable of protecting against disease.
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The researchers have now revealed how the administration of fragments of the proteins that are normally the target for the attack leads to correction of the autoimmune response.
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The outcome is to reinstate self-tolerance, where an individual's immune system ignores its own tissues while remaining fully armed to protect against infection.  Researchers say that by specifically targeting the cells at fault, the immunotherapeutic approach avoids the need for immune suppressive drugs.

Alzheimer's Examining the evidence that sleeping pills increase the risk for Alzheimer's

There’s a whole generation of people now hitting old age who were put on drugs such as Valium and temazepam years ago and I’d argue we’re now beginning to see the long-term impact of those drugs on the brain,’ says Mr Haslam.

‘Maybe now this increased risk of Alzheimer’s associated with the drugs will finally persuade GPs to think twice before prescribing them as a long-term treatment.’

Breast cancer. Double mastectomy doesn't boost survival for most, study says

Removing both breasts to treat cancer affecting only one side doesn't boost survival chances for most women, compared with surgery that removes just the tumor, a large study suggests. The results raise concerns about riskier, potentially unnecessary operations that increasing numbers of women are choosing.

The study involved nearly 200,000 California women treated for cancer in one breast and followed for several years afterward.  Ten-year survival rates were nearly identical - roughly 82 percent - for women who had lumpectomies to remove the tumor plus radiation, and for those who had double mastectomies. Women who had a single mastectomy, removal of just the cancerous breast, fared slightly worse.

Drinking Is Healthy The decisive benefits of moderate drinking

In 2006, the Archives of Internal Medicine, an American Medical Association journal, published an analysis based on 34 well-designed prospective studies—that is, research which follows subjects for years, even decades. This meta-analysis, incorporating a million subjects, found that “1 to 2 drinks per day for women and 2 to 4 drinks per day for men are inversely associated with total mortality.”

The more alcohol a society consumes, the fewer alcohol-related problems and alcohol-related deaths (including cirrhosis) it has.  So the more you drink—up to two drinks a day for woman, and four for men—the less likely you are to die. You may have heard that before, and you may have heard it doubted. But the consensus of the science is overwhelming: It is true.

Obviously, if you are an alcoholic, you will live longer by not drinking.

Bottled water and magnesium. Unlike tap water, bottled water has little magnesium.  Drinking only bottled water can make you ill and that may be making you ill.

Nausea, bloating, exhaustion and osteoporosis can be caused by a deficiency in magnesium

This little-heard-of deficiency is surprisingly common among women — one survey found one in ten suffers from it, but some experts cite figures as high as seven in ten — and the effects can be devastating. From maintaining energy levels to steadying heart rhythm, regulating blood pressure and keeping bones strong, magnesium is vital for the body. Magnesium deficiency is hard to diagnose, so many people don’t know they have it.’

Ironically, calcium is useless without magnesium, which is why a deficiency is implicated in osteoporosis.  So experts argue that many typical manifestations of aging — loss of muscle mass, rising blood pressure and diminished nervous system function — are because the body’s ability to metabolize magnesium may decrease with age.
Dr Ferguson uses magnesium to treat migraines as it has a relaxing and calming effect on the body. A German study found a 41.6 per cent drop in migraine frequency among sufferers who were given a supplement, and it can also treat asthma by suppressing histamine production.

Hold the sugar, not the salt. Sugar could be worse for your blood pressure than salt, shock new research reveals

…. in an article in the American Journal of Cardiology, researchers led by Dr James DiNicolantonio state ‘It is sugar not the salt that may be the actual causative factor for high blood pressure.
‘This notion is supported by meta analyses of randomised control trials (large-scale studies) suggesting that sugar is more strongly related to blood pressure in humans than sodium.

‘Encouraging consumers to hold the sugar, not the salt, may be the better dietary strategy to achieve blood pressure control
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:29 AM | Permalink

September 10, 2014

Health Roundup: Alzheimer's and Dementia

Take your vitamin DNew Study Supports Links Between Dementia And Vitamin D Deficiency

Adding to an ever-growing body of evidence, a new study has found that vitamin D deficiency is associated with a substantially increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s and dementia. While previous studies have drawn similar conclusions, this is the largest, most robust study carried out to date. The results have been published in the journal Neurology.

Vitamin D is an essential vitamin that is produced by the body upon exposure of the skin to sunlight, but it can also be found in small amounts in certain foods such as oily fish. It plays a variety of roles in the body and over recent years our understanding of how it helps to maintain optimum health has dramatically increased. For example, it’s thought to reduce the risk of certain bone diseases, bacterial and viral infections and autoimmune diseases.
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The researchers discovered that participants with a moderate vitamin D deficiency had a 53% increased risk of developing any form of dementia, and those with a severe deficiency had a 125% increased risk. Similar results were also found for the risk of developing Alzheimer’s, which is the most common form of dementia. Interestingly, they found that there was a threshold level of 50nmol/L vitamin D in the serum, below which the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s was markedly increased.

“We expected to find an association between low vitamin D levels and the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, but the results were surprising- we actually found that the association was twice as strong as we anticipated,” lead researcher Dr David Llewellyn said in a news-release.

Eat pomegranates.  Chemical compound in pomegranates prevents inflammation of the brain cells

Pomegranates may help stop the spread of Alzheimer’s disease, claim scientists.
An ingredient called punicalagin helps prevent the inflammation that destroys brain cells known as micrologia, according to a team at the University of Huddersfield.  It is hoped the findings may also potentially benefit sufferers from rheumatoid arthritis and Parkinson’s disease by reducing painful inflammation from these conditions.

Transfusion of young blood.  Alzheimer’s patients to be treated with the blood of under-30s

This October, people with mild to moderate levels of Alzheimer’s disease will receive a transfusion of blood plasma from donors aged under 30.  The trial, run by researchers at the Stanford School of Medicine in the US, follows their revolutionary study involving lab mice, where the blood plasma of young mice was injected into old mice, resulting in a marked improvement in their physical endurance and cognitive function. Completed earlier this year, their research, combined with independent studies by a handful of research teams around the world, pin-pointed a plasma-borne protein called growth differentiation factor 11 - or GDF11 - as a key factor in the young blood’s powers of rejuvenation.

"We saw these astounding effects,” lead researcher and professor of neurology at Stanford, Tony Wyss-Coray, told Helen Thomson at New Scientist. "The human blood had beneficial effects on every organ we've studied so far."

Curtail benzies. Chronic use of benzodiazepines, commonly prescribed for anxiety and sleeplessness, linked to greater risk of Alzheimer's

Researchers in France and Canada, using a health insurance database in Quebec, identified 1,796 people with Alzheimer's whose health had been monitored for at least six years before the disease was diagnosed.  They compared each individual against three times as many healthy counterparts, matched for age and gender, to see if anything unusual emerged.

They found that patients who had extensively used benzodiazepines for at least three months in the past, were up to 51 percent more likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer's. The risk rose the longer the patient had used the drug. The investigators admitted the picture was foggy.  Benzodiazepines are used to treat sleeplessness and anxiety -- symptoms that are also common among people just before an Alzheimer's diagnosis.


Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation
is in your future.  Electric currents applied to the brain can boost our memory and treat strokes and Alzheimer's - and might even stop forgetfulness in old age

Applying electric shocks to the brain can improve memory, researchers have found.  They say the discovery could open new avenues for treating strokes, early-stage Alzheimer's and even the normal effects of aging on the brain.  They used a non-invasive technique of delivering electrical current using magnetic pulses, called Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation.
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It isn't possible to directly stimulate the hippocampus with TMS because it's too deep in the brain for the magnetic fields to penetrate. So, using an MRI scan, Voss and colleagues identified a superficial brain region a mere centimeter from the surface of the skull with high connectivity to the hippocampus.  He wanted to see if directing the stimulation to this spot would in turn stimulate the hippocampus. It did.
'I was astonished to see that it worked so specifically,' Voss said.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:50 AM | Permalink

September 2, 2014

Health Roundup: New drugs, less sugar, more fruit, exercise and coffee

New drug: Heart failure. The WSJ on the yet unnamed drug, Novartis Study Shows New Heart Drug Cuts Cardiovascular Deaths
Treatment Also Reduces Risk of Hospitalization for Patients With Chronic Heart Failure


New heart failure drug shows big promise

Doctors say the Novartis drug - which doesn’t have a name yet - seems like one of those rare, breakthrough therapies that could quickly change care for more than half of the 6 million Americans and 24 million people worldwide with heart failure.

“This is a new day” for patients, said Dr. Clyde Yancy, cardiology chief at Northwestern University in Chicago and a former American Heart Association president.  “It’s been at least a decade since we’ve had a breakthrough of this magnitude,” said Yancy, who had no role in the study.

New drug:  Crohn's disease  Drug hope for Crohn's patients: New treatment is first to work in the gut to target symptoms on the disease

Vedolizumab is the first to work directly in the gut lining, targeting the inflammation that causes chronic symptoms such as diarrhoea, bleeding and fatigue.  In trials, 40 per cent of patients were free of symptoms for at least a year – with healing of the gut lining in some cases.

Two pieces of fruit a day.  An apple and a half a day could reduce your chance of suffering a heart attack by 40%

New study finds the more fruit you eat, the lower the risk of heart disease and stroke. Eating the equivalent of an apple and half a banana everyday slashes risk by up to 40%.  The findings comes from a huge study of half a million Chinese whose heart health was tracked for seven years by Oxford University researchers.

It is thought that eating fruit and vegetables and fruit helps the heart through their antioxidant effects, combating harmful naturally occurring chemicals in the body.

Reduce the sugar you eat. Sugar substance 'kills' good cholesterol raising the risk of heart disease

A substance derived from sugar has been found to 'kill' good cholesterol, turning it 'bad', scientists have discovered.
Researchers from the University of Warwick found methylglyoxal (MG), which is formed from glucose in the body, damages 'good' High Density Lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, which removes excess levels of 'bad' cholesterol from the body.
LDL cholesterol is considered the ‘bad’ cholesterol because it contributes to plaque: a thick, hard deposit that can clog arteries.
If an artery is narrowed by plaque and a clot forms, it can become blocked and the person can suffer a heart attack or stroke.

Another reason to drink coffee.Drinking coffee can help you keep your teeth: Researchers say a cup of Joe can ward off gum disease

Coffee could not only perk you up in the morning but could also help protect you from gum disease, researchers have found.
They found that those who drank coffee were protected against gum disease.
They believe the antioxidants could play a role - but admit they are not quite sure what is happening.

Exercise is a wonder drug. Walking a mile each day 'cuts cancer death risk by half': Physical activity described as 'wonder drug' for breast and prostate patients

Cancer patients can cut their risk of dying by up to half – simply by walking just one mile a day, according to experts.
A study revealed physical activity as a ‘wonder drug’, with those diagnosed with breast and prostate cancers able to cut their risk of death by up to 40 per cent.  And for bowel cancer patients, doubling the walking distance was found to halve the risk of dying.
The calculations are based on walking one mile at a moderate pace of 3mph, which would take just 20 minutes a day.

Too many connections. Scientists discover people with autism have too many brain 'connections'

Scientists say they have discovered the reason why some people suffer from autism.  Those with the condition have too many synapses in their brains - places where where neurons connect and communicate, a new study has found.
Scientists at Columbia University in New York believe that the surplus synapses are created because of a lack of ‘pruning’ that normally occurs early in life.  The discovery is a huge leap in understanding of the complex condition and creates hope of a possible treatment, researchers said.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:09 PM | Permalink

August 25, 2014

Health roundup: Salt, aspirin and new hope for the paralyzed

No need to cut back on salt: New study claims most people don't need to lower amount they eat

A large international study questions the conventional wisdom that most people should cut back on salt, suggesting that the amount most folks consume is OK for heart health — and too little may be as bad as too much. The findings came under immediate attack by other scientists.

Limiting salt is still important for people with high blood pressure — and in fact, a second study estimates that too much sodium contributes to up to 1.65 million deaths each year  The first study's leader, Dr. Salim Yusuf of McMaster University's Population Health Research Institute in Hamilton, Ontario, urged keeping an open mind….Yusuf's study is observational, rather than a strict experiment, and has big limitations in its methods. But its size lends strength — more than 100,000 people in 17 countries, the largest on this topic. It's also from a general population, not just people at high risk of heart disease, as many past studies have been.

Everyday drugs like aspirin and ibuprofen could help treat depression after scientists found inflammation may influence mental illness.

A study at Cambridge University suggest that the immune system plays an important role in mental health by ‘cranking’ up the body’s responses and increasing the risk of subsequent mental illness.  But inflammation-fighting drugs could provide a readily-available, safe and affordable alternative treatment.

Overweight women with breast cancer 'could halve the risk of the disease coming back' by taking aspirin regularly

Scientists hailed the study as encouraging because overweight women are more at risk of breast cancer coming back than those of a healthy weight.  Their research suggests the humble painkiller may cut by 50 per cent the chances of recurrence and also leads to a ‘sizable delay’ of two years before it does.

Diabetes drug that could help us all live longer: Doctors say it could also stave off cancer

A drug widely prescribed to treat type 2 diabetes could help us all live longer, a study says.  Research suggests metformin, which controls glucose levels, may also stave off cardiovascular disease and cancer – whether someone has diabetes or not.
Scientists who studied more than 180,000 people found a ‘small but statistically significant improvement in survival’ in those taking metformin, compared with those given older anti-diabetic drugs and a group without diabetes.

New hope for the paralyzed.  Hope for stroke victims after radical stem cell treatment enables patients to move and talk again

Stroke patients have shown remarkable signs of recovery after they were given a radical new treatment.  Five people who had suffered severe strokes regained the power of speech, use of their arms and legs and improved cognition after just six months, according to British research published today.

The three men and two women, aged between 45 and 75, were treated with stem cells extracted from their own bone marrow in the first experiment of its kind.  The treatment, developed by scientists at Imperial College in London, is thought to be so effective because it triggers the rapid regeneration of brain cells that are damaged during a stroke.

Scientists cautioned that the new treatment is at a very early stage, and said it needs to be tested on thousands more people before it can be declared a complete success, but they said the results show great potential to revolutionize life for stroke patients.

New hope for paralyzed patients: Scientists grow links between spinal cord and the brain for the first time

Spinal injury victims left paralyzed have been offered new hope of walking again thanks to a breakthrough in stem cell science.
U.S. scientists have regrown spinal cord neurons from a patient’s own cells for the first time.
Implanting the cells in rats, they found that the neurons caused the animals’ nervous systems to rewire the spinal cord and brain.
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Currently, there is no way to treat spinal injuries once connections between the neurons are lost, resulting in connections between the brain and the body being cut off.

Professor Tuszynski said : ‘Earlier work has shown that grafted stem cells reprogrammed to become neurons can, in fact, form new, functional circuits across an injury site, with the treated animals experiencing some restored ability to move affected limbs.’
However, he warned that further tests to find out how best to graft stem cells and cure paralysis could take ‘months to years’.
He also said that experts should be cautious when conducting a human trial in the future.
‘The enormous outgrowth of axons [verve fibres] to many regions of the spinal cord and even deeply into the brain raises questions of possible harmful side effects if axons are mistargeted.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:13 AM | Permalink

August 18, 2014

Ebola: "Everybody left with their own thing. What are they carrying to their homes? They are carrying their deaths.”

Ebola is running away from us and we do not know the true scale of deaths

International doctors have admitted they don't know the true scale of deaths from the deadly Ebola virus warning the disease is spreading faster than the response.
The group Doctors Without Borders (Medecin Sans Frontieres) have likened the outbreak in west Africa to a state of war and said that the epidemic could last another six months.
Meanwhile, a medical worker on the frontline of tackling the disease in Liberia says response teams are unable to document all the cases erupting as many of the sick are being hidden at home rather than taken to Ebola treatment centres.

Tarnue Karbbar, who works for the aid group Plan International in northern Liberia says in the last several days, up to 75 new cases a day are emerging in single districts.
He also added that those who have succumbed to the deadly virus are buried before teams can get to the area.  He said: 'Our challenge now is to quarantine the area to successfully break the transmission.'  It comes as Joanne Liu, international president of Doctors Without Borders told reporters in Geneva on Friday that there is no sign of stopping the disease.  She said: 'We're running behind a train that is going forward. 'And it literally is faster than what we're bringing in terms of a response.'
The doctors' warnings come as a World Health Organisation official claimed that Ebola treatment centres are filling up faster than they can be provided in west Africa.
WHO spokesman in Geneva Gregory Hartl said: 'The flood of patients into every newly opened treatment center is evidence that the numbers aren't keeping up.'…..

Earlier the UN organisation had said the epidemic had been 'vastly' underestimated and that extraordinary measures are needed to contain the disease.
The Geneva-based organisation said in a statement that it was co-ordinating a 'massive scale-up of the international response' in a bid to tackle the spread of the Ebola.

So far, 2,127 cases of the disease and 1,145 deaths have been reported in four nations — Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone — the W.H.O announced Friday

NY Times With Aid Doctors Gone, Ebola Fight Grows Harder

The departure of many Western development workers from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the West African countries hit hardest by Ebola, has further weakened the region’s understaffed health systems at the very moment they are facing one of the most volatile public health crises ever. Liberia, population four million, has fewer than 250 doctors left in the entire country, according to the Liberia Medical and Dental Council. Seven doctors there have contracted Ebola, and two of them have died.

“The locals’ seeing this mass exodus of expatriates has contributed to the sense that there’s an apocalypse happening and they’re in it on their own,”
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On Saturday afternoon, several hundred people in an area of Monrovia known as the West Point slum broke through the gates of a former school that had been converted days earlier into a holding center for people with suspected Ebola.

Samuel Tarplah, 48, a nurse running the center, said Saturday evening that the protesters wanted to shut it down. “They told us that we don’t want an Ebola holding center in our community.” He said the intruders stole mattresses, personal protective equipment, even buckets of chlorine that had just been delivered. “They took everything.”

Fear is complicating the huge increase in aid that is needed: food for people in areas that have been cordoned off; laboratory supplies to test for the disease; gloves, face masks and gowns to protect health workers; body bags for the dead; bedsheets to replace those that must be burned. Airlines have canceled flights that could have carried in such supplies, despite assurances from the W.H.O. that properly screened passengers pose little risk. Positions on aid teams remain unfilled.

Mob Destroys Ebola Center In Liberia Two Days After It Opens  Fear and denial of the deadly virus are pervasive in Liberia. The mob exponentially increased the risk in one of the country’s biggest Ebola hot spots.

A mob descended on the center at around 5:30 p.m., chanting, “No Ebola in West Point! No Ebola in West Point!” They stormed the front gate and pushed into the holding center. They stole the few gloves someone had donated this morning, and the chlorine sprayers used to disinfect the bodies of those who die here, all the while hollering that Ebola is a hoax.

They ransacked the protective suits, the goggles, the masks. They destroyed part of Tarplah’s car as he was fleeing the crowd.    Jemimah Kargbo, a health care worker at a clinic next door, said they took mattresses and bedding, utensils and plastic chairs. Everybody left with their own thing,” she said. “What are they carrying to their homes? They are carrying their deaths.”

She said the police showed up but the crowd intimidated them. “The police were there but they couldn’t contain them. They started threatening the police, so the police just looked at them,” she said.
And then mob left with all of the patients.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:36 PM | Permalink

August 4, 2014

Health Roundup: The Pill, chemo while pregnant, breastfeeding, aspirin, ibuprofen and blood test for cancer

Breastfeeding 'beats statins' to curb risk of heart disease: Babies given mother's milk for at least three months less likely to suffer from clogged arteries later in life

Being breastfed as a baby might be better than statins in staving off heart disease in later life, according to new research. Babies given mother’s milk for three months or more have a much lower risk of the chronic inflammation that can also lead to diabetes and other metabolic illnesses, US researchers say.  Suckling lowers the amounts of C-reactive protein (CRP) in the blood that is linked to clogged arteries and damage to blood vessels.

Professor Molly Metzger, of Washington University, said: ‘We are looking at the effects of these early factors on later levels of CRP, a biomarker associated with risk for cardiovascular and metabolic disease. Comparing the long-term effects of breastfeeding to the effects of clinical trials of statin therapy, we find breastfeeding to exert effects that are as large or larger."

Her findings – published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences – indicate breastfeeding has implications for children’s health decades later, she said. The researchers used data from the US National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, including parent surveys, and blood samples providing measurements of CRP.


Taking the Pill 'raises the risk of breast cancer by 50 per cent'

Women taking contraceptive pills have a 50 per cent higher overall risk of developing breast cancer, a study has found.  Some pills with high levels of oestrogen can raise the risk threefold, compared with that of women who have never taken the Pill or who have stopped using it, US scientists found. Pills containing low-dose hormones carried no extra risk.

The study – published in Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research – involved 23,000 women and claims to be the first to look at up-to-date formulations of oral contraceptives used in the 1990s and 2000s. Pills containing high-dose estrogen increased breast cancer risk 2.7-fold, or 170 per cent, while those with moderate-dose estrogen increased the risk 1.6-fold.  Pills containing low-dose estrogen did not increase breast cancer risk.  Across recent use of all pills, breast cancer risk increased by 50 per cent, compared with never or former use.

Chemo While Pregnant? L'Chaim!

Some chemotherapy drugs are thought to be harmful to a fetus during every stage of pregnancy, but many are not.  Pregnant women have been successfully treating their cancer in the second and third trimesters without harming their babies for over twenty years -- and yet this fact is far from common knowledge. 

How one-minute bursts of exercise can boost health for over-60s in just six weeks

Short, sharp bursts of exercise could transform the lives of the over-60s, research suggests.  Just two one-minute sessions a week for six weeks dramatically improved the health and physical fitness of men and women in this age group….Dr Babraj said: ‘What we found with this study, which involves doing just one minute of exercise twice a week, is that it not only improved the participants’ physical health and ability to do these things, but also their perceptions of their own ability to engage in physical activity.
‘They enjoyed it, were delighted with the effects it had on their health and, on top of that, felt they could fit it into their lives, which is something they aren’t able to do with current exercise recommendations.

Could aspirin give you a heart attack? Gene found which doubles the risk for millions who take painkiller thinking it will ward off cardiac problems

Nearly a quarter of adults - 23% - have been found to carry particular gene.  When combined with aspirin, it nearly doubles risk of suffering heart attack.  U.S. study is the first to link dangers from the painkiller with gene variations
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While past studies have shown taking aspirin can increase the risk of potentially life-threatening internal bleeding, this study, by scientists at Harvard University in the US, is the first to link dangers from the drug with gene variations.
Dr Kathryn Hall, the report’s lead author, said, ‘We need to look at ourselves as individuals, a certain constellation of genes, and to take that into consideration. If the research is validated in further study, it would be the logical next step to test everyone for these genes before giving them aspirin."

The latest study involved nearly 40,000 women over a ten-year period. Of those, 23 per cent carried a variation of the catechol-O-methyltransferase gene, which helps the body process stress hormones, linked to heart problems and stroke.  The research found that those who had the gene were naturally protected and were 34 per cent less likely to have heart attacks. However, taking aspirin removed this protection and increased their risk of heart problems by 85 per cent – and, in some cases, by as much as three times.

Ibuprofen affects men and women very differently.when it comes to emotional distress. 

Men who take the drug report harsher feelings of rejection, and women report feeling better, researchers found. They say the discovery could shed new light on how men and women deal with emotional problems - and how best to treat them.

A revolutionary blood test that could detect any type of cancer has been developed by British scientists.
It is hoped the breakthrough will enable doctors to rule out cancer in patients presenting with certain symptoms - saving time and preventing costly and unnecessary invasive procedures and biopsies.  Early results have shown the simple test can diagnose cancer and pre-cancerous conditions from the blood of patients with melanoma, colon cancer and lung cancer with a high degree of accuracy.

The Lymphocyte Genome Sensitivity (LGS) assesses white blood cells and measures the damage caused to their DNA when subjected to different intensities of ultraviolet light (UVA), which is known to damage DNA. The Bradford scientists say there is a 'clear distinction between the damage to the white blood cells from patients with cancer, with pre-cancerous conditions and from healthy patients'.

Another blood test appears to predict suicide risk through a particular gene - SKA2 - report researchers at John Hopkins after a small study.  More research is needed.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:07 AM | Permalink

July 23, 2014

Health Roundup: Drugs repurposed, dogs, discoveries and warnings

The asthma drug that is being used to beat paralysis: How one patient went from using a wheelchair to walk unaided

A type of medication that  is normally used by asthma sufferers has been proving stunningly effective in treating a form or paralysis – and has even allowed a wheelchair-bound teenager to walk unaided for the first time in seven years.  Jimmy Webster, 18, took salbutamol to treat congenital myasthenia. He had been so disabled he sometimes needed an oxygen-mask to breathe.  But he says: ‘Within three days I could stand and within a week I could walk.’ Now he is about to go camping and adds: ‘I wouldn’t have contemplated this last year.’
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Salbutamol is prescribed to asthmatics in inhaler form under the brand name Ventolin. It is now proving a remarkable treatment for myasthenia….Myasthenia is either congenital – due to a genetic mutation – or caused by the immune system turning inward and attacking the body, developing later in life…..Studies had shown widespread benefits, with another teenage patient going from needing crutches to walk, to jogging and doing sit-ups.

Do Parkinson's drugs make people more CREATIVE? Pills that increase dopamine levels may improve artistic abilities

Parkinson's experts have been noticing a remarkable phenomenon – some of their patients have developed impressive creative talents.
The link between Parkinson’s and artistic abilities was brought to the attention of the world two years ago by Professor Rivka Inzelberg of Tel Aviv University in Israel.  Now she has completed the first empirical study to verify a link between Parkinson’s disease and creativity, which the study suggests may be down to drugs used to treat the disease.

Professor Inzelberg first noticed the trend in her own Sheba Medical Centre clinic when the usual holiday presents from patients - typically chocolates or similar gifts took a surprising turn.  ‘Instead, patients starting bringing us art they had made themselves,’ she said.  Bringing together case studies from around the world, Professor Inzelberg examined the details of each patient to uncover a common underlying factor – all were being treated by similar drugs.

Arthritis drug could also halt Alzheimer's: Treatment found to stop progression of memory loss and poor mood

A safe and widely-used arthritis drug stops Alzheimer’s in its tracks, a British study has found.  The 20 men and women who were given Etanercept did not descend further into the disease – unlike those who were given a dummy treatment. Memory, mood and the ability to carry out vital everyday tasks such as washing and dressing were all, on average, stopped from getting worse.  The results, revealed at a major Alzheimer’s conference and dubbed ‘quite amazing’, are comparable with those for Aricept, one of the few existing Alzheimer’s treatments.
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Professor Holmes cautioned that only a small number of patients were treated – but described the results as ‘quite amazing’.He said: ‘Our results are better than we expected. ‘It is the first drug in a long time that has shown such promise.’

The easy way to feel ten years younger…get a dog: Pets not only keep you active they also make you mentally fitter

Dog owners act ten years younger than their age, a study found.  The St Andrews University research showed that they not only more active, they are also mentally fitter.  Researcher Dr Zhiqiang Feng said: ‘It is well known that pet ownership may help alleviate feelings of loneliness and depression in older people, but one area that has received little attention is the effect of dog ownership on the physical activity levels of the elderly.

The rate of Alzheimer's disease is DECLINING in the U.S. as people take better care of their health - but it continues to grow in poorer countries

The rate of Alzheimer's disease and other dementias is falling in the United States and some other rich countries, new  research shows.
An American over age 60 today has a 44 percent lower chance of developing dementia than a similar-aged person did roughly 30 years ago, the longest study of these trends in the U.S. concluded.  Dementia rates also are down in Germany, a study there found.  However, the epidemic is still growing simply because more people are living to an old age.

Protein discovery that could reverse the damage of diabetes: Breakthrough could lead to cheap drug that would halt disease

Scientists have discovered a treatment for type 2 diabetes which could reverse the disease. The researchers found that a protein which is already naturally produced in the body cured the disease in mice and they are confident that it could be easily replicated in humans.  The breakthrough raises hope of a cheap drug which could effectively halt one of the world’s fastest growing diseases.

The protein, called FGF1, already plays a natural role in human cell growth and tissue repair - but it never usually enters the blood stream.  Diabetes experts found that when the protein was injected into a muscle and interacted with the blood, it dramatically reduced blood sugar levels.  Crucially, the protein also seems to reverse the root cause of type 2 diabetes - making the metabolic system react to insulin when it had been failing to do so.
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Professor Ronald Evans, of the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California, said: ‘This is a big deal - this treatment is very simple to make. We are at a very early stage but we know all about this protein already so we have a head start.

Cancer cells may guide treatment

A Boston-based team published proof Thursday that one of the most alluring ideas in cancer care can work: Exceedingly rare tumor cells can be filtered from a patient’s blood sample and used to noninvasively monitor the evolution of cancer and identify the most promising treatments.

The scientists drew blood from women with one type of breast cancer, isolated the rare cancer cells, and then experimented with those cells in a laboratory dish to find drugs that might effectively halt the spreading cancer.

The work demonstrates a powerful way to track and personalize cancer treatment with a simple blood draw. The technique, described in the journal Science, could enable doctors to frequently check for genetic changes that allow tumors to develop resistance to medications and to fine-tune therapy.

Arsenic warning over rice milk: Parents warned not to give drink to children because it can contain harmful levels of the chemical

Niacin – Also Known As Vitamin B3 — Supplements Can Be Deadly

Niacin, or vitamin B3, is too dangerous and should not be used routinely by people looking to control their cholesterol levels or prevent heart disease, doctors say.
The warning comes following recent evidence showing the vitamin does not reduce heart attacks or strokes, and instead is linked to an increased risk of bleeding, diabetes and death.

Niacin has long been used to increase people's levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or the "good" cholesterol, and has been a major focus of research into heart disease prevention for several decades. However, clinical trials have not shown that taking niacin in any form actually prevents heart problems. Considering the alarming side effects of niacin, researchers now say the vitamin shouldn't even be prescribed anymore.

"There might be one excess death for every 200 people we put on niacin," said Dr. Donald Lloyd-Jones, a cardiologist and chair of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. "With that kind of signal, this is an unacceptable therapy for the vast majority of patients."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:51 AM | Permalink

July 18, 2014

Good and bad marriages

From Science Daily, Marriage and healthy hearts: Correlation between unhappy marital interactions, cardiovascular disease risk

The affairs of the heart may actually affect the affairs of the heart in ways previously not understood.”Growing evidence suggests that the quality and patterns of one’s social relationships may be linked with a variety of health outcomes, including heart disease,” says Thomas Kamarck, professor of psychology and Biological and Health Program Chair in the University of Pittsburgh Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences.

He is an author of a new study that correlates unhappy marital interaction with thicker carotid arteries and a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. “The contribution of this study is in showing that these sorts of links may be observed even during the earliest stages of plaque development [in the carotid artery],” Kamarck continues, “and that these observations may be rooted not just in the way that we evaluate our relationships in general but in the quality of specific social interactions with our partners as they unfold during our daily lives.” Nataria Joseph, who recently completed a postdoctoral fellowship under Kamarck, is the lead author of the paper, published this month in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine. Given the size of the effect in the study and the relationship between carotid artery plaque and disease, Joseph’s findings, made at Pitt, indicate that those with marital interactions light on the positive may have an 8.5 percent greater risk of suffering heart attack or stroke than those with a surfeit of good feelings. 

Dr Greg comments in   Can A Bad Marriage Kill You? Study Says, “Yes, and A Good Marriage May Heal.”

More and more, research is showing that the quality of our relationships has tremendous impact on our physical and emotional health.  I think this is another area where there is increasing agreement between psychology and theology.  For instance, Dr. Dan Siegel– a founder of the developing field of Interpersonal Neurobiology which looks at how relationships affect health and neurological functioning–argues that it is foolish to think of an individual as apart from his relationships.

He argues that, in a sense, there is a flow of energy within the relationships between people that interacts with and impacts the functioning of the mind and body of each individual in the relationship on an atomic level.  The effects of this interaction can be observed–if not the process itself–in the way different relational and environmental states have been shown to impact gene expression and the development of new neural connections throughout the brain and nervous system.  When I read his work, I am often reminded of Pope St. John Paul the Great’s argument in his Theology of the Body that just as the Trinity is a communion of three distinct but united persons, the human beings made in the image and likeness of that Communion are also, at their most basic level, best understood to be inseparable from the communion of persons in which they participate. The Takeaway I realize that’s all rather thick language and if I lost you, it doesn’t really matter because the larger point is still clear enough.  Namely, that the well-being of each human person is intimately tied to the quality of his or her relationship with others and that is exactly as God intended it to be. The takeaway is that taking care of your relationships may be just as important as diet and exercise for longevity and health.   Even if you don’t feel like working on your marriage for the sake of your partner, for instance, you may want to work on it out of a commitment to your own well-being because avoiding the work isn’t punishing your partner as much as it may be punishing yourself. If you fail to do the work that your intimate relationships require, you may literally be breaking your own heart.

As Charles Murray said in Advice for a Happy Life

A good marriage is the best thing that can ever happen to you. Above all else, realize that this cliché is true. The downside risks of marrying—and they are real—are nothing compared with what you will gain from a good one.

Consider Marrying Young.  You've got to wait until the right person comes along. I'm just pointing out that you shouldn't exclude the possibility. If you wait until your 30s, your marriage is likely to be a merger. If you get married in your 20s, it is likely to be a startup.  …What are the advantages of a startup marriage? For one thing, you will both have memories of your life together when it was all still up in the air. You'll have fun remembering the years when you went from being scared newcomers to the point at which you realized you were going to make it.

Even more important, you and your spouse will have made your way together. Whatever happens, you will have shared the experience. And each of you will know that you wouldn't have become the person you are without the other.

Many merger marriages are happy, but a certain kind of symbiosis, where two people become more than the sum of the individuals, is perhaps more common in startups.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:37 AM | Permalink

The cancer death-panel app

Wesley Smith writes Obamacare Opens Door to Death Panel App

Obamacare’s emphasis on cost-benefit has apparently granted permission for the medical technocrats to conjure all kinds of healthcare rationing schemes.  And the Medical Establishment is apparently playing along.

From, “The Cancer Death-Panel App,” by Robert Goldberg in the NY Post:

The latest innovation in cancer care isn’t a medical breakthrough but an app to ration new drugs. It’ll measure care in terms of what it costs health plans, instead of what it means for patients’ lives. That it’s being developed under the auspices of the American Society for Clinical Oncology, or ASCO, the world’s leading oncology association, is a grim warning about the state of organized medicine.

The app will use an algorithm like those many health plans apply to limit access to innovative treatments. Wellpoint Inc., for one, measures cost-effectiveness by comparing the benefits, side effects and costs of various treatments for specific types of cancer. The ASCO app uses the same benchmarks.

That’s no coincidence. At ASCO’s national conference, Dr. Lee Newcomer, United Healthcare’s medical director, said the “motives [of insurers] are viewed with suspicion when it comes to deciding whether a treatment is cost-effective. So having ASCO play a key role in establishing such guidelines would be crucial to their implementation.”

Translation: Patients are more likely to accept rationing if it comes with a “medical seal of approval.”

Dr. Lowell Schnipper, who heads ASCO’s Value in Cancer Care Task Force, which is building the app, parrots the claim made by Karen Ignagni, president of AHIP (the health-insurance lobby), that new cancer drugs are bankrupting the health system.

That’s not true. Yes, spending on cancer treatments has climbed from $24 billion in 2004 to about $37 billion today. But that’s less than a half a percent of total US health-care spending.

More important: While expensive, since 2004 such innovations were largely responsible for a 40 percent increase in living cancer survivors, from 9.8 million to 13.6 million. The new therapies also saved $188 billion on hospitalizations.

In fact, a new study by Dr. Newcomer himself confirms this result: United Healthcare’s cancer costs dropped as spending on new cancer drugs increased.

Finally, new drugs help people go back to work. The value of the increase in ability to work is 2.5 times what we spend on new therapies.

The app’s biggest problem, though, is that it’s one-size-fits-all: It treats all patients as the same, ignoring the genetic variation in patient response that a new class of “targeted” cancer drugs will soon address.
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Dig a bit deeper, and it’s clear that Schnipper and his allies have a more ideological motivation. He talks of limiting spending on new treatments as a way to make “the health-care system, not just the cancer system, more rational and just.”

And this line of thinking does away with the Hippocratic Oath. No longer is the doctor’s first obligation “to apply for the benefit of the sick, all measures that are required.” Instead, Schnipper believes three months of added life “is not a large enough benefit to trump the greater benefits to many that would have to be foregone to provide it.”

In fact, he regards the premium that Americans place on life as a character defect, observing, “Other cultures do not seem to view the postponement of death by a few months” the same way we do…….
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:21 AM | Permalink

July 14, 2014

Health Roundup: Cinnamon for Parkinson, contact lenses, exercise and new test for Alzheimers, cooling babies

Cinnamon could fight Parkinson's: Spice found to be source of chemical that can help protect the brain

Cinnamon could be a secret weapon in the battle against Parkinson’s disease. Scientists have found that the spice is the source of a chemical that can protect the brain.  Our liver converts cinnamon into sodium benzoate, an approved drug used in the treatment for neural disorders.

In a study of mice at Rush University Medical Centre in Chicago, a team of researchers found that the chemical then enters the brain, stops the loss of proteins that help protect cells, protects neurons and improves motor functions.

Lead researcher Professor Kalipada Pahan told the Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology: ‘Cinnamon has been used widely as a spice throughout the world for centuries. 'This could potentially be one of the safest approaches to halt disease progression in Parkinson’s patients.’Professor Pahan said tests had shown that Ceylon cinnamon is better at halting Parkinson's as it is more pure.  He said the next step is testing cinnamon on patients with the disease.

Check your cynicism. Stress, depression and 'hostility' put older people at greater risk of suffering a stroke, research has revealed

Hostility alone more than doubled the likelihood of having a full-blown or 'mini' stroke, also known as a transient ischaemic attack (TIA), a study claims.
Chronic stress increased stroke and TIA risk by 59 per cent, and depressive symptoms by 86 per cent….The researchers defined hostility as a 'negative way of viewing the world' and measured it by assessing participants’ cynicism.

Clean your contact lenses or else.  Student goes blind after keeping her contact lenses in for six months and microscopic bug EATS her eyeballs

A student in Taiwan who kept a pair of disposable contact lenses in her eyes for six months has been left blinded after a microscopic bug devoured her eyeballs. The tiny single-cell amoeba ate away at undergraduate Lian Kao's sight because she didn't take out and clean the contacts once during that time.

As well as being regularly cleaned, contact lenses should also be removed when swimming and washing.  The general advice is to avoid wearing contacts for more than eight hours a day. Yet apparently 23-year-old Kao had even kept her contact lenses in at all times, even at the swimming pool. Medics were horrified when they removed the contact lenses to find that the surface of the girl's eyes had literally been eaten by the amoeba that had been able to breed in the perfect conditions that existed between the contact lens and the eye.

Coming soon. Eye tests 'could spot' early Alzheimer's disease

Simple regular eye tests could be used to identify Alzheimer's disease at a very early stage, new research suggests.
Early trials of two different techniques show that a key biomarker for the disease can be identified in the retina and lens of the eye.

Both methods were able to distinguish between healthy volunteers and those likely to be suffering from Alzheimer's patients with a high level of accuracy.
Experts said the findings could be
a “game changer” in treatment of the condition.  So far attempts to find drugs to halt progression of Alzheimer’s disease have failed because patients receiving treatment already suffered too much damage to the brain.

Cut Alzheimer's risk by walking: It only takes 20 minutes, 3 times a week, say Cambridge scientists

Scientists say inactivity is most important lifestyle factor for Alzheimer's.  Believed exercise keeps blood flowing to brain reducing build-up of plaque
Just 20 minutes of physical activity three times a week could cut risk….researchers …. suspect that it keeps the heart and blood vessels strong, which maintains a steady flow of blood to the brain. This may prevent the build-up of plaques, protein deposits in the brain which are thought to trigger Alzheimer’s

Cooling babies deprived of oxygen at birth improves their chances of growing up without disabilities such as cerebral palsy, research suggests.

The New England Journal of Medicine study showed newborns given the treatment were more likely to have higher IQs at school age.  Experts say the study confirms the therapy has long-lasting effects…..Around one in 500 newborns in the UK suffer from asphyxia - a lack of oxygen around the time of birth.  But a 2009 study of more than 300 newborns showed cooling treatment - known as therapeutic hypothermia - could help reduce brain damage at 18 months.  Babies were placed on a special mat and cooled at 33C for three days to help reduce brain injury    Researchers think the therapy works by slowing the production of harmful substances in the brain and the rate of brain cell death. But how long these improvements may last has been unclear.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:30 PM | Permalink

July 7, 2014

Beer is a health food

That beer has many health benefits was known to the ancient Greeks:

Sophocles on his philosophy of a moderate diet,  “[I recommend]… bread, meat, vegetables and beer.”
Plato, "He was a wise man who invented beer. "
Paracelsus, Greek physician, “A little bit of beer is divine medicine.”

And to our founding fathers:

Thomas Jefferson,  “Beer, if drunk in moderation, softens the temper, cheers the spirit and promotes health.”
Benjamin Franklin,  "Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy. "  

Now science is touting the benefits of beer: Full of vitamins, high in fibre, low on sugar and good for your hair

If you analysed beer you would  be amazed at how many super-nutrients there are in it,’ says Dr Stephan Domenig, medical director of The Original F.X. Mayr Health Centre in Austria. ‘Beer contains  all of the essential – and many of the non-essential – amino acids.’
As well as these protein-building blocks and minerals including phosphorus, iodine, magnesium and potassium, beer is rich in calcium  so could benefit your bones. 
A study by Tufts University in the United States in 2009 found that moderate beer consumption can protect bone mineral density.

For years Guinness was even prescribed to pregnant women due to its high Vitamin B content. ‘It’s  now recommended that pregnant women avoid alcohol but other  people could benefit,’ says nutritionist Vicki Edgson.

While high in vitamins, beer is actually low in sugar, high levels of which have been linked to diabetes and obesity. ...
‘Compared with soft drinks, it  will give less of a blood sugar  spike,’ says nutritionist Dr Kathryn O’Sullivan, who last year carried  out a scientific review of beer. ‘Beer is about 93 per cent water so it’s quite hydrating.’

In fact, moderate beer consumption may even help prevent diabetes. A 2010 study of more than 38,000 men in the US found that when men who rarely drank beer increased their consumption to one or two glasses a day, after four years their risk of type 2 diabetes fell by 25 per cent.

And despite the threat of a so-called ‘beer belly’, a study of nearly 2,000 regular beer drinkers by the University of London concluded it’s unlikely that moderate intake is associated with large weight gain.
Drinking beer increases the production of bile, which helps us to digest fatty food,’ says Dr Domenig. Beer is a rich source of fibre – two glasses provide between ten and  30 per cent of our recommended requirement. Fibre is known to help keep us full and ward off hunger.

Although beer drinking is usually associated with brain fog, research suggests it might help prevent Alzheimer’s. The disease, which affects almost 500,000 people in the UK, has been linked to high levels  of aluminium, but the silicon in beer may offset the damage.
A 2008 study published in the journal Food And Chemical Toxicology found the silicon was able to reduce aluminium uptake in the digestive tract and slow the accumulation of the metal in the body and brain tissue. But beware of overdoing it:  a University College London study warned that men drinking more than two pints a day could suffer memory loss.

Beer could also help heart health. A 2013 study at Harokopio University in Athens found it boosted the flexibility of the arteries. Scientists measured the cardiovascular health of non-smoking men under 35 two hours after drinking 400ml of beer and compared that with drinking vodka or alcohol-free beer. While all three drinks had some beneficial effect on the stiffness of arteries, beer had the greatest benefit.

Beer can raise good cholesterol too. ‘The main component that helps protect the heart is alcohol, which raises “good” HDL-cholesterol and has other benefits,’ says Dr R. Curtis Ellison, professor of medicine and public health at the Boston University School of Medicine.

 Toasting-With-Beer-Mugs-With-Sky-In-Background

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:13 PM | Permalink

June 24, 2014

We went through all of that for this?

The numbers are in.

Obamacare Exchanges Are ‘Disappointing’ With Fewer Than 4 Million Newly Insured. The Government Hoped for 26 Million.

 Bl-Obamacare-Enrollment-Attkisson-1
A recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that 43 percent of those who purchased insurance through the marketplace already had insurance; 57 percent are newly insured.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:20 PM | Permalink

June 19, 2014

Health roundup: Rapeseed oil, autism reversed in mice, Alzheimers and 'natural cannabis', stress and synapses, selfie diagnosis

RAPESEED oil could be even more effective than statins in helping to lower cholesterol and protect the heart.

The oil – extracted from the bright yellow crop which covers much of the British countryside – has also proved to be particularly effective against type 2 diabetes.  It has the same cholesterol reducing effect as 20mg of statins, double a standard daily dose, and cuts the risk of heart problems by seven per cent, scientists say…..The researchers were led by Professor Dr David Jenkins of St Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, the man who created the now famous glycaemic index, a scale showing which foods raise or lower blood sugar levels.

Century-old drug reverses signs of autism in mice

A single dose of a century-old drug has eliminated autism symptoms in adult mice with an experimental form of the disorder. Originally developed to treat African sleeping sickness, the compound, called suramin, quells a heightened stress response in neurons that researchers believe may underlie some traits of autism. The finding raises the hope that some hallmarks of the disorder may not be permanent, but could be correctable even in adulthood.

That hope is bolstered by reports from parents who describe their autistic children as being caught behind a veil. "Sometimes the veil parts, and the children are able to speak and play more normally and use words that didn't seem to be there before, if only for a short time during a fever or other stress" says Robert Naviaux, a geneticist at the University of California, San Diego, who specializes in metabolic disorders.
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Naviaux cautions that mice aren’t people, and therapies that are promising in rodents have a track record of not panning out in humans. He also says that prolonged treatment with suramin is not an option for children, because it can have side effects such as anemia with long-term use. He notes that there are 19 different kinds of purinergic receptors; if suramin does prove to be helpful in humans, newer drugs could be developed that would target only one or a few key receptors. The researchers are beginning a small clinical trial in humans of a single dose of suramin that they hope will be completed by the end of the year.

Could a loss of 'natural cannabis' in the brain be the reason we get Alzheimer's disease?

Alzheimer’s disease might partly develop because of the suppression of ‘natural cannabis’ molecules in the brain, scientists believe.
U.S. researchers linked early symptoms of the disease to losing the beneficial effects of these molecules, which are called endocannabinoids. These signalling molecules are natural versions of psychoactive chemicals in cannabis.

A rogue protein called amyloid-beta, suspected of playing a key role in Alzheimer’s, is believed to block endocannabinoids in the brain in the earliest stages of the disease. Endocannabinoids are part of the process that allows important signals in the brain to shine through while unwanted signals are shut out. Blocking them results in the brain becoming too inhibited, leading to impaired learning and memory loss.

The scientists from Stanford University in California, who reported their findings in the journal Neuron, warned that simply smoking marijuana was not a solution to Alzheimer’s. Senior author Dr Daniel Madison said: ‘Endocannabinoids in the brain are very transient and act only when important inputs come in. Exposure to marijuana over minutes or hours is different - more like enhancing everything indiscriminately, so you lose the filtering effect…It’s like listening to five radio stations at once.’ Flooding the brain with external cannabinoids also ran the risk of inducing tolerance and impeding the ability of natural endocannabinoids to do their job, he said.

Always stressed? Beware - it’ll affect your short-term memory in old age

A study at the University of Iowa found link between high levels of stress hormone cortisol and lapses in short-term memory in old age.  Jason Radley, an assistant psychology professor at the University of Iowa, said: 'Stress hormones are one mechanism that we believe leads to weathering of the brain.

Scientists linked the raised levels of cortisol to the gradual loss of synapses in the prefrontal cortex, the region of the brain that houses short-term memory. Synapses are the connections that help the brain process, store and recall information. As a person ages, repeated and long-term exposure to cortisol, can cause synapses to shrink and disappear.

But researchers warned that it is important to remember that stress hormones are only one of a host of factors which affect mental decline and memory loss as a person ages.

Du'h Don't lie to your kids! Children are more likely to be dishonest if they discover their parents don't tell the truth 
Children who are lied to are more likely to lie themselves, research claims in study  carried out at the UCal San Diego. 

In the U.K. Crohn’s disease in teens jumps 300 per cent in 10 years
Four times as many teenagers being treated for Crohn's disease compared to 10 years ago with experts blaming increased use of antibiotics and junk food.

 Stroke Selfie Woman diagnosed with stroke from 'selfie' video after doctors claimed she was just stressed

Stacey Yepes, 49, couldn't believe it when doctors said her numbness and facial paralysis was due to stress.  So when it happened again, she took out her camera to record the proof.  Doctors at a different hospital agreed she had suffered a series of mini strokes and learned that she had a blood clot. She is now undergoing treatment and is being monitored by doctors
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:22 PM | Permalink

June 18, 2014

Miscellany of links

Why I am very wary of the Internet of Things  The Nightmare on Connected Home Street  in Wired.

If you don't get Why Benghazi Matters, Bill Whittle explains in 10 minutes.

At Demilked 17 Flowers Masterfully Disguised As Something Else

Flowers-Look-Like-Something-Else-Orchids-Pareidolia-Thumb640

Meet the 11-year-old inventor of the 'unbreakable cup'

When Parkinson's caused her grandfather to spill his drinks, Lily Born decided to do something about it. So she came up with the revolutionary 3-legged Kangaroo Cup and raised money via Kickstarter.
 Kangaroo Cup Proto

Flight of the tiny robo-fly: World's smallest drone weighs less than a gram and navigates using light-sensitive 'eyes'

 RoboflyThe Robo-fly has a carbon fibre body weighing 106mg - a fraction of a gram; Its pair of flapping wings is powered by electronic ‘muscles’ and it balances thanks to a pyramid shaped light sensor on top of its ‘head .  The drone is powered and controlled through a lightweight tether wire and can perform the agile maneuvres of the ubiquitous insects. The robofly could be used in search and rescue operations, to squeeze through collapsed rubble, monitor environmental conditions, and pollinate crops

Now they tell us Don't wash raw chicken, health experts warn

Washing chicken can spread a type of bacteria around the kitchen through the splashing of water droplets which causes food poisoning

A better way to cut cake revealed by London mathematician who explains it all in a YouTube video

The method involves cutting parallel lines rather than wedges.  This allows the cake to be sealed with icing around it, keeping it fresh

Want whiter teeth? Munch on dark chocolate, cheese and strawberries, says leading dentist

Dr Harold Katz says dark chocolate helps harden the enamel surface of teeth.  He says green tea contains tannins which stop bacteria sticking to teeth.  And, he says strawberries contain malic acid which removes stains. Cheese, he says, makes the mouth less acidic so tooth erosion is reduced.

Can music lessons as a child boost your brainpower for life? Researchers find young musicians develop better problem solving skills

Could boost calls for more music training in schools and help the elderly or those with ADHD.  The research team  defined musically trained children as having played an instrument for at least two years.

The controlled study using functional MRI brain imaging was undertaken by researchers at Boston Children's Hospital.
'Since executive functioning is a strong predictor of academic achievement, even more than IQ, we think our findings have strong educational implications,' said Nadine Gaab, who led the research.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:00 PM | Permalink

June 9, 2014

Health roundup: 'Jaw-dropping' melanoma breakthrough, regenerating liver, new leukemia drug, colon cancer, COPD, red wine and fasting

Skin cancer drug 'cures' man given months to live: Doctors hail results of 'astonishing' medical trial that could give hope to millions

They say the results of medical trials are ‘jaw-dropping’ and offer hope for victims of other forms of cancer.
The medicine, pembrolizumab, is the latest in a new generation of ‘immunotherapy’ treatments that prevent cancers from shielding themselves from the immune system. Instead it lets the immune system attack the disease, often in conjunction with other conventional drugs.

“Pembrolizumab looks like it has potential to be a paradigm shift for cancer therapy" said Dr David Chao, Consultant Medical Oncologist, Royal Free Hampstead NHS Trust

Advanced skin cancer, which has spread to other parts of the body, has a poor prognosis and currently only one in ten people live for a year after diagnosis…..However some people have lived for two years while receiving the new treatment. The study, presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO 2014), showed three quarters of patients responded to the drug. 

Hopes rise for new cure for liver disease after researchers make cells 'go back in time'

Researchers say it is possible to repair a chronically diseased liver by forcing mature liver cells to 'go back in time' to a stem cell-like state.  Switching off a liver-growth pathway in mature cells generates high levels of dedifferentiation, which means the cells can revert back to an unspecialized state and regenerate a diseased liver.  The breakthrough, published in the journal Cell, could pave the way for liver cell transplants to cure genetic liver disorders. Harvard Stem Cell Institute scientists at Boston Children's Hospital made the discovery while investigating whether a biochemical cascade called Hippo, which controls how big the liver grows, also affects cell fate.

Widespread colon cancer screening has saved an estimated 500,000 lives since the mid-70s reports a new study from the Yale School of Medicine using data from the National Cancer Institute.

New leukemia drug boosts survival rate to 90% and could eventually replace invasive chemical treatment

Ibrutinib drug trial showed better rates of survival than chemotherapy. Trial showed higher rate of people entered remission than chemotherapy. Breakthrough alternative for people with resistance to chemotherapy

If you or someone in your family has COPD, try eating grapefruit and bananas.  Could grapefruit beat lung disease? Eating fruit and other foods including cheese and bananas found to help patients suffering one of most common variants

Eating grapefruit, bananas, fish and cheese could help patients suffering one of the most common lung conditions in Britain, say scientists.  Research showed a direct link between the foods and improvements in people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Scientists from the US and Europe used diet records for 2,167 COPD sufferers over a three-year period.
Those who had eaten the products within 24 hours showed improvement in a range of measures such as lung function, fitness scores and white blood cell count.  Lead study author Dr Corrine Hanson said patients should now be offered dietary and nutritional counseling as part of their treatment.

Think of it as a reward for flossing.  Red wine is good for your teeth 

New research has revealed that red wine could protect against cavities. Research published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry revealed grape seed extract also prevents cavities.
Researchers say the discovery could lead to the development of natural products to ward off dental diseases.

By all means be skeptical and consider the source of the information you are asked to accept.  Cynicism, however, carries risks.  Cynics 'face far higher risk of Alzheimer's': Those who mistrust others at greater risk of mental illness, doctors warn

Cynics could be three times more likely to develop dementia, doctors have warned.  The trait has already been linked to heart disease and heart attacks – but now a study suggests that those who mistrust others are at far greater risk of mental illnesses such as Alzheimer’s.

How a flash of light can delete bad memories: Breakthrough may help dementia patients

The discovery, which has been shown to work in rats, may have huge potential for curing phobia sufferers of their fears, helping soldiers to recover from the horrors of battle or allow accident victims to put their trauma behind them. It might also be used for boosting memories in dementia patients.
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Roberto Malinow, professor of neurosciences, said: ‘We can form a memory, erase that memory and we can reactivate it, at will, by applying a stimulus that selectively strengthens or weakens synaptic connections.’….Professor Malinow added:  ‘We have shown that the damaging products that build up in  the brains of Alzheimer’s disease patients can weaken synapses in the same way that we weakened synapses to remove a memory. ‘This research could suggest ways to intervene in the process.’

Fasting for three days can regenerate entire immune system, study from the University of Southern California  that starving the body kick-starts stem cells into producing new white blood cells which fight off infection.

The researchers say fasting "flips a regenerative switch" which prompts stem cells to create brand new white blood cells, essentially regenerating the entire immune system.
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Prof Valter Longo, Professor of Gerontology and the Biological Sciences at the University of California said, “Now, if you start with a system heavily damaged by chemotherapy or aging, fasting cycles can generate, literally, a new immune system."
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Scientists found that prolonged fasting also reduced the enzyme PKA, which is linked to aging and a hormone which increases cancer risk and tumor growth.
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Fasting for 72 hours also protected cancer patients against the toxic impact of chemotherapy.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:38 PM | Permalink

June 7, 2014

Catching up on the ongoing disaster of Obamacare

More than two million people who signed up for ObamaCare are in limbo due to data discrepancies

In nearly one million of these cases, the discrepancy is related to immigration or citizenship status.
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“[T]he inconsistencies point to the possibility that many enrollees obtained coverage or subsidies without being eligible,”
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Nearly three million people are still waiting to have their applications processed.

But that's not all.  There is a separate mountain of unprocessed paperwork at Medicaid

At least 2.9 million Americans who signed up for Medicaid coverage as part of the health care overhaul have not had their applications processed, with some paperwork sitting in queues since last fall, according to a 50-state survey by CQ Roll Call.

Those delays — due to technological snags with enrollment websites, bureaucratic tangles at state Medicaid programs and a surge of applicants — betray Barack Obama’s promise to expand access to health care for some of the nation’s most vulnerable citizens.

Walter Russell Mead CBO: We Can’t Score Obamacare Anymore

A translation for non-bureaucrats: We’re flying blind here.

The ACA is more than just an insurance expansion program; it also contains provisions that affect hospitals, the tax code, and other federal programs. In this footnote, the CBO is now saying that it cannot figure out how those other parts of the law affect the budget—and thus that we don’t know how the law as a whole does either.

Even more importantly, some of the CBO’s uncertainty is caused by Obama Administration decisions to change, delay, or abandon parts of the law during implementation. First came the news that census questions were altered, making it far more difficult for us to determine whether the ACA has reduced the numbers of the uninsured, and now there’s this. As time goes on, we’re becoming less and less capable of answering basic questions about whether the ACA is working.

The Economist on Health Care Fraud -That's Where the Money Is

In America the scale of medical embezzlement is extraordinary. According to Donald Berwick, the ex-boss of Medicare and Medicaid (the public health schemes for the old and poor), America lost between $82 billion and $272 billion in 2011 to medical fraud and abuse (see article). The higher figure is 10% of medical spending and a whopping 1.7% of GDP—as if robbers had made off with the entire output of Tennessee or nearly twice the budget of Britain’s National Health Service (NHS).

Crooks love American health care for two reasons. First, as Willie Sutton said of banks, it’s where the money is—no other country spends nearly as much on pills and procedures. Second, unlike a bank, it is barely guarded.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:47 PM | Permalink

June 5, 2014

The Government's Experiment in Manipulating Oxygen to Preemies

Sharyl Attkinson, an Emmy-award winning investigative reporter with CBS news until she resigned in March citing the network's liberal bias and lack of dedication to investigative reporter, is now reporting for a recently-launched news site The Daily Signal.  She starts off with a bang.

The question is whether  parents have to know that a government-funded study would randomly manipulate the oxygen delivered to their extremely pre-mature babies before they consent to a research study?

Did Government’s Experiment on Preemies Hide Risks?    A government-funded experiment put the lives of premature babies at further risk, and some parents say they didn’t know.

It was a national, government-funded experiment on 1,316 extremely premature infants in which their fate may as well have rested with the flip of a coin.
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The government-backed study is called SUPPORT, which stands for “Surfactant, Positive Airway Pressure, and Pulse Oximetry Randomized Trial.” The experiment was conducted at 23 academic institutions from 2005 through 2009 under the National Institutes of Health, part of the Department of Health and Human Services.

All three women now say they never would have agreed to take part if they had known the NIH-funded study’s true nature—to randomly manipulate preemie oxygen levels. They discovered that just last year.
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The word ‘unethical’ doesn’t even begin to describe the egregious and shocking deficiencies in the informed-consent process for this study,” says Dr. Michael Carome, an internationally recognized expert on research ethics with the Washington, D.C.-based consumer watchdog group Public Citizen.

“Parents of the infants who were enrolled in this study were misled about its purpose,” Carome says. “They were misled to believe everything being done was in the ‘standard of care’ and therefore posed no predictable risk to the babies.”
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In some instances, the results proved both disturbing and tragic.

More of the high-oxygen babies ended up with serious vision disorders. The low-oxygen preemies were more likely to die. The results, published in the New England Journal of Medicine in May 2010, sparked ethical questions and complaints. Companion studies being conducted in other countries were halted.

Of learning her baby had been part of an oxygen experiment, Sharrissa Cook says: “That’s more like playing Russian roulette to me. There’s no way I would say you could give my baby whatever you want him to have as opposed to what he needs.”

‘Input’ Stalls Agency’s Ethics Probe in Baby Oxygen Trials

The view of the HHS ethics office, directed by Dr. Jerry Menikoff, is that although medical doctors act in the best interest of individual patients, researchers do not.  Rather, researchers focus on what they consider the greater good. But as a trade-off, researchers must tell study participants about all the risks.
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The entire dispute might be little more than an academic debate if it weren’t for one crucial factor: The Office for Human Research Protections, the ethics body within HHS, ruled that the consent process for the study violated federal regulations designed to protect human research subjects.  “The consent was significantly deficient,” Menikoff, director of the ethics office, says.

His office sent a stern letter to SUPPORT researchers on March 7, 2013 stating consent forms signed by parents of the preemies “failed to describe the reasonably foreseeable risks of blindness, neurological damage and death.”

It was a bombshell. One agency within HHS, the ethics office, had slapped another, NIH, with a formal ethics violation. This unleashed a torrent of pushback.  Little more than three months later, the ethics office appeared to back down.  In a follow-up letter, it formally suspended corrective action or punishment.
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Lessons of Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment

Modern rules for research on humans were forged after the U.S. government’s Tuskegee syphilis experiment on black men in 1932 entitled, “Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male.” For 40 years, test subjects weren’t told they were part of a study, nor were they treated for their syphilis even after penicillin was determined to be a cure in 1947.

When a series of Associated Press reports exposed the study in 1972, an outcry led to new rules intended to prevent a repeat of the Tuskegee mistakes. Those rules mandate voluntary, informed consent from all human test subjects.

Parents Fault Medical Research Study for Putting Preemies in Harm’s Way

The discussion was academic until the Pratts took the stage—carrying pretty, 6-year-old Dagen, who was wearing a sundress and ponytails but looked fragile and thin in leg braces.

“We were guaranteed that the study wouldn’t hurt Dagen in any way, that it was just gathering information,” Shawn Pratt told the audience academics and research scientists, “and were shocked to learn the care she received was based not on what she needed, but on some protocol.”

Dagen’s father continued: “We want to know, as information comes in, why the risks and intent of the study were not clear. If it were clear, we wouldn’t have taken part in the study.”
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At least one of three HHS panelists who moderated the meeting appeared dumbfounded by the Pratts’ personal story after lofty discussions about the greater good.

Attkinson on Preemie Study:' Government Made a Mistake'

According to Attkisson’s report, this resulted in a “government vs. government” dispute. “The federal government funded the study, basically approved the study, [and] oversaw the study,” she said in the interview. “I think it’s clear that the federal government, at the very least, made a mistake.”

The HHS ethics body’s attempts to enforce what it found to be violations of the parental consent process stalled because of “pressure by the research community and by senior officials in the federal government who really didn’t want this to go much further,” Attkisson said. Going forward, she argues, “There needs to be something that’s said at the end of all this. What did the researchers do wrong, what do they need to do to correct this and make sure the same type of thing doesn’t happen again?”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:51 PM | Permalink

May 29, 2014

The VA scandal is systemic and for some, horrifyingly personal

The VA's problems are systemic says its own Inspector General, Delayed care is everywhere

Late-night testimony Wednesday by a top VA official before Congress amounted to a confession that the agency had lost its focus over the years, paying more attention to meeting performance standards than treating patients.
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The Inspector General appeared to draw a direct link between delays in health care and the bonuses of about $9,000 and salary increases that hospital officials receive as a result of their performance appraisal.
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The inspector general probe released Wednesday found that 1,700 veterans who are patients at the Phoenix hospital are not on any official list awaiting appointments, even though they need to see doctors. Some 1,138 veterans in Phoenix had been waiting longer than six months just to get an appointment to see their primary doctors, investigators found.
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Investigators said they are now looking into 42 medical facilities in connection with health care delays, the number rising sharply from 26 last week and 10 the week before that.

Dr. Hal Scherz tells War Stories from VA Hospitals in the Wall St Journal including the fact that Administrators limited operating time so that work stopped by 3 pm.

The federal government runs two giant health-care programs—Medicare and the VA system. Medicare is provided by private physicians and other providers. Its finances are a mess, but the care that seniors receive is by and large outstanding. The VA health-care system is run by a centrally controlled federal bureaucracy. Ultimately, that is the source of the poor care veterans receive.
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The best solution for veterans would be to wind down the VA hospitals. The men and women who have served in our armed forces should be supplied with a federally issued insurance card allowing them to receive their care in the community where it can be delivered better and more efficiently.

Whistleblower says Texas VA is run like a 'crime syndicate' as wait times averaged 115 DAYS and Republicans push for private-care vouchers

'For lack of a better term, you’ve got an organized crime syndicate,' a Texas VA whistle-blower told the website's reporter. 'People up on top are suddenly afraid they may actually be prosecuted and they’re pressuring the little guys down below to cover it all up.”
'I see it in the executives' eyes,' the whistle-blower added. 'They are worried.'
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Congressional Republicans have responded to the crisis by demanding that VA Secretary Eric Shinseki allow veterans to seek private medical care – with full reimbursement – if they wait more 30 days or more for treatment.  House Veterans Affairs Committee chair Rep. Jeff Miller, a Florida Republican, said Tuesday that he would soon introduce a bill to cement that demand into policy.'We simply can't afford to wait for the results of another investigation into a problem we already know exists,' Miller said in a statement.
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The VA's health care division could have trouble explaining its failures since records show it is flush with cash it hasn't been spending.  The Daily Caller reported Tuesday that the VA will 'carry over' about $450 million in medical care funding from fiscal year 2014 to fiscal year 2015.  Shinseki was given $54.6 billion to work with overall this year – an annual allocation $10 billion higher than in the first full-year Obama budget.

But the scandal is very personal for the families involved.

He Turned to His Local VA for Help, but They Allegedly Turned Him Away. Roughly One Week Later, He Was Dead

When Sgt. Isaac Shawn Sims, 26, an Iraq veteran, turned to the Kansas City VA Medical Center for help, he was allegedly turned away. His mother, Patricia, says her son badly needed treatment for traumas suffered in combat.  On Sunday, Sims was shot and killed by police officers following a tense standoff.

Sims had his eardrum blown out and has “80 percent disability from brain injuries,” his mother told KCTV. But his injuries are not just physical. Patricia Sims said her son suffered from severe depression, migraines and PTSD as a result of watching his friends die in combat.  “He had to pick up body parts, he had to move forward as if nothing happened,” the mother recalled.

Patricia said she knew her son badly needed help after she witnessed her son driving around in his Hummer like he was back in a war zone. He reportedly told his mom, “this is how we look for IEDs mama.”

Frightened and worried, they asked the VA for help. They didn’t expect to receive the response that they claim they did.
They said ‘we don’t have room for you.’ ‘Your problem is not big enough.’ ‘You’ll have to wait.’ ‘Get in line.’ ‘We’ll give him treatment in 30 days if a bed comes available,’” Patricia Sims said.

Family: V.A. Cops Stomped On Veteran’s Head, Killing Him

The family of a 65 year-old veteran claims that VA police stomped on the veterans head and neck, causing him to suffer a stroke and die several weeks later, a new lawsuit alleges.

On May 25, 2011, Jonathan Montano was waiting several hours to undergo dialysis treatment at the Loma Linda VA facility when he grew frustrated, reports Courthouse News Service.  With an IV still in his arm, Montano made his way towards the hospital exit, saying that he would get treatment at the Long Beach VA facility instead.

Norma Montano, the veteran’s wife of 44 years, left the hospital to retrieve the couple’s car.  But VA police wouldn’t let Montano leave, the lawsuit alleges.

“The summoned VA Police Department police officers then stopped Jonathan Montano from leaving the VA Hospital in Loma Linda, by tackling him to the floor, slamming his head on the floor, and kneeing and stomping on his neck, and otherwise brutalizing and restraining him,” reads the lawsuit, according to Courthouse News.  “This kneeing and stomping on his neck by the VA Police Department police officers caused the dissection of his carotid artery, that resulted in immediate (or very soon thereafter) blood clotting, which resulted in [his] suffering a stroke

But, she claims, hospital staff initially said Montano suffered the stroke after a fall — an “untrue statement,” the suit alleges.

“Later on, one of the nurses at the VA Hospital in Loma Linda took Norma Montano aside, and told her that her husband didn’t fall, but was slammed to the ground by the VA Police, that Norma Montano was being lied to, and that it wasn’t right what the VA Police did to Jonathan Montano,” the suit alleges.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:18 AM | Permalink

May 27, 2014

A Wonder of Modern Medicine

From Cancer Treatment: Before and After

 Noah Cancer Beforeandafter

This inspiring photo is part of a brochure from the Children's Cancer Center of the University of Mississippi Health Care system. When he was 4 years old, Noah was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. His odds of surviving were about 50/50. As part of his treatment, he underwent chemotherapy and a bone marrow treatment.

As you can see from this split photo, Noah is now a healthy, happy 7-year old.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:01 PM | Permalink

May 21, 2014

What Will the Post-Antibiotics Future Look Like?

Imagining the Post-Antibiotics Future

After 85 years, antibiotics are growing impotent. So what will medicine, agriculture and everyday life look like if we lose these drugs entirely?

Sir Alexander Fleming, the discoverer of penicillin, warned in 1945 as he accepted the Nobel Prize in Medicine,
“It is not difficult to make microbes resistant to penicillin in the laboratory by exposing them to concentrations not sufficient to kill them… There is the danger that the ignorant man may easily under dose himself and by exposing his microbes to non-lethal quantities of the drug make them resistant.” ….
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What worried him was the possibility that misuse would speed the process up. Every inappropriate prescription and insufficient dose given in medicine would kill weak bacteria but let the strong survive. ... Bacteria can produce another generation in as little as twenty minutes; with tens of thousands of generations a year working out survival strategies, the organisms would soon overwhelm the potent new drugs.
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With antibiotics losing usefulness so quickly — and thus not making back the estimated $1 billion per drug it costs to create them — the pharmaceutical industry lost enthusiasm for making more. In 2004, there were only five new antibiotics in development, compared to more than 500 chronic-disease drugs for which resistance is not an issue — and which, unlike antibiotics, are taken for years, not days.
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So what would a post-antibiotic era look like?  It isn't hard to imagine what would happen first.  Infected patients would die.  In fact, they already do.

What else?    Well, getting a tattoo, botox or liposuction would be far more fraught with danger.

Those calculations of risk extend far beyond admitting possibly contaminated patients from a nursing home. Without the protection offered by antibiotics, entire categories of medical practice would be rethought.
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"A post-antibiotic world means, in effect, an end to modern medicine as we know it.  Things as common as a strep throat or a child's scratched knee could once again kill." Dr Margaret Chan, World Health Organization.
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Dr. Louis Rice, chair of the department of medicine at Brown University’s medical school. “Plus, right now healthcare is a reasonably free-market, fee-for-service system; people are interested in doing procedures because they make money. But five or ten years from now, we’ll probably be in an environment where we get a flat sum of money to take care of patients. And we may decide that some of these procedures aren’t worth the risk.”
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Out of all the antibiotics sold in the United States each year, 80 percent by weight are used in agriculture, primarily to fatten animals and protect them from the conditions in which they are raised…..

A growing body of scientific research links antibiotic use in animals to the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria: in the animals’ own guts, in the manure that farmers use on crops or store on their land, and in human illnesses as well. Resistant bacteria move from animals to humans in groundwater and dust, on flies, and via the meat those animals get turned into.

In the Kenyon Review, Jacob Appel writes in Sudden Death: A Eulogy, "Sudden death is a conclusion. Too often, I fear, the long goodbye devolves into a negation." 

The lingering long goodbye is how death is experienced today when every effort is made to prolong life using all the medical technology and modern medicines at the doctor's command.

In a post-antibiotic world, death will come much earlier and more quickly.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:00 PM | Permalink

May 20, 2014

Health Roundup: New pills for lung cancer, Alzheimer's, drinkable sunscreen, killer pimple, no link between autism and vaccines

A cure for lung cancer? Doctors hail incredible breakthrough with new drugs

Next week ‘stellar’ trial results for the antibody drug will be presented at the world’s biggest cancer conference, for the American Society of Clinical Oncology, in Chicago.

Doctors will reveal that a quarter of 129 US patients with advanced lung cancer have survived at least two years after starting nivolumab. ...Nivolumab is one of a new class of drug, called anti-PD1s and anti-PDL1s, which help the immune system ‘see’ that tumors are deadly foes. Explaining how the drugs work Dr Peake said: ‘Tumors develop a ‘cloak’, like a Star Wars force field, around themselves. This stops the immune system attacking them.  These drugs take that force field away and allow the body’s immune response to fight the tumor. The beauty is we do not have the adverse side effects of conventional treatment.’

Professor Dean Fennell, who has been treating British patients with a similar drug, MK3475, said: ‘This is an enormous deal. There are patients on treatment who’ve been going an incredibly long time.’ He added it was ‘not inconceivable’ that they could be an ‘effective cure’ for some – allowing patients to live virtually disease-free for years.

Happy pill 'wards off Alzheimer's': Widely used anti-depressant can help reduce formation of plaque on the brain
A widely-used antidepressant could help slow the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, researchers have found.

Scientists say citalopram can significantly reduce the formation of plaques in the brain, which could go some way to warding off the disease.The U.S. academics admit it is too early to recommend the drug to Alzheimer’s patients, but dementia charities last night welcomed the ‘promising’ findings as providing ‘vital new clues’ about the disease.

Plaque deposits are closely associated with declining memory and other symptoms of Alzheimer’s, so anything that can stop their build-up in the brain is likely to help ward off the condition.  The research, published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, found that a single dose of the antidepressant citalopram lowered production of the plaque protein amyloid beta by 37 per cent.

Statins are safe as research claiming adverse side effects proved wrong

Oxford academic says patients may have been at risk after they stopped taking statins because they believed flawed research published in the British Medical Journal, which he had warned months before was wrong

The killer pimple: Doctors warn of aggressive form of skin cancer which is six times more likely to kill if it is not removed within two months

Nodular melanomas usually appear on the skin as a red nodule rather than an ugly dark mole, leading doctors to mistake them for relatively harmless forms of skin cancer or even pimples.  But the key difference is that these melanomas are firm to touch, and will not feel soft like a pimple or a mole.
 Nodular Melanoma

World's first DRINKABLE sun cream goes on sale - and just a teaspoon will offer three hours' protection

Harmonised H20 UV claims to provide holiday makers with up to factor 30 protection, meaning sunbathers could be able to soak up the rays for longer without fear of getting burned.
Once ingested, the product's liquid molecules vibrate on the skin, cancelling out 97 per cent of UVA and UVB rays, according to US company Osmosis Skincare.

Dr Ben Johnson, who founded the company, adds in his blog: 'If 2 mls are ingested an hour before sun exposure, the frequencies that have been imprinted on water will vibrate on your skin in such a way as to cancel approximately 97% of the UVA and UVB rays before they even hit your skin. This results in coverage for approximately three hours. 

There is NO link between autism and childhood vaccines, a major new study finds

There is no connection between the development of autism with childhood vaccinations, University of Sydney researchers recently found. The first systematic international review was conducted for the research involved more than 1.25 million children for five cohort studies and a further 9920 for five case-controlled studies.
Results from both showed that there was no statistical data to support a link between commonly-used vaccines for measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough and the development of autism or autism spectrum disorders.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:27 AM | Permalink

May 15, 2014

The VA scandal is a national disgrace

Will anyone be held accountable?  Will anyone go to jail?  I doubt it.

The VA's own Office of Medical Inspector finds that VA treatment records were falsified and clerks were instructed on how to do so.  They gamed the system to deliberately obscure how long veterans had to wait to get medical care. 

The VA is our best example of government-run health care and it's riddled with corruption and coverups.  The NYT reports that the House Committee has issued a subpoena demanding all email records after the chairman said the VA had been stonewalling requests to provide more information about claims that the off-the books wait list had been destroyed.

A single, secret wait list contributed to the deaths of dozens of veterans at the Phoenix VA hospital. Insiders say there could be many, many more such lists.

A new whistleblower report claims that as many as 15,000 patients treated at the Harlingen, Texas, VA health center were either reportedly denied care or forced to undergo extended delays for cancer treatments in an attempt to cut costs. Plus, about 1,800 records were reportedly purged at the one VA center alone to give the appearance of eliminating a backlog.

Obama has increased the VA budget each year but an analysis shows VA Spends Close to $500 Million on Conference Room, Office Makeovers Under Obama

Amid calls to resign which have so far been resisted by the Administration, Secretary Shineski will testify at a Senate Veterans Affairs Committee today

Kay Daly tells us what her brother went through The Veterans Administration Scandal Hits Home.

For anyone laboring under the assumption that the scandal that plagues the VA hospital in Phoenix, Arizona must be anomalous, think again.  Without even delving into the medical malpractice testimonials of my three relatives who work at a VA Medical Center on the East coast, the recent near-death experience of my brother confirms our worst fears: the culture of corruption and indifference that afflicts the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is systemic.
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When Richard walked into the VA in Big Spring, Texas three years ago, he complained of a sore foot and minor pain in one hip.  After three years of never-ending delays, lost files, stunning incompetence, bureaucratic bumbling, self-wrapping red tape, countless broken promises, and blatant cruelty (that would have formed the basis for a meritorious medical malpractice lawsuit in the private sector), this veteran became a completely disabled invalid.  He was unable to walk or care for himself and grew concerned he might not wake up some morning.  Only the calendar-based happenstance of turning 65 years old saved his life.
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He finally qualified for Medicare and purchased supplemental insurance and we immediately got him to a private doctor who was shocked at his condition.

What the Big Spring, Texas VA couldn't do in three years, a private doctor did in five days.  Put another way, the duration of VA indifference was as long as the period Richard's grandfather was held captive in a Japanese POW camp!

Richard had the first of two hip transplants at a Lubbock hospital and is now recovering in a nursing facility.  The doctor said the hips were in such bad shape that he was essentially walking on two very badly broken hips for three years.  The doctor also said Richard would not have survived through the summer.

VA Health Scandals Foreshadow Life Under ObamaCare

Rationing: Government-run VA health clinics have been caught falsifying records to hide obscenely long and sometimes deadly delays in treating veterans. Welcome to the future of health care under ObamaCare.

The VA recently decided to investigate one of its Colorado outpatient clinics to see how it handled patient delays. What it found was shocking, but not surprising.

While delays for many of the 6,300 veterans treated at the clinic stretched out for months, clerks there were told to falsify dates so it appeared that everyone was being seen in a timely fashion. Those who didn't play along ended up on a "bad boy list," according to USA Today, which obtained a copy of the report.

This follows a report that 23 veterans relying on the VA died due to delayed cancer screenings. At least 40 others died waiting for appointments at a VA system in Phoenix. A retired VA doctor said many were on a "secret waiting list" designed to hide treatment delays.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:41 AM | Permalink

May 7, 2014

The medical treatments experts refuse to have for themselves and why

From the psychiatrist who'd never take anti-depressants, to the heart doctor who steers clear of statins,  Revealed the medical treatments the experts REFUSE to have themselves

Psychiatrist who'd never take anti-depressants
Weight-loss GP who wouldn't go on a diet
Heart doctor who refuses to have statins
Prostate expert who won't have PSA test
Orthopedic surgeon who'd avoid X-rays
Hip specialist who says forget mid-life marathons
Dietitian who won't eat reduced-fat food
Asthma professor who wants to cut inhaler use
Obstetrician who would not give birth at home
Sport scientist who thinks long workouts are pointless
Sleep specialist who won't take sleeping pills
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:26 AM | Permalink

May 5, 2014

Vampire Therapy

'Vampire therapy' could reverse aging, scientists find

It may seem the stuff of gothic horror novels, but transfusions of young blood could reverse the aging process and even cure Alzheimer’s Disease, scientists believe.

Throughout history, cultures across the globe have extolled the properties of youthful blood, with children sacrificed and the blood of young warriors drunk by the victors.

It was even rumored that the North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il injected himself with blood from healthy young virgins to slow the aging process.

Now scientists have found that young blood actually ‘recharges’ the brain, forms new blood vessels and improves memory and learning.

In parallel research, scientists at Harvard University also discovered that a ‘youth protein’ which circulates in the blood is responsible for keeping the brain and muscles young and strong.

The protein, known as ‘GDF11’, is present in the bloodstream in large quantities when we are young but peters out as we age.
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“There seems to be little question that, GDF11 has an amazing capacity to restore aging muscle and brain function.”

Last year the team discovered that the protein could repair damaged hearts. But the new study showed that that raising the levels of the GDF11 protein in older mice improved the function of every organ in the body. Harvard stem cell biologist Prof Lee Rubin added: “We do think that, at least in principal, there will be a way to reverse some of the decline of aging with a single protein.

"It isn't out of question that GDF11, or a drug developed from it, might be worthwhile in Alzheimer's Disease.”

It is likely that the protein is at least partly responsible for the parallel finding by Stanford University that young blood can reverse the signs of aging.

Let's hope that this is not a way that the old can feed on the young

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:39 AM | Permalink

May 2, 2014

Health Roundup: Apples, almonds, second opinion, sleep, exercise and glucosamine

APPLESApples Reduce Cardiovascular Deaths Nearly as Well as Statins Do—Without the Drugs' Dangerous Side Effects

Apples (and other fruits) contain heart-healthy antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. Apples also are rich in pectin, a dietary fiber that reduces cholesterol.

SNACK ON ALMONDSSeveral studies hail health benefits of almonds

IF IT'S SERIOUS, GET A SECOND OPINION. TWELVE MILLION Americans receive the wrong medical diagnosis every year

About five per cent of all medical diagnoses in the U.S. are erroneous, the study found and these errors kill as many as 98,000 people per year.

EXERCISE WARDS OFF DEMENTIA Regular exercise can keep dementia at bay - even if it's in your genes: Being active three times a week stops the brain from shrinking

A study of men and women in their 60s, 70s and 80s found that being active at least three times a week stopped the brain from shrinking. Strikingly, even those with a common gene called APOE-e4 were protected by brisk walking, jogging, swimming and cycling. Strenuous household chores also helped.
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Kirk Erickson, an expert in the ageing brain, said: ‘This is the first study look at how physical activity might impact the loss of hippocampal volume in people at genetic risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

‘There are no other treatments shown to preserve hippocampal volume in those that may develop Alzheimer’s disease. This study has tremendous implications for how we might intervene, prior to the development of any dementia symptoms, in older adults who are at increased genetic risk for Alzheimer’s disease.
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The APOE-e4 gene is carried by up to 30 per cent of the population. It increases the risk of Alzheimer’s in old age but not everyone with the suspect DNA will develop the disease.The latest finding suggests the exercise may be one of the factors that decides if a brain is able to overcome its genetic inheritance.

IF YOU'RE SICK, SLEEP AS MUCH AS YOU CAN.  A good night's sleep really CAN make you feel better: Researchers say long naps can boost immune system and help fight infection

It has long been said that a good night's sleep can make you feel better, and researchers have finally found it to be true. They say sleep gives our immune systems a major boost, particularly if we are fighting off an infection.  Experiments in flies found that in the case of major infection, sleep can even save lives.
Researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania found that in fruitflies sleep enhances immune system response and recovery to infection.

'It's an intuitive response to want to sleep when you get sick,' said Julie Williams, who led the study.
'These studies provide new evidence of the direct and functional effects of sleep on immune response and of the underlying mechanisms at work.
'The take-home message from these papers is that when you get sick, you should sleep as much as you can -- we now have the data that supports this idea.'

GLUCOSAMINE BOOSTS AUTOPHAGY FOR A LONGER LIFE  Is a pill made from lobsters the secret to a longer life? Glucosamine can make mice live nearly 10  per cent longer

Last week, in the highly respected journal Nature Communications, scientists reported how the food supplement glucosamine, often made from shellfish, can make mice live nearly 10  per cent longer. That would add an average eight years to human lifespans

The researcher, Dr Michael Ristow, a biochemist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, gave the supplement to ageing mice in addition to their usual diet and compared them with similar mice not given the supplement. He believes the benefits are down to glucosamine making the body think it's on a low-carb, high-protein diet. It does this by creating amino acids that the body mistakes for proteins.  In response, our bodies start burning more protein. This can keep weight down and, as a result, may also fend off problems such as high blood pressure and diabetes…The body itself produces glucosamine but the amount starts to dwindle after the age of 45.
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There may, however, be another explanation. Glucosamine has been found to boost a process in the human body called autophagy, according to a 2013 report in the journal Arthritis and Rheumatism.Autophagy is a system in which cells get rid of their toxic waste. If this process fails, the cell dies,
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:30 AM | Permalink

May 1, 2014

Medical breakthroughs roundup: paralysis, obesity, cholesterol, cancer, anorexia and editing DNA

Stimulation restores some function for 4 paralyzed men

Paralysis may not last forever anymore. In an experiment hailed as "staggering," a team of researchers at the University of Louisville and the University of California-Los Angeles restored some voluntary movement to four men who were told they would never move their legs again.
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By coursing an electrical current through the four men's spines, the research team, which included scientists from the Pavlov Institute of Physiology in Russia, appears to have "dialed up" signals between the brain and legs that were believed to have been completely lost.

Researchers at Beth Israel claim  a major breakthrough in the fight against obesity - and say they have found a genetic switch that controls our metabolism.

Researchers have identified a protein that controls metabolism - and used it to dramatically reduce the development of obesity and diabetes in mice.  Investigators at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) published their research in the April 10 issue of the journal Nature.

The new findings show that reducing the amount of nicotinamide N-methyltransferase (NNMT) protein in fat and liver dramatically reduces the development of obesity and diabetes in mice.
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NNMT is an enzyme that processes vitamin B3 and has been linked to certain types of cancer, as well as Alzheimer's disease, said co-corresponding author Qin Yang, MD, PhD, a Klarman Scholar in the Kahn laboratory at BIDMC and Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.Now we have identified an entirely new role for this enzyme in fat tissue, and that is to regulate energy metabolism,' he said.

Groundbreaking experiment stops the buildup of cholesterol inside blood vessels

Scientists successfully prevented the development of atherosclerosis. Team identified and halted the action of a single molecular culprit responsible for excess cholesterol forming.
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The offender, the researchers say, is a fat-and-sugar molecule called glycosphingolipid, or GSL, which resides in the membranes of all cells, and is mostly known for regulating cell growth.
Results of the experiments, the scientists say, reveal that this very same molecule also regulates the way the body handles cholesterol.
The Johns Hopkins team used an existing man-made compound called D-PDMP to block the synthesis of the GSL molecule, and by doing so, prevented the development of heart disease in mice and rabbits fed a high-fat, cholesterol-laden diet.

Cancer breakthrough as scientists successfully target cells resistant to chemotherapy

Findings could pave way for drugs to target these 'resilient' cells
Scientists made the discovery while investigating why certain drugs, such as those often used to treat breast and colon cancer, hindered chemo

Could these 'smart scales' cure anorexia? 75% of patients who used device were free of symptoms a year later
Swedish invention used to re-train the brain on how to eat normally

The Mandometer is a scale for your plate, connected to a computer.  It registers how much food is on the plate and how fast you eat.  It also asks you to register how full you feel, to encourage normal satiation

DNA is 'edited' to cure liver disease for first time - and the technique could someday be used to prevent Down's Syndrome

Named Crispr, technique can correct a single ‘letter’ of the genetic alphabet. It does this by using enzymes to target specific parts of the DNA database.

It could treat disorders like sickle-cell anaemia and Huntington’s disease Crispr might also be used to correct gene defects in human IVF embryos, allowing disorders to be ‘ironed out’ before a baby is born
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:10 PM | Permalink

April 14, 2014

Visual aids for the "Catastrophe Like No Other"

Peggy Noonan wrote that Obamacare is A Catastrophe Like No Other ….

You cannot look at ObamaCare and call it anything but a huge, historic mess. It is also utterly unique in the annals of American lawmaking and government administration.
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What the bill declared it would do—insure tens of millions of uninsured Americans—it has not done. There are still tens of millions uninsured Americans. On the other hand, it has terrorized millions who did have insurance and lost it, or who still have insurance and may lose it.

The program is unique in that it touches on an intimate and very human part of life, the health of one's body, and yet normal people have been almost wholly excluded from the debate. This surely was not a bug but a feature….

She didn't have any visual aids, so here are some:

 Obamacare-Higher Premiums

 Obamacare Higher-Deductibles

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:15 PM | Permalink

April 9, 2014

Health Roundup: Ibuprofen, junk food, good food, exercise, Viagra and Glucosamine to extend life

Ibuprofen. Painkillers linked to higher risk of stroke: Alert over prescription medicines used by millions

Painkillers may raise risk of irregular heartbeat that could trigger stroke.  The extra chance of developing atrial fibrilliation as high as 84%, says Dutch researchers  The condition – a leading cause of first-time strokes – means the upper chambers of the heart are out of rhythm and beat much faster than normal, which allows blood to pool and clot.

Ibuprofen belongs to a class of drugs known as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) which work by blocking the COX-2 enzyme which reduces pain and inflammation, but is also important in regulating heart function.

Ibuprofen Can Triple Stroke Risk; Painkillers Can Double Heart Attack Chances

The medical scientists performed an analysis of all randomized controlled trials comparing any NSAID with other NSAIDs or placebo. Thirty one trials were completed in 116,429 patients.

Junk Food:  Junk food is so bad for asthmatics it can make inhalers 'useless', doctors warn

Dr Samantha Walker, Deputy Chief Executive of Asthma UK, says: 'Asthma is a very complex condition which is why continued research is so crucial.
'These studies provide the first evidence that ‘bad’ saturated fats, such as those found in butter, can adversely affect the way in which the active ingredients in salbutamol inhalers work. Interestingly this study has also demonstrated that ‘good’ fats, such as those found in oily fish, may enable salbutamol to work more effectively.

Junk food MAKES you lazy and sedentary

‘Overweight people often get stigmatized as lazy and lacking discipline,’ says Blaisdell, a professor of psychology at UCLA and author of the research which will be published in the journal Physiology and Behavior.
‘We interpret our results as suggesting that the idea commonly portrayed in the media that people become fat because they are lazy is wrong. Our data suggest that diet-induced obesity is a cause, rather than an effect, of laziness. Either the highly processed diet causes fatigue or the diet causes obesity, which causes fatigue.’

Good FoodGreen tea improves memory and could help treat dementia   Green tea extract increases the brain's effective connectivity, study says

Beans can significantly reduce cholesterol and lower the risk of heart diseases, according to a study by Canadian researchers.  A daily portion of pulses which include most varieties of beans as well as peas, lentils and chickpeas,
can reduce LDL by 5 percent.

A glass of milk a day 'keeps arthritis at bay' - but only if you are a woman  A glass of milk a day could help stop women's knees from creaking, claim US researchers who found that women who frequently drink fat-free or low-fat milk have less osteoarthritis in the knee, but eating cheese increased the problem.

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a degenerative joint disease that causes pain and swelling of joints in the hand, hips, or knee.  Lead author Dr Bing Lu, from Brigham & Women's Hospital in Boston, said 'Milk consumption plays an important role in bone health. Drinking milk made little difference in men, and eating yogurt did not affect progression in men or women.

Drinking 2 cups of coffee a day may cut risk of colon cancer.   After examining coffee consumption among 8500 Israelis, researchers found the odds of having colorectal cancer were about 30 percent lower for coffee drinkers…

Other studies have linked coffee consumption with a lower risk of certain types of skin and breast cancers, as well as a lower risk of prostate cancer.

Exercise. A brisk walk boosts a woman's brain: Aerobic exercise can increase size of area involved in learning and memory
Brisk walking for two hours a week may help boost brainpower in women at risk of dementia. After a  six-month study in women aged 70-80 with early memory problems, researchers found aerobic activity increased the size of the hippocampus - an area of the brain involved in learning and memory.  The Canadian researchers claim it's never too late to undertake regular physical activity based on increasing evidence that it promotes brain health.

Viagra. Viagra increases the risk of skin cancer: Men who used the drug were 84% more likely to get melanoma, study claims  It is thought the impotence drug may affect the same genetic mechanism that enables skin cancer to become more invasive….However the researchers add that because the study is preliminary, it is too early to advise men to stop taking the little blue pill if prescribed for erectile dysfunction.

Glucosamine. The popular arthritis supplement Glucosamine could extend life 'by 8 years

A popular food supplement made from crab shells may hold the key to long life.Researchers are recommending that people start taking glucosamine, after tests on aging mice showed it to extend lifespan by almost ten per cent, the equivalent to an extra eight years in human terms.  It is thought that the sugar-like supplement, which is has long been used to keep the joints healthy and ease the pain of arthritis, extends life by altering metabolism.

Dr Michael Ristow, of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, said, ‘There is no definite proof of the effectiveness of glucosamine in humans.  But the chances are good and since unlike most other potentially lifespan-extending drugs there are no known relevant side-effects of glucosamine supplementation, I would tend to recommend this supplement.’
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:07 PM | Permalink

April 7, 2014

Health Roundup: Sleep, diesel, morning light, watermelon, jogging, cancer test and dogs

SLEEP. How a bad night's sleep could age your brain by five YEARS: Poor quality slumber causes loss of memory and concentration

Just three years of poor sleep could cause a decline in mental faculties. Poor sleep is linked to a 50% increase in risk of a decline in faculties. Sleep quality is more important than quantity in determining brain aging.

CHILDREN: Circumcision should be offered 'like vaccines' to the parents of baby boys, study claims
The health benefits of male circumcision 'outweigh the risks 100 to one'  Half of uncircumcised men develop a health problem as a result, it is claimed. It would be 'unethical' not to offer it to the parents of all baby boys, the researchers state

Emissions from diesel can damage children's brains and increase the risk of autism and schizophrenia, scientists warn.  Nitrogen dioxide, a chemical present in diesel emissions, causes eye, nose and throat irritation and is said to cause breathing problems in young children.  But scientists have warned that as well as damaging the lungs, the fumes could cause autism and schizophrenia to develop within children living near busy roads. Long-term exposure to the fumes changes the way that a child's brain develops, it has been revealed.  The danger of the fumes has been compared to the effect of lead in petrol.

WEIGHT.  Get up earlier.  Morning Light Exposure Linked to Lower Weight  In the study, participants who were normally exposed to at least 500 lux of light (about the brightest level you'd find in homes and offices) starting at 8 a.m. had lower body mass indexes (BMIs) than those who usually got that much light exposure later in the day, the researchers found.

HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE.  Eat more watermelon and exercise in warm water.
Watermelon could slash the risk of heart attacks in obese people
The study, published in the American Journal of Hypertension, revealed that eating watermelon is good for heart health and can reduce the risk of heart problems in cold conditions. Professor Arturo Figueroa, from Florida State University, said: ‘The pressure on the aorta and on the heart decreased after consuming watermelon extract."

Research suggests that exercising in warm water could help people with high blood pressure, even those who don't respond to drugs. Hot aquarobics takes place in water heated to 90F. The temperature of the water dilates blood vessels improving the flow of blood which reduces blood pressure and slashes heart attack and stroke risk.

EXERCISE:  Jogging could actually be BAD for you: Too much running increases risk of early death
People who do a moderate amount of exercise live the longest.  Those who do none at all, or too much, have shorter lifespans. Experts recommend running for two to three hours per week

CANCER. Simple blood test could soon diagnose if patient has cancer and how far advanced the disease it is, scientists say.  A quick and simple blood test could soon diagnose which cancer a patient has and how advanced the disease is, scientists said….But researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine have developed a test which can quickly tell doctors how large the tumor is, how it is responding to treatment and how it has evolved over time…..According to the medics, the new test works for the most common types of cancer, including breast, lung and prostate. It could even be used to screen healthy or at-risk patients for signs of the illness.
Cancer cells continuously divide and die, as they do so they release DNA into the bloodstream, which can be screened for using blood tests.

DOGS CAN SMELL CANCER.  BBC Video. Dogs watch us all the time and read our body language like a sixth sense. They also smell our bodies for changes. Max smelt cancer in Maureen before any medical scans could pick it up. Dogs do this naturally and can be trained to pick up on tiny volatile chemicals given off by cancerous tumors. They can even be taught to alert diabetics to low blood sugar levels.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:53 AM | Permalink

April 3, 2014

Just how successful as the deadline for enrolling in Obamacare reached

President Obama claims 7 million signed up for Obamacare but a secret  Study shows just 858,000 newly insured Americans have paid up!

Numbers from a RAND Corporation study that has been kept under wraps suggest that barely 858,000 previously uninsured Americans – nowhere near 7.1 million – have paid for new policies and joined the ranks of the insured by Monday night. Others were already insured, including millions who lost coverage when their existing policies were suddenly cancelled because they didn't meet Obamacare's strict minimum requirements.
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The unpublished RAND study – only the Los Angeles Times has seen it – found that just 23 per cent of new enrollees had no insurance before signing up.  And of those newly insured Americans, just 53 per cent have paid their first month's premiums.  If those numbers hold, the actual net gain of paid policies among Americans who lacked medical insurance in the pre-Obamacare days would be just 858,298.

And for that the health care industry, one-seventh of our national economy was totally upended.  The result: higher premiums, higher deductibles, fewer doctors to choose from and even fewer hospitals and a totally unnecessary attack on religious non profits that have caused the greatest rift between the Catholic Church and the United States government in the nation’s history

Premiums rising faster than eight years before Obamacare COMBINED

The individual market for health insurance has seen premiums rise by 39 percent since February 2013, eHealth reports…..Between 2005 and 2013, average premiums for individual plans increased 37 percent and average family premiums were upped 31 percent .  An important caveat is that eHealth’s prices don’t include subsidies, so the prices for anyone earning between 100 and 400 percent of the federal poverty level will be lower.

He enrolled in Obamacare through the Nevada exchange, paid his premium and even called to get assurance that he was in fact enrolled, then he had a heart attack.  After a triple bypass operation, he learned he was not insured and now that Obamacare disaster left him on the hook for $400k+ in medical bills.

Obama told Hispanics he won’t deport their relatives if they sign up for Obamacare…

NR Editorial A Season of Obamacare

While successfully urging Congress to pass a sweeping health-care law in 2009 and early 2010, President Obama and his allies made three main promises. The law would reduce premiums, dramatically expand coverage, and leave people who liked their insurance plans and doctors undisturbed. With the official sign-up period for Obamacare’s exchanges now over, we can say that none of those promises have been kept.

We have, it is true, gotten a modest increase in insurance coverage…..That benefit could have been won more cheaply, and for more people, by modifying public policy to make catastrophic insurance more affordable. The federal government would not have had to mandate essential benefits for everyone, and trample on consciences in the process, or to create a constitutionally suspect board to try to centralize medical practice, or to tax medical devices, or subsidize abortion, or make an ongoing mockery of the rule of law by executing it with an editor’s pen. There were better alternatives. There still are.

Doctor Deficit Will Devastate US Health Care

A disaster looms for U.S. health care: WaPo reports that an alarming number of doctors say they are fed-up, stressed out, overworked, and micro-managed in their primary care practices. The result? By 2020 the U.S. medical system will have 45,000 fewer primary-care doctors than we need, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:50 PM | Permalink

April 2, 2014

Health Roundup: Atkins diet for depression, vegetarians less healthy, Earl Grey, Donepezil

Can an Atkins-style diet really fight depression? Research suggests low-carb, high-fat foods can drastically improve mental health

'It's a very new field; the first papers only came out a few years ago,' Michael Berk, a professor of psychiatry at the Deakin University School of Medicine in Australia tells The Washington Post.  'But the results are unusually consistent, and they show a link between diet quality and mental health.
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Jodi Corbit, a 47-year-old mother from Catonsville, Maryland, had been battling depression for decades before adopting the Ketogenic diet in a bid to lose weight. To her surprise, she not only shifted several pounds, but also her lifelong depression.
'It was like a veil lifted and I could see life more clearly,' she explains. 'It changed everything.'
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The Ketogenic diet has long been used, as far back as 500 BC in fact, to treat seizures, and widely-published research has shown that it can result in an up to 90 per cent decrease in seizures for patients with epilepsy.  It's also been shown to help with Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and even cancer. Scientists admit they aren't entirely sure why this is, and it's still more of an association  than a direct cause and effect.

The Spray-On Surgical Film That Could Make Sutures Redundant

Vegetarians are less healthy and have a worse quality of life than meat eaters, according to a study by the University of Graz, Austria.

According to the study, those who abstain from meat are "less healthy (in terms of cancer, allergies, and mental health disorders), have a lower quality of life, and also require more medical treatment." Vegetarians were twice as likely to have atopy (allergies), a 50 percent increase in cancer and a 50 percent increase in heart attacks. They also drank less alcohol.

Getting married is good for your heart, say scientists. 

People who are married are 5% less likely to have diseased arteries. They are also 19% less likely to have peripheral arterial disease.  The link between artery health and marriage particularly clear in under 50s

A cup of Earl Grey 'as good as statins' at fighting heart disease, study finds

Scientists believe bergamot, a key ingredient in Earl Grey tea, can significantly lower cholesterol

Drug helps adults learn as fast as children by making the brain more 'elastic'

Donepezil is used to improve memory function in Alzheimer’s patients. Children learn skills quickly as their brains go through 'critical periods. Researchers found donepezil can revert adult brains to these periods. It increases the 'elasticity' of the brain making it capable of learning rapidly. Researchers rewired a visually impaired patient’s brain to process images. The drug works by boosting chemicals in the brain that reduce with age

Researchers have discovered a pill that helps adults learn new skills as quickly as children.

A professor at Harvard rewired the brain of a visually impaired women to process images by giving her Alzheimer’s drug donepezil.  The pill boosts chemicals in the brain, such as serotonin and acetylcholine, which are both found in high concentrations in the brains of young children.

Health Care Among the Disaffiliated Digital Natives

Millennials seem to trust depersonalized, national institutions more than voluntary communities or local institutions. One way to summarize all of the data unearthed by Pew is to say that social capital is lower among Millennials than it was even for Boomers, and it is getting lower.

But one very immediate reason for concern is the relationship between strong social capital and effective health care. A large number of studies have found that marriage, kinship networks and other forms of and social support correlate with good health, and are crucial for surviving major illnesses and even economizing on care costs. Moreover, the cultural and financial challenges eldercare presents become more acute the more socially isolated people become. These powerful but non-political factors, unfortunately, tend to be overlooked in a national health care debate that is overwhelmingly focused on policies and mechanics.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:12 PM | Permalink

March 25, 2014

Health Round-up: 'Astonishing" cancer drug, statins and MS, protective brain molecule against Alzheimer's, why dark chocolate is good for you

'Astonishing' new cancer drug could extend the lives of terminally-ill patients and eliminate their symptoms overnight….with virtually no side effects

The world-first project is being led by Professor Simon Rule, a globally-renowned expert in haematology and researcher at Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry.  He says the new pill has the potential to transform the lives of desperately ill patients and eliminate the need for costly, gruelling bouts of chemotherapy.

Professor Rule said: ‘The astonishing thing about these drugs is that they have virtually no side effects, which is unprecedented from my experience. In some patients the effects are immediate.
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‘This is not a cure for cancer but it will mean we are significantly improving our patients' life expectancy and quality of life; similar to managing a chronic condition.

‘I have yet to come across another class of drugs in my career that has been so successful for leukemia or lymphoma. I have done a lot of drug trials in my career, this drug and its predecessor, which I was fortunate to be the first person in Europe to use - they are transformational as far as I am concerned.

A daily statin tablet could slow march of MS: Regular dose found to almost halve brain shrinkage suffered by patients

British researchers randomly assigned 140 patients with secondary progressive MS to recieve either 80mg of simvastatin or a placebo.  Small but significant improvements in disability were noted by doctors

Study leader Dr Jeremy Chataway of University College London Hospitals, said ‘In the progressive stage of MS the brain shrinks by about 0.6 per cent a year

Protective Brain Molecule May Stave Off Alzheimer's

Studies have shown that a third of people have the brain pathology of Alzheimer's at autopsy, yet never experienced symptoms of cognitive decline during their lifetime. Therefore, scientists say, something must be protecting their brains from succumbing to the toxins.

Yankner and colleagues found that the protein known as REST (short for "repressor element 1-silencing transcription factor") turns off genes involved in cell death and resistance to cellular toxins. REST, which is normally produced during brain development, is very active in aging brains, but appears to be missing in the brains of people with cognitive impairment or Alzheimer's disease.
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Yanker's team also studied the effects of stress in the roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans. They found that worms that lacked proteins similar to REST became more vulnerable to stress and had shorter life spans than normal worms. This suggests the protective function has been conserved by evolution.

The researchers found that the protein isn't actually gone from brains of people with Alzheimer's. Instead, their brain cells continue to produce REST proteins, but cellular machinery called autophagosomes engulf the proteins and degrade them.

Consequently, it may be possible to intervene and prevent the degradation of these proteins, bringing scientists closer to diagnosing or preventing Alzheimer's disease and dementia.

Why dark chocolate is good for you

Dark chocolate might pack a double positive punch for our health—thanks to the microbes that live in our gut. New research suggests that beneficial bacteria that reside toward the end of our digestive tract ferment both the antioxidants and the fiber in cocoa.

In their deep-gut alchemy these microbes create anti-inflammatory compounds that have been linked to the cardiovascular and other benefits from dark chocolate consumption. The findings were presented March 18 at the American Chemical Society meeting in Dallas.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:35 PM | Permalink

March 18, 2014

Health Roundup: Autism and pollution, hospital infections, shadow diseases, saturated fat, food sensors, controversial medical questions

Growing evidence that autism is linked to pollution with babies 283% more likely to suffer from the condition compared to other birth defects

Exposure to traffic fumes, industrial air pollution and other environmental toxins can dramatically increase a mother's chances of having a child with autism. Researchers studied insurance claims from around 100 million people in the U.S., and used congenital malformations in boys as an indicator for parental exposure to environmental toxins.
Several studies have already shown a link between air pollution and autism, but this latest study published in the journal PLOS Computational Biology is one of the largest to put the two together.
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The report looked at birth defects associated with parental exposure to pollution and found a 1% increase in the defects corresponded to a 283% increase in autism.
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Essentially what happens is during pregnancy there are certain sensitive periods where the fetus is very vulnerable to a range of small molecules – from things like plasticizers, prescription drugs, environmental pesticides and other things,’ said study author Andrey Rzhetsky.
‘Some of these small molecules essentially alter normal development,’ the University of Chicago professor of genetic medicine and human genetics continued. ‘It’s not really well known why, but it’s an experimental observation.’ The defects were especially noticeable in boys’ reproductive systems, Rzhetsky noted.

One of the worst places to be sick is in a hospital because about 5% of patients acquire an infection such as  MRSA, C. difficile and E. coli which is why this is such good news.  Canadian invention to clean hospital rooms may save 10,000 lives a year.  It's a machine called AsepticSure  that mists a a hospital room and everything in it with a vapor solution of ozone and low dose peroxide.  With a 100 per cent kill rate in tests. 

We don't know why but there are shadow diseases that seem to strike together

1. Migraine.  Its shadow: Stroke or heart attack
2. Endometriosis. Its shadow: melanoma
3. High blood pressure. Its shadow: diabetes
4. Psoriasis. Its shadow: heart attack
5. Metabolic syndrome. Its shadow: kidney stones
6. Asthma.  Its shadow: depression and anxiety disorders

Another major study shows Saturated fat 'ISN'T bad for your heart'    Lead researcher Dr Rajiv Chowdhury, from Cambridge University and his team conducted a ‘meta-analysis’ of data from 72 studies involving 600,000 participants in 18 countries, the results of which are published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. 

Guidelines urging people to avoid fat to stave off heart disease 'are wrong'. There is no evidence of a link between saturated fat and heart disease. Healthy polyunsaturated fats also do not reduce heart disease risk. A dairy fat 'significantly reduces' heart disease risk

Coming soon to your grocery store, Tiny patch that sticks to food packaging will give you a warning when products are about to go off.  Inventor, Chao Zhang of Peking University in Beijing unveiled the sensors at the conference of the American Chemical Society.

Use-by dates are replaced using gold patches that change color. Sensors in the patches detect changes in temperature, for example. Patches are smaller than a fingernail and cost a fraction of a penny.  Inventor said the tags can be customized for different perishable products

10 Controversial Medical Questions Answered by Dr. Dalrymple

1. Is obesity a disease or a moral failing?
2. Should an alcoholic be allowed a second liver transplant?
3. Are psychiatric disorders the same as physical diseases?
4. Do doctors turn their patients into drug addicts?
5. As life expectancy increases will the elderly become too much of a burden on society?
6. Is marijuana a medicine?
7. Is nutrition really that important for good health?
8. Is drug addiction really just like any other illness?
9. Are obese children victims of child abuse?
10. Should you vaccinate your kids?
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:03 PM | Permalink

March 11, 2014

Health round-up: Anti-depressants, sitting, high protein diets, pill to slow aging, new risk for MS and smoking

Psychological side-effects of anti-depressants worse than thought

Thoughts of suicide, sexual difficulties and emotional numbness as a result of anti-depressants may be more widespread than previously thought, a researcher has found. In a survey of 1,829 people who had been prescribed anti-depressants, the researchers found large numbers of people -- over half in some cases -- reporting on psychological problems due to their medication, which has led to growing concerns about the scale of the problem of over-prescription of these drugs.

Dr Greg Antidepressants Have More Side Effects than Previously Thought

Over half of people aged 18 to 25 in the study reported suicidal feelings and in the total sample there were large percentages of people suffering from ‘sexual difficulties’ (62%) and ‘feeling emotionally numb’ (60%). Percentages for other effects included: ‘feeling not like myself’ (52%), ‘reduction in positive feelings’ (42%), ‘caring less about others’ (39%) and ‘withdrawal effects’ (55%). However, 82% reported that the drugs had helped alleviate their depression….

Professor Read concluded: “While the biological side-effects of antidepressants, such as weight gain and nausea, are well documented, psychological and interpersonal issues have been largely ignored or denied. They appear to be alarmingly common.”
“Effects such as feeling emotionally numb and caring less about other people are of major concern. Our study also found that people are not being told about this when prescribed the drugs. “Our finding that over a third of respondents reported suicidality ‘as a result of taking the antidepressants’ suggests that earlier studies may have underestimated the problem.”
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But there is good news for those suffering with depression, therapy is a VERY effective treatment for depression with no side effects.  Often, combined medication/psychotherapy treatment is recommended for severe depression, but for mild to moderate depression and other emotional problems, psychotherapy remains the most effective  treatment of choice.

Sitting comfortably? You won't be after reading this:   Cankles, constipation and even 'brain fog' - why we should all try to spend a lot less time on our bottoms

High-protein diets: Bad for the middle-aged, good for the elderly (over 65)  Consuming high levels of protein — particularly animal protein — is a bad strategy if you’re at midlife and aiming to live into old age, new research finds. But a study out Tuesday reveals that in older age, fortifying one’s diet with more protein-rich foods appears to be a formula for extending life.

New Blood Test Could Tell You How Likely You Are to Die in Next Five Years  The new research could also potentially help identify people who have underlying illnesses, but otherwise appear healthy. However, the findings are not quite ready for clinical use as more studies and research is needed.

The pill that could slow aging: Researchers reveal groundbreaking study to extend lifespan and improve health of the elderly  SIRT1 protein delays onset of aging and improved general health.  Supplement extended the average lifespan of mice by 8.8%

Multiple sclerosis linked to contraceptive pill: Risk could be up to 50% higher in women who take it

Starting smoking as a teenager not only makes it harder to quit, it THINS the brain  People who start smoking when they are very young have less grey matter in the brain region involved in making decisions and gut feelings

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:47 PM | Permalink

March 10, 2014

Blood test for Alzheimers

Just in time for the boomers.  Blood test that can predict Alzheimer's: Elderly could be given early warning

A simple blood test has been developed that gives healthy elderly people precious early warning they may get Alzheimer’s within the next three years.  It is hoped the test, the first to predict accurately who will become ill, could speed the search for new drugs that can delay or even prevent the devastating brain disease.
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Researcher Howard Federoff took blood samples from hundreds of healthy men and women aged 70-plus. During the next five years, some developed Alzheimer’s. Their blood samples were then compared with the samples taken from the people who remained free of the disease.
This flagged up a battery of ten fats that were present in lower amounts in the blood of those who went on to develop memory problems – despite them appearing healthy at the time they gave blood. Dr Federoff then confirmed the finding on a second group.

Writing in the journal Nature Medicine, he said the test can give two to three years’ warning of Alzheimer’s with 90 per cent accuracy. He said it is the first blood test to accurately forecast if an apparently healthy person will succumb to Alzheimer’s. It is also quicker, cheaper and less invasive than other methods such as expensive scans and painful lumbar punctures.  It isn’t entirely clear how the test works but changes in the blood may be a sign of brain cells deteriorating even when people appear healthy.

Let's hope that such a blood test will encourage drug companies to make Alzheimer's drugs faster and people to take preventative measures earlier .

Alzheimer's May Contribute to More Deaths Than Thought

Alzheimer's disease may be the third major cause of death in the U.S., after heart disease and cancer, according to a new study in the journal Neurology.

The study shows that the number of deaths caused by Alzheimer's is five to six times higher than what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports, which is based on data from death certificates.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:34 PM | Permalink

February 24, 2014

"One day Mrs. Blackwood had the health insurance plan she had paid for for two decades. Then, “because our lawmakers and president thought they could do better, she had nothing.”

Stephen Blackwood writes in the WSJ,  ObamaCare and My Mother's Cancer Medicine
The news was dumbfounding. She used to have a policy that covered the drug that kept her alive. Now she's on her own.

Though I'm no expert on ObamaCare (at 10,000 pages, who could be?), I understand that the intention—or at least the rhetorical justification—of this legislation was to provide coverage for those who didn't have it. But there is something deeply and incontestably perverse about a law that so distorts and undermines the free activity of individuals that they can no longer buy and sell the goods and services that keep them alive. ObamaCare made my mother's old plan illegal, and it forced her to buy a new plan that would accelerate her disease and death. She awaits an appeal with her insurer.
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The "Affordable" Care Act is a brutal, Procrustean disaster. In principle, it violates the irreducible particularity of human life, and in practice it will cause many individuals to suffer and die. We can do better, and we must.

Roger Kimball The human face of Obamacare

In some ways Stephen Blackwood’s case is typical. His mother, who had been diagnosed with a particularly nasty form of cancer in 2005 when she was only 49 had been receiving treatment through her insurer. She had had the Blue Cross/Blue Shield plan for nearly 20 years.  It was expensive, but so was her treatment. “It gave her access to any specialist or surgeon, and to the Sandostatin and other medications that were keeping her alive.” Then came November. She, like millions of other Americans, woke up one day and found out that her plan was cancelled. ….

The story Stephen Blackwood tells is like something out of Kafka—or, perhaps a closer analogy, like something out a totalitarian satrap, for there is nothing fictional about this nightmare. The mind-numbing bureaucracy. The stunning incompetence. The casual, unthinking brutality. It’s all there, coming to a shattered life near you. One day Mrs. Blackwood had the health insurance plan she had paid for for two decades. Then, “because our lawmakers and president thought they could do better, she had nothing.” Nothing. Nada. Nichts. Rien…..

So here you have it: Mrs. Blackwood “had an affordable health plan that covered her condition. Our lawmakers weren’t happy with that because . . . they wanted plans that were affordable and covered her condition. So they gave her a new one. It doesn’t cover her condition and it’s completely unaffordable.”  Got that?

This is no abstract political bargaining chip. It is the life of your mother, your child, your spouse. …

You won’t find chilly, insulated elites like Nancy Pelosi or Barack Obama admitting it, but the blood of Mrs. Blackwood and millions of other Americans harmed by their thoughtless legislation is on their heads. Obamacare is a totalitarian scheme masquerading as a humanitarian enterprise.  Its human cost is incalculable, but already, just a few months in, we’re beginning to get a sense of the suffering it will cause.  When your treatment for cancer is disallowed, when your daughter cannot get the medicine she needs, when your mother’s insurance is cancelled, will you still go gently into that good night of liberal sanctimony? Or will you finally realize that when Barack Obama promised to “fundamentally transform the United States of America,” this might not have been the beneficent program The New York Times and other such outlets led you to believe?
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:25 PM | Permalink

Stem cells instead of root canals and Clean teeth to hold off arthritis

On the horizon, stem cells to repair teeth.  A novel "regenerative" technique to repair infected teeth -- claimed to be painless and cheaper than the traditional root canal treatment -- has been developed by doctors at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi.

Termed as "SealBio", the technique uses body's own stem cells and eliminates the need for cumbersome root canal fillings.

Instead of filling the root canal with artificial materials that may pose bio-compatibility problems, it makes use of regenerative potential of stem cells and growth factors available at the root of the teeth. Stem cells act as a repair system for the body capable of replenishing adult tissues.
In case of this technique, the stem cells at the root of the decayed teeth are stimulated to induce regeneration and deposition of a natural tissue barrier (seal) to fill up the root canal in just one sitting.

In other words, a "biological seal" is achieved at the root canal rather than attempting to seal it with artificial filling materials with all its drawbacks, the doctors say.  The root canal is restored to health by gradual build up of tissue by stem cells over a period, extending from a few weeks to some months.

Another reason to floss.  Clean teeth can hold off arthritis: Scientists discover link between gum disease bacteria and early onset of the condition

Researchers found a link between the bacterium responsible for gum disease and earlier onset of rheumatoid arthritis, as well as faster progression and greater severity of the condition.

The bacterium produces an enzyme which reacts with the residue of certain proteins.  The body recognizes these proteins as intruders, leading to an immune attack, the researchers from the University of Louisville’s School of Dentistry in Kentucky said.
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Studies indicate that compared to the general population, people with periodontal disease have an increased prevalence of rheumatoid arthritis and periodontal disease is at least two times more prevalent in rheumatoid arthritis patients.  Other research has shown that a P. gingivatis infection in the mouth will precede rheumatoid arthritis and the bacterium is the likely culprit for onset and continuation of the autoimmune inflammatory responses that occur in the disease.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:14 PM | Permalink

February 18, 2014

“The crucial ingredients for nearly all antibiotics, steroids and many other lifesaving drugs are now made exclusively in China,”

The United States is nearly completely reliant on China for it’s supply of lifesaving antibiotics.

“The crucial ingredients for nearly all antibiotics, steroids and many other lifesaving drugs are now made exclusively in China,” The New York Times reported in the 32nd paragraph of a Friday article entitled “Medicines made in India set off safety worries.”

Indeed, 2014 marks the tenth anniversary of Bristol-Myers Squibb — the last American plant that manufactured the key ingredients for penicillin and other drugs — shuttering it’s upstate New York factory.

“Like other manufacturing operations, drug plants have been moving to Asia because labor, construction, regulatory and environmental costs are lower there,” the Times reported in 2009.

What could go wrong?

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:51 PM | Permalink

February 13, 2014

Health Roundup: Sugar and heart disease and cancer, the pillcam, Vit C, baldness, cocaine and exercise as best bet for osteoarthritis

Added Sugar May Boost Risk of Heart Disease, Death

Between 2005 and 2010, about 71 percent of Americans consumed 10 percent or more of their daily calories from added sugar, according to the study. The World Health Organization recommends limiting calories from added sugar to less than 10 percent of your daily total.

What's more, people who consumed between 17 and 21 percent of their daily calories from added sugar were nearly 40 percent more likely to die from cardiovascular disease over a 14-year period than those who consumed about 8 percent of their daily calories from added sugar, the study found.

What does cancer eat? Sugar, mostly, and other lessons from my dinner with a professor of pathology by Jane Macdougall

Just one can  of soda a day raised heart risk by a third.

Scientists have discovered an alarming link between excessive consumption of sugar found in fizzy drinks or processed food and heart-related deaths.  They found that even one fizzy drink a day was enough to increase the chances of dying from cardiovascular disease (CVD) by almost a third.  And for those consuming a quarter of their daily calories from sugar, the risk of heart-related death doubled.  Added sugar is that which is introduced to the processing of food products, rather than coming from natural sources such as fruit. .

Colonoscopies to be replaced by camera that comes in a PILL as FDA green lights revolutionary treatment

The PillCam, an ingestible camera that takes high-speed photographs as it works its way through the digestive system and helps doctors spot polyps and other early signs of colon cancer was just cleared by the Food and Drug Administration.
The device is designed for patients who have had trouble with the cringe-inducing colonoscopy procedure, which involves probing the large intestine with a tiny camera embedded in a four-foot long, flexible tube.


Vitamin C shows promise as cancer therapy

Intravenous vitamin C – combined with conventional chemotherapy – can kill cancer cells, the University of Kansas Medical Center reported.

Bald? Now there's a jab to make hair grow back

Scientists may soon be able to grow new hair on balding scalps, avoiding the need for a hair transplant. Researchers have succeeded in creating new human hair in the laboratory using tiny cells  called dermal papillae that fuel its growth.

Snorting cocaine increases the risk of a stroke by 700% in the 24 hours after use.

Snorting cocaine massively increases the risk of a stroke in young adults, a new study has warned.
Within a day of snorting the drug, users are six to seven times more likely to suffer an ischemic stroke, researchers found...Cocaine is thought to thicken the blood, thereby increasing the risk of a clot.

In 2012, Australian researchers dubbed cocaine the 'perfect heart attack drug' with users at much greater risk of suffering cardiac arrest than people who do not take it.  University of Sydney researchers found recreational cocaine users have higher blood pressure, stiffer arteries and thicker heart muscle walls than non-users – all of which can cause a heart attack.

Exercise is the best treatment for those suffering osteoarthritis say health chiefs dismissing the view it is 'just part of the aging process'   National Institute for Health and Care Excellence say exercise should be the 'principal treatment' for osteoarthritis.  'Physical exertion can ease pain.'

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:32 AM | Permalink

February 8, 2014

Women more at risk for stroke then men. UPDATED

Guidelines urge women to monitor stroke risks more closely than men

Women of all ages should pay more attention to the risk of stroke than the average man, watching their blood pressure carefully before they think about taking birth-control pills or getting pregnant, according to a new set of prevention guidelines released Thursday.

Women are also more likely to have risk factors associated with stroke, such as migraines, depression, diabetes and the abnormal heart rhythm known as atrial fibrillation.

The guidelines from the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association were the first such recommendations aimed at preventing strokes in women. Stroke is the fourth-leading cause of death for all Americans and a leading cause of disability. It’s the third-leading cause of death for women, after heart disease and cancer.

Strokes leave women worse off than men and the difference is worst in old age

Women are more likely to report pain and mobility issues three months after having a stroke than men of the same age
They are also more likely to report anxiety or depression
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The greatest gender difference is seen in those over 75.
One year after having a stroke women are still more likely to have a lower quality of life than men.
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The study showed that marital status was the most important factor separating the quality of life in men and women with those who are single faring less well.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:03 PM | Permalink

February 6, 2014

Health Roundup: Naps, sleep, elastograms, zinc for colds, melanoma risk, vitamin E and testosterone

Nature has not intended mankind to work from eight in the morning until midnight without that refreshment of blessed oblivion which, even if it only lasts 20 minutes, is sufficient to renew all the vital forces. - Winston Churchill

Finally, justification for taking a nap! Here is scientific proof that siestas are beneficial…

Sleeping for short periods in the day helps memory and cognitive function.  But napping for 30mins or an hour can leave you with a sleep hangover. This is because you wake yourself during periods of deep sleep.
Instead nap for 10-20mins for a quick refresh or sleep 90 mins for a full sleep cycle, with no grogginess when you wake

Poor sleep quality may accelerate cancer growth, study finds

Poor quality of sleep marked by frequent waking can speed cancer growth and increase the disease’s aggressiveness, according to new research.
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According to study director Dr. David Gozal, poor sleep can significantly alter the immune system. "It's not the tumor, it's the immune system," said Gozal, chairman of pediatrics at the University of Chicago Comer Children's Hospital. "Fragmented sleep changes how the immune system deals with cancer in ways that make the disease more aggressive."

Pen-like device can detect cirrhosis of the liver

A new diagnostic device based on an instrument used to check the ripeness of cheese can detect cirrhosis of the liver.  It does this earlier and with greater reliability than current tests, potentially saving thousands of lives.
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Cirrhosis can stay hidden for five to 20 years before it shows any symptoms, such as weight loss, fatigue and jaundice.
The new test can spot the disease at a much earlier  stage  when the patient is deemed 'at risk' and before their liver has become badly scarred or hardened.

The non-invasive tool, known as a portable transient elastogram, consists of a pen-like wand and uses pulses of ultrasound to measure the liver's elasticity.
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When tested on 12,000 patients in Nottingham who were considered to be at risk of developing cirrhosis, the new machine picked up 85 to 90 per cent of cases (the traditional blood tests spotted only 30 per cent of cases), increasing the detection rates of cirrhosis by 200 per cent.

Want avoid the office cold? DITCH the Vitamin C: Washing hands and taking zinc is better at preventing infection

Natural remedies, like ginseng and vapor rubs, had unclear benefits.  Antibiotics also ineffective as only work on bacteria from viral infections. Evidence suggests both adults and children would benefit from taking zinc

Researchers found paracetamol [tylenol], ibuprofen and perhaps antihistamine-decongestant combinations are among best treatments for a cold.

Regular alcohol use - 4 drinks a day - can raise the risk of skin cancer by 55 per cent, claims study

Regular drinking could increase by up to half the risk of developing melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer .

Those who had less than one drink a day had a 10 per cent increased risk of melanoma compared with non-drinkers or those who only drink occasionally, experts found.  Moderate drinkers, who consumed two drinks a day, had an 18 per cent higher chance of melanoma. Heavy drinkers – consuming at least four drinks a day – were at 55 per cent extra risk, according to estimates by an international team of researchers.

The scientists say alcohol causes biological changes that makes skin more sensitive to light and may aggravate the impact of exposure to ultraviolet light….

Vitamin E and other common supplements fuel lung cancer in smokers, researchers fear.

They say that rather than preventing tumors, popular antioxidant pills may speed their growth and spread and hasten death. The experiments were done on mice, but the Swedish researchers believe they are relevant to people.

Testosterone therapy doubles heart risk in older men and nearly triples the risk of younger men with a history of the disease

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:29 PM | Permalink

February 5, 2014

Stem cells - an incredible discovery

Stem cells' created in less than 30 minutes in 'groundbreaking' discovery

Scientists have turned adult cells back to their embryonic form in under 30 minutes by simply treating them with acid in a breakthough which could revolutionise personalized medicine.

Experts in the field of stem cells have hailed the research as groundbreaking and say, if replicated in humans, it would herald a new ‘age of  personalized medicine.’

Turning cells back to an embryonic – also known as pluripotent – state means they can then be turned into any other type of cell in the body.  Previously that could only be achieved through genetic manipulation which was time consuming and costly.  But scientists at the Riken Centre for Developmental Biology in Kobe, Japan, found that cells taken from newborn mice effectively ‘lose their identity’ within 30 minutes of being exposed to mildly acidic conditions.

Professor Austin Smith of Cambridge University, writing in the Journal Nature said the new cells could be seen as a ‘blank slate’ from which any cell could emerge depending on its environment.  “Remarkably, instead of triggering cell death or tumour growth as might be expected, a new cell state emerges that exhibits and unprecedented potential for differentiation into every possible cell type,” he said.
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Professor Chris Mason, Chair of Regenerative Medicine Bioprocessing, at University College London.
“If it works in man, this could be the game changer that ultimately makes a wide range of cell therapies available using the patient’s own cells as starting material – the age of personalized medicine would have finally arrived.

“Who would have thought that to reprogram adult cells to an embryonic stem cell-like (pluripotent) state just required a small amount of acid for less than half an hour – an incredible discovery.”

I'm sure that tests on humans will start quickly.  How wonderful that this discovery could end the culture wars over the use of embryos to supply stem cells.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:37 PM | Permalink

January 28, 2014

Health Roundup: Blindness, pancreatic cancer, fish oil for Alzheimers, exercise for cancer patients and singing exercises for snorers

Gene breakthrough restores the sight of people with inherited eye disease and could save thousands from blindness

Single injection treatment helps restore sight of those with eye disease.  The procedure appears to have halted progression of choroideremia, a disease caused by a gene defect that destroys light-sensing cells.  Treatment may now be rolled out to help hundreds of thousands of people.

Professor Robert MacLaren, who led the operations at Oxford Eye Hospital, said he was ‘absolutely delighted’ with the results so far.
‘It is still too early to know if the gene therapy treatment will last indefinitely, but we can say that the vision improvements have been maintained for as long as we have been following up the patients, which is two years in one case.  In truth, we did not expect to see such dramatic improvements."

Blood Test Has Potential to Catch Pancreatic Cancer Early

Pancreatic cancer could be identified in its early stages with a test that looks for genetic material in the blood, according to preliminary research from Denmark….Researchers found that certain combinations of microRNAs, or microRNA "signatures," could somewhat distinguish between people with and without the cancer. However, many more studies are needed to determine if the test could really be useful for the early detection of pancreatic cancer, the researchers said.

Fish oil could help prevent Alzheimer's and also give you a bigger brain

Eating more fish could give you a bigger brain - and greater protection against diseases such as Alzheimer’s, claim researchers.
They found people with higher levels of the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil may also have larger brain volumes in old age.
This would be the equivalent to preserving one to two years of brain health, says a new study published in the journal Neurology.

The Cure For Snoring Is…Singing?  Choir director Alise Ojay's vocal exercises have been shown to work throat muscles that help silence the snorer within.

That's because these "singing exercises," she says, were formulated specifically to work out throat muscles that have weakened over time. The approach is based on the premise that firming up these muscles would allow air to pass in and out with less obstruction.

Shock Study: Some Soft Drinks Contain Cancer-Causing Chemical

Carcinogen Known As 4-MEI Has Been Found In Caramel Coloring In Colas, Others

“Coke came in at a negligible cancer level at one can of Coke. That said, we found other manufacturers — like Pepsi — really quite a lot higher than Coke,”….drinks labeled “natural” also contained caramel coloring. So make sure to read the ingredients.

Could asthma be treated with PROBIOTICS? Bug that mimics salmonella could reduce airway inflammation

Asthma could be treated with probiotics that mimic the salmonella bug, new research suggests.  A study has identified a mechanism through which the food poisoning bug reduces the lung disease in mice.  Earlier research has suggested children who have been infected with salmonella are less likely to get asthma.

A leading theory is the 'hygiene hypothesis' that reasons the surge in asthma cases has resulted from the modern world's obsession with cleanliness, which is leaving immune systems undeveloped. Dr Venkateswaran Ganesh, of Hanover Medical School in Germany, said the latest study found salmonella infection was linked with reduced airway inflammation.
The findings, published in the journal Infection and Immunity, open up new avenues of research that could lead to treatments.

Cancer patients who exercise could HALVE their risk of death, claims study

We all know exercise is good for us but now scientists have found that physical exercise significantly increases the life expectancy of cancer survivors.

Men who beat cancer and who burned more than 12,600 calories a week exercising, almost halved their risk of death, a new study found. The research supports a previous study that found the most physically active cancer survivors are much less likely to die of cancer and heart disease.

Scientists from the Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine studied 1,021 men with an average age of 71 who had been previously diagnosed with cancer. They found that men who burned more than 12,600 calories per week by exercising, were 48 per cent less likely to die than those that did little exercise and expended less than 2,100 calories a week, Medical Express reported.

How yoga helps breast cancer patients: Exercise shown to help reduce inflammation

Yoga can re-energise women who have battled breast cancer.
Just three months of practising postures, breathing and meditation cut fatigue in cancer survivors by more than half.
Inflammation, which is linked to health problems from heart disease to frailty, and increases the odds of cancer coming back, was also eased.

The large, U.S. based study suggests that something as cheap and gentle as yoga could be of huge benefit to breast cancer patients.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:34 AM | Permalink

January 24, 2014

In Other Beer News

Tomb of Ancient Egyptian beer brewer is opened by archaeologists for the first time in 3,200 years

Archaeologists have discovered the tomb of a leading Ancient Egyptian beer brewer.  The tomb of Khonso Em Heb, who lived 3,200 years ago, was discovered by a Japanese team and has been described as 'one of the most important discoveries' made at the Thebes necropolic site in the city of Luxor.  Egypt's antiquities minister Mohamed Ibrahim described Khonso Em Heb as the chief ‘maker of beer for gods of the dead’ who was also the head of a warehouse.

Firefighter Puts Out Fire with Beer

Capt. Craig Moreau, a firefighter in Houston, Texas, was driving from Austin to Houston on Highway 71 when he spotted a tractor trailer by the side of the road. One of its wheels was on fire. He stopped and found that the brakes had caught on fire. He and the driver fought the fire with a small fire extinguisher that Capt. Moreau kept in his car, but it wasn't enough:

"I crawled underneath and thought we'd got it out but it flared back up," said Moreau, who was off duty at the time. "So I said to the driver, 'what have you got in here?'"

"It's beer!  It's all beer," the driver said of his cargo of Coor Banquet beer.

So the two men opened up the trailer. They shook cans of beer and sprayed them at the fire. It worked! They put out the fire. But their victory came at a heavy cost.

College offers a degree in beer

Blue Ridge Community College in North Carolina will instead teach people how to make alcoholic beverages at a professional level. The college anticipates that the state government will approve of its associate of applied science degree in brewing, distillation and fermenting before the program launches this fall.

Just a reminder:  Beer Is a Rich Source of Silicon and May Help Prevent Osteoporosis

The upside of the snow and the cold.

 Big Chill Beer-1

 Beer-On-Sale

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:10 PM | Permalink

“I intend to hang around for a while longer, to love and bother you.”

Born in 1923 Arnold Relman is a professor emeritus at Harvard Medical School, a former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine who has written extensively on reform of the U.S. medical system.  Then, at age 90, he broke his neck.

On Breaking One's Neck

I am a senior physician with over six decades of experience who has observed his share of critical illness—but only from the doctor’s perspective. That changed suddenly and disastrously on the morning of June 27, 2013, ten days after my ninetieth birthday, when I fell down the stairs in my home, broke my neck, and very nearly died. Since then, I have made an astonishing recovery, in the course of which I learned how it feels to be a helpless patient close to death. I also learned some things about the US medical care system that I had never fully appreciated, even though this is a subject that I have studied and written about for many years.

He concludes:

Just a few months after very nearly dying, I am beginning to resume my previous activities and enjoy my life again. However, I walk slowly with a cane, and my movements are deliberate and more cautious to avoid any more falls. My astonishing recovery would never have happened without the superb emergency treatment I received at the MGH and the rehabilitative care that followed. But I am also convinced that other factors contributed to my survival: my family’s support (particularly that of my wife), a strong body, an intact brain, and very good luck all were important. I also believe my medical training helped. It made me aware of the dangers of pneumonia and other infections from contamination of catheters and tubes, so I pushed to have the latter removed as soon as possible and I took as few sedatives and painkillers as possible.

However, there was something else that helped to sustain me. I wanted to stay around as long as possible to see what was going to happen to my family, to the country, and to the health system I was studying so closely. Perhaps I was too engaged in life to allow death to intrude right then. As I wrote to my wife in one of my myriad scrawled notes the first week in the ICU, “I intend to hang around for a while longer, to love and bother you.”

Consider how his strong engagement with life is focused outside of his self.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:41 AM | Permalink

January 23, 2014

Administration fears part of Obamacare so flawed, it could bankrupt insurance companies

Well, the Administration has finally admitted it fears part of health care system so flawed it could bankrupt insurance companies, Jim Angle reports:

To justify a no-bid contract with Accenture after firing CGI as the lead contractor, the administration released documents from the Department of Health and Human Services and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services that offered a rare glimpse of its worst fears, saying the problems with the website puts "the entire health insurance industry at risk" … "potentially leading to their default and disrupting continued services and coverage to consumers."

Then it went even further, saying if the problems were not fixed by mid-March, "they will result in financial harm to the government."

It even added that without the fixes "the entire health care reform program is jeopardized."
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But the back end still hasn't been built, so insurers are dealing with massive confusion, missing information on who's signed up and what subsidies they get.
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The administration emphasizes that fixing the site by mid-March is urgent. Otherwise the system could descend into chaos and threaten the future of ObamaCare.

Today, Moody's slashes outlook on insurers, cites Obamacare 'uncertainty

Credit ratings firm Moody's Investors Service on Thursday lowered its outlook for health insurers to "negative" from "stable," citing "uncertainty" swirling around the rollout of President Obama's health care law.

In a new report, the agency said that the outlook for insurance companies is no longer clear because the law's insurance exchanges haven't been attracting enough younger individuals. In addition, Moody's analysts were concerned that the Obama administration has been changing regulations after insurers had already set prices for the year.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:28 PM | Permalink

January 22, 2014

Obamacare now beyond rescue

Megan McArdle, Resolved: Obamacare Is Now Beyond Rescue

By “beyond rescue,” I mean that the original vision of the law will not be fulfilled -- the cost-controlling, delivery-system-improving, health-enhancing, deficit-reducing, highly popular, tightly integrated (and smoothly functioning) system for ensuring that everyone who wants coverage can get it.

The law still lacks the political legitimacy to survive in the long term. And in a bid to increase that legitimacy, the administration has set two very dangerous precedents: It has convinced voters that no unpopular provisions should ever be allowed to take effect, and it has asserted an executive right to rewrite the law, which Republicans can just as easily use to unravel this tangled web altogether.

Many of the commentators I’ve read seem to think that the worst is over, as far as unpopular surprises. In fact, the worst is yet to come. Here’s what’s ahead:

She and Scott Gottlieb debated Jonathan Chait and Douglas Kamerow on the Upper West Side in NYC and won!

Scott spoke eloquently about the ways in which narrow networks and the focus on Medicaid are going to deliver an unacceptable quality of care. I talked about why this, among other things, makes the system so unstable.

In a nutshell, Obamacare has so far fallen dramatically short of what was expected -- technically, and in almost every other way. …The administration and its supporters have been counting on the coverage expansion to put Obamacare beyond repeal. So what if the coverage expansion is anemic, the plans bare-bones, the website sort of a disaster?…

…..The Barack Obama administration is in emergency mode, pasting over political problems with administrative fixes of dubious legality, just to ensure the law’s bare survival -- which is now their incredibly low bar for “success.”

Although the fixes may solve the short-term political problems, however, they destabilize the markets, which also need to work to ensure the law’s survival. The president is destroying his own law in order to save it.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:49 PM | Permalink

January 17, 2014

Health Roundup: Vitamins E and D, probiotics, coffee and memory, exercise

The health news that caught my eye this past week.

A megadose of vitamin E 'slows down' Alzheimer's: Patients able to cook, wash and stay independent for six months longer

High doses of vitamin E could help people with Alzheimer’s retain their independence for longer, claim researchers.
A new trial showed that daily supplements slowed the functional decline of patients by around six months.
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Professor Kenneth Davis, a US expert on brain disease who was involved in the study, said the trial showed that vitamin E should be offered to patients with mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s…..Over a period of 2.3 years, patients who took the supplements alone had an annual 19 per cent reduction in the extent to which Alzheimer’s affected their daily lives compared with the placebo group.

Vitamin D Reduces Pain in People with Fibromyalgia

Taking vitamin D supplements may alleviate chronic pain in people with fibromyalgia who have low levels of the vitamin, according to a new study from Austria.

This pill could give your brain the learning powers of a 7-year-old

Your brain is like a sponge when it is young. Studies have shown that kids pick up up foreign languages faster than adults (though that is up for debate), and that some skills — like "perfect pitch," which allows gifted vocalists to sing notes with unerring precision — are best nurtured from a young age….. Takao Hensch, a professor of molecular and cellular biology at Harvard, who is studying a drug that may make it dramatically easier for grown-ups to absorb new skills and information — almost as if they were seven years old or younger.

The key ingredient here is valproic acid. Normally, it's used to treat neurological disorders like seizures and epilepsy, and various other mood disorders. But Hensch claims it may help restore plasticity in the adult brain.  In a new experiment, Hensch used valproic acid to bestow the gift of perfect pitch to a group of adult males between the ages of 18 to 27.

Will taking a probiotic pill make you feel less anxious? Scientists suggest that the bacteria in our guts may affect our brains and mood

Now, increasingly, studies are providing evidence that the bacteria in the gut may 'communicate' with the brain, improving mental health and behavior in conditions such as anxiety, and possibly even autism and Asperger's syndrome.

Is gut bacteria the secret to a LONG LIFE? Friendly flora reduces inflammation and prevents disease, claims study

Having the right balance of gut bacteria could be the secret to a long life, new research suggests.  U.S. researchers say age-related changes to gut bacteria, that result in an imbalance between 'friendly' and 'unfriendly' bacteria, are associated with cancer, diabetes and inflammatory bowel disease.

Coffee perks up your memory: Drinking a strong mug after a learning session can improve recall

Dr Michael Yassa, of the University of California, Irvine, said: ‘Caffeine enhanced consolidation of long-term memories. ‘We have always known caffeine has cognitive enhancing effects, but its particular effects on strengthening memories and making them resistant to forgetting has never been examined in detail in humans. We report for the first time a specific effect of caffeine on reducing forgetting over 24 hours.’

Exercise works. People with MS can improve their energy levels with short bursts of walking or cycling

Short bouts of moderate exercise improve quality of life and reduce fatigue.  Even just three five-minute bouts of exercise is enough to improve energy

Want to avoid diabetes? Take up yoga or weight lifting: Study finds 3.5 hours of exercise a week nearly HALVES the risk

This amount of exercise can reduce risk of Type 2 diabetes by 40%. Even just an hour's workout every seven days can cut the risk by 13%

The Blood Type Diet debunked: Study confirms that fad regime has no scientific evidence behind it

  ‘The way an individual responds to any one of these diets has absolutely nothing to do with their blood type and has everything to do with their ability to stick to a sensible vegetarian or low-carbohydrate diet,’

Alzheimer's Self Test Works Surprisingly Well

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:59 PM | Permalink

January 14, 2014

Why the government should not be running health care

Obama Care This Is What Government-Run Health Care Looks Like

More than two-thirds of the public don't think the government can be trusted to run the nation's health care system successfully. ObamaCare is proving these skeptics right.

The public might not agree on much these days, but one thing it overwhelmingly believes is that government is ill-equipped to manage one-sixth of the economy — 67% said so in the January IBD/TIPP poll.
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Many plans say only 60% of signees have paid their first premium so far. Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield reports that as of Jan. 3 just 8% of those who signed up with Connecticut's exchange had done so.  As a result, even though insurers pushed back payment deadlines that they'd already extended once, many of the 2 million who signed up for ObamaCare will end up disenrolled — creating yet another crisis.
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Confusion, bureaucracy, delays, crony capitalism, taxpayer bailouts. This is what health care under government control looks like. And this is just the beginning.

Obamacare's Spanish-Language Site Written Not In Spanish but… Spanglish

[T]he translations were so clunky and full of grammatical mistakes that critics say they must have been computer-generated — the name of the site itself can literally be read "for the caution of health."

"When you get into the details of the plans, it's not all written in Spanish. It's written in Spanglish, so we end up having to translate it for them," said Adrian Madriz, a health care navigator who helps with enrollment in Miami.

This inspirational, disabled family lost its health coverage, and it’s Obamacare’s fault.  Their twin children both with brittle bone disease were denied coverage.  The father has cerebral palsy, the mother has brittle bone disease.

It’s hard to see the Daverts’ situation as anything other than a stinging rebuke of the president’s signature healthcare reform, according to Anne Schieber, senior investigative analyst at the Mackinac Center.

“It’s hard to believe that Obamacare is hurting the very families it was suppose to help,” Schieber told The Daily Caller. “Imagine a family with significant disabilities now thinking about taking out loans and re-entering the workforce just to pay for health insurance.  This is what happens when government meddles with a critical segment of the economy instead of allowing the free market to do its magic.”

An Obamacare supporter recounts his misadventures dealing with HealthCare.gov

We struggled with the healthcare.gov website for months. Every so often, we’d return to find Miles’ application for eligibility stuck in some “pending” netherworld. The Phone People said to wait a few weeks and try again. Nothing ever happened, except that the site said at varying times the application was “in progress” or “incomplete.” I lost count of how many times I re-entered the same information because some Phone Person told me to try that.

The deadline to sign up was Dec. 23, so by Dec. 20 we were frantic. I finally broke down and called the Obamacare navigators in our region, the folks supposedly deputized to guide helpless souls to the finish line. Only two of the five I reached out to even responded, one to say she’d be on vacation for the rest of the year (?!?) and the other to say she was booked solid with other desperate customers. I guess we were supposed to know that the website would never, ever work and plan ahead for that.
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Three days into 2014, Miles took his Obamacare out for its maiden drive. His stop at the doctor went fine. At the pharmacy, it crashed.  His medication — which has cost us a co-pay of between $10 and $30 under every other plan he’s had since 2004 including one under Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan — would not be covered. At all.  That’s $438 out of pocket. Every month. And it won’t even go against the plan deductible.
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Much more troubling than the fact that we received so much worthless and conflicting information was that there was nobody to appeal to, nobody to trust.

USA Today editorializes Obamacare overreach tramples Little Sisters

The administration is now stuck arguing that it is justified in compelling nuns who care for the elderly poor to assist in offering health insurance that they say conflicts with their religious beliefs. Talk about a political loser.
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From a health care standpoint, the Affordable Care Act's mandate that all employers provide coverage, without co-pays, for contraceptives is sound. It is important preventive care. So says the prestigious Institute of Medicine, arbiter of such things.

Wisely, churches and other houses of worship are exempt from the requirement, but the administration wrote rules so narrowly that they failed to exempt Catholic and other religiously affiliated hospitals, colleges and charities. Its position was constitutionally suspect, politically foolish and ultimately unproductive. The number of women affected is likely so small that the administration could find some less divisive way to provide the coverage.

Instead, the administration is battling Catholic bishops and nuns, Southern Baptists, Christ-centered colleges and assorted religious non-profits that filed challenges across the country.
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The lawsuits stem from an "accommodation" President Obama offered after his too-narrow religious exemption caused an uproar in 2012.  The accommodation is more of a fig leaf than a fix: Although religiously affiliated non-profits do not have to supply birth control coverage themselves, they must sign a certification that allows their insurance companies to provide it instead. Some non-profits have acquiesced, but not the Little Sisters and others who argue that this makes them complicit in an act that violates a tenet of their faith. If the non-profits refuse to sign, they face ruinous fines — $4.5 million a year for just two of the Little Sisters' 30 homes.

Federal Government Spends $175 Million on Penis Pumps, Paying More Than Double the Actual Price for the Devices

“Medicare currently pays suppliers more than twice as much for VES as the Department of Veterans Affairs and consumers over the Internet pay for these types of devices,” the IG found.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:36 PM | Permalink

January 9, 2014

Religion as a buffer against the strains of modern life

Religion forms buffer against work stress

Having a religion could be the key to avoiding work stress as a study found those with a faith are less anxious in the work place, healthier and less likely to take sick days.

Religion is the answer to combating work stress because it provides a "buffer against strains" of modern life, research has claimed.  Dr Roxane Gervais, a senior psychologist at the Health and Safety Laboratory in Stockport, surveyed employees to find out how content they were with their working lives.

The study concluded that employees who are more actively religious are more likely to report low levels of anxiety, depression and fatigue and also higher presence of meaning in life, that is feeling that their lives have meaning. Workers said that attending religious services connects them to a higher being as well as makes them feel better about themselves.

Dr Gervais said: “As the pace of work and life accelerates, people long for meaning, and the younger generation in particular is looking for more than just a big pay cheque at the end of the month.
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“We should hence encourage employers to accommodate, where possible, employees’ religious beliefs while at work, and not shy away from the issue.”

These findings are being presented today (THURS) at the Annual Conference of the British Psychological Society’s Division of Occupational Psychology’s in Brighton. Previous studies have shown that companies who accommodated workers beliefs improved morale, staff retention and loyalty.

The report also found that those who regularly practiced religion were more likely to have healthier lifestyles and so took fewer sick days.  Dr Gervais added: “Religiosity seemed to assist individuals in gaining better well-being and using more appropriate coping mechanisms.”

This story reminded me of what Mother Theresa said when she visited the United States,  "The spiritual poverty of the West is greater than ours… You, in the West, have millions of people who suffer such terrible loneliness and emptiness…They feel unloved and unwanted. These people are not hungry in the physical sense, but they are in another way. They know they need something more than money, yet they don’t know what it is. What they are missing, really, is a living relationship with God.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:05 PM | Permalink

January 8, 2014

A Cheaper and Superior Health Plan --at Walmart

Walmart Health Plan More Affordable and Superior to Obamacare

A Washington Examiner evaluation of Walmart's employee healthcare plan rated it superior to and more affordable than Obamacare. Over the years, Walmart has been undermined by unions and liberal activists, who claim that the retail giant is “notorious” for providing “substandard” healthcare plans.

The former president of the Illinois State Association of Health Underwriters, Robert Slayton, said that in Chicago, Obamacare offers a restricted list of hospital participation. Walmart, on the other hand, belongs to a national healthcare network that provides almost twice as many participating hospitals. What's more, Walmart's network of doctors dwarfs Obamacare's. “You will notice there are 9,837 doctors [under Obamacare]. But the larger network is 24,904 doctors. Huge, huge difference,” Slayton said.
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Unfortunately, many top-rated hospitals included in the Walmart plan – such as the Mayo and Cleveland Clinics – are left out of most Obamacare exchange plans. Astonishingly, McCaughey cautions, “People who are seriously ill need to stay away from these exchange plans."

In addition to better care, the Journal of the American Medical Association revealed that unsubsidized Obamacare enrollees will incur monthly premiums up to nine times higher than Walmart premiums. JAMA indicated that the unsubsidized premium for a nonsmoking couple age 60 can cost $1,365 per month, while the Walmart monthly premium for the same couple would be $134 per month.

 Chart Walmart-V-Obamacare

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:35 AM | Permalink

January 3, 2014

The Continuing Trainwreck

The latest on the continuing train wreck of Obamacare.

Novitas Solutions, the company hired to build the back-end payment systems of Healthcare.gov which is still not built is notorious in Dallas anyway for paying out Medicare claims to hospitals late and not at all to one Dallas hospital forcing employees to go without pay for weeks.

Only half of the two million people claimed to have enrolled in Obamacare have paid their premium. Murphy's law

Not only has Obamacare not yet delivered a fully functional front end, it’s backend does not seem to have been built.  The insurance companies who have signed on to it are finding themselves stuck with an army of uninsurables and avoided by the young and healthy who alone can make the risk pool viable. This creates a drought of receivables that in turn disrupts payments to providers who “can’t make payroll”.

It’s a shambles. Unless its fixed hospitals will drop out, patients will go untreated, people will lose coverage and people will go broke. Thomas Sowell asks “what kind of man would blithely disrupt the medical care of millions of Americans, and then repeatedly lie to them with glib assurances that they could keep their doctors or health insurance if they wanted to?”

Hospitals in Northern Virginia are turning away sick people because they can't determine whether their Obamacare plans are in effect. 'They had no idea if my insurance was active or not!': Obamacare confusion reigns as frustrated patients walk out of hospitals without treatment.

APNewsBreak: Adding a new baby to plan not easy

Obamacare  lacks a way for consumers to quickly and easily update their coverage for the birth of a baby and other common life changes such as marriage and divorce, a death in the family, a new job or a change in income, even moving to a different community.

Utter Chaos: White House Exempts Millions From Obamacare's Insurance Mandate, 'Unaffordable' Exchanges  Avik Roy

It’s hard to come up with new ways to describe the Obama administration’s improvisational approach to the Affordable Care Act’s troubled health insurance exchanges. But last night, the White House made its most consequential announcement yet. The administration will grant a “hardship exemption” from the law’s individual mandate, requiring the purchase of health insurance, to anyone who has had their prior coverage canceled and who “believes” that Obamacare’s offerings “are unaffordable.” These exemptions will substantially alter the architecture of the law’s insurance marketplaces. Insurers are at their wits’ end, trying to make sense of what to do next.

Charles Krauthammer.  Stop the upcoming bailout of insurance companies,  How soon before insurance companies start going bankrupt and ask for….

A huge government bailout. It’s Obamacare’s escape hatch. And — surprise, surprise — it’s already baked into the law.

Which is why the GOP needs to act. Obamacare is a Rube Goldberg machine with hundreds of moving parts. Without viable insurance companies doing the work, it falls apart. No bailout, no Obamacare.

CBS: Top ObamaCare official wanted site shut down over security risks — and was overruled

Remember.Hiding the Hacking at HealthCare.gov  If your personal info is filched from the site, the government doesn’t have to tell you.

But at least Target informed its customers of the security breach, as it is required by federal law to do. HealthCare.gov faces no such requirement; it need never notify customers that their personal information has been hacked or possibly compromised. The Department of Health and Human Services was specifically asked to include a notification requirement in the rules it designed for the health-care exchanges, but HHS declined.

Obama Dooms Seniors to Ravages of Aging

On Oct. 1, 2012 the Obama administration started awarding bonus points to hospitals that spend the least on elderly patients. It will result in fewer knee replacements, hip replacements, angioplasty, bypass surgery and cataract operations.  These are the five procedures that have transformed aging for older Americans. They used to languish in wheelchairs and nursing homes due to arthritis, cataracts and heart disease. Now they lead active lives.

But the Obama administration is undoing that progress. By cutting $716 billion from future Medicare funding over the next decade and rewarding the hospitals that spend the least on seniors, the Obama health law will make these procedures hard to get and less safe.

The Obama health law creates two new entitlements for people under age 65 – subsidies to buy private health plans and a vast expansion of Medicaid. More than half the cost of these entitlements is paid for by cutting what hospitals, doctors, hospice care, home care and Advantage plans are paid to care for seniors.  Astoundingly, doctors will be paid less to treat a senior than to treat someone on Medicaid, and only about one-third of what a doctor will be paid to treat a patient with private insurance.

ObamaCare forcing 14 percent cut in Medicare’s home health program.

An estimated 3.5 million poor and ill homebound senior citizens will wake up on New Year’s Day to discover ObamaCare has slashed funding for their home health care program.”
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Totaling a whopping 14 percent between 2014 and 2017, this cut is the maximum allowable under the ObamaCare law.  The Administration had the discretion to cut less, or even to make no cuts at all.  But they decided to impose the deepest cut made possible by the Affordable Care Act (shouldn’t we be calling this the “Horrible Care Act”?) legislation.  And in doing so, they will shift billions of dollars from Medicare to ObamaCare.
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The Medicare home health benefit is also of critical importance to younger Americans.  Families across America depend on home health services to help them care for their aging parents.  Having a skilled nurse come to their homes to deliver needed treatment not only means that Mom and Dad don’t have to go into a nursing home – it also means their adult daughters and sons can balance caring for their parents with raising a family and earning a living.

Obamacare so sloppily drafted that US Territories may be unable to have health insurance

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:12 AM | Permalink

December 31, 2013

Health Roundup: Man flu is real, statins, new treatment for heart failure, questioning statins, religion and depression, sleep

'Man flu': the truth that women don't want to hear

New study suggests that men may actually suffer more when they have influenza because high levels of testosterone can weaken immune response.

First major breakthrough in heart failure for 20 years thanks to pregnancy hormone

A pregnancy hormone could provide the first breakthrough in 20 years for treating acute heart failure. Doctors found that Serelaxin, a synthetic version of the hormone relaxin, can slash the death rate for people with the condition.

The new treatment is based on relaxin — levels of this rise dramatically during pregnancy in order to reduce strain on the mother’s heart.
The amount of blood circulating in a woman’s body increases by between 20-50 per cent in order to transport oxygen to the fetus via the placenta.

However, this means her heart needs to work 30 per cent harder.  Relaxin helps by opening up the blood vessels and reducing blood pressure, taking excess strain off the heart; relaxin also boosts kidney function, removing waste products from the blood.

A six-month international study found that Serelaxin reduced heart failure death rates by a third (37 per cent) compared to conventional treatments such as ACE inhibitors.  Serelaxin appears to help the heart itself, unlike existing treatments which simply improve symptoms, says Martin Cowie, professor of cardiology at Imperial College London.  He was not involved in the research but believes the new drug could mark ‘a seismic shift’ in the treatment of acute heart failure.

Millions of patients may be on statins needlessly

A study published in the European Heart Journal suggests millions of patients put on statins may be being “over treated” - exposing them to potential side effects - while other patients who are more likely to suffer a heart attack are not being targeted.

Most patients are put on statins because they have high cholesterol, high blood pressure or other conditions such as diabetes. But the study of almost 7,000 adults found that the risk factors were not an accurate way of predicting the likelihood of a heart attack or a stroke. Scans to examine the build-up of calcium in the arteries were far better at identifying patients who would suffer a cardiac event, researchers found.

The US study found that 35 per cent of those who were assessed as “very high risk” using conventional screening tools actually had an extremely low chance of having a heart attack.  Meanwhile, 15 per cent of those who were told they had a very low chance of such an event in fact were at far higher risk, which was indicated by high levels of calcium in the arteries.
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Researchers said coronary artery calcium (CAC) screening should play a more prominent role in helping determine a person’s risk for heart attack and heart disease-related death, as well as the need for angioplasty or bypass surgery.

People who are religious or spiritual have 'thicker' brains which could protect them against depression

Parts of the brain’s outer layer, the cortex, were found to be thicker in people who were religious, than in those who were not.  U.S. researchers studied people with a family history of depression and found the thickening related to religion could offer protection against the condition.
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Dr Myrna Weissman, a professor of psychiatry and epidemiology at Columbia University, told Reuters Health.
‘The brain is an extraordinary organ. It not only controls, but is controlled by our moods.’

A lack of sleep 'damages the brain in a similar way to being hit on the head'

Going without sleep damages the brain in a similar way to being hit on the head.  Healthy young men deprived of just one night’s sleep experienced a spike in the same chemicals that result from an injury, researchers found. ...

Scientists say the findings back previous research showing the brain uses sleep to clean itself of toxic substances. Professor Christian Benedict, of Uppsala University, Sweden, said the molecules NSE and S-100B are not poisonous in themselves - but are biomarkers for brain damage.
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The average person now sleeps for seven hours a night, compared with almost nine a few decades ago.  Many scientists believe irregular sleeping patterns lead to illnesses, ranging from aches and pains to heart disease.  Less than eight hours’ sleep a night can lower IQ the next day, while working night shifts increases the risk of diabetes, ulcers and divorce
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:28 PM | Permalink

December 20, 2013

"A firm and unshakable belief that all human distress arises from malfunctioning serotonin metabolism"

Theodore Dalrymple hates the DSM (the American Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) and tells you why  in Everyone on the Couch.  It undermines self-reliance and morality and lacks all common sense…

…..the quality that psychiatrists, perhaps more than any other kind of doctor, need. The manual’s lack of common sense would be amusing were it not destined to be taken with superstitious seriousness by psychiatrists around the world, as well as by insurers and lawyers.
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To call the habit of losing one’s temper and destroying things or hurting people a medical condition (from which, according to the DSM-5, 2.5 percent or so of the adult population suffers in a given year) empties it both of meaning and moral content, all in the service of a spurious objectivity.
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Among the thousands of patients who consulted me over a period of 15 years, only three whom I can recall ever used the word “unhappy” (and one was a prisoner, who told me, “I’m not happy in this prison, Doctor”). By contrast, thousands said that they were “depressed.”

The semantic change is significant. The word “unhappy” is an implicit call to self-examination; the word “depressed” is, at least nowadays, a call to the doctor. It is no coincidence that the age of the DSM should coincide with a tenth of the population’s taking antidepressants—drugs that, for the most part, are placebos when not outright harmful. None of this excludes the possibility, of course, that some diagnoses will run afoul of pressure-group politics by the time the DSM-6 comes out. How long, for example, can gender dysphoria disorder survive every right-thinking person’s moral duty to celebrate transsexualism?

He concludes:

The DSM is ultimately an instrument for weakening human resilience, self-reliance, fortitude, and resolve. It turns human beings into mechanisms, deprives their conduct of meaning, and makes them prey to entrepreneurs of human misery. The authors, one could say, suffer from PNOD—psychiatric nosology overvaluation disorder—the criteria for which are as follows:

A: The grandiose belief that all human weakness can and should be divided into valid diagnostic categories.

B: At least two of the following: a firm and unshakable belief that all human distress arises from malfunctioning serotonin metabolism; a firm and unshakable belief that functional MRI scans will soon teach humans how to live; a firm and unshakable belief that the seven deadly sins have been scientifically superseded by psychiatric diagnoses.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:52 PM | Permalink

Health roundup: Vitamins, MS, chicken, frankincense, dogs, and diet cola belly

The biggest health news of the week is the ineffectiveness of multivitamins.  Multivitamin researchers say "case is closed" after studies find no health benefits 

“Enough” with the multivitamins already.  That’s the message from doctors behind three new studies and an editorial that tackled an oft-debated question in medicine: Do daily multivitamins make you healthier?  After reviewing the available evidence and conducting new trials, the authors have come to a conclusion of “no.”

“We believe that the case is closed -- supplementing the diet of well-nourished adults with (most) mineral or vitamin supplements has no clear benefit and might even be harmful,” concluded the authors of the editorial summarizing the new research papers, published Dec. 16 in the Annals of Internal Medicine. “These vitamins should not be used for chronic disease prevention. Enough is enough.”

“The ‘stop wasting your money’ means that perhaps you're spending money on things that won't protect you long term,” editorial co-author Dr. Edgar Miller, a professor of medicine and epidemiology at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, told CBS News’ chief medical correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook. “What will protect you is if you spend the money on fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, low fat dairy, things like that ..exercising would probably be a better use of the money.”

This finding does not speak to the importance of vitamin D in northern countries and the omega3 fatty acids in fish oil and flaxseed.

Vitamin D 'can fight MS' by blocking path of destructive cells to the brain

Vitamin D may be able to combat multiple sclerosis, researchers said yesterday.  They discovered that it can block the migration of destructive cells to the brain, which causes the condition. This could help explain anecdotal reports that the ‘sunshine vitamin’ prevents or eases symptoms.

MS is most commonly found far from the equator, where there is less sunshine to trigger production of vitamin D in the skin.
The disease is caused by the body’s own immune defenses damaging myelin, a fatty insulating sheath that surrounds nerve fibers and is vital to the proper transmission of nerve signals.  Destruction of myelin leads to symptoms ranging from numbness to blurred vision and paralysis.

Researchers simultaneously gave mice the rodent form of MS and a high dose of vitamin D.  They found symptoms of the disease were suppressed.

‘Vitamin D might be working not by altering the function of damaging immune cells but by preventing their journey into the brain,’ said lead scientist Anne Gocke, of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

Be careful when you handle raw chicken and always wash your hands, cutting board and knife immediately after.  Consumer Reports finds Report finds 97% of chicken breasts sold at grocery stores across the US are contaminated with 'potentially harmful bacteria'.    Admittedly, it's a fairly small sample.

A recent study conducted by Consumer Reports magazine found that 97 per cent of raw chicken breasts sold at grocery stores nationwide contained potentially harmful bacteria.  - the magazine sampled 316 raw chicken breasts in 26 different states for the article. 
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About half of the raw chicken breasts in a nationwide sampling carried antibiotic-resistant "superbug" bacteria, a U.S. consumer group said on Thursday, calling for stricter limits on use of the medicines on livestock.

Frankincense, the aromatic resin and one of the gifts borne the Wise Men when they visited the baby Jesus, could be used to treat ovarian cancer.

Leicester University researchers found that a chemical in frankincense killed cells from hard-to-treat tumors. Ovarian cancer is symptomless in the earliest stages and usually not diagnosed until it is too late, making it the deadliest gynecological cancer.  Frankincense, the resin of the Boswellia sacra – a small tree found in Oman, Yemen and Somalia – is known for its anti-inflammatory properties and has long been used in folk medicine, along with resin from other types of Boswellia.
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The Leicester University researchers said: ‘Frankincense is taken by many people with no known side-effects.  'This finding has enormous potential to be taken to clinical trial in the future and developed into an additional treatment for ovarian cancer.’

How Dogs Might Protect Kids Against Asthma: Gut Bacteria

Exposing Mice to Dust From Households With Dogs Allowed Outside Changed Mouse Gut Microbes, Study Finds.

No evidence antibacterial chemicals used in liquid soaps actually prevent spread of germs… and they could even damage health, watchdog finds

The Food and Drug Administration said today there is no evidence that antibacterial chemicals used in liquid soaps and washes help prevent the spread of germs, and there is some evidence they may pose health risks.  The agency said it is revisiting the safety of chemicals like triclosan in light of recent studies suggesting they can interfere with hormone levels and spur the growth of drug-resistant bacteria.

The government's preliminary ruling lends new credence to longstanding warnings from researchers who say the chemicals are, at best, ineffective and at worst, a threat to public health.  Under its proposed rule released Monday, the agency will require manufacturers to prove that their antibacterial soaps and body washes are safe and more effective than plain soap and water.

Diet cola belly.  Why diet cola could be making you FATTER and WRINKLIER: Low-calorie drink could be to blame for spare tyre and withered skin

Some health experts now believe the chemicals in the drink could actually be causing your body to lay down fat deposits around your middle - dubbed 'diet cola belly' … And that's not all: some experts also believe diet cola’s mix of carbonated water, colorings and sweeteners such as aspartame and acesulfame K could also speed up the aging process, and have disastrous health consequences.
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The fructose, artificial sweeteners, and sugar alcohols (another type of low-calorie sweetener) present in diet colas can all interfere with natural gut bacteria, according to Amanda Payne of Switzerland’s Institute of Food, Nutrition and Health which published a paper in the journal Obesity Reviews.

This messes up your metabolism and disrupts the body’s way of signaling to you that you’re full and satisfied.   As a consequence, the body pumps out insulin, the hormone that controls sugar levels and fat storage, so that you lay down what Toribio-Mateas calls 'diet cola belly in the form of more fat around the midriff' - just where you wanted to shed fat.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:25 PM | Permalink

December 17, 2013

If what you know about CPR is from TV shows, you're wrong

The number of lives saved by CPR isn't as many as TV shows would have you believe.

 Cpr Chicagohope Tv

Un-extraordinary measures: Stats show CPR often falls flat

In his 20 years of practicing emergency medicine, Dr. David Newman says, he remembers every patient who has walked out of his hospital alive after receiving CPR.

It's not because Newman has an extraordinary memory or because reviving a patient whose heart has stopped sticks in his mind more than other types of trauma. It's because the number of individuals who survive CPR is so small.

In fact, out of the hundreds of CPR patients who have come to the New York hospitals where he has worked, Newman recalls no more than one individual a year making a full recovery.
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Exact survival rates are difficult to come by, as studies generally look at specific populations. A 2012 study showed that only about 2% of adults who collapse on the street and receive CPR recover fully. Another from 2009 (PDF) showed that anywhere from 4% to 16% of patients who received bystander CPR were eventually discharged from the hospital. About 18% of seniors who receive CPR at the hospital survive to be discharged, according to a third study (PDF).

So when did the misconception about the effectiveness of CPR begin? Some researchers argue that television created the myth. Between 1994 and 1995, researchers from Duke University watched 97 episodes of "ER," "Chicago Hope" and "Rescue 911," taking note of when CPR was administered during each show.  In these dramas, 75% of patients survived immediate cardiac arrest, and two-thirds were discharged from the hospital with full brain function, a stark contrast to the much smaller percentage found by medical studies.
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Newman says the few who do survive after CPR are what physicians describe as the "healthy dead": i.e. "a boy who drowned moments before," "a man who collapses while running a marathon" or someone experiencing a mild heart attack.

More common are the "unhealthy dead": those with terminal illnesses, the chronically ill and patients who do not receive CPR within five to 10 minutes of cardiac arrest.

"In these cases, (CPR) is unnecessarily burdensome, invasive and arguably cruel, with little to no chance of benefit," Newman said. Many survivors suffer abdominal distention or broken rib cages; some have severe brain damage from being without oxygen for so long.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:53 PM | Permalink

December 16, 2013

"It is an amazing process – it is like a Lego building that puts itself together."

An astonishing and a very welcome medical advance.  Congratulations.

Kidney grown from stem cells by Australian scientists
Australian scientists grow world's first kidney from stem cells in a breakthrough that could alleviate the demand for organ transplants

"This is the first time anybody has managed to direct stem cells into the functional units of a kidney," Professor Brandon Wainwright, from the University of Queensland, told The Telegraph.

"It is an amazing process – it is like a Lego building that puts itself together."

The engineered kidney was developed by a team of Australian scientists led by the University of Queensland's Institute for Molecular Bioscience.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:17 PM | Permalink

December 12, 2013

"ObamaCare's net enrollment stands at about negative four million "

I'm posting so much about Obamacare because it is simply the worst implementation of one of the worst laws ever passed by Congress that will effect every American in some way.

'A public safety disaster': Obamacare could force THOUSANDS of volunteer fire departments to close

The Affordable Care Act forces companies with more than 50 workers to buy them all health insurance or pay hefty fines.  The IRS says volunteer firefighters are 'employees,' even though the Department of Labor says they're 'volunteers'.    Out of more than 1 million fire departments in the U.S., 87 per cent are staffed entirely or mostly by life-saving volunteers.  Members of Congress are weighing in, but the Obama administration hasn't taken any action yet to carve out a fire-fighting exception

In the Washington Post, Obamacare's biggest losers -

Gisler wanted to purchase a plan for his 45-year-old son, who has a rare degenerative condition affecting his coordination and speech. His current coverage through Utah’s high-risk insurance pool plan ends Dec. 31. By that time, the Obama administration expects enrollees to transition into health plans sold through the new health-care law.

But so far, Gisler hasn’t succeeded in purchasing coverage -- but not for a lack of effort.

“We’ve had three separate applications that failed to make it through,” Gisler says. “I have a notebook with all the calls I’ve made, maybe 50 or 100. It just goes on and on.”
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He gave up and bought an individual plan through an insurance broker.

These are Obamacare's biggest losers: People whose current plans have been canceled but who are having trouble getting through HealthCare.Gov to purchase coverage by Dec. 23 -- the deadline for buying insurance that begins Jan. 1.The concern is particularly acute for patients with expensive medical conditions, who rely on their coverage for doctor visits and drug refills that would otherwise break the bank.

Juking the Obamacare stats in the WSJ

A charitable reading suggests that ObamaCare's net enrollment stands at about negative four million. That's the estimated four million to five and a half million people who had their individual health plans liquidated as ObamaCare-noncompliant—offset by the 364,682 who have signed up for a plan on a state or federal exchange and the 803,077 who have been found eligible to receive Medicaid.

The larger problem is that none of these represent true enrollments. HHS is reporting how many people "selected" a plan on the exchange, not how many people have actually enrolled in a plan with an insurance company by paying the first month's premium, which is how the private insurance industry defines enrollment. HHS has made up its own standard.

Insurers know that the hardest part of doing business in the individual market is getting customers to write a check….

HHS also hasn't built the tools that would allow people to pay through the exchange. Customers must contact their putative insurer, who may not be aware of their existence because the federal exchanges continue to produce corrupted data on the "back end" that are crucial for insurers.

After stonewalling for weeks about the error rate, HHS now says it is down to 10%, which we suppose is good enough for government work. But some insurers are still processing applications by hand, not least because one of five customers are submitting them on paper, not electronically.

Oregon signs up just 44 people for Obamacare despite spending $300 million

In the Fiscal Times,  The Many Disrupted Lives Under Obamacare

Congressional staffers told not to trust ObamaCare site info

Rep. Issa accuses HHS of criminally obstructing probe into ObamaCare website  HHS told web site contractors not to release documents to Congressional investigators.

Helen Alvare in USA Today, Obamacare attacks religion, but hurts women

The White House insists that its heavy-handed approach is needed to protect women because it thinks contraceptives are "essential to women's health." That is, to say the least, a highly dubious claim. Women get sick and die, for the most part, of things like heart attacks, strokes and cancer. Their long list of ailments rarely calls for free contraceptives to solve a health problem. In fact, as Judge Janice Rogers Brown recently noted, there are credible medical sources (like the World Health Organization) who now classify some hormonal contraceptives as carcinogens.

Obamacare marketplace violates federal security law

The bureaucracy tasked with Obamacare implementation may be violating a law that requires government agencies to keep private information safe.

Sebelius: People Who Lost Plans ‘Thrilled with the Choices Now Available to Them’

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:58 PM | Permalink

December 11, 2013

Health Roundup: Alzheimer's, exercise, aspirin, Vitamin B12, Vitamin D and singing in a choir

Exercise 'significant role' in reducing risk of dementia, long-term study finds

Exercise throughout a person's life plays a significant role in reducing the risk of developing dementia, a study spanning 35 years has found.

The Cardiff University study …found the five factors that were integral to helping avoid disease were regular exercise, not smoking, low bodyweight, healthy diet and low alcohol intake…..However exercise had the single biggest influence on dementia levels. People in the study who followed four of these had a 60% decline in dementia and cognitive decline rates, with exercise named as the strongest mitigating factor.

As time has gone on, the Cardiff study has moved to looking at the effects of dementia and strokes.  Over 400 research papers in the medical press have been produced from its findings.  One of the contributions was the discovery that aspirin helped prevent heart attacks. The study has been funded by the Medical Research Council, the Alzheimer's Society and the British Heart Foundation.

Could Alzheimer's be Type 2 diabetes? Scientists claim extra insulin produced by those with disease disrupts brain chemistry

Alzheimer's and diabetes may be the same disease, scientists claim.  They have uncovered evidence that the debilitating form of dementia may be late stages of type 2 diabetes.  The discovery would explain why nearly three quarters of patients with this form of diabetes go on to develop Alzheimer’s.
Researchers from Albany University, New York State, believe the excess insulin they produce gets into the brain and disrupts key chemicals.  Eventually masses of amyloid proteins - which poison brain cells - are created because of the excess which leads to Alzheimer's, they say.

An aspirin a day could help stop dementia say scientists as they launch huge study into benefits of the pill

Australian researchers also think the drug could ward off stomach cancer.  They are about to carry out clinical trial of 15,000 over-70s
It is already known to reduce risk of a heart attack by 23 per cent

Research has shown regular users have a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, the main form of dementia.  Scientists believe its protective effect may be due to its anti-clotting action helping blood flow to the brain.

Long-term use of commonly prescribed heartburn drugs increases the likelihood B vitamin deficiency, a study has shown.

Researchers from Kaiser Permanente, a leading U.S. health provider, compared data on almost 26,000 patients diagnosed with vitamin B12 deficiency in northern California with more than 184,000 ‘control’ patients who were not B12 deficient.

‘Patients who took PPI medications for more than two years had a 65 per cent increase in their risk of B12 deficiency,’ said study leader Dr Douglas Corley, a gastroenterologist with the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research. ‘Higher doses also were associated with an increased risk, compared with lower doses.
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Vitamin B12 deficiency is linked to increased risk of dementia, nerve damage and anaemia

Vitamin D supplements 'don't ward off ill health': Little evidence pills lower risk of cancer, strokes or other conditions

For decades, scientists assumed that the mineral, one of the most popular supplements in Britain, had numerous health benefits.  But a review of 462 studies involving more than a million adults has concluded that a lack of vitamin D is not a trigger for many common illnesses.

The main reason scientists thought vitamin D could protect against disease was that patients with cancer, heart disease or Alzheimer’s had very low levels of the nutrient.  But the French researchers now suspect that, rather than vitamin D deficiency leading to disease, these illnesses stop the body from producing vitamin D, so sufferers have lower levels.
Lead author Professor Philippe Autier, from the International  Prevention Research Institute  in Lyon, France, said: ‘What this  discrepancy suggests is that decreases in vitamin D levels are a marker of deteriorating health. Aging and inflammatory processes involved in disease occurrence . . . reduce vitamin D concentrations, which would explain why vitamin D deficiency is reported in a wide range of disorders.’

But his study – published in The Lancet – did not cast doubt on the supplement’s effect on the bones. The mineral is known to protect against bone thinning and the bone disorder rickets.

Join a choir and keep your emotional well-being finely-tuned

People who sing with others are happier with their lives than those who simply sing around the house, a study found.  Choir members are also more satisfied with their lot than people who play team sports.  The findings suggest that there is something special about being in a choir, over and above benefits of singing and taking part in a group activity.
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Oxford Brookes University psychologist Nick Stewart … said: ‘Choral singers also reported perceiving their choirs to be a more coherent or meaningful social group than team sport players considered their teams.’  It is thought that moving and breathing in synchrony may contribute to this enhanced sense of togetherness.
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Previous studies have provided evidence that singing with others provides a wealth of health benefits from strengthening the immune system and reducing stress to improving the symptoms of Alzheimer’s.

Importantly, you don’t have to be a wonderful singer to benefit.  This is because improvements to health come from being part of a team, working in synchrony and exercising the lungs, diaphragm and other parts of the body – rather than from singing in tune.

Scientists find gene that spurs on tumors

The treatment of thousands of cancer patients could be dramatically improved after British scientists identified a gene that fuels almost all types of tumour.
The ‘needle in a haystack’ find offers hope to at least one in 100 cancer patients
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Within just a few years, cancer patients could be tested for the gene and then given drugs that slow the progress of the disease.
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Unusually, the breakthrough doesn’t just apply to one cancer type – the rogue gene feeds many different types of cancer.
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The researchers from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute near Cambridge analyzed genetic data from more than 7,500 cancer patients from around the world.
This flagged up a gene called CUX1 that was found in almost all cancer types, including breast cancer.  It was also particularly common in a particularly hard-to-treat type of leukemia.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:45 AM | Permalink

Abortion and breast cancer

New study from China helps to prove the Abortion-Breast Cancer Link

In the US we are used to abortion advocates claiming that the risk of elective abortion is relatively trivial, and major medical organizations denying any link between abortion and breast cancer. Now a powerful new study from China published last week by Yubei Huang and colleagues suggests otherwise.  The article, a meta-analysis pooling 36 studies from 14 provinces in China, showed that abortion increased the risk of breast cancer by 44% with one abortion, and 76% and 89% with two and three abortions.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:08 AM | Permalink

December 9, 2013

Murphy's Law at work in Obamacare and how you can opt out

Margaret Wente Obamacare, where the liberal dream crashes and burns

The biggest threat to Obamacare is not Republicans. The biggest threat is Murphy’s Law, along with its corollary, the Law of Unintended Consequences. These are the most powerful laws in the world. They are even more powerful than the Affordable Care Act, and they are the nemesis of all master plans. Evidently, the President and his merry band of wonks had never heard of them.

"New Affordable Care US health plans will exclude top hospitals

In a bid to cut costs, insurers selling cover on the new exchanges in states including New York, Texas and California will not offer patients access to two renowned cancer centers - Memorial Sloan Kettering in Manhattan and MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, according to The Financial Times.
Access to Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles, one of the top research and teaching hospitals, may also be limited, as the insurers attempt to steer customers away from hospitals or doctors they consider too expensive.
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Some hospital officials are worried about what they call an unintended consequence of the new law.

'We're very concerned. (Insurers) know patients that are sick come to places like ours,' Thomas Priselac, president and chief executive officer of Cedars-Sinai Health System in California told the FT.  'What this is trying to do is redirect those patients elsewhere, but there is a reason why they come here. These patients need what it is that we are capable of providing.'

Obamacare dumps unpaid bills on providers

But the bureaucrats at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) decided to issue a rule in March making insurers responsible only for paying claims during the first 30 days of the debtors’ grace period. Who’s on the hook for the other two months? Well, customers are entrusted to foot the bills for additional services. But if they blow off the payments, it’s up to physicians and hospitals to collect.
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As one hospital rep told me: “It’s potentially catastrophic.” Private practices are already being hit hard with slashed reimbursements, the electronic-medical-records mandate, ICD-10 medical-diagnostic-code changes, and increasing federal intrusions on how they provide care.

-Attention Patients


The Phishing Scam on Healthcare.gov

New problems emerged on Friday, with a Capitol Hill source drawing attention to an apparent scam in the system. The source detailed how, after telling the user the password was incorrect, the site directed the individual to a “forgot password” page — which then asked for highly personal information.

“On that page I was asked for my check card number and my ATM pin,” the source said. “I was fairly confident this was a scam so I called customer service. After a 103 minute hold time, I was told that this was indeed a scam.”

The explanation is not exactly reassuring:

Some shoppers are being directed from the insurance website to an outside site that appears nearly identical to the real exchange, officials confirmed Friday. The fraud is widespread enough that they’re considering adding disclaimers to its website to warn users against divulging their check card or PIN numbers.

The Federalist offers advice on How to Opt Out of Obamacare  Know your options and become savvy self-pay patients

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:49 AM | Permalink

December 5, 2013

Other things about Obamacare

WSJ  ObamaCare's Plans Are Worse  How the Affordable Care Act raises prices and limits medical choices.

...the rules ObamaCare imposes to create a supposedly superior insurance product are resulting in an objectively inferior medical product. The new mandates and rules raise costs, so insurers must compensate by offering narrow and less costly networks of doctors, hospitals and other providers in their ObamaCare products. Insurers thus restrict care and patient choice of physicians in exchange for discounted reimbursement rates, much as Medicaid does.

Rigging the Future.  Obamacare Creates 50 New State Databases With No Function Beyond Gathering Potential Voter Information, Real or Fraudulent

Some are losing coverage.  Boy with cancer loses coverage after Obamacare launch.  Bureaucrats won't help unless pregnant or illegal alien..

Others who complained are now getting audited.  Cancer Patient Who Spoke Out Against ObamaCare Now Being Audited

Bill Elliot was a cancer patient who lost his insurance due to ObamaCare and couldn’t pay the expensive new premiums. He was talking about paying the ObamaCare fine, going without health insurance and “letting nature take its course.”

He went on FOX News where his story was picked up by C. Steven Tucker, a health insurance broker who helped him keep his insurance.  Now suddenly Bill Elliot is being audited for 2009 with an interview only scheduled in April 2014. Assuming he lives that long. That might be a coincidence, but Tucker is being audited back to 2003.

In New Jersey, 741 have  signed up for Obamacare while 50,000 signed up for N.J.'s online gambling sites.

Medicaid Is Latest Health-Site Victim. States Refuse to Sign Up Enrollees Due to Incomplete Information from HealthCare.gov

So far, the federal government has been unable to transfer full Medicaid applications to states, potentially leaving people who sought to sign up for Medicaid through HealthCare.gov without coverage.

Millennials Abandon Obama and Obamacare  A majority of America's youngest adults would vote to recall the president.

Over a long weekend followed by some supplemental tweaking,

the three guys who built the working Affordable Care Act policy search web site known as TheHealthSherpa.com for free accomplished what Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’s assembled contractors and bureaucrats couldn’t get done with a 42-month head start and hundreds of millions of dollars.

Looks as though Obama turned down an offer by IBM's CEO Samuel J. Palmisano  turned down a free offer to hunt out health care abuse in 2010..

In a 2010 interview, IBM’s CEO said: “We could have improved quality and reduced the costs of the health-care system by $900 billion. … I said we would do it for free to prove that it works. They turned us down.”

Speaking with FOX News’ Stuart Varney, Mort Zuckerman, Editor-in-Chief of US News & World Report, said, “

It’s a little bit puzzling because I think there is a huge amount of both fraud and inefficiency that American business is a lot more comfortable with and more effective in trying to reduce. And this is certainly true because the IBM people have studied this very carefully.

When Palmisano went to the White House and made that proposal, it was based upon a lot of work and it was not accepted. And it’s really puzzling…These are very, very responsible people and don’t have a political ax to grind.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:43 PM | Permalink

December 4, 2013

Health roundup: Aspirin, health-care apps, hangovers, arthritis and the 13 health benefits of coffee

Could an eye test be used to diagnosed Alzheimer's? Study shows disease kills eye cells as well as brain cells

Currently Alzheimer's disease can only be diagnosed for certain by studying a patient's brain after their death - other techniques involve memory tests
Layers of the retina are 49% thinner in mice with Alzheimer's disease which suggests processes occurring in a brain with dementia also occur in the eye
If the same is true in humans, an eye test could indicate if a person has dementia and whether drug treatments are working

WSJ Health-Care Apps That Doctors Use  Programs range from diagnostics to hand-washing trackers.

Take your aspirin before you go to bed. Bedtime aspirin 'wards off heart attacks': Blood cells least likely to bind dangerously together if taking drug in the evening

Drinking After 40: Why Hangovers Hit Harder  The Reasons Moderate Alcohol Consumption Gets More Complicated in Middle Age.

"A lot of older people are borderline dehydrated. They have less body water just from the natural effects of aging," Dr. Blackwelder says. It helps to drink water and have a full stomach when knocking one back.
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The majority of alcohol is metabolized by the liver, which changes when people hit their 50s. (A small amount is metabolized in the stomach and mouth.) The liver gets bigger as people get older, but the organ becomes less efficient. Blood flow decreases, as do the number of hepatocytes, the liver's functional cells,
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Certain enzyme levels dip, too, including one type of the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase, which breaks down alcohol. Women of all ages tend to have lower levels of this enzyme in the stomach. But between the ages of 50 and 60, men see their levels slide, too.
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Particularly beginning in the 50s and 60s, the brain is more sensitive to alcohol. Booze basically enhances normal age-related cognitive decline. Neurons lose speed. Specifically, the insulating myelin sheaths around the axons of neurons—the parts responsible for transmitting information to other neurons—get smaller. As people age, "neurons are not as efficient. So you impair them with a little bit of alcohol, they are that much more inefficient,"
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Older people are also more affected by alcohol's impact on sleep, a fact that can turn a mild hangover into a must-stay-in-bed-all-day affair. "Alcohol in all ages wrecks our REM sleep,"

Scientists hail breakthrough arthritis drug which slows down the condition and improves mobility

Scientists carried out a year-long study on 1,200 patients with active, moderate-to-severe rheumatoid arthritis, who have not benefited from or been able to tolerate the side effects of current frontline treatment methotrexate.  They found Sarilumba improved their condition by up to 20 per cent.

Developed by French drugmaker Sanofi and Regeneron, the new drug works by blocking an inflammation-causing protein called interleukin 6.
Patients given a 200 mg dose of Sarilumba every other week - on top of methotrexate - saw a 66 percent improvement in the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis after six months.

Google Helpouts will bring telehealth to the masses


Top 13 Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Coffee

1. Coffee Can Improve Energy Levels and Make You Smarter
2. Coffee Can Help You Burn Fat
3. The Caffeine Can Drastically Improve Physical Performance
4. There Are Essential Nutrients in Coffee
5. Coffee May Lower Your Risk of Type II Diabetes
6. Coffee May Protect You From Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia
7. Caffeine May Lower The Risk of Parkinson’s
8. Coffee Appears to Have Protective Effects on The Liver
9. Coffee Can Fight Depression and Make You Happier
10. Coffee Drinkers Have a Lower Risk of Some Types of Cancer
11. Coffee Does Not Cause Heart Disease and May Lower The Risk of Stroke
12. Coffee May Help You Live Longer
13. Coffee is The Biggest Source of Antioxidants in The Western Diet
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:32 PM | Permalink

December 3, 2013

Security at the HealthCare.gov website is worse than before

With less than three weeks to sign up for insurance or pay a penalty, problems with the healthcare.gov website are still unresolved.  It is impossible to imagine the anxiety and suffering of the millions who lost their health care policies and who don't want to put their identities at risk by going online to healthcare.gov.

Expert: Healthcare.gov Security Risks Even Worse After ‘Fix’

“It doesn’t appear that any security fixes were done at all,” David Kennedy, CEO of the online security firm TrustedSec, told the Washington Free Beacon.

Kennedy said fundamental safeguards missing from Healthcare.gov that were identified by his company more than a month ago have yet to be put in place.
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After warning Americans when testifying before Congress on Nov. 19 to stay away from Healthcare.gov, Kennedy now says the situation is even worse.

“They said they implemented over 400 bug fixes,” he said. “When you recode the application to fix these 400 bugs—they were rushing this out of the door to get the site at least so it can work a little bit—you’re introducing more security flaws as you go along with it because you don’t even check that code.”

Get this.  The Federal Government doesn't have to notify anyone if the site is hacked.

“States are required to notify in the event of a breach, the federal government is not,” he added. “So in the event that Healthcare.gov gets compromised and all their information gets taken out of it they don’t have to notify anybody.”

Kennedy said the team working on Healthcare.gov is more likely to hide its security flaws than address them. When it was revealed that the most popular searches on the website were hack attempts—confirmed by entering a semicolon in the search bar—the website simply removed the tool.

The White House won't even give classified briefings to Congress about the security problems of healthcare.gov.  Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Mike Rogers said,

“They could not even provide someone — CMS and HHS, the two folks responsible for the HealthCare.gov website — in a classified setting to come up and talk about the breaches that they know have happened. That’s just unconscionable.”

He warned that there is currently no coordinated effort within the administration to test the website’s newly-written code which was completed over the past two months of repairs, leaving it vulnerable to breaches. “You’re encouraging people to go to a site that our own government knows doesn’t meet safety standards when it comes to security of private information.”

78% Fear ObamaCare Site Security, Could Deter Signups

The latest IBD/TIPP Poll finds that 78% say Americans should be worried about the security of the ObamaCare exchange website, and 53% say they should be "very concerned." This view was shared across parties, with 69% of Democrats saying security concerns are warranted.

More worrisome for the law's success, 82% of those aged 18-24 say concern is justified. These are among the people ObamaCare most desperately needs to enroll to keep overall premiums from spiraling out of control.

John Podhoretz writes in Commentary,  No, Healthcare.Gov Isn’t Working.    Much of the backend hasn't been constructed yet. 

There is no such thing as a functioning website if the “back end” isn’t working. The “back end” is the catchall phrase for everything you don’t see when you visit a website. It refers to the software that translates pictures and words into what you see here. It refers to the software that mediates the relationship between 1) users who enter information, 2) the servers that store the website’s information, and 3) third parties hired to take some (but not all) of the information and process it on their servers and computers. It refers to the security systems put in place so that the website cannot be disabled by an outside attack and so that the data entered cannot be stolen or otherwise compromised.
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In other words, the back end is the website. What many people are seeing now at healthcare.gov is a visual demonstration of a sign-in. If the sign-in data are not transferred to a database, nothing has happened. It’s like taking a practice test; it’s not scored and it’s not registered and it means nothing.

New Obamacare Headache: Is Your Enrollment Real?

Obama administration officials acknowledged today that some of the roughly 126,000 Americans who completed the torturous online enrollment process in October and November might not be officially signed up with their selected issuer, even if the website has told them they are.
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While the front-end of the website has been vastly improved, the back-end glitches remain a serious concern, IT experts and industry officials say.
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For those who thought they enrolled in a plan through the federal exchange since October, the Obama administration now advises that individuals contact their insurance company to verify coverage and if none exists, to start all over again.

Errors plague one third of Obamacare online enrollees

The Washington Post is reporting the bad news for Obama; about of consumers enrolled through healthcare.gov have serious errors in the plans they chose.

The mistakes include failure to notify insurers about new customers, duplicate enrollments or cancellation notices for the same person, incorrect information about family members, and mistakes involving federal subsidies.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:18 PM | Permalink

November 26, 2013

The Train Wreck continues

Yet, more on the continuing disaster of  Obamacare

You can keep your health plan

Almost 80 million with employer health care plans could have coverage canceled, experts predict

Their losses would be in addition to the millions who found their individual coverage cancelled for the same reason.

Stan Veuger of the American Enterprise Institute said that in addition to the individual cancellations, "at least half the people on employer plans would by 2014 start losing plans as well." There are approximately 157 million employer health care policy holders.
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According to projections the administration itself issued back in July 2010, it was clear officials knew the impact of ObamaCare three years ago.  In fact, according to the Federal Register, its mid-range estimate was that by the end of 2014, 76 percent of small group plans would be cancelled, along with 55 percent of large employer plans.

You can keep your doctor.   

Washington Post  “Health Insurers Limit Choices to Keep Costs Down,”    Narrower networks under Obamacare.

People who say they have already lost their doctors under Obamacare

Average insurance costs would drop $2500/year.

Health Premiums Up $3,065; Obama Vowed $2,500 Cut

The new line is that the health-care law will save money. That's also not true.

According to health-care actuaries at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, health-care spending will begin spiraling upward again starting next year, as the Affordable Care Act takes full effect. It will reach $5 trillion in 2022, or 20% of GDP, or $14,664 per capita. By 2022, ObamaCare alone is projected to increase cumulative health spending by roughly $621 billion, according to CMS.
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CMS actuaries find that any positive effects of the ObamaCare delivery system experiments on the cost of health care "remain highly speculative." When they compare their September 2013 projections with earlier estimates in April 2010, these actuaries find that the law would increase national health spending higher than previously expected by an additional $27 billion in 2019 alone.

Chicago Tribune Man, the number of ObamaCare losers really seems to be piling up, doesn’t it?

Honeypot for Identity Thieves

Obamacare website is not safe or secure and should be shut down, say security experts as fears grow personal data of millions is at risk

The Administration was warned in April by a consultant they hired to review progress that's its website was 'fraught with risks'

The Obama administration brought in a private consulting team to independently assess how the federal online health insurance enrollment system was developing, according to a newly disclosed document, and in late March received a clear warning that its Oct. 1 launch was fraught with risks.

The analysis by McKinsey & Co. foreshadowed many of the problems that have dogged HealthCare.gov since its rollout, including the facts that the call-in centers would not work properly if the online system was malfunctioning and that insufficient testing would make it difficult to fix problems after the launch.  This risk assessment, which was encapsulated in a 14-slide presentation, was delivered to senior White House and Department of Health and Human Services officials in four briefings between March 28 and April 8, the committee said.

NYT  ID Verification Lagging on Health Care Website 

Many users of the website have had their applications cast into limbo after they uploaded copies of documents like driver’s licenses, Social Security cards and voter registration cards, or sent them to the office of the federal insurance marketplace in London, Ky.

Yes, There are Death Panels are in Obamacare. 

Ed Driscoll points out how Time magazine finally read the act and regulations

Time magazine, September 10, 2013.   “Sarah Palin Won’t Let ‘Death Panels’ Die,”

As has been explained here, here, here, here, here and here, the new health care law contains no death panels. The Independent Payment Advisory Board, a government panel that may determine some Medicare payments rates, is expressly banned from rationing care. End-of-life counseling, a provision in an early version of a health reform bill that would pay doctors to talk to Medicare patients about living wills, was stripped from the final version
Time magazine editor, November 25th, 2013,  Mark Halperin, senior political analyst

The Affordable Care Act contains provisions for “death panels,” which decide which critically-ill patients receive care and which won’t, according to Mark Halperin, senior political analyst for Time magazine.  “It’s built into the plan. It’s not like a guess or like a judgment. That’s going to be part of how costs are controlled,”

The Cure for Obamacare: The Widely Accepted Alternative and a New Idea to Go with It by Clark Judge

At a luncheon in Washington last week, I stumbled across something new in the Obamacare debate.  Most of the attendees were reporters.  The inevitable question came up: If not Obamacare, what?  And when a Republican ran through an answer (equalizing tax treatment of insurance bought through employers and individually; allowing insurance policies approved in one state to be sold in all; HSAs and high deductible plans; medical liability reform), the reception was attentive, not dismissive.

In other words, Washington is starting to take seriously the prospect of repeal and replace.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:38 PM | Permalink

November 15, 2013

Why the Obamacare fix won't work

Mark Steyn

[M]illions of his subjects — or “folks,” as he prefers to call us, no fewer than 27 times during his press conference — have had their lives upended by Obamacare. Your traditional hard-core statist, surveying the mountain of human wreckage he has wrought, usually says, “Well, you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.” But Obama is the first to order that his omelet be unscrambled and the eggs put back in their original shells. Is this even doable? No. That’s the point. When it doesn’t work, he’ll be able to give another press conference blaming the insurance companies, or the state commissioners, or George W. Bush . . .

The most telling line, the one that encapsulates the gulf between the boundless fantasies of the faculty-lounge utopian and the messiness of reality, was this: “What we’re also discovering is that insurance is complicated to buy.” Gee, thanks for sharing, genius.

As Veronique de Rugy points out Speeches Don't Change the Law

Insurance companies who sell plans that are still illegal under the law could be sued in courts and won’t get any legal protection.

"G'head.  Re-Enroll in Your Still-Illegal Health Plan.  I Won't Prosecute.  Trust Me."

Set aside the president’s disregard for the U.S. Constitution, the separation of powers, and the rule of law generally. Here’s how his fix alters – where it leaves – his once-categorical “if you like your health plan, you can keep your health plan” promise:

If your insurer hasn’t already cancelled your plan prior to October 1, 2013, and
If you had coverage in effect on October 1, 2013, and
If your insurer wants to invest in re-issuing your already-cancelled plan for just one more year, and
If your state’s insurance commissioner wants to let your insurer re-issue that plan, and
If your insurer and your commissioner can get your old plan re-approved by January 1, and
If your insurer informs you how lousy your old plan was and how awesome ObamaCare plans are, even though they may charge you more for less coverage, and
If your insurance commissioner does not mind approving products that are clearly illegal under federal law, and
If you and your insurer don’t mind engaging in an economic transaction that is clearly illegal under federal law, and
If you trust me when I promise not to prosecute any of you for your clear violations of federal law,
Then you can keep your plan, for one more year.
Does that seem like a fix? It certainly doesn’t seem likely to work.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:04 PM | Permalink

November 13, 2013

Health Roundup: Aging better with a Mediterranean diet, exercise, brushing teeth, steamed broccoli and more fat for a healthy brain

Women who follow a Mediterranean diet are 40% more likely to live a healthy life past 70

Women who follow a diet rich in fruit, vegetables and fish, which is closely associated with the traditional Mediterranean diet, were less likely to suffer from major chronic diseases and physical ailments.  They were also found to be 40 per cent more likely to live past the age of 70.

Lead researcher Cecilia Samieri, a postdoctoral fellow who conducted the study while at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, said: 'We found that greater quality of diet at midlife was strongly associated with increased odds of good health and well-being among individuals surviving to older ages.  Maintaining physical, cognitive, and mental health with aging may provide a more powerful incentive for dietary change than simply prolonging life or avoiding any single chronic disease.'

Half an hour's exercise each day prevents depression later in life, study reveals

The project, which analyzed data from 30 previous studies, found that in 25 of them there was a link between lack of activity and being diagnosed with depression in later life.  The study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, recommends around 20-30 minutes of light activity, such as walking or gardening, every day.

Regularly brushing your teeth lowers the risk of heart attacks and strokes

Regularly brushing your teeth can help protect you from heart attacks, researchers have found.  Poor dental hygiene and bleeding gums can allow up to 700 types of bacteria to enter the bloodstream.  But brushing and flossing has now been found to help to combat bacteria in the mouth that can cause hardening of the arteries which may lead to heart attacks and strokes. This means that people who brush their teeth at least twice a day are less likely to suffer from a heart attack or stroke.
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Dr Nigel Carter, chief executive of the British Dental Health ­Foundation, told the Express: 'This is truly ground-breaking.
'The potential link between what goes on in your mouth and the health of your heart has been an intense topic of debate for some time. This research clearly shows the more you improve and maintain your gum health, the less chance there is of developing a potential life-threatening illness.'

How to get the most health benefits from your veg? STEAM them: Study finds boiled or microwaved broccoli has no cancer-fighting properties left

Scientists found broccoli loses its cancer-fighting properties when it is boiled or microwaved. The researchers, who presented their findings at the American Institute for Cancer Research Annual Research Conference, found the best way to cook the vegetable is to steam it for three to four minutes.
They say steaming it until it turns a bright green color can enhance its cancer-fighting compounds.

Broccoli is an excellent source of sulforaphane, a naturally occurring plant compound that has been shown to be protective against cancer.  The enzyme myrosinase in broccoli is needed for sulforaphane to form - so if the myrosinase is destroyed, sulforaphane cannot form.  The researchers found boiling and microwaving broccoli, even for just one minute, destroys most of the myrosinase it contains. In contrast, they also discovered that steaming it for up to five minutes is the best way to retain the enzyme.

Psychology Today Your “Healthy” Diet Could Be Quietly Killing Your Brain

A new book challenges convention with the latest science on brain health. The book, Grain Brain, by Dr. David Perlmutter, is mind-blowing—no pun intended—and disruptive to some long-standing beliefs about what our bodies require for optimal health.

"The brain thrives on a fat-rich, low-carbohydrate diet, which unfortunately is relatively uncommon in human populations today," he says. Carbohydrates typically thought of as healthy, even brown rice, 100% whole grain bread, or quinoa—mainstays of many of the most health-conscious kitchens—cause disorders like dementia, ADHD, chronic headaches, and Alzheimer’s, over a lifetime of consumption. By removing these carbohydrates from the diet—harbingers of inflammation, the true source of problems that plague our brains and hearts—and increasing the amount of fat and cholesterol we consume, we can not only protect our most valuable organ, but also potentially, undo years of damage. Cholesterol, for example, long vilified by the media and medical community, actually promotes neurogenesis (the birth of new brain cells) and communication between neurons, to the degree that studies have shown that higher levels of serum cholesterol correlates to more robust cognitive prowess.
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As the only doctor in the country who is both a board-certified neurologist and Fellow of The American Board of Nutrition, he deftly covers a topic rarely discussed: How what we eat affects the health of our brain.
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Carbohydrate consumption leads to blood sugar elevation obviously in the short term, but also, in the long term as well. Persistently challenging the pancreas to secrete insulin to deal with dietary carbohydrate ultimately leads to insulin resistance, a condition directly associated with increased risk for dementia. What’s worse, insulin resistance is the forerunner of type 2 diabetes, a condition associated with a doubling of Alzheimer’s risk. In a recent report in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease., Mayo Clinic researchers showed that individuals favoring carbohydrates in their diets had a remarkable 89% increased risk for developing dementia as contrasted to those whose diets contained the most fat. Having the highest levels of fat consumption was actually found to be associated with an incredible 44% reduction in risk for developing dementia.
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Two forms of fat that are vitally important for brain health are cholesterol and saturated fat.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:46 PM | Permalink

November 12, 2013

"Limitless" security risks for Healthcare.gov

Unbelievable.

Sheryl Attkinsson reports  Memo warned of "limitless" security risks for HealthCare.gov

CBS News has learned that the project manager in charge of building the federal health care website was apparently kept in the dark about serious failures in the website's security.

Henry Chao, HealthCare.gov's chief project manager at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), gave nine hours of closed-door testimony to the House Oversight Committee in advance of this week's hearing. In excerpts CBS News has obtained, Chao was asked about a memo that outlined important security risks discovered in the insurance system.

Chao said he was unaware of a Sept. 3 government memo written by another senior official at CMS. It found two high-risk issues, which are redacted for security reasons. The memo said "the threat and risk potential (to the system) is limitless." The memo shows CMS gave deadlines of mid-2014 and early 2015 to address them.

But Chao testified he'd been told the opposite.
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Late Monday, Health and Human Services told CBS News the privacy and security of consumers' personal information are a top priority, and consumers can trust their information is protected by stringent security standards. The author of the security memo, Tony Trenkle, retired from CMS last week; no reason was given.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:22 AM | Permalink

November 1, 2013

93 million people will be unable to keep their current insurance under Obamacare UPDATED

I don't have time in my life to write much about the Obamacare debacle which I saw coming for years except to say it's even worse than I could have imagined.  It looks like most of the 19 million people who buy their health insurance on their own, using their own money, face cancellation of the policies they now hold  and will have to find and more likely more expensive coverage.

Instapundit says So many layers of disaster here. It’s like peeling an onion of fail.

Charles Krauthammer writes Every disaster has its moment of clarity.

Physicist Richard Feynman dunks an O-ring into ice water and everyone understands instantly why the shuttle Challenger exploded. This week, the Obamacare O-ring froze for all the world to see: Hundreds of thousands of cancellation letters went out to people who had been assured a dozen times by the president that “If you like your health-care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health-care plan. Period.”

That presidential pledge gets four pinocochios from the Washington Post's Fact Checker

But it's going to get a lot worse when the employer mandate - which Obama unilaterally postponed for year - kicks in.

Avik Roy reports in Forbes Oama officials knew in 2010 that  93 Million Americans Will Be Unable To Keep Their Health Plans Under Obamacare

It turns out that in an obscure report buried in a June 2010 edition of the Federal Register, administration officials predicted massive disruption of the private insurance market.
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Section 1251 of the Affordable Care Act contains what’s called a “grandfather” provision that, in theory, allows people to keep their existing plans if they like them. But subsequent regulations from the Obama administration interpreted that provision so narrowly as to prevent most plans from gaining this protection.

“The Departments’ mid-range estimate is that 66 percent of small employer plans and 45 percent of large employer plans will relinquish their grandfather status by the end of 2013,” wrote the administration on page 34,552 of the Register. All in all, more than half of employer-sponsored plans will lose their “grandfather status” and become illegal. According to the Congressional Budget Office, 156 million Americans—more than half the population—was covered by employer-sponsored insurance in 2013.

US News and World Report. Top Hospitals Opt Out of Obamacare.

Bizarre maternity care requirement  The  only people not forced to get maternity coverage are women under 30.    James Taranto writes in Best of the Web, President Haze

First, it's not only men who are forced to buy maternity coverage they are physically incapable of using. So are women in the stage of life between childbearing age and Medicare eligibility.  Second, under-30s are exempt. That's right, the geniuses who wrote ObamaCare are forcing everyone to buy maternity care except the age cohort that includes women at peak fertility.


Healthcare.gov appears to violate White House guidance on web security


Other perverse incentives

Massive financial penalties for married couples or what the Heritage Foundation calls the New Federal Wedding Tax

Obamacare will cause people to freeze in geographic location.

Insurance companies cannot compete across state lines, so your policy is only portable within your state. That’s bad for economic development. A person now has to deal with 50 sets of rules, 50 exchanges. Obamacare didn’t solve the problem.
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There will be people that stay in place because of insurance costs from one state to the next. I have looked, and personally for me my costs of insurance go up exponentially when I move out of state.

In our old broken healthcare system, employers would pick up the difference. As our society transitions to an independent worker society, and insurance isn’t tied to job, individuals will be forced to pick up the cost.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:15 PM | Permalink

October 31, 2013

Health Roundup: 11 genes & Alzheimer's, aspirin, naps, gardening & DIY, almonds, IBS & D, and mental effects of hand-washing

Alzheimer’s to be treated by replacing faulty genes, expert predicts after discovery of 11 key genes that raise risk

Alzheimer’s will be treated or even prevented by replacing faulty genes, an expert in the disease has predicted.  Men and women could be given a nasal spray packed with healthy versions of the defective genes that cause the illness.

Professor Julie Williams, of Cardiff University, said the entire population could eventually be screened in middle-age to identify those at most risk of the memory-robbing disease. They could then be given cutting-edge gene therapy and other treatments to stop the disease ever developing.

The professor, who was given a CBE in the Queen’s birthday honours last year for her work on Alzheimer’s, made the prediction after jointly leading the biggest-ever study into the genetics of the disease.  The landmark study, involving more than 180 researchers from 15 countries, pinpointed 11 genes that raise the risk of Alzheimer’s. The size of the collaboration allowed them to identify more genes in less than three years than have been found in the past two decades. By taking the total to 21, it also more than doubles the number of known Alzheimer’s genes, the journal Nature Genetics reports.

The BBC:  A daily aspirin 'risky' for healthy adults

Healthy people should not take aspirin to ward off heart attacks and cancer, according to the most comprehensive review of the risks and benefits.  …The review, conducted by the research arm of the NHS, said it was a "fine balance" due to the dangers of bleeding in the brain and stomach. Overall it warned against taking the drug, until there was more evidence.

The drug is given to people at high risk of a heart attack or stroke as the medical benefit is clear.

Scientific American Why Your Brain Needs More Downtime

Research on naps, meditation, nature walks and the habits of exceptional artists and athletes reveals how mental breaks increase productivity, replenish attention, solidify memories and encourage creativity.

Gardening and DIY 'can cut the risk of dying by 30%': Active hobbies reduce chance of a heart attack or stroke

Older people with active hobbies cut their risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke, and their chances of dying from any cause by up to 30 per cent.
A new study found ‘working out’ in the garden or the home was as good as going to the gym for keeping the heart healthy.

Experts say it shows the benefits of active daily routines, which counteract the harm caused by sedentary lifestyles.  The study monitored the heart health and daily activities of almost 4,000 people aged 60 in Stockholm, Sweden, for 12.5 years.

The savvy snacker's secret? Eating 30 almonds a day reduces hunger pangs and doesn't cause weight gain

People who ate 1.5oz of almonds - equivalent to around 250 calories - didn't end up gaining weight or eating any more throughout the day
Eating almonds also improves Vitamin E and 'good' fat intake
Almonds keep hunger at bay because of their monounsaturated fat, protein, and fibre content

Washing your hands makes you HAPPIER: Cleaning boosts our confidence and washes away feelings of failure

A study published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science found that the ritual of cleaning makes us more optimistic after failure.  People were also more confident they could complete the task the next time.  Previous research found hand washing made people feel more comfortable about decisions they had made

But there was a twist. While people who washed their hands felt better afterwards, they were also less likely to complete the task successfully next time.  Dr Kaspar explained: 'While physical cleansing after failure may eliminate negative feelings, it reduces the motivation to try harder in a new test situation.' Meanwhile, the non-hand washers performed better on the next occasion.

Could taking a vitamin D pill help ease the pain of an irritable bowel?  Yes says IBS sufferer Vicky Grant

'After years of symptoms, my diarrhoea, cramps, pain and bloating disappeared. I started to feel well, put on weight and my depression lifted.
'It was amazing. My symptoms would flare up again though, if I forgot to take it.'

With the help of medical researchers she knew from her work at Sheffield University medical school, Vicky wrote up her experience as a case report for the British Medical Journal - she included anecdotal reports on vitamin D from blogs, which suggested it worked in 70 per cent of cases.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:36 AM | Permalink

October 30, 2013

Health and Food Roundup: Carbs and fat, sweets and memory problems, pasta and fries, carrots and sperm

Is a high-fat diet GOOD for the heart? Doctors say carbs are more damaging to the arteries than butter or cream

Experts claim false interpretation of scientific studies has led to millions being 'over-medicated'.
Doctors claim it is time to 'bust the myth' of the role of saturated fat in heart disease.
Some nations are adopting dietary guidelines to encourage high-fat foods.

How eating too many sweets could make you FORGETFUL: Having high blood sugar levels can cause memory problems

Bad news if you've got a sweet tooth - eating too many sweets could make you forgetful.
Researchers have found that maintaining low sugar levels in the blood is good for the brain.
The study, published in the journal Neurology, showed people with too much sugar in their blood were more likely to have memory problems.
Researchers looked at 141 people with an average age of 63 who did not have diabetes or pre-diabetes.
Those with less sugar in their blood were more likely to score well on memory tests.
The researchers found that people with high levels of sugar in their blood were less able to recall a list of 15 words 30 minutes after hearing them.

Do pasta and fries make you depressed? Eating carbs can increase the risk by 40%

Women who eat a lot of red meat and carbohydrates - such as chips, pasta and bread - are 29 to 41% more likely to be diagnosed with depression
But those who consume olive oil, coffee, wine and fish are less likely to become depressed, say Harvard researchers

The researchers were unable to say whether carbs caused depression - or if people simply turned to them when they felt low.
Previous research by Dr Judith Wurtman, a former scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and her husband, Dr Richard Wurtman, has suggested that people crave carbohydrates when the levels of the feel-good hormone, serotonin, fall in their brains - such as during that mid afternoon slump.

'We discovered years and years ago that many people experience the "universal carbohydrate craving time" between 3:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. every day,' WedMD reports.

The secret to healthy sperm? CARROTS: Study finds they boost performance more than any other fruit or veg

A new study found many yellow and orange-colored fruit and vegetables improved men’s fertility, but the carrot produced the best all-round results.

The sperm-boosting qualities come from chemicals called carotenoids, which give such foods their familiar color.  These include beta-carotene, which the body can make into the antioxidant vitamin A.    Antioxidants help to neutralize free radicals, destructive groups of atoms made as a by-product of metabolism that can damage cell membranes and DNA.

An international study led by Harvard University in the US found other similar hued foods such as sweet potato and melon can also enhance the quantity and quality of sperm by up to 10 per cent.  It comes amid concern that both the quantity and quality of male sperm appears to be declining in western countries, with some studies showing average sperm counts have fallen by over half.

Estimates suggest around 30 per cent of men in couples seeking IVF treatment are subfertile, and two per cent are ‘totally’ infertile.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:50 PM | Permalink

October 29, 2013

"We've reached the end of antibiotics"

'We've reached the end of antibiotics': Top CDC expert declares that 'miracle drugs' that have saved millions are no match against 'superbugs' because people have overmedicated themselves

'For a long time, there have been newspaper stories and covers of magazines that talked about "The end of antibiotics, question mark?"' said Dr Arjun Srinivasan. 'Well, now I would say you can change the title to "The end of antibiotics, period.”'

A high-ranking official with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has declared in an interview with PBS that the age of antibiotics has come to an end.
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Dr Arjun Srinivasan, Associate Director of the CDC….sat down with Frontline over the summer for a lengthy interview about the growing problem of antibacterial resistance.

Srinivasan, …,said that both humans and livestock have been overmedicated to such a degree that bacteria are now resistant to antibiotics.

‘We're in the post-antibiotic era,' he said. 'There are patients for whom we have no therapy, and we are literally in a position of having a patient in a bed who has an infection, something that five years ago even we could have treated, but now we can’t.’.

Stay healthy and stay out of hospitals if you possibly can.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:40 AM | Permalink

October 23, 2013

"Have the butter every time' says cardiologist

Time to end the war against saturated fat

The British Medical Journal has issued a clarion call to all who want to ward off heart disease: Forget the statins and bring back the bacon (or at least the full-fat yogurt). Saturated fat is not the widow-maker it's been made out to be, writes British cardiologist Aseem Malhotra in a stinging "Observations" column in the BMJ: The more likely culprits are empty carbs and added sugar.

Virtually all the truths about preventing heart attacks that physicians and patients have held dear for more than a generation are wrong and need to be abandoned, Malhotra writes.
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the "obsession" with lowering a patients' total cholesterol with statins, and a public health message that has made all sources of saturated fat verboten to the health-conscious, have failed to reduce heart disease.
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The result is a rate of obesity that has "rocketed" upward, writes Malhotra. And, despite a generation of patients taking statins (and enduring their common side effects), the trends in cardiovascular disease have not demonstrably budged.
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"When saturated fat got mixed up with the high sugar added to processed food in the second half of the 20th century, it got a bad name," noted UC San Francisco pediatric endocrinologist Robert Lustig. On the question of which is worse -- saturated fat or added sugar, Lustig added, "The American Heart Assn. has weighed in -- the sugar many times over."

Have the butter every time,' says cardiologist.

For more than 20 years, there have been one or two medical commentators in newspapers, such as the Telegraph's great James Le Fanu, who have rejected the cholesterol theory of heart disease. Dr Le Fanu has always maintained that (most) people should stick to the boiled eggs and buttered soldiers for breakfast and avoided margarine as if their lives depended on it. But the mainstream view for 40 years, as dished out to the public in health campaigns and via the NHS has been – cut down saturated fat to lower your risk of cardiovascular disease. That has meant that butter, full-fat milk and cheese were ruthlessly demonised, while oil-based spreads and low-fat products flew off the shelves.

But this is changing – and if you doubt it, consider that we have a leading young cardiologist, Aseem Malhotra, writing in the British Medical Journal today, saying quite plainly: "If you have a choice between butter and margarine, have the butter every time."
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Malhotra's advice on diet instead. He says consuming a Mediterranean mixture of foods – fresh vegetables, olive oil, complex carbohydrates – is "almost three times as powerful in reducing mortality as taking a statin", citing the Predimed study.

If you want evidence-based nutrition advice, read the Authority Nutrition blog

10 Disturbing Reasons Why Sugar is Bad For You.

Top 11 Most Common Nutrition Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Top 13 Nutrition Lies That Made The World Sick and Fat

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:52 PM | Permalink

October 22, 2013

Don't worry about tip of the tongue lapses, but do all you can to get a good night's sleep

Tip of the tongue' lapses AREN'T signs of dementia risk despite being more common in older people

If those ‘tip of the tongue’ moments are becoming more frequent, fear not.  They may be frustrating, but they do not indicate an increased risk of dementia, research has found.

Anecdotal evidence has long suggested that this type of memory lapse happens more often as we age – but its relationship to cognitive decline such as Alzheimer’s had never been established.

They may be frustrating, but they do not indicate an increased risk of dementia, research has found.
Anecdotal evidence has long suggested that this type of memory lapse happens more often as we age – but its relationship to cognitive decline such as Alzheimer’s had never been established.

So American researchers asked more than 700 participants, aged 18 to 99, to give the names of famous places, common nouns or famous people, based on brief descriptions or pictures.  The volunteers indicated which answers they knew, which they did not and which gave them a tip-of-the-tongue experience.

Overall, older participants experienced more of these frustrating moments.  But there was no association between the frequency of tip of the tongue occurrences and their performance on the types of memory tests often used in the detection of dementia.

How a poor night's sleep could be linked to Alzheimer's disease in older people

Poor sleep may be linked to Alzheimer's disease in older adults, according to a new brain imaging study.

The findings follow earlier research indicating that one of the functions of sleep is to purge the brain of toxic proteins.  One such harmful protein is beta-amyloid (Abeta), which accumulates in the brains of people with Alzheimer's.

The new study appears to reinforce the importance of sleep in staving off dementia.  U.S. scientists who looked at data on 70 adults with an average age of 76 found that those who slept less, and who experienced low quality sleep, had higher levels of beta-amyloid.
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This is part of a larger message that healthy sleep is an important contributor to health in general and especially to successfully aging,” said study author Adam Spira, an assistant professor in the Department of Mental Health at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, in an Oct. 18 telephone interview.

“It may be an important component in preventing Alzheimer’s disease, but that remains to be seen.”
More than 5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease and the number is expected to triple by 2050, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Today’s findings are the first to use brain images to identify the potential link.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:53 AM | Permalink

October 21, 2013

Health Roundup: Knees CAN predict the weather, addicted to Oreos and bacon as birth control

How Your Knees Can Predict the Weather Granny was right: Scientists find link between achy joints and the forecast

One leading theory holds that the falling barometric pressure that frequently precedes a storm alters the pressure inside joints. Those connections between bones, held together with tendons and ligaments, are surrounded and cushioned by sacs of fluid and trapped gasses.

"Think of a balloon that has as much air pressure on the outside pushing in as on the inside pushing out," says Robert Jamison, a professor of anesthesia and psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. As the outside pressure drops, the balloon—or joint—expands, pressing against surrounding nerves and other tissues. "That's probably the effect that people are feeling, particularly if those nerves are irritated in the first place,"

I know this from experience.  Oreos are as addictive as cocaine, say scientists (who also discover the cream in the middle really IS the best part)

The chocolate cookies have been found to trigger the same neurons in the brain's 'pleasure centre' as the outlawed drug during extensive lab testing on rats. Neuroscientist Joseph Schroeder from Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut, led research into the addictive effect of the indulgent treat.
His team discovered that the hungry rodents' reaction to the biscuit was comparable to that of rats who had been offered cocaine in earlier tests.  As well as finding that, like humans, rats prefer to eat the cream part of their Oreo first, scientists also saw similarities between the levels of addiction in 'Oreo rats' and their cocaine hooked cousins.

Writing in a statement describing the study, to be presented at the Society for Neuroscience in San Diego next month, Schroeder added: 'Our research supports the theory that high-fat and high-sugar foods stimulate the brain in the same way that drugs do.

Bacon as birth control.  Men who eat processed meat like bacon have poorer sperm: study

Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health found that men who eat lots of processed meat like bacon and sausage have lower sperm quality than men who don't. Men who have a diet heavy in fish have better sperm and more of it.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:55 AM | Permalink

October 15, 2013

Health Roundup: Food edition: Licorice, pomegranates, cabbage, frozen food, food good for your gut and mental health

Licorice slows skins cancer cells: Compound found in root could hold key to beating most lethal form of the disease

Breakthrough could lead to new drug to combat malignant melanoma

Pomegranates can protect the heart from a high cholesterol diet by 'strengthening the arteries'

A supplement made from the fruit helps keep blood vessels healthy. In doing so, it reduces the chance of heart attacks and strokes.
Pomegranate plant chemicals, called polyphenols, cancelled out the damage done by junk food in the cardiovascular systems of pigs.

Cabbage may protect against the effects of radiation during cancer therapy.

Researchers claim a compound derived from cruciferous vegetable - such as cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli - protected rats and mice from lethal doses of radiation.  Their study suggests the compound, already shown to be safe for humans, may protect normal tissues during radiation therapy for cancer treatment and prevent or mitigate sickness caused by radiation exposure.  The compound - known as DIM (or ,3'-diindolylmethane) - previously has been found to have cancer preventative properties.


Bacteria in your gut affects your mental health

CBC Radio science columnist Torah Kachur spoke to researchers such as Karen Madsen at the University of Alberta who are studying the types of bacteria that live in your gut and how they affect your behavior, via a nerve that travels between the gut and the brain.

"You know the whole term, 'listen to your gut'? It’s kind of taking on a whole new meaning.

Kachur explained that there are "good" bacteria, like Bifidiobacterium and Lactobacillus, that are present in yogurt. They produce a happy signal called GABA, which acts on the nervous system to curb depressive symptoms and anxiety.

Meanwhile, "bad" bacteria like the Clostridium family, of botulism fame, live in our guts and dine on our Western diets of high fat, high sugar and processed foods, Kachur said. She added that these bacteria can produce toxins that are released into the bloodstream and could affect the  brain.

Kachur recommends eating food high in probiotics, such as yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi and miso soup; and avoiding high fat and high sugar diets, in order to promote the growth of bacteria that are good for your mental health.

"We've got to nurture and take care of our microbes."

Frozen food IS better than fresh: Higher levels of vitamins and antioxidants in frozen fruit and vegetables say scientists

Study finds two out of three foods found to have more nutrients if frozen.
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Dr Rachel Burch, said: ‘We must disregard the mistaken opinion that ‘fresh’ food is always better for us than frozen food.  ‘These results demonstrate that frozen can be nutritionally comparable to ‘fresh’ produce.’

Direct comparison: In two out of three cases frozen fruit and vegetables scored better on antioxidant-type compounds – including Vitamin C, polyphenols, anthocyanins, lutein and beta-carotene, a study found

Her team found frozen broccoli had higher levels of Vitamin C, lutein and four times more beta-carotene. However, fresh scored better on polyphenols, which are thought to help prevent cancer.
Frozen carrots had three times the lutein and double the beta-carotene, while they were also higher in Vitamin C and polyphenols.
Frozen sprouts scored higher on all nutrient measurements, however fresh spinach did better than frozen in some tests.
The Chester study found levels of Vitamin C and polyphenols were much higher in frozen blueberries and green beans. The frozen blueberries also had more polyphenols and anthocyanins.
The figures in raspberries and peas were around the same, while there was no clear winner for cauliflower and baby sweetcorn.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:26 AM | Permalink

October 14, 2013

Fertility Awareness as Birth Control

In the Atlantic, The New Old-School Birth Control

There is a good amount of research and educational programs devoted to natural fertility awareness-based methods of birth control (FABM), though they may not yet be well-known.
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Surveys conducted by physicians at the University of Utah show that when natural fertility-awareness methods are described to women, 25 percent say they would strongly consider using one as their means of birth control. But thanks to its glaring image problem and a set of just-as-formidable infrastructural hindrances, ignorance of fertility awareness-based methods is widespread. If more women looking for a non-hormonal, non-barrier, non-surgical form of birth control knew about FABM, then more of them could be practicing it to its utmost effectiveness—rather than doing it in the dark.
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A recent 20-year German study asked 900 women to track their fertility every day by monitoring their body temperature and cervical mucus, and use that information to avoid pregnancy. The study’s researchers found this to be 98.2 percent effective—comparable with the pill, and a far cry from the 82 percent effectiveness rate of the withdrawal method.
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In January, a group of physicians organized through the Family Medicine Education Consortium published a review looking into the efficacy of various FABMs. They combed through all the relevant research published since 1980, and concluded that “when correctly used to avoid pregnancy, modern fertility awareness-based methods have unintended pregnancy rates of less than five (per 100 women years).” (A woman year is one year in the reproductive life of a woman.) Their effectiveness levels, in other words, are “comparable to those of commonly used contraceptives,” the study’s authors add.

Speaking of NFP, The Atlantic Discovers Something Faithful Catholics Have Known All Along

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:19 AM | Permalink

Health Roundup: Success of statins, walking and Alzheimers, foot cream and HIV, dog collar to track mood and owner, iSlouch a growing problem

In the U.K. Strokes fall by 40 per cent due to increased statin use  The growing use of statins has led to a 40 per cent fall in the number of strokes among Britons, research suggests.

Statins can also help to reduce the risk of dementia by almost a third, according to American researchers. Dr Kristopher Swiger, who led the study, said longer-term statin use was associated with protection from dementia. A study published in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings found that taking statins for more than a year appeared to safeguard the brain from Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia.

Exercise keeps Alzheimer's at bay: Walking releases chemical which helps keep the brain healthy

Walking could hold key to slowing onset of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. 

A natural chemical produced by the body during exercise could one day be given as an injection to inhibit the diseases, researchers say.
The protein, called FNDC5, is produced by muscular exertion and is released into the bloodstream as a hormone called irisin.

Can a foot cream really do battle with HIV?

A study has found that the antifungal drug Ciclopirox kills HIV in cell cultures -- and the virus doesn't bounce back when the drug is stopped. But the research has yet to be performed on people.

How a dog's collar could help save its master's life: Device will indicate if elderly owners are unwell Device promises to transform every pet dog into a potential life-saver. It monitors an animal's mood and any changes to their regular routine.

As most dogs are fed and walked at similar times each day, any change to their regular routine could be a sign that an elderly owner is struggling to cope.
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‘Any changes such as the dog being walked less often, perhaps not being fed regularly, or simply demonstrating "unhappy" behavior could be an early indicator for families that an older relative needs help.
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The waterproof collar contains sensors which tracks a dog’s movement and can distinguish between 17 different actions, such as barking, eating, sniffing, laying and walking.
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The device has been tested on 17 different breeds with success, and is now set to be used in field trials on pets belonging to vulnerable individuals, such as those with early onset dementia.

Do you suffer from iSlouch or iGrind? Doctors warn smartphone use could permanently damage the neck and jaw

Following reports the average person looks at their phone 110 times a day, a doctor has warned that too much smartphone use could actually be damaging our spines.
Slumping over phones and tablets reading messages or playing games - dubbed 'iSlouching' - can cause the head to sit further forward and add pressure to a person's spine.  Florida-based Dr. Matt Herba claims that many people, especially children, are already reporting neck problems and, long-term, this damage could become permanent.
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The report also found orthodontists are seeing a rise in children grinding their teeth, and damaging their jaw, while playing games - dubbed 'iGrinding'.
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A study published in the International Journal of Occupational Safety and Ergonomics found 53 per cent of mobile phone users suffer numbness or neck aches - dubbed 'text neck'. Another study by San Francisco State University discovered 83 per cent of people have experienced 'some hand and neck pain during texting'.

Worse still, they may be so distracted with their phones, they won't notice a man pulling out a gun and waving it about until he shot  a San Francisco student in the back killing him.

“These people are in very close proximity with him, and nobody sees this. They’re just so engrossed, texting and reading and whatnot. They’re completely oblivious of their surroundings.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:50 AM | Permalink

October 10, 2013

Breakthrough in Alzheimer's treatment and the Peanut Butter smell test to detect early stages of Alzheimer's

Alzheimer’s treatment breakthrough: British scientists pave way for simple pill to cure disease
Historic ‘turning point’ hailed as UK researchers discover how to halt death of brain cells, opening new pathway for future drug treatments

Although the prospect of a pill for Alzheimer's remains a long way off, the landmark British study provides a major new pathway for future drug treatments.

The compound works by blocking a faulty signal in brains affected by neurodegenerative diseases, which shuts down the production of essential proteins, leading to brain cells being unprotected and dying off.

It was tested in mice with prion disease - the best animal model of human neurodegenerative disorders - but scientists said they were confident the same principles would apply in a human brain with debilitating brain diseases such as Alzheimer's or Parkinson's.

How sniffing a teaspoon of PEANUT BUTTER can help detect if you are in the early stages of Alzheimer's

Researchers at the University of Florida have found that patients lose sense of smell in their left nostril faster than their right.  Peanut butter was used as a 'pure odorant' in tests to determine loss of sense of smell

Test subjects had all been diagnosed already, but the study revealed that one day smell may be used to detect early stages of Alzheimer's
Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:29 PM | Permalink

October 9, 2013

Obamacare Chaos

"Exchange launch turns into inexcusable mess" USA Today editorial

Presidents always negotiate over the debt ceiling, even President Obama has

Historically, presidents have had to make concessions to Congress to secure funding. President Reagan endured eight shutdowns. Each time he negotiated with the Democratic speaker of the house, Tip O'Neill, conceding on issues from mid-range missile defense to support for Nicaraguan contras to quickly end the shutdown.

Fast-forward to the current showdown. The House Republicans' fourth (and latest) offer asks for only two changes in ObamaCare: First, eliminate the subsidy for members of Congress, which has outraged the public.

Second, delay for a year making insurance mandatory for individuals. Let anyone enroll in ObamaCare who wants to. But don't penalize individuals for being uninsured in 2014 when the president has already postponed the penalty on big companies for not insuring workers.
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Given that the President has unilaterally delayed 19 parts of Obamacare, I simply cannot understand why the President wouldn't want a delay so that the software can be fixed  One year gives Democrats an opportunity to fix systemic errors in the software, the regulations, and the law. One year gives nothing at all to the Republicans–nothing–except the opportunity to crow a little bit.

Megan McArdle Republicans Didn't Sabotage Health Exchanges, Obama Did

They did not force the administration to wait until late 2011 to begin awarding important contracts for implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Presumably, they were also not skulking around the Department of Health and Human Services, writing the memos that delayed, until February of this year, the deadline for states to declare whether they’d be running their own exchanges.

Thirty Obamacare Fails

1. 99 Percent of Obamacare Applications Hit a Wall.
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14. Kentucky Marketplace Customers Have No “Expectation of Privacy”
Kentucky’s state-run Obamacare marketplace issued a disclaimer that users should have “no explicit or implicit expectation of privacy” in the beginning stages of the sign-up process. The site warns that “any or all uses of this system and all files on the system may be intercepted, monitored, recorded, copied, audited, inspected, and disclosed to authorized state government and law enforcement personnel, as well as authorized officials of other agencies, both domestic and foreign.”

15. McAfee, Inc., founder John McAfee slammed Obamacare’s lack of security precautions and predicted “millions” of identity thefts because of it. “This is a hacker’s wet dream — I cannot believe that they did this,” McAfee said on the Fox Business Network.

Better Business Bureau issues Scam Alert - "Obamacare" Scams Emerge as New Policies

Scammers look at opportunities where there’s confusion, where people don’t really understand what perhaps the new law is bringing to them. …We’re getting reports even here in Birmingham of people going door-to-door, telling homeowners that they are with an insurance company or they are with Medicare and that they’re going to have to have an Affordable Care Act Card. And so, in order to get their new card they’ve got to give their Social Security number, their bank accounts, all these things that people need to protect with everything they have and we’ve gotten report of them just handing these out… It’s a perfect opportunity for your identity to be stolen, for your bank accounts to be… your payments to be re-routed. … [The federal government is not soliciting door-to-door for people to sign up for the Affordable Care Act], and they’re not going to…  HealthCare.Gov is where you can go for real information…

Obamacare Site Resets All User Passwords In An Attempt To Fix Massive Login Problems

Our courageous press.  Not one dared to ask a  single question during the hour-long press conference with the President about Obamacare and the glitches of the insurance exchanges.

Gov. actuaries say ObamaCare will increase health care spending by $621 billion over next 10 years

‘I like you Obama, but I’m broke’: Americans upset that Obamacare costs money

I checked out an Obamacare exchange and it impressed me.. Until I saw the lowest premium for me was 3x what I am paying now

"I was laughing at Boehner -- until the mail came today,"

Waschura said, referring to House Speaker John Boehner, who is leading the Republican charge to defund Obamacare.
"I really don't like the Republican tactics, but at least now I can understand why they are so pissed about this. When you take $10,000 out of my family's pocket each year, that's otherwise disposable income or retirement savings that will not be going into our local economy."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:38 PM | Permalink

October 7, 2013

Health roundup: No Yoga, middle-age stress and depression, exercise beats statins, single-dose pill to lower cholesterol

The articles that caught my eye over the past week.

How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body

Glenn Black, a yoga teacher of nearly four decades….has come to believe that “the vast majority of people” should give up yoga altogether. It’s simply too likely to cause harm.
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Today many schools of yoga are just about pushing people,” Black said. “You can’t believe what’s going on — teachers jumping on people, pushing and pulling and saying, ‘You should be able to do this by now.’

Stress in middle age raises dementia risk: Scientists' warning after 45-year study of women

Conditions such as Alzheimer's may be linked to mid-life stress.  Divorce, bereavement and trouble at work can all be factors
Swedish study finds that effects of trauma can be traced decades later.

Depression can triple risk of developing Parkinson's disease, scientists say

Scientists in Taiwan studied records 23,000 people over 10 years. Those with depression 3.24 times more likely to be develop Parkinson's
Age and hard-to-treat Parkinson's risk factors, scientists said

Exercise 'beats drugs for heart and stroke patients': Study finds prescribing physical activity could revolutionize patients' health

Exercise can work better than drugs at preventing death in heart and stroke patients, research reveals
The study is the first to compare the effects of physical activity with taking prescription drugs, such as statins and beta blockers

Could a single dose of this drug lower your cholesterol? Treatment may help those at risk of heart disease who can't take statins

ALN-PCS cuts bad cholesterol by more than half, first human tests show.  The new pill could be used for the one in five patients intolerant to statins
Findings from the first tests in humans show the potential benefits of an agent that works in a different way to statins.  The drug blocks production of a protein that destroys receptors that normally clear harmful LDL cholesterol from the blood.

Are we a step closer to curing jet lag? Scientists identify hormone that prevents body and brain from adjusting to new time zones

Hormone vasopressin stops the body rapidly adjusting to new time zones.  A vasopressin-suppressing pill could, therefore, reduce jet lag.
Such a pill could also help rotational shift workers adjust to their schedule
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:48 AM | Permalink

September 5, 2013

Health Roundup: Missing Link that triggers Alzheimer's found, Greek diet, testosterone, sleep deprivation, well-dressed women

Scientists discover the 'missing link' that triggers Alzheimer’s - and hope findings could lead to drugs that restore memory

Researchers have discovered a protein that they claim is the missing link to the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
They found that blocking this protein with an existing drug can restore memory in mice with brain damage that mimics the disease.
The findings could offer hope of developing drugs to slow the degenerative illness.

'What is very exciting is that of all the links in this molecular chain, this is the protein that may be most easily targeted by drugs,' said the study’s senior author Stephen Strittmatter at Yale School of Medicine. The study offers hope of developing drugs to slow the degenerative illness

'This gives us strong hope that we can find a drug that will work to lessen the burden of Alzheimer’s.'

Eat like the Greeks to stay sharp in old age: Mediterranean diet found to lower risk of developing dementia

Eating a Mediterranean diet is good for the mind, research has concluded.  Scientists say people who eat large quantities of fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, fish and olive oil have a lower risk of age-related diseases such as dementia.

The research, by the University of Exeter’s Medical School, is the first systematic review of previous studies into the diet’s benefits to the brain. It comes after research last month showed the same diet could help counteract a genetic risk of strokes.  The team, supported by the National Institute for Health Research Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care in the South West Peninsula, analyzed 12 eligible pieces of research, 11 observational studies and one randomized control trial.

In nine of the 12 studies, a higher adherence to a Mediterranean diet was associated with better cognitive function, lower rates of cognitive decline and a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

How 'misleading' food labels are 'worsening the obesity crisis'

Fat-free yogurt may cause greater weight gain that the full-fat kind, according to researchers behind a new $40million dollar nutrition project.  Gary Taubes and Dr Peter Attia of Nutrition Science Initiative, contend that the sugars and additives added to replace missing fats, drive insulin resistance - an underlying cause of obesity.  They say this trend applies to all low-fat food options, from breakfast cereals to salad dressings, which many people 'wrongly' assume are healthier than the 'classic' versions.

Daily dose of testosterone wards off dementia in women

New research shows women who rubbed testosterone gel on their skin every day for six months performed better in brain function tests than those who were given a dummy gel.  Researchers tested the treatment on a group of 96 healthy post-menopausal women.  The hormone group performed significantly better at verbal learning, where they listened to dozens of different words and had to recall as many as they could.  They also scored higher in tests designed to assess the efficiency of their short-term memory.  Boosting brain function is thought to be one of the most effective ways of warding off dementia, as it helps strengthen connections between brain cells.

Why you really SHOULD get your beauty sleep: Sleep deprived people 'look sad, unhealthy and unattractive'

Thousands of 'well-dressed' women dying from strokes as doctors think they look healthy

Cardiologists said too many doctors are missing crucial signs of heart problems in women because many of those at risk were well-groomed and looked healthy.  The study of more than 15,000 people found that female patients were half as likely as men to be treated for one of the leading causes of heart problems.

Researchers said that GPs and specialists were slow to diagnose the most common form of abnormal cardiac rhythm in women, increasing their risk of stroke and death.  Dr Pierre Sabouret, lead researcher and cardiologist from Heart Institute-Pitie Salpetriere Hospital in Paris, said he believed many doctors did not realize how common the condition was among women, and failed to carry out tests to establish the likelihood of a problem.  He said: "I think doctors - GPs and cardiologists - often do not realize the risk for women. Too often they will think if a female patient looks healthy, and dresses smartly, and looks after herself, she is probably okay."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:51 AM | Permalink

August 15, 2013

Health Roundup: Super honey, killer sugar, buzzer banishes constipation

Doctors discover 'super honey' with amazing power to treat soldiers' wounds and kill superbug infections

A new honey has been produced that has had ‘amazing’ results treating wounds and infections.The bio-engineered product Surgihoney was tested on babies, new mothers, cancer patients and the elderly for over a year in Hampshire hospitals.

Wounds and ulcers, including those infected with the superbug MRSA, healed within days, while the number of women who suffered infections after giving birth by caesarean section has halved. It has also healed the wounds of soldiers returning from Afghanistan, and been used to treat acne and to protect the skin of cancer patients fitted with a catheter for chemotherapy.
Dr Matthew Dryden, consultant microbiologist at the Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: ‘It will revolutionize wound care around the world.’

Honey has been used for its healing powers for thousands of years, although doctors favor penicillin and antibiotics. 
‘Honey is a fantastic natural medicine. The important extra is that it kills the bugs but doesn’t damage the tissue.’

A jar of honey should be in every first aid kit.

High Blood Sugar Linked to Dementia

A large health care system in Washington State showing that higher blood glucose levels are associated with a greater risk of dementia — even among people who don’t have diabetes. The results, published Thursday in The New England Journal of Medicine,
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“We found a steadily increasing risk associated with ever-higher blood glucose levels, even in people who didn’t have diabetes,” Dr. Crane said. Of particular interest: “There’s no threshold, no place where the risk doesn’t go up any further or down any further.” The association with dementia kept climbing with higher blood sugar levels and, at the other end of the spectrum, continued to decrease with lower levels.
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This research “offers more evidence that the brain is a target organ for damage by high blood sugar,” said Dr. Munshi. “And everyone is still working on the ‘why’.”

Is sugar an invisible killer? Even 'safe' levels of the sweet stuff could lead to an early death, scientists warn

U.S. researchers gave mice sugary diet and found female animals died twice as fast as those eating healthy snacks.
Scientists from the University of Utah found male mice consuming the sugary diet were less able to hold territory and reproduce.
Strangely the animals showed no signs of ill-health including obesity or raised blood sugar levels.

Me and my operation: The buzzer in your body that can banish chronic constipation

At first, I felt the tingling in my lower back, but now I don’t notice it. And since the battery is deep under the skin of my buttock, I can’t feel it.
Now I’m back at work, and enjoying swimming, aerobics and the gym again, and have just been walking in the Brecon Beacons. I’ve finally got my life back.
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Around 95 per cent of people can be helped by these measures [diet, laxatives and special exercises], but when all else fails we can consider surgery
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Sacral nerve stimulation, the procedure Kathryn had, works by stimulating the nerves that control bowel and bladder function
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It’s an exciting option because it is low risk — and we can test to see if it works before putting in a permanent implant (it works in around half of patients).
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:08 PM | Permalink

August 14, 2013

Parenting roundup: Organic family planning apps, hormonal contraception, Gameboy back, unruly children get fat

New app helps track best times to conceive  It's called Glow and it's available at the App Store.  Tech Crunch described it thusly

completely free fertility tracker, which lets women enter detailed data about their menstrual cycles and the symptoms surrounding them to help predict their exact level of fertility each day. The Glow fertility predicting app can be used worldwide.

It sounds very much like the science behind Natural Family Planning which has its own app MyFertility MD available at the  App Store and on all mobile devices .  The developers of the app  call it 'organic family planning' and an app by doctors for women.

The organic alternative sounds especially good after reading this story.  Is your birth control pill controlling YOU? New book claims hormonal contraception is a tool to suppress women in society

British author Holly Grigg-Spall has written 'Sweetening the Pill: Or How We Got Hooked on Hormonal Birth Control' and believes that a number of studies proves her point that contraception is in fact controlling women.

She adds that women’s unquestioning acceptance of such powerful medications is in some ways a submission to a culture steeped in hatred of the feminine.
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While Ms Grigg-Spall was on birth control she felt a distance between herself and her ‘femaleness'.  She said, "Over the years [of being on the Pill] I felt no connection between my self and my body, between my self and the world around me, between my femaleness and myself.’

A 2011 study of women both on and off hormonal contraception found that the medication did affect a woman's memory.
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A 2012 study revealed that women on hormonal birth control - which suppresses naturally occurring testosterone - were attracted to men with lower testosterone levels.

The World Health Organization has declared several forms of oral contraceptives and estrogen replacement therapy as a Group 1 Carcinogen.  Links to WHO data on Birth Control Pill and Estrogen Replacement Carcinogenicity here.

Rise of the 'Gameboy Back': Children are developing curvature of the spine because they hunch over consoles and smartphones

They say the modern phenomenon, which causes curvature of the spine and sometimes herniated (slipped) discs, is a result of children sitting hunched over games consoles and smartphones for hours on end.

They do not however believe a ban on such devices is required. Instead more attention needs to be paid to correct posture, they said.

Surgeons Piet van Loon and Andre Soeterbroek said the last time such symptoms were observed was more than 100 years ago, when child labour was common in Europe.  The problem is particularly prevalent in eight to 18-year-olds.
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'It makes no difference to the body whether you’re hunched over in a cigar factory or spending eight hours over an iPad.'

Device Nags You to Sit Up StraightLumoBack Sensor Vibrates Whenever You Slouch.  Lumoback website

Your Personal Posture Trainer…$150

LUMOback acts as your personal posture trainer, gently correcting you and offering encouragement in your journey toward better posture and a healthier lifestyle. It serves as a posture monitor, providing consistent reminders to maintain healthy posture and be more mindful of your body.

Our mobile app allows you to easily track your progress as you improve your posture. It also encourages you to be more active by tracking how many steps you take each day and what percentage of the day you spend sitting, standing, walking, and running. You can even monitor your sleep patterns and track your mood changes.

Inducing and Augmenting Labor May Be Associated With Increased Risk of Autism

Pregnant women whose labors are induced or augmented may have an increased risk of bearing children with autism, especially if the baby is male, according to a large, retrospective analysis by researchers at Duke Medicine and the University of Michigan.

The findings, published in JAMA Pediatrics on Aug. 12, 2013, do not prove cause and effect, but suggest the need for more research, particularly as labor induction and augmentation have been used more frequently in recent years.
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The findings suggest that among male children, labor that was both induced and augmented was associated with a 35 percent higher risk of autism, compared with labor that received neither treatment.

Disciplining children really IS for their own good: Unruly kids become fatter adults

Encouraging 'good' behavior in youngsters definitely makes parents' lives easier. It is also assumed to instill positive personality traits that will help them grow in to well rounded adults. And now new research has revealed that a person's behavior as a child could have a startling impact on their waistline in their future.

The longitudinal study observed a group of Hawaiian schoolchildren in the 1960s and then compared their vital statistics today as 50-year-old adults.
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ORI scientist Sarah Hampson, Ph.D., and colleagues at the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health, Hawaii report these findings in the August issue of Health Psychology. …This is the first study in which all the big five personality traits assessed in childhood have been used to predict objective health status assessed by multiple biomarkers over 40 years later in older adulthood.

Others have shown that more conscientiousness children live longer. Now we have shown that these conscientious children are also healthier at midlife' noted Dr. Hampson, while on a panel on personality and health at the national American Psychological Association meeting in Honolulu.

Hawaiian school-children rated by their teachers in the 1960s as less conscientious had worse global health status as adults. They also had significantly greater obesity, high cholesterol, and increased risk for cardiovascular disease.

On the other hand If you have unruly kids and they do get fat, they probably have a better chance of surviving the flesh-eating disease necrotizing fasciitis.

'I survived a flesh-eating bug because I'm FAT': 27 stone man's excess flab meant bug had plenty to eat - giving doctors time to save him

Russell Kimble, 39, developed necrotising fasciitis after a routine operation.  The bug was spreading at a rate of three centimeters an hour.  He spent nine days in an induced coma and had 20 operations, spending a total of seven weeks in hospital and missing his own wedding
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:06 PM | Permalink

August 13, 2013

Mental health roundup: Cellphone holdout, Facebook, shopping and power

The managing director of an investment firm: My Life as a Cellphone Holdout

For the last two decades, I have spent 83% of my waking hours enjoying the freedom of not owning a cellphone, 5% feeling smug about it, 2% in situations in which a phone would have been awfully convenient and 10% fielding incredulous questions. The first is always: How do you do your job? (I'm not the junior blacksmith at the Renaissance Faire; I'm a managing director at a private-equity firm.) I explain that my colleagues are very tolerant, the firm provides me with all of the latest communication tools (computer, telephone, Post-its) right at my desk, and accomplishing my daily tasks without a smartphone is not beyond human capability. Indeed, people lived this way back at the Dawn of Civilization, circa 1992.
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I don't own a cellphone because I don't want to disappoint Henry David Thoreau. …I know that cellphones have their uses. But it was hardly a difficult choice to sacrifice their utility in an attempt to make more room for thought.

Study: Posting Facebook Photos Negatively Impacts Real-Life Relationships

According to research from the University of Birmingham, University West of England and the University of Edinburgh, people who frequently post photos to Facebook can’t control how their various “friends” will perceive the posts.

“It’s worth remembering that the information we post to our ‘friends’ on Facebook, actually gets viewed by lots of different categories of people: partners; friends; family; colleagues and acquaintances,” said Dr. David Houghton, lead author of the report, told Phys.org. “And each group seems to take a different view of the information shared.”

“Our research found that those who frequently post photographs on Facebook risk damaging real-life relationships. This is because people, other than very close friends and relatives, don’t seem to relate well to those who constantly share photos of themselves.

Shopping actually makes us feel lonely - especially if we're doing it to fill a void or impress others

new research from the University of Chicago suggests that shopping as a cure for loneliness is futile - and could in fact make us feel more lonely.  In fact, the very act of fending off loneliness by shopping can create a vicious cycle where one shops because they are lonely, feels more lonely because they have shopped, and continues shopping in a misguided attempt to cure the loneliness.

The study, published in the Journal of Consumer Research, analyzed data from 2,500 consumers over six years.

Power Corrupts … the Brain

full story at
When Power Goes To Your Head, It May Shut Out Your Heart

Power fundamentally changes how the brain operates.
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It turns out, feeling powerless boosted the mirror system — people empathized highly. But, Obhi says, "when people were feeling powerful, the signal wasn't very high at all."

So when people felt power, they really did have more trouble getting inside another person's head.

"What we're finding is power diminishes all varieties of empathy," says Dacher Keltner, a social psychologist at University of California, Berkeley,
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:10 AM | Permalink

August 10, 2013

Health Roundup: Malaria drug triumph, chocolate, steak, broccoli, starving diabetes, healthy gut, artificial ear, nightlight

Wonderful news.  Breakthrough in battle against malaria as new vaccine proves 100 per cent effective against disease for the first time in history

U.S. scientists have announced a significant breakthrough in the fight against malaria after a human trial of a new vaccine was 100 per cent effective against the disease for the first time in history.  More than three dozen volunteers were given multiple doses of a vaccine produced with a weakened form of the mosquito-borne disease that kills around one million people a year.

And their results were promising: The months-long trial was 100 per cent successful in protecting all of the subjects who received the strongest dose of the vaccine.  The results, which suggest scientists could be nearing eliminating the disease, were released by researchers from the National Institutes of Health, the Navy, Army and other organizations Thursday.

Chocolate may help keep brain healthy, sharp in old age, study says

In the journal Neurology, researchers reported that chocolate may help improve brain health and thinking skills in the elderly. The Boston-based team found that older people who initially performed poorly on a memory and reasoning test and also had reduced blood flow to their brains showed improvement after drinking two cups of cocoa every day for a month.

How feasting on steak and spinach can cut the chances of Alzheimer's

Iron-rich foods can delay onset of degenerative disease, say researchers.  Anaemic people are more likely to develop conditions like Alzheimer's.

Broccoli's a wonder veg… and now we know why: Chemical only found in the food helps maintain 'batteries' that power body's cells

They discovered that a chemical found solely in the vegetable helps maintain the health of the tiny ‘batteries’ which power the body’s cells.  This, it is thought, helps ward off health problems including cancer and heart disease.  Scientists from the Institute of Food Research in Norwich ran detailed blood tests on men and women before and after they ate the vegetable

‘Two to three times a week is probably enough, I don’t think many people want to eat broccoli more than that.’

Daily Mail I reversed my diabetes in just 11 days - by going on a starvation diet

The theory behind the diet, which is the brainchild of Roy Taylor, professor of medicine and metabolism at Newcastle University, is based on the fact that type 2 diabetes is often caused by fat clogging up the liver and pancreas, which are crucial in producing insulin and controlling blood sugar.  Professor Taylor’s studies have shown that drastic dieting causes the body to go into starvation mode and burn fat stores for energy — and the fat around the organs seems to be targeted first.  This leads to the liver and pancreas becoming unclogged, and insulin and blood sugar levels returning to normal.

One study by Taylor’s team, published in 2011 in the journal Diabetologia, found that out of 11 type-2 diabetics following the diet, all reversed their diabetes in under eight weeks.  Further studies revealed that type 2 diabetics needed to lose one-sixth of their pre-diagnosis body weight to remove enough fat from the pancreas to allow normal insulin production to resume.

After contacting Professor Taylor, and getting the nod from my GP, I decided to follow the diet (experts warn never to start such a drastic regimen without first checking with your doctor).

How the digestive system could be the key to curing cancer: Keeping it healthy could allow patients to survive much higher doses of chemotherapy

Protecting the digestive system could be the key to curing deadly cancer, experts have claimed.
Keeping the gastro-intestinal tract healthy and functioning may allow patients to tolerate normally lethal doses of chemo and radiotherapy, research suggests.
Deadly advanced cancers that have metastasised, or spread around the body, could then be eradicated, scientists believe.
The research is at a very early stage and conducted on mice, which were treated to help them survive powerful cancer therapies.
But lead scientist Dr Jian-Guo Geng, from the University of Michigan in the U.S., said: ‘It's our belief that this could eventually cure later-staged metastasised cancer. People will not die from cancer, if our prediction is true.’
A major problem with chemotherapy agents and radiation treatment is that they can kill patients before curing cancer.

Scientists build artificial ear that looks and works just like the real thing - using cells from SHEEP and a 3D printer

Researchers created the artificial ear by 3D printing a life-like mold which was filled with cow collagen and sheep cartilage cells
Cells were implanted into rats and grown over a three-month period

The color of your nightlight could affect your mood

In a study involving hamsters, researchers found that blue light had the worst effects on mood-related measures, followed closely by white light.  But hamsters exposed to red light at night had significantly less evidence of depressive-like symptoms and changes in the brain linked to depression, compared to those that experienced blue or white light.  The only hamsters that fared better than those exposed to red light were those that had total darkness at night.  The study appears in the Aug. 7, 2013, issue of The Journal of Neuroscience.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:39 AM | Permalink

August 8, 2013

Chaos coming in October with security concerns with the Obamacare Data Hub

Just a couple of weeks ago, I posted that the Obamacare Data Hub was a 'Honey Pot' for ID Thieves  and last May, The IRS Leviathan is getting bigger  as it will be getting vast new powers  in health care.  It gets worse.

Former HHS Counsel: Obamacare’s Privacy-Protection System is ‘Chaos’

“It’s chaos,” Michael Astrue said on Fox News last night. HHS procrastinated in designing the system, he explained, ultimately throwing it together hastily in order to meet the October 1 date. “They played catch up, and they didn’t have the time and money to do it right — they started doing shortcuts,” he explained.

Avik Roy writes in Forbes