Tuesday, August 5, 2014

How slow walking speed and memory complaints can predict dementia

At the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva  University, a study was conducted on five different continents between roughly 27,000 older aged adults that measured how fast those people walked and whether or not they have cognitive issues or not. For those of you that don't know what dementia is, it is a decline in mental ability severe enough that it affects and interferes with that person's daily life. Some symptoms of dementia are memory loss and their ability to focus or pay attention isn't really present. They found that 1 in 10 met the certain criteria for having pre-dementia based on this test listed above. The people who did test positive for pre-dementia were twice as likely as other people to develop full-blown dementia within the next 12 years. 

As to do with cognitive issues, this new test determines whether someone has motoric cognitive risk or not. To find out whether someone has this syndrome or not is done by a test which goes like this. It relies on measuring the gait speed which is our manner of walking, by simply asking a few questions about that patient's cognitive abilities. This isn't a big test that has to be done in a lab. It can simply be done in a doctor's office and only takes a few minutes. Diagnosing this early on in life is very important because then doctor's can identify it and treat the causes of the disease in the body or could even prevent dementia if it is really caught early enough. The payoff for this experiment could be very helpful not only to families and patients but also could benefit health care savings in our society. 

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it estimates that close to 5.3 million Americans in the United States have Alzheimer's Disease. Alzheimer's Disease is the most common form of dementia. Around the year 2050, that 5.3 million is expected to double due to the aging of the population at that time.  MCR is common among 26,802 adults without dementia or disability that is 60 years of age or older enrolled in 22 studies in 17 countries. 9.7 percent of adults met the criteria for MCR syndrome. With MCR, higher educated people were less likely to test positive compared to those who are less educated. Walking 2.2 MPH is considered a "slow gait" which is slower than one meter per second. This is known as abnormal. 

Now comes the question of how to treat MCR but there are no treatable ideas to help them cure it? It is obvious that eating healthy and exercising on a regular, daily basis helps not only your body and health but also plays a contributing factor in reducing the rate of cognitive decline. To delay dementia from happening to you, scientists suggest you play board games, card games, read and write as much as you can. 

Finally, I never knew any of this could cause dementia and cognitive issues. It is interesting to learn about this stuff because you never know what life could throw at you when you become older. For further information on this topic, visit the site http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140725144455.htm . There are other websites and articles that talk about this as well such as http://healthland.time.com/2012/07/16/what-does-your-walking-speed-say-about-your-alzheimers-risk/ .  

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Type 1 Diabetes

My roommate has type 1 diabetes, and over the course of the last three years of college I have learned a lot about this disease. I pay very close attention and am always asking questions about why, when, and how much insulin needs to be taken in order to stay healthy. I am also prepared if he would have an attack, because I know which syringe to use, how much, and where to inject him at. Now that I have provided you with a little  background of why I have chosen this topic, it is time to learn how this disease works. 

In type 1 diabetes, the body (pancreas) does not produce insulin, a hormone that converts sugar and other food into energy. Various factors may contribute to type 1, including genetics and exposure to certain viruses. Although there is no cure and can be very deadly, as long as a person takes care of themselves and uses correct insulin therapy, anyone can manage diabetes and live long, normal, healthy lives. 

Whenever a person with diabetes eats, is feeling jittery, or feels weak, they need to prick their finger and touch the strip to that blood in order check their blood sugar level.


Type 1 diabetes signs and symptoms may include:

  • increased thirst
  • frequent urination
  • extreme hunger
  • unintended weight loss
  • mood changes
  • fatigue and weakness
  • blurred vision
Roles of insulin:
  • Insulin circulates, enabling sugar to enter your cells
  • Insulin lowers the amount of sugar in your bloodstream
  • As your blood sugar level drops, so does the amount of insulin produced from the pancreas.
Anyone with a parent or sibling with type 1 diabetes, has a slightly increased risk of also developing this condition. The presence of certain genes indicates an increased risk of developing type 1. Although type 1 diabetes can occur at any age, the two noticeable peaks are usually between 4 and 7 years old, as well as between 10 and 14 years old. Adults are also able to develop type 1 diabetes. 

This disease can affect major organs in the body including heart, blood vessels, nerves, eyes, and kidneys. If blood levels are managed and kept close to normal, this can dramatically reduce the risk of many complications. Long-term complications develop gradually, but can eventually be disabling or life-threatening.

Overall, diabetes is a very serious disease and is very scary, but for example with my roommate if you take care of yourself then nobody will ever know that you are in fact diabetic. 

You are what you eat....or should we say what you eat you will become?


You are what you eat....or should we say what you eat you will become?

When was the last time you turned on the television or pull up a web page without some commercial or ad telling you to change the way you eat or buy supplements that will make you healthier but what does your body really need?  Are the supplements, shakes or meal plans helping or hurting your waistline and more importantly your health?  Obesity is at an all-time high in the United States.  We are consuming higher calorie food with less nutritional value.  This means that our stomachs feel full but our bodies are starving.  Although caloric intake is an individualized number based on age, weight, and activity level on average the typical 18-30 year old woman only needs about 1300-2400 calories a day, for a man of the same age range it is about 2800-3100 and as we get older this number decreases.  There are a lot of us that can take in 1/3 of these calories just from our morning coffee which is also loaded in sugar.  For those of us that do cook at home we tend to fall victim to prepackaged process foods out of convenience that are loaded in oils, sodium, sugar and refined carbohydrates.   

What we are discovering now is that it wasn't how much that was on those plates but what was on those plates that mattered.  Our bodies are many complex systems all working together to keep us healthy and disease free.  The food that we are putting into these well-oiled machines is being linked to many chronic diseases.  Looking at nutrition on a cellular level we are able to see the basics of our nutritional needs.  Besides oxygen, carbohydrates, and fiber we also need amino acids, fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals.  All of these can be found in the lean meats, whole grains, fruits and vegetables that we eat.  It is when we load up on processed, high fat and high sugar foods with no nutritional value that start to accumulate excess body weight and nutrient depleted bodies.

Excess body weight has been linked to type 2 diabetes; cancers of the breast, endometrium, ovaries, colon, rectum and kidney; hypertension; coronary artery disease; stroke; asthma; gall bladder disease; and osteoarthritis (Journal of The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics).  I know we all hear eat your fruits and vegetables but in doing so we can take a proactive stance on preventing chronic diseases later in life.  Just one cup of blueberries can provide carbohydrates -- 21.5 grams per cup, of which 3.6 grams are dietary fiber. Carbohydrates provide energy to fuel your active lifestyle and support the function of several organs, including your kidneys and brain. Fiber keeps your digestive system functioning properly, increases your sense of being sated after a meal and promotes cardiovascular health. The fiber in a cup of blueberries makes up 10 percent of the recommended daily intake for men and 14 percent for women (livestrong.com).  Blueberries are also a source of vitamin C and K.  So if one little fruit can provide you with so many health benefits think of what else is out there. 

Harvard University has developed an info-graphic to help guide you through what your plate should look like.


The next time you go to pull into that convenient fast food drive thru or load you plate up with food remember; you can load up on that now and pay your doctor later or grab a healthy snack and spend that money on living your life.  Your future is in your hands whether it is good or bad starts with your choices.





Connection Between Birth Control and Breast Cancer?

      Questions that are asked by women everyday: "Should I be on birth control? Will birth control change me?  How will the hormones affect me?"  Most women who are sexually active will choose one or two forms of birth control to prevent any unwanted pregnancies, even out their hormones, or regulate their monthly cycles.  Recently women have been reporting their increased risk for breast cancer due to the high doses of estrogen and formulas in their birth control pills.  A link that has been contemplated before but never really proven until this research has come in.  Basics about birth control are that you can't get pregnant and that the partners are going to be safe while sexually active.  The function of birth control pills is not new to most people, but here is a quick refresher on how it reacts to the body.
      Oral contraceptives (also known as The Pill, BC's, or BC Tabs) contains two types of hormones which are estrogen and progestin.  When taking properly it prevents pregnancy by stopping a women's egg from fully developing each month, so that egg can no longer accept fertilization from a sperm.  Oral contraceptives change the uterus lining just enough so that an egg will not stop in the uterus to develop.  While a woman is on birth control, she can better know when that time is coming and plan around it before starting on a new set of her pills.  Now today there are various forms of birth control that a woman can choose from and each one reacts with the body a little differently.  Birth control pills however is what many women are finding out might be giving them an increased risk to breast cancer.       A study was done with prescriptions and how the different levels of estrogen in those prescriptions reacted with the women taking them.  Women taking pills with lower levels of estrogen did not increase their risk at all, but women taking elevated levels of estrogen increased their risk by 50%.  To me that is a very scary thought and should send a message to all women to double check what they are taking in their birth control.  Besides mood swings or body changes, oral contraceptives can be paired with cancer. 

      The American Cancer Society has been studying these levels and with more than 1,000 women in their study, with increased risk because the high-estrogen levels was "too much" man-made of the hormone.  Even though the body naturally makes the two hormones included in oral contraceptives, having too high levels of them has been shown to increase that women's chance of breast cancer.  The argument that keeps being brought up is if the pills are part of the problem or if the formula can develop cancer.  Many over the counter prescriptions have problems and are constantly being scrutinized for causing health problems and cancer.  
      Any type of cancer is scary and is a very hard battle for that person.  Birth control pills might not be the only source that creates cancer in a female but it is also a potential increased risk. Studies suggest that recently taking BC pills can increase a women's risk of breast cancer and that women who are on the high-estrogen pill can go up to 60% increased risk.  As an overall process of going through the process of choosing a new birth control a women should be careful and talk with her doctor about the levels of estrogen that she will be taking on a daily basis to make sure that she does not increase her own chances.  

*American Cancer Society
*Mayo Clinic- http://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/estrogen-and-progestin-oral-
*Science Daily- http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140801091210.htm

Does Lumosity Really Work?

           I am sure many of you have heard of the “brain training” app, Lumosity. In the commercial, they say top neurologists designed the program, and combined the features of social networks and brain training to allow your mind to function at its best. I have used the app and I would really like to know if it works like it says it does. There is much evidence for and against the app, so lets dive in a little deeper, and I’ll let you make your own conclusions.

            First of all, what exactly is Lumosity? According to MDhealth.com, Lumosity is a website and/or app that allows you to track your progress while playing the games that supposedly improve your brain’s “flexibility, memory, problem solving, speed and attention.” Playing these games regularly is supposed to train your brain to function at it’s best.
            Another question I’m sure many people ask is, how does Lumosity work? MDhealth and the commercial say that it is based on “neuroplasticity”. Now, what is neuroplasticity? It is how Lumosity challenges the brain like any other muscle to adapt to new ways of thinking. Many people think the brain stops growing at a certain point in life, but recent studies have proven that to be false; the brain is continuously growing and expanding if we give it the opportunity too. When you sign in to Lumosity, you are asked to create a profile. This profile will tell you what your strengths and weaknesses are, and then create a program specifically to you. MDhealth uses the example if going to the gym. You have to know what muscles to train and how best to train them. As in the gym, you have to use Lumosity regularly and increase the difficulty level over time to maintain that growth of the brain.
            There have been many studies at the University of Michigan and Brown University that have concluded that using brain-training programs on the regular bases improved test scores and muscle memory. One thing to remember about these studies is that they were conducted in a conditioned environment; meaning individuals played the Lumosity games for hours every day for many months. Most working people would not have the kind of time to play games for hours. Also, there is no hard evidence that states Lumosity works better than any other brain-training game out there.

            There are all kinds of positive effects of using a program like Lumosity: to keep your mind sharp, focused, and to improve your memory and speed. I believe any type of brain-training program is a good daily activity that more people should look into because it helps with your multitasking ability and helps you to think in new and different ways.

Abby McFarlin

Stem cells from umbilical cord blood

While doing some independent research about stem cells I came across an article which explained a new method for collecting them.

Once born, the infant no longer needs their umbilical cord and usually the cord is thrown away. However,  the umbilical cord blood, which is blood that remains in the placenta and the cord after a baby is born, is being saved and used to collect viable stem cells. The blood from the umbilical cord is collected by using a syringe to remove the placenta through the umbilical cord once it has been removed from the newborn.

Stem cells that come from umbilical cord blood are fast becoming a vital resource in the medical field. It has been found that umbilical cord blood is rich in haematopoietic stem cells which are rare cells normally found in the bone marrow. Haematopoietic stem cells can make every type of cell in the blood – red cells, white cells and platelets. They are responsible for maintaining blood production throughout our lives. They have been used for many years in bone marrow transplants to treat blood diseases.

These stem cells can be used for transplants in patients who have leukemia, sickle cell anemia, and many other rare blood diseases. Although research has in this area is relatively new, researchers are extremely optimistic that these cells could possibly be used to treat heart disease, diabetes, cerebral palsy, autism and spinal cord damage in the near future.

Early studies have shown that umbilical cord blood stem cell transplants are less likely to be rejected than bone marrow or peripheral blood stem cells. One theory that attempts to explain this states that the cells have not yet developed the features which can be recognized and attacked by immune system of the person receiving the transplant. Also, umbilical cord blood is lacking developed immune cells which means there is less chance that the transplanted cells will attack the recipient's body.

Researchers at Duke University are leading the way on this research and have begun a large clinical trial to determine whether cord blood cells can be used to treat autism.  Another study by the university has claimed to have found evidence that regulatory T-cells from cord blood can prevent dangerous immune responses in people who are receiving organ transplants. If this is proven to be true, it could lead to the possibility of treating autoimmune diseases such as Type 1 diabetes, psoriasis, and rheumatoid arthritis.

Though research is being done, the scientific community is still split about the use of umbilical cord stem cells, and whether or not they are effective. The research that has been done is relatively new and more research needs to be done to either disprove or reinforce the theory about the benefits of these stem cells. I found it very fascinating though that a practical use has possibly been found for something that was once discarded as trash not so long ago.


Saturday, August 2, 2014

"I'm just so OCD"

            We’ve all heard the phrase (or at least something similar) “Sorry, I’m just OCD” said in regular conversation. But what exactly is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)? Having a brother with severe OCD has made me realize that the disorder is much more than simply alphabetizing your DVD collection because it’s easier to find things that way. OCD can affect a person’s life to varying degrees, the worst of it preventing the individual from working or going about their daily life.
            The history of diagnosing and understanding OCD is long and detailed. According to the Stanford school of medicine, OCD was originally thought in the seventeenth century to be a form of “religious melancholy.” By 1838, Esquirol wrote in his psychiatric textbook that OCD was a “form of monomania, or partial insanity.” The scientists and doctors of the time went on like this until Sigmund Freud developed the idea of Obsessive Compulsive Order being its own separate disorder in the last part of the nineteenth century.  Today, doctors are able to diagnose and treat individuals that have OCD and help them cope with their obsessions.
            As of right now, scientists do not know exactly what causes Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Two possibilities right now are either that there may be a problem with two parts of the brain communicating with each other, or a lack of the chemical serotonin. One of the clearest causes the disorder is that it can be passed down through families. Even though we do not currently know the main cause of this disorder, there are some clear symptoms that help doctors diagnose their patients. Some symptoms include obsessive ideas or thoughts, which are defined as being unwanted and constant, and the compulsions, which are the actions that are taken to appease the obsessive thoughts. A common example of this would be a person who is obsessed with germs and cleanliness may spend much longer washing their hands than most people, sometimes even doing it many times throughout the day. Along with OCD, many patients may also develop eating disorders, anxiety, or depression.
            There are a couple of different methods to treating this disorder. One of those is psychotherapy, specifically cognitive behavior therapy. This helps the person how to cope with their obsessions and how to avoid submitting to their thoughts and compulsions. This and exposure and response prevention, another form of psychotherapy, are both very effective in helping develop healthy coping skills in patients with OCD. Medication is another alternative to psychotherapy. Most doctors prescribe either a form of anti-anxiety medication or an antidepressant. Neither method is proven to be more effective than the other; it all depends on how the patient responds to the treatments. Some prefer the medication, some prefer the psychotherapy, and others prefer a combination of the two.
            Remember: OCD is a real, and many times serious, disorder. It is more than just organizing your closet, or straightening a pencil on your desk. People with Obsessive Compulsive Order do not receive joy from their compulsions. It is something they feel they must do, and at best will feel “brief relief from the anxiety the thoughts cause” (NIMH). If you suspect that you may have OCD, which affects approximately 2.2 million adult Americans, you can talk to your doctor about your symptoms. 

National Institute of Mental Health: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/obsessive-compulsive-disorder-ocd/index.shtml
WebMD: http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/tc/obsessive-compulsive-disorder-ocd-topic-overview
Stanford School of Medicine: http://ocd.stanford.edu/treatment/history.html

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Congenital Insensitivity to Pain: The Mutation of the SCN9A Gene

Pain Free, Better Life? Not so much.

In a more recent module, some articles discussing individuals who do not feel any physical pain were read and reviewed on the piazza site. At first you think, "How awesome would that be, feeling absolutely no pain? I could do anything I want and not be affected by it at all!" However, according to scientists and doctors, the ability to feel pain is one of the most important signals our bodies give us when something isn't right. Pain signals our body when we are pushing it too far, it sets limits for us.

Ashlyn Blocker, a young girl from Georgia, suffers from a disorder called congenital insensitivity to pain. She can feel pressure, textures, and temperatures, but doesn't feel the pain that can be associated with these things. Ashlyn was diagnosed at a younger age when she was taken to the doctor because of a swollen eye. At first the doctors thought she just a had more severe case of pink eye, but when she didn't respond well to treatment, they sent her to an ophthalmologist who diagnosed her with a corneal abrasion, something that should be quite painful. After going to yet again another specialist, and going through numerous tests Ashlyn was diagnosed. Similarly, doctors in Northern Pakistan researched a family of six children who also suffered from the same diagnosis. They felt no pain, suffering from various cuts, bruises, broken bones, and more, these children were the amusement of others who were amazed by their lack of physical feeling. 

Ashlyn  Blocker
Both Ashlyn and the family of children who were studied all had a similar mutation. This mutation was found on the gene SCN9A. Nerves that sense pain are all along the body's surface and normally fire frequently when we touch something that is painful, like something hot or sharp. This sends electrical signals to our brains which then causes our bodies to react. These electrical signals are generated by molecular channels produced by the SCN9A gene. The mutation on the gene prevents it from making the channel, which then causes the electrical impulses to never be produced. 

According to Dr. C. Geoffrey Woods, a physician at Cambridge University who researched and worked with the Pakistani families, found that "the SCN9A gene is active in both nerves that mediate pain and in those of the sympathetic nervous system." However, none of these families suffered from any sympathetic nervous system disorders. This lack of side effects to the sympathetic nervous system is crucial to drug developers and researchers, and may help them target some kind of pain reliever. Dr. Woods also discusses how not all pain reception is controlled by one gene, and how it is surprising that a single gene mutation is responsible for a complete lack of feeling of physical pain. However, he found that the proteins made by the SCN9A gene cause the initial activity of the signal that is sent to the brain, and believes that because all pain fibers depend on this gene, when it is mutated, all those other fibers are altered as well.

Overall, this disorder is extremely rare and needs to be taken very seriously. A lot of cases of congenital insensitivity to pain end in premature death, with many serious injuries along the way. As I researched the topic more, I realized how thankful I am to be able to feel pain and know when my body needs a break or is getting pushed past its limits. Pain, in a way, is a gift that often goes unappreciated for all the things it does for us. Pain, although it hurts, is one of our body's best friends. 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Molecular Cannibalism

Our digestive system is filled with enzymes that turn food into products our body can use. Components of our digestive system include the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small and large intestine, rectum and anus. Each plays a key role.
One helps break down proteins and carbohydrates. The pancreas secretes digestive enzymes into the small intestine while also producing insulin and glucagon. Insulin and glucagon are involved in maintaining levels of glucose, but that's another story.
What happens when the enzymes become active inside the pancreas and begin to consume the surrounding tissues and organs? Acute Pancreatitis; an act of molecular cannibalism. Acute Pancreatitis can be caused by gallstones or excessive alcohol consumption. Gallstones create a blockage of the bile and pancreatic ducts. The main symptom is pain in the upper left side or middle of the abdomen. It all begins with a protease, trypsin which is used to break down protein molecules in food. Inactive trypsin is stored into small organelles, zymogen granules. Yet, when Acute Pancreatitis occurs, they become free in the cytoplasm and begin to digest the pancreas. If the tissue has been destroyed and scarring develops, it can become Chronic Pancreatitis.
There has been no cure for this disease, but rather treatments such as pain medicines, I.V.'s antibiotics and changes in diet. One way to diagnose Acute Pancreatitis is by Therapeutic Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography (ERCP). It is used to view the pancreas, gallbladder, bile ducts and can be used to treat complications. Most treatments involve opening the bile ducts and removing the gallstones.
Scientists are working on prevention and treatment by looking at the processes the body goes through. Calcium ions are believed to play a major role in the premature activation of trypsin by causing the breakdown of the granules which resulted in the release of the enzymes. Yet, the rise in calcium ions is required for normal secretion, but can also cause this disease. Scientists believe short-lasting concentrations of calcium ions cause normal secretion while sustained high levels lead to the self-destruction.
Scientists have also discovered that the cells responsible for making these enzymes are protected from the effects of alcohol by preventing ethanol from causing the release of calcium ions. They also found that trypsin activation is dependent on calcium ions. The goal is to reduce the activity of the calcium ion pathways. One way is coffee. Coffee interferes with the channels and can also reduce the effects of excessive alcohol consumption.
image: The War WithinThis is only one case in which the body begins to attack itself. One that is more well-known is Celiac Disease. When an individual eats gluten, the immune system attacks the lining of the small intestine. This can be treatable with the help of a special diet. However, Acute Pancreatitis can create several issues and worsen if not treated properly or taken care of. One can reduce their risk of Acute Pancreatitis by limiting their alcohol consumption. With today's society, drinking is a social norm. However, it does take many drinks for Acute Pancreatitis to occur.
Someday, scientists will be able to develop successful treatments and further prevention will be on its way.
Our bodies are a very complex system, and can sometimes turn on itself.

Acute Pancreatitis
Autoimmune Diseases
The War Within

Breathalyzer Used to Detect Lung Cancer

Lung Cancer is one of the world’s largest killers.  As of 2012, lung cancer has caused 1.56 million deaths on average per year.  Typically lung cancer is thought to be a direct result of cigarette smoke, but people who do not smoke can get this cancer as well due to genetic factors and being exposed to gases.  lung cancer is also called carcinoma of the lung.  It develops when cells in the lung begin to multiply rapidly and out of control.  The main difference between lung cancer and other types of cancer is the area of the body in which it occurs.  Previously detection of lung cancer was found using chest radiographs and computed tomography.  Since people are not usually tested for lung cancer until they start exhibiting symptoms, lung cancers are usually not discovered until it is too late for a cure.  However, researchers now think that they have found a new way to detect lung cancer, a breathalyzer. 

The University of Huddersfield researchers think that this breathalyzer will be able to identify lung cancer much earlier in its stages which would lead to a better chance to be cured.  They think that this breathalyzer will be able to distinguish people who have bronchitis or just a simple cough from the people that have lung cancer much more accurately.  Lung cancer symptoms have very similar symptoms to the common cold such as coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath leading to many people getting misdiagnosed.  If this breathalyzer can distinguish between cancer and a common cold then this would be a huge step for the cancer world.  A study conducted by Georgia Tech found 75 different compounds in the breath of people with lung cancer versus the people without.  Another study tested on people with breast cancer found that the device was able to detect people with breast cancer 78 percent of the time.

Each time a patient breathes into the breathalyzer chemicals from their breath are captured by the sensor in the breathalyzer.  The breathalyzer then breaks down the complex compounds of the chemicals to analyze the chemical makeup of the substance.  It is able to break down the complex compounds by using gas chromatography with mass spectrometry.  By looking at the different patterns in the chemicals the breathalyzer is able to see if they are similar to the chemicals in a cancer positive person versus a healthy person.  This new breathalyzer is much less expensive and much easier to test than the previous detection techniques.  When cancer is detected at its earliest stage, stage I, it is curable 70% of the time compared to the 25% of the time when it is usually detected in stage III.  These results are obviously not perfect and ready to be relied on, but it is definitely a huge step forward.  Before these tests can be utilized as the primary detection for cancer they need to be performed in larger studies to get a better understanding if this device is actually working versus the results just being a fluke.

My research sources are as follows:

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Have you ever seen an older person that has a noticeable tremor in their hand?

It is possible that that tremor you saw in their hand is actually Parkinson’s disease; this was the first sign that I saw when my grandma was first diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. 

Parkinson’s disease is a disorder of the nervous system that worsens over time. Parkinson’s disease is the result of a lack of dopamine; where the dopamine-generating cells in the midbrain die. As a kid I did not know what the disease was, but I always heard my parents and other family members talking about it. As I got older I began to understand the severity of Parkinson’s disease and why my parents and family members had talked about it with such concern.  

      The cause of Parkinson’s disease is unknown, however majority of cases occur in patients after the age of 60. While the cause of Parkinson’s disease is unknown, it is believed that exposure to certain toxins, pesticides and other environmental factors can increase the risk of Parkinson’s disease. Other risk factors include gender and Heredity; Males are more likely than females to get Parkinson’s disease and even though Parkinson’s disease is not hereditary, having a close relative with Parkinson’s disease increases your chances of developing the disease. And since my grandma has Parkinson’s disease, my family and I have are supposed to have an annual checkup as a precaution to make sure that we are not developing Parkinson’s disease.

      It is hard to diagnose Parkinson’s disease because there are no lab tests that clearly identify the disease; therefore doctors rely on medical history, a neurological examination and ruling out other disorders that cause similar disorders. While there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease, there is only management to slow down the progression of the disease; options include medication, exercise, physical therapy, massage therapy and eating healthy. Preventive measures against Parkinson’s disease, in addition to avoiding toxins and pesticides, include caffeine consumption and tobacco use. Studies show that the higher the amount of caffeine that you consume the less likely you are to develop Parkinson’s disease. Tobacco use can reduce the risk of Parkinson’s disease by as much as 30%, as a result of the nicotine stimulating dopamine.

      Parkinson’s disease symptoms and signs vary from person to person however the common ones are: Tremors, Slowed Movement, Stiff Muscles which limit your range of motion, Impaired posture and balance, Loss of Automatic Movements such as blinking, Speech Changes such as slurring, and Writing Changes. Parkinson’s disease often times leads to Dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Additional problems that usually accompany Parkinson’s disease include: Depression and other emotional changes such as anxiety, Problems Sleeping as well as other Sleep Disorders, Bladder problems, Constipation, Blood Pressure changes, Smell dysfunction, Fatigue and Sexual Dysfunction.  

      In my grandma’s case the doctors believed she developed the disease as a result of coming into contact with toxins in the factory she owned. And while Parkinson’s disease usually progresses relatively fast; however thanks to medicine to slow down the progression my grandma stayed relatively unaffected for around twelve years and then she started to develop more severe symptoms as well as other problems such as dementia. Research is continually underway to help us better understand Parkinson’s disease and hopefully in the near future they will develop a cure.


Vegetarianism and Science

I’ve been a vegetarian for a while now, probably about four or five months, but only recently have I taken up running. During the school year, convo was always the place to go for me to eat good, healthy food, but over the summer I’ve felt as if I’ve had some difficulties in getting all of the nutrients I need, especially with my increase in physical activity. Just as a disclaimer before we go any further, I’m by no means a marathon runner, nor do I really run very far, but every day I try to go out after work (sitting behind the help desk at I.T.) and put a few miles behind me for health’s sake.
            During module 8, we discussed nutrition and the different diets humans have had over the years. One article in particular stood out to me: the one detailing the myths that have been circulating concerning the dietary change that allowed us to consume meat and its supposed relation to our cognitive development as a species. As a vegetarian I was very interested in this article, so I decided to do a little more research into what benefits might come from a vegetarian diet, especially for an athlete, even a casual one like myself.
            One of the very first sources that I went to when I first started running was Matt Frazier, writer of “No Meat Athlete,” a blog a lot like this one but with more targeted advice. I still think that it’s one of the best sources of help for vegetarians in general and for athletes in particular.  A great jumping off point for this blog would be his list of staple foods that vegetarians ought to be targeting for consumption. I won’t list off all of them right now, but I will provide the link to the site.
            Interestingly, one of the topics that we covered in class, the microbe communities in our guts, actually came up in my research. The article in question demonstrates that, though the different types of bacteria in the guts of the various subjects didn’t change drastically, their numbers certainly did, and thus the subjects were able to adapt to their new diets quickly and efficiently. Within four days, the subjects who had been instructed to consume strictly animal products had more bacteria that can withstand high levels of bile (bile is needed to digest meat) while the plant-only dieters’ genes involved in digesting carbohydrates increased their activity. The conclusion of the study poses the notion that “perhaps by adjusting diet, one can shape the microbiome in a way that can promote health.”
Finally, yet another article argues that vegetarians both help the environment and live longer. The conclusions of the study state that, even by reducing the amount of meat you eat without committing yourself wholly to a vegetarian diet you can enjoy increased longevity and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. What particularly struck me was the scope of the study; using Seventh-day Adventists in both the United States and Canada (a multi-ethnic and geographically diverse group) a “living sample” (as opposed to a simulated test) resulted in these findings. On an individual basis, it seems that if we want to help protect the environment and live longer, we might just want to start thinking about taking the plunge and switching to vegetarianism.