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