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Researchers may have found molecular explanation for schizophrenia Researchers may have found molecular explanation for schizophrenia
Date: 2013-12-31 15:44:50

One of the most mysterious neurological ailments is schizophrenia. Only recognized as an official medical condition in the past few decades, the causes of this disease are relatively unknown. However, researchers at Tel Aviv University may have found a cause that could led to new treatments for schizophrenia.

Published in Nature's Molecular Psychiatry, the lab tests were led by Illana Gozes, Ph.D., at Tel-Aviv University. The team of researchers discovered that a process of cell-maintenance called autophagy was decreased in the brains of patients with schizophrenia.

"We discovered a new pathway that plays a part in schizophrenia. By identifying and targeting the proteins known to be involved in the pathway, we may be able to diagnose and treat the disease in new and more effective ways," said Gozes.

Her team identified that decreased levels of the protein beclin 1 were present in the hippocampus of schizophrenia patients. This region relates to the brain's learning and memorization abilities. The lack of beclin 1, which is an essential part of starting autophagy, indicated that designing drugs to boost the levels of the protein could be a new way to treat schizophrenia.

Their findings could advance the development of tests for diagnosing schizophrenia, as well as improve overall understanding and treatment of the disease.

Understanding autophagy... Full Story

'Good' and 'bad' cholesterol levels healthy for the brain 'Good' and 'bad' cholesterol levels healthy for the brain
Date: 2013-12-31 12:05:47

Managing cholesterol levels can be a balancing act for some individuals as they work to prevent the risks associated with hypertension and cardiovascular disease. However, a new study published in JAMA Neurology detailed the link of cholesterol levels with amyloid plaque buildup that can cause Alzheimer's disease.

Led by Bruce Reed, Ph.D., the lab tests were carried out at the University of California-Davis Alzheimer's Disease Center in Sacramento. The 74 participants in the study were 70 years of age or older and were recruited from support groups, senior facilities and stroke clinics around California. Of the participants, 38 had mild cognitive impairment, 33 had no impairment and three had mild dementia. In order to measure their amyloid levels, the researchers used a tracer that bonded to the plaques and were imaged by PET scans.

Their cholesterol tests showed that high levels of LDL (bad) and low levels of HDL (good) were associated with a bigger buildup of amyloid plaques in the brain. This marked the first time that cholesterol levels have been correlated to the buildup of amyloid.

"Our study shows that both higher levels of HDL - good - and lower levels of LDL - bad - cholesterol in the bloodstream are associated with lower levels of amyloid plaque deposits in the brain," explained Reed, associate director at the Alzheimer's Disease Center.

Although increased cholesterol has been tied with Alzheimer's disease before, the team's study specifically connected unhealthy patterns of cholesterol to deposits of amyloid in living human participants. The link similarly mirrors the relationship that irregular hypertension numbers has with the development of heart disease.

Not adhering to new guidelines... Full Story

Concussions may be related to Alzheimer's disease Concussions may be related to Alzheimer's disease
Date: 2013-12-27 11:24:53

According to a new study, a history of concussions involving momentary loss of consciousness might be linked to plaque buildup associated with Alzheimer's disease. Published in Neurology, a journal of the American Academy of Neurology, researchers conducted lab tests on brain scans of elderly participants in the Minnesota area.

The team of scientists, led by Michelle Mielke, Ph.D., examined brain scans of adults aged 70 or older in Olmsted County. In the group, 448 people had no signs of memory problems and 141 had minor cognitive problems. Additionally, the participants were asked if they had experienced any loss of consciousness or memory as a result of receiving trauma to the brain.

The researchers found that out of the 448 participants with no cognitive issues, 17 percent stated that they had experienced a brain injury. On the other hand, of the 141 people with a history of memory difficulties, 18 percent reported they had experienced a concussion or another form of head trauma.

Additional research into the participants' brain scans showed that the individuals with thinking impairments and a history of concussions had levels of Alzheimer's-associated plaque buildup 18 percent higher than those without a history of brain trauma. However, the team found no changes in brain scan measurements of the participants without memory issues.

"Interestingly, in people with a history of concussion, a difference in the amount of brain plaques was found only in those with memory and thinking problems, not in those who were cognitively normal," Mielke said.

Although their research is compelling, Mielke felt that the lack of a link between the plaque buildup and participants without thinking problems means more research needs to be done, as the relationship is complex and requires in-depth analysis.

The dangers of concussions... Full Story

Pre-op antibiotics can protect against surgical infections Pre-op antibiotics can protect against surgical infections
Date: 2013-12-23 13:51:49

Even though surgeons exercise thorough caution to prevent infections that can result from surgery, sometimes their development is unavoidable. However, lab tests conducted at the Rambam Medical Center in Israel revealed the benefit of taking antibiotics before procedures in order to reduce the chance of SSIs, or surgical site infections.

Published in Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, a journal of the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America, the study's researchers examined the effects of preoperative antibiotic prophylaxis in heart surgery patients. Their results discovered that taking antibiotics two hours before a procedure greatly decreased the risk of SSIs. Out of the 2,637 patients in the study, only around 8 percent developed an infection when given the drugs during the specified time frame, compared to the almost 14 percent of patients who developed an SSI when administered antibiotics outside of the two-hour window.

"Antimicrobial prophylaxis can reduce the risk of SSIs following many operations, however, that efficacy diminishes or disappears if antibiotics are given either too early or after incision. Despite the general acceptance of this concept in guidelines, wide variations in preoperative antibiotic administration practices have been reported," explained lead author Renato Finkelstein, M.D.

The team carried out a 10-year cohort study with the overall goal of making their new two-hour guideline a wide-reaching rule for all surgeons. They investigated the efficacy of preoperative antibiotics being used up to two hours before the first incision was made. Any antibiotics administered at a different time ranged from either three hours before or after surgery. By the near end of the experiment, the team also discovered that their idea of optimal protection had been adopted by nearly all the participants.

Preventing SSIs... Full Story

Modest weight loss may reduce health risks in middle-aged women Modest weight loss may reduce health risks in middle-aged women
Date: 2013-12-19 12:00:41

According to a report released by the American Heart Association, overweight or obese middle-aged women who lost modest amounts of weight over a two-year span reduced their cholesterol levels and improved the outlook on their health. Lab tests helped determine a decrease in glucose and insulin numbers, possibly leading to a positive impact on the risk of developing diabetes or heart disease.

Published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, the study examined a group of 417 women at an average age of 44 who weighed around 200 pounds at the beginning of testing. The participants who experienced a 10 percent or greater loss of their body weight also reduced their total cholesterol and inflammation markers. Women who benefited most from the modest weight loss had the highest risk levels before the study began.

"It is challenging to lose weight, but if women commit to losing 10 percent of their body weight and sustain that over time, it can have a large impact on overall risk factors associated with heart disease and diabetes," said Cynthia Thomson, Ph.D., co-author and director of the University of Arizona Canyon Ranch Center for Prevention & Health Promotion in Tucson.

There are numerous factors that might affect weight gain in women who are middle-aged, including repeated pregnancies and sedentary jobs and lifestyles. According to Thomson, a large percentage of American women feel they weigh much more at middle-age than they did in their younger years.

"The good news is that when you lose weight long-term, you just don't move to a smaller dress size, you are actually moving these risk factors markedly and likely reducing your risk of heart disease and diabetes," concluded Thomson.

Working with health care providers... Full Story

New guidelines for blood pressure could mean less pill taking New guidelines for blood pressure could mean less pill taking
Date: 2013-12-18 18:22:22

More than 10 years ago, the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute published guidelines regarding blood pressure treatment targets and recommendations for drug prescriptions. After initially stating it would not be updating new guidelines, the NIH has released an updated report and it could change how hypertension is treated across the board.

The previous guideline stated that all adults should aim to have a systolic blood pressure below 140 millimeters of mercury, or mm Hg. Individuals with diabetes had an even lower target number, sitting at less than 130 mm Hg. Although the NIH still recommends those numbers for adults under the age of 60, it states that those 60 years of age and older should strive for an easier target of 150 mm Hg or lower. Despite these changes, the definition of hypertension still remains the same.

One significant difference between the NIH guidelines and the cardiovascular guidelines released by the American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association last month is in risk assessment. According to Eric Peterson, M.D., in an editorial published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the NIH's hypertension guidelines for assessing patient risk will result in less treatment for the elderly, while the ACC/AHA guidelines will lead to increased treatment in those individuals.

It is important to note that although the recommendations in the new guidelines are based on evidence from extensive research, they should not be used to replace clinical judgment from a medical professional.

Treating high blood pressure... Full Story

Is physical activity more effective than prescription medication? Is physical activity more effective than prescription medication?
Date: 2013-12-12 17:05:56

A new study showed that exercise can be as effective as prescription medication at treating some of the leading causes of death in the United States. The results, published in the British Medical Journal, question whether our country's health care system is too focused on medication as treatment and not promoting physical activity enough.

The comparative study was conducted by Huseyin Naci, London School of Economics and Political Science graduate student, and John Ioannidis, M.D., director of the Stanford Prevention Research Center at the Stanford University School of Medicine. They wanted to research how well exercise and prescription drugs reduced deaths among people who had been previously diagnosed with one of four different medical conditions: diabetes, stroke, chronic heart failure or heart disease.

Very few researchers have compared the effectiveness of medication and exercise, yet comparative effectiveness studies are important parts of pharmaceutical research. Naci and Ioannidis compiled data from 305 medical experiments that revolved around one of the four conditions they were researching. What they discovered was that out of all the studies, only 57 examined exercise as a method of treatment.

Using these numbers, the two researchers cross-referenced results from cases where participants were either prescribed medication, put on strict exercise regimens, or both. Typically, a prescribed exercise routine would include aerobic activity and some form of weight-training. The results of their cross-referencing were revelatory: exercise consistently showed similar results to medication when it came to treating life-threatening conditions.

Exercise as beneficial as medicine... Full Story

Trans fats FDA plans to phase out trans fats entirely
Date: 2013-11-07 14:20:59

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has plans in motion to completely remove trans fats from foods, a move the agency noted could reduce the number of heart attacks each year by several thousand. The fats are responsible for many ill health effects, like raising low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, often referred to as "bad cholesterol." While the agency is working to remove the fat altogether, those with high rates of LDL on cholesterol tests should try to avoid the fats in the meantime.

FDA working to eliminate trans fats... Full Story

Heart disease treaments What the new guidelines for cholesterol medication mean for you
Date: 2013-11-12 19:25:37

A major shift in the treatment of those with high risk for heart disease has been announced by the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology. For people with poor results on cholesterol tests, this may mean a change in how doctors treat the condition. Read on to find more information regarding the changes made to the way that heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular issues will now be treated.

A focus on risk factors... Full Story

New drug approach could lead to cures for multiple diseases New drug approach could lead to cures for multiple diseases
Date: 2013-12-09 16:38:37

Following research conducted by the Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, a new approach to treating misfolded proteins could lead to cures for a wide range of diseases. Lab tests carried out on mice may bring about revolutionary changes in treatment for ailments such as cystic fibrosis and cataracts.

The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was led by Michael Conn, Ph.D., former professor of physiology and pharmacology at OHSU. His team looked to discover a new method to fix misfolded proteins and restore them to make cells function correctly. Using male mice incapable of fathering offspring, the researchers were able to cure the mice and perfect the process through lab testing. They believe the same treatment could be used on humans.

"The opportunity here is going to be enormous because so many human diseases are caused by misfolded proteins. The ability of these drugs - called 'pharmacoperones' - to rescue misfolded proteins and return them to normalcy could someday be an underlying cure to a number of diseases," affirmed Conn.

Previously, scientists believed inactive proteins were naturally non functional. But Conn and his team of researchers showed that when the proteins were misfolded, their purpose was rerouted and caused a malfunction. The pharmacoperones are used to correct the routing problem and correctly fold proteins for functioning.

"We expect that these studies will change the way drug companies look for drugs, since current screening procedures would have missed many useful pharmacoperone drugs."

According to Conn, the next step in the process will be clinical trials on humans.

What are misfolded proteins?... Full Story

US cholesterol levels US cholesterol levels see improvement
Date: 2013-11-04 19:31:27

The levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, often known as "good cholesterol," have risen in the U.S., though the rates of low-density lipoprotein, or "bad cholesterol," have stayed about the same. The new report, from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, found that screening rates for people having blood tests to determine their cholesterol levels have stalled, so those who may be at risk for high cholesterol should consider a lab test to help determine their levels.

The CDC compared levels of U.S. residents over the age of 20 in the years 2011 and 2012 to the rates of 2009 and 2010, finding that the rates of HDL cholesterol had improved significantly. The rate of adults in the U.S. with low levels of HDL cholesterol had dropped 20 percent between the time periods, with just 17 percent of adults surveyed having low levels. The study found that women had higher levels of LDL cholesterol and had been screened less frequently, though heart disease remains the most likely killer of both men and women in the country.

High levels of HDL cholesterol have been found to reduce the risk that is created by raised levels of LDL cholesterol, which is associated with heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular issues. Cholesterol tests can show the levels of both types, allowing for healthier lifestyle practices to begin, which can significantly reduce the risks of cardiovascular episodes.

Improving heart health... Full Story

Vitamin D Vitamin D supplements may not cause kidney stones
Date: 2013-10-24 13:51:29

Vitamin D supplements have been linked to kidney stones in the past, but a new study suggests otherwise. The study was conducted by the University of California, San Diego Health Sciences and published in the American Journal of Public Health. For those who have a vitamin D deficiency diagnosed from a lab test online, supplements may be a good source of the nutrient.

Vitamin D and kidney stones... Full Story

A good diet for heart health What is a good diet for heart health and cholesterol?
Date: 2013-10-10 13:36:20

Controlling heart health is one of the most important parts about staying healthy. This involves keeping cholesterol levels low while making sure to eat plenty of vitamins and minerals as well as omega-3 fatty acids and whole grains. At the same time, staying away from certain fats can make hearts stronger and healthier.

Why control cholesterol levels for a healthy heart?... Full Story

What are the signs of heart disease? What are the risk factors for heart disease?
Date: 2013-10-07 19:53:40

Heart disease, also known as cardiovascular disease, is a very common condition among Americans. It can lead to potentially deadly complications, so being aware of the risk factors for this condition is important for many.

Cholesterol levels... Full Story

Heart attacks and cholesterol New drug could reduce heart attacks and cholesterol
Date: 2013-10-03 13:04:58

A new drug may be able to reduce cholesterol in people with high levels whose bodies are resistant to statins. The drug has shown significant promise in a clinical testing trial, significantly lowering low-density lipoprotein, often referred to as "bad cholesterol."

LDL rates and the new medication... Full Story

Vitamin D Are you getting enough vitamin D?
Date: 2013-09-27 12:36:50

Vitamin D is essential to the health of your bones, heart and immune system, yet many people do not get enough of this essential vitamin. Luckily, it is easy to get more vitamin D once a blood test has confirmed low levels, so many people may want to find out more about how this nutrient affects them.

Benefits of vitamin D... Full Story

Cholesterol and cancer High HDL cholesterol may reduce risk of cancer
Date: 2013-09-25 15:32:23

A meta-analysis of two dozen lipid intervention trials has found a connection between high-density lipoprotein cholesterol and a lower risk of cancer. The analysis took data from more than 100,000 patients and found that for each 10 milligrams per deciliter increment that HDL levels increased, the likeliness of cancer was reduced by more than 30 percent.

Connection between cholesterol and cancer... Full Story

Cholesterol What are the differences between good and bad cholesterol?
Date: 2013-09-08 21:41:34

While many people know that high cholesterol is unhealthy, some may not be sure why. There are many conditions associated with high cholesterol that can negatively affect the entire body, all the way from the heart to the brain, potentially causing heart disease, heart attacks and strokes.

What is cholesterol?... Full Story

High blood pressure Making treatment easier can lower blood pressure
Date: 2013-09-03 12:06:10

A new study has found that making treatment easier for patients who have hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, can help them become healthier. High blood pressure, together with high cholesterol, can lead to heart attacks, strokes and heart disease as well as other serious health issues.

Study... Full Story

Men may be at higher risk for cholesterol Men may be at higher risk for heart attacks related to cholesterol
Date: 2013-08-28 10:06:01

Middle-aged men with high cholesterol may be at a higher risk for heart attacks and other cardiovascular problems, according to a new study. Research found that men were far more likely to have a first heart attack than women, even if both had the same elevated levels of cholesterol.

Study... Full Story

Institute of Medicine calls for kids to get more exercise Institute of Medicine calls for kids to get more exercise
Date: 2013-05-23 15:40:21

Blood tests to check for cholesterol levels are not just important for adults, but children as well. As childhood obesity rates continue to rise in the U.S., parents need to realize that children need to be screened for obesity-related conditions like high blood pressure and cholesterol. It's also important for parents, educators, community leaders and politicians to all come together to find ways to keep kids healthy.

Recently, a report from the Institute of Medicine calls for schools to do their part to help kids maintain a healthy weight by ensuring that they engage in 60 minutes of moderate or vigorous physical activity during each school day.

"Schools are critical for the education and health of our children," said Harold Kohl, Ph.D., professor of epidemiology and kinesiology at the University of Texas School of Public Health and chair of the committee that wrote the report. "They already provide key services such as health screenings, immunizations and nutritious meals. Daily physical activity is as important to children's health and development as these other health-related services, and providing opportunities for physical activity should be a priority for all schools, both through physical education and other options."

Schools are key ... Full Story

An unhealthy diet while pregnant sets children up for trouble An unhealthy diet during pregnancy sets children up for trouble
Date: 2013-05-02 16:43:34

Regularly using cholesterol testing services is important for not only adults, but children as well. There is a childhood obesity problem in the U.S., and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that overweight children and those who have a family history of high cholesterol get tested before the age of 10. According to recent research from the University of Adelaide, one way that mothers may be able to help their children avoid a future of obesity and unhealthy cholesterol levels is to eat healthy while pregnant.

The scientists discovered that mothers who regularly consumed junk food during their pregnancy have a high risk of having children who are addicted to fatty and sugary foods.

Setting them up for trouble... Full Story

Vitamin D: The rock star vitamin Vitamin D: The rock star vitamin
Date: 2013-04-10 18:18:52

While most people understand that they should get blood tests or lab tests to help screen for any serious diseases, they may not understand that they also need these tests to make sure they are getting enough vitamins and minerals. For example, it's important to have enough iron and calcium, and it's very crucial for people to learn their vitamin D levels. This important vitamin has been hailed as a rock star in the healthcare community for the past few years, as studies continue to show how important it is.

Recently, Science News published an article with a quick overview of all of the important studies that have been conducted in the past year that show just how key vitamin D is to overall health.

A very important nutrient ... Full Story

Is a happy marriage making you fat? Is a happy marriage making you fat?
Date: 2013-04-04 17:22:45

Over the years, studies have come out suggesting that marriage may be good for health for a number of reasons. It can help keep people from feeling lonely or developing depression, and even appears to have some benefits for cardiovascular health. However, the findings of a recent study may have some married people ordering cholesterol testing and other blood tests to make sure that they have not developed any obesity-related conditions. According to scientists from Southern Methodist University, happy newlyweds may find themselves packing on the pounds.

Researchers discovered that young newlyweds who are happy in their relationship are more likely to gain weight in the first few years of marriage than those who were less satisfied in their marriage.

Happy isn't always healthy... Full Story

Could Kevin Wade have been vitamin D deficient? Could Kevin Wade have been vitamin D deficient?
Date: 2013-04-02 18:35:52

On Sunday, Mar. 31, Kevin Ware, a sophomore at the University of Louisville and a guard on the basketball team, experienced a horrific injury when he fractured his tibia during a basketball game. Most news sources described the event as a "freak accident" and talked about how rare it is for such an injury to occur. However, a recent article published by Forbes magazine suggests that perhaps Ware could have been spared from experiencing this problem if he had been getting enough vitamin D and taking blood tests to make sure he had adequate levels of the nutrient.

The news source cited an article published by ABC News which quoted Tim Hewett, director of sports medicine research at Ohio State University, who said that Ware's diet may have been deficient in vitamin D and calcium, leading to more porous bones. That mixed with the constant pressure Ware put on his joints as an athlete may have created small stress fractures that eventually spread or became worse.

A widespread disparity ... Full Story

Researchers find more reasons to lose weight now, rather than later Researchers find more reasons to lose weight now, rather than later
Date: 2013-03-04 15:28:02

There are many things in life that people put off - but getting important blood tests and cholesterol tests should not be on that list. Similarly, losing weight should not be something that people wait to do until the time feels right for them. According to researchers from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, losing weight at a younger age increases the chance of reversing heart damage, compared to shedding pounds later in life.

These findings should encourage people to stop making excuses and telling themselves that they will get around to exercising at some point, and starting working toward developing a healthy weight now.

The sooner the better ... Full Story

Exercise doesn't have to be vigorous to be effective Exercise doesn't have to be vigorous to be effective
Date: 2013-02-14 16:54:07

Obese individuals have a higher risk than those with healthier weights to develop heart disease and high cholesterol. This is why people who are obese should regularly get blood tests to help determine if they are on their way to developing any adverse health conditions. While overweight individuals likely know that they need to exercise regularly in order to shed pounds and improve insulin sensitivity and cholesterol levels, not everyone has the motivation to workout.

It can particular be difficult for people to participate in a high-intensity workout regimen if it's been a long time since they last hit the gym. However, according to a recent study conducted by researchers from Maastricht University in the Netherlands, a low-intensity exercise program can be even more effective than a strenuous one.

Walk your way to healthier levels... Full Story

Women need to protect themselves against heart disease Women should know the signs of heart disease
Date: 2013-02-06 16:17:33

It's important for everyone to know where they stand in terms of heart health.?According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 600,000 people in the U.S. die each year of heart disease, which equals about one out of every four deaths. This is one reason?why everyone should receive regular lab tests to make sure that they are in?good cardiovascular health.

According to a recent article by Jennifer Ashton, M.D., for ABC News, women, in particular, should be taking special care to make sure their hearts are in tip-top shape, since they may not notice something is wrong until it is too late. The doctor explained that only one out of every three women surveyed believe that they should be concerned about the health of their heart. However, since cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death in women, they should all be focused on keeping their tickers in good shape.?

Many miss the signs?... Full Story

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