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Sometimes a medical problem can cause underlying issues that are totally independent of the current medications and illnesses a person is suffering from. In these cases, it may be that clinicians mistake these ailments as side effects of the initial disease, but that may not always be the case. Research has shown that, in some instances, there are legitimate biological scenarios causing secondary illnesses that wouldn't exist in individuals otherwise.
Making a better assessment... Full Story
Convenience can be a good thing depending on the situation, but in some circumstances, the easy way out is not necessarily the best. The increased availability of fast food and high-sugar snacks has made grabbing a candy bar or soda more convenient than making a sandwich, but the negative effects of these choices can add up over time. For example, cholesterol testing is becoming more common for baby boomers, but other blood tests may be useful in detecting problems that researchers are only now identifying.
According to research from the University of Michigan (UM), lifelong habits of eating high-fat, sugary foods may lead to an increased risk of developing osteoporosis. United Press International (UPI) noted that, apart from triggering obesity, heart disease and other issues that a cholesterol test can pick up, joint and bone problems can also be linked to these kinds of lifestyle choices. The School of Kinesiology at UM partnered with the Alberta Bone and Joint Health Institute in order to uncover these results, looking at the dietary and lifestyle choices of a large number of osteoporosis sufferers.
UPI reported that the study found that fat and sugar can make calcium absorption harder for the body to carry out. On the one hand, these kinds of foods cause calcium to pass through someone's system and leave the body without ever making it to the bones. In other cases, fats and sugars line the intestinal tract with a viscous patina that blocks calcium from moving through the organ walls, a key site of nutrient transfer.
Isolating risk factors... Full Story
Getting a liver panel test isn't something that comes to mind regularly for young people when they visit the doctor. Parents and physicians assume that, because people in this age group received vaccinations for certain liver-related illnesses as infants, they would not be able to develop these kinds of diseases. New research from the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD) shows that this coverage may not always extend as far as clinicians believe, leaving teens susceptible to various forms of hepatitis.
Researchers from the AASLD found that hepatitis B shots administered to babies were not providing protection from the illness in their teenage years. Scientists reviewed nearly 9,000 teens in the late 1980s and tracked their vaccination versus infection rate for hepatitis B, finding a connection between those whose mothers had the disease and new infection rates in children. This indicates that on top of teens and young mothers getting the illness despite vaccination protection as children, they are also passing the disease on to their own infants as well, perpetuating and strengthening the syndrome.
"Chronic hepatitis B is a major health burden that leads to cirrhosis, liver cancer and liver failure, shortening lives and placing a huge economic drain on society," said Li-Yu Wang of Mackay Medical College, the lead writer of the study. "While infant hepatitis B vaccination is highly effective, it is not 100 percent and our study examines the long-term success of hepatitis B vaccine in a high-risk population."
Serious medical repercussions... Full Story
Depression is a common symptom of the stresses people must go through on a daily basis. Going to work, paying the bills and dealing with problems associated with friends and family can lead many to develop depressed feelings throughout their lives, sometimes in greater consistency than others, but a recent study shows that other issues outside of basic environmental factors could be increasing people's likelihoodof developing these ailments. Blood tests may measure other elements of depression, but doctors may want to start looking for factors tied to drinking habitsto catch specific problems.
Researchers looked at the correlation between drinking large amounts of beverages with high sugar concentration, including soda, juice and sweetened coffee and depressed feelings. The American Academy of Neurology reported that there seemed to be a link between drinking these beverages and feeling depressed.
Scientists at the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences looked at adults who drank four cups of any of these three substances per day, finding negative associations between these beverage amounts and the likelihood of showing depressive symptoms as compared to those who did not drink such high quantities. MedlinePlus reported that soda and juice drinkers were one-third more likely to develop side effects, whereas coffee drinkers were only one-tenth as likely to feel depressed. Researchers stressed that these results are only cursory and more research is necessary to draw a solid connection, but these results could be beneficial to those still suffering from depression despite blood testsshowing adequate levels of antidepressants in their systems, among other treatments.
Early detection aids fight... Full Story
Crisis events can put people at risk for things like shock and post-traumatic stress issues. These are scenarios that hospital staff and emergency responders are sometimes trained to deal with, but in terms of providing long-term care, there's no immediate way of knowing which patients will need help later on.Researchers have found that a basic blood test can help determine if people coming into the emergency room are at risk of death, and may even be able to isolate which kinds of trauma could prove most dangerous to their overall health.
Intermountain Medical Center announced that using a basic blood testing procedure similar to those already administered in emergency rooms mayÂ detect which incoming cases are most likely to die within a year after trauma.Â The procedures, called complete blood count (CBC) and basic metabolic profile (BMP), indicate the overall wellbeing of an individual and are generally usedÂ to detect basic health problems in patients. However, when compared to age, gender and several other factors, these blood levelsÂ can actually indicate whether a person is at high risk for a serious medical crisis.
"The results were very surprising," said Sarah Majercik, one of the researchers involved in the study. She explained that basic blood testing looks at a number of different factors like hemoglobin, hematocrit, red blood cell distribution and platelet counts that indicate general information about a person's current state. These numbers also show if someone may have internal bleeding at a different site, be suffering from another medical condition or have an infection that could pose a health riskÂ just after a serious traumatic event.
Judging the risk factors... Full Story
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
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
Blood tests can diagnose a number of health problems, from the flu to terminal cancer, which is why people should get lab tests regularly. One important condition that a blood test can diagnose is diabetes, which is a growing problem in the U.S. among both children and adults. Kids are eating more and exercising less, increasing their risk of not only developing diabetes, but also heart disease later in life. Recently, researchers from the University of Tennessee set out to combat the problem of childhood obesity head-on, and came up with a comprehensive plan.
The scientists released a report explaining exactly how children can meet the federal recommendation of 60 minutes of physical activity a day - and it's easier than many people may think.
A serious issue... Full Story
People who are overweight and can't seem to help snacking throughout the day should regularly get cholesterol tests and blood tests to keep their lipid profiles in check. They should also do something to help them stop snacking constantly, which is often something that is easier said than done for many people. However, researchers from the University of Missouri have recently discovered that one simple way to stop snacking is to eat a better breakfast.
Scientists found that consuming a high-protein breakfast helps people control their appetite throughout the rest of the day, and reduces the amount of unhealthy, high-fat snacks they consume in the evening.
Breakfast is key... Full Story
Anyone can have high cholesterol levels, regardless of whether they maintain a healthy diet or how old they are, which is why everyone should be getting regular lab tests to check cholesterol levels. While some people may think that children don't have to worry about their readings, they would be incorrect. According to WebMD, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children first get screened for high cholesterol after age 2, but no later than age 10.
Recently, the National Health and Nutrition Survey was released and it shed some light on why kids may need cholesterol screenings. According to the findings, 80 percent of young people surveyed followed an unhealthy diet.
Too much junk food ... Full Story
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
It's not just adults who have to worry about having high cholesterol levels, but children as well. This is particularly true for obese children, who may be more likely to have high cholesterol levels due to their poor diet. Recently, a study conducted by researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania found that encouraging adolescents to get more sleep could help reduce the rate of obesity among this population.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 20 percent of adolescents between the ages of 12 and 19 have at least one abnormal lipid level, which is why kids should engage in cholesterol testing as well as adults.
Less sleep, greater weight... Full Story
Eating healthy isn't always easy, which is why it's important for people to get blood tests and lab tests to help show them if they are on the right track. It has been difficult for researchers to pin down exactly why people choose unhealthy foods over ones that are good for them. While there are certainly many theories - it can be hard to determine what factors influence food choices the most. However, recently, a researcher from the University of Alberta analyzed consumer data and found what he believes to be some of the top reasons why people choose unhealthy foods, even when they have a medical problem that requires them to eat better.
According to the researcher, Alberta School of Business professor Yu Ma, after being diagnosed with a condition such as diabetes, people initially make decisions about their food that they think are healthy ones, but that may not always be. Furthermore, the price of food plays a large role in the decisions people make.
Cutting sugar is not enough ... Full Story
Overeating is a major problem in the U.S., contributing to a number of serious public health issues. Eating large portions of unhealthy foods can increase a person's risk of high cholesterol and blood pressure, which is why people who have a tendency to binge eat should regularly get blood tests to keep tabs on their cardiovascular health. Recently, researchers from the University of New South Wales found just how difficult eating in moderation may be for some people.
According to the scientists, even when being told about the dangers of eating too much, people will still eat large portions if they are placed before them. Furthermore, learning to engage in mindful eating also did not seem to keep people from eating too much when a large portion was placed in front of them.
Portions are the key... Full Story
Often, doing a few simple things can drastically improve a person's health. For example, getting regular blood tests to help determine cholesterol levels, exercising on a regular basis and avoiding junk foods are all simple ways to get healthy. According to recent studies conducted by scientists from the University of Minnesota, Iowa State University and Purdue University, getting the recommended about of fiber each day could be another easy way that individuals can boost their overall well-being.
It's important for Americans to take note of these findings, since the Today show spoke to Madelyn Fernstrom, Ph.D., the founder and director of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's Weight Management Center, who said that the majority of Americans get 14 grams of fiber a day or less, when the recommended amount is 20 to 38.
Fiber has many benefits... Full Story
People who get regular blood tests and lab tests may be more likely to catch and treat health problems like high cholesterol or even cancer. While these two conditions may not seem directly related, recent evidence suggests that there may be a strong association between the two. According to scientists from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, men with prostate cancer who took cholesterol-lowering statin drugs were less likely to die of cancer than those who did not take the pills.
To come to their conclusions, the scientists examined 1,000 Seattle-area prostate cancer patients. About 30 percent of the study participants said that they were on statins to help lower their cholesterol. When the researchers followed up with these individuals eight years later, they found that the risk of death was significantly reduced in the men who took the statins.
Help cholesterol and cancer?... Full Story
Many people may need a little motivation in order to get into shape. Maybe it will take the results of a lab test showing that they have high cholesterol or an increased risk of heart disease, or maybe they will have to experience a heart attack before they finally decide to get fit. According to a recent report from the University of Michigan Health System and Stanford University, one way to encourage people to take better care of themselves could be to make them pay money if they don't.
In recent years, some health insurance companies have begun charging obese people more for their policies. The researchers discovered that while this move may have been controversial, it has also shown to be effective.
Money makes a difference... Full Story
For years, fast food was known as the worst type of food a person could consume, since it is so packed with fat and sugar. In recent years, there has been an effort within the fast food industry to offer healthier options on their menus. However, this doesn't mean that people who eat these foods regularly aren't in need of blood tests to check their cholesterol levels. According to recent research funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Healthy Eating Research program, fast food menus are only slightly healthier than they were years ago, and much improvement is still needed.
The report also discovered that more than 25 percent of American adults eat fast food two or more times a week. Clearly, it's important for people to know what they are putting into their bodies when they consume these potentially unhealthy foods.
Improvements are slow and small ... Full Story
Individuals who use cholesterol testing kits and discover that their levels are less than ideal should look for ways to replace the saturated fats in their diets with healthy fats. For example, omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in many foods and fish oil supplements, have been shown to potentially help people lower their cholesterol levels. Recently, researchers from the University of Liverpool's Institute of Aging and Chronic Disease found that these fats may have another benefit - they could help protect the brain.
The scientists discovered that omega-3s may be able to minimize the negative impact that junk food can have on the brain, giving people yet another reason to consider adding these fats to their diets.
Bad for the brain... Full Story
It's not just middle-aged and older adults who should use cholesterol testing tools to determine if they have healthy levels, but people of all ages. That's because high cholesterol can strike at any age, particularly for individuals who have a family history of poor cholesterol levels or those who follow an unhealthy diet, like many college students. Recently, researchers from Penn State University set out to determine how college students could be convinced to improve their notoriously fat-filled diets.
The scientists discovered that on days when students talk to their parents, they tend to consume more fruits and vegetables than on days when they do not. This suggests that encouraging greater communication between parents and students may be the key to getting young people to eat better.
Parents know best... Full Story
The World Health Organization estimates that up to 36 million people internationally have Alzheimer's disease, and some experts suggest that this number could increase to 115 million by 2050.
Researchers have made finding a way to predict, prevent and in some cases stall the condition a priority. According to a recent study, vitamin B may play an essential role in preventing dementia, and in some cases may prevent up to 50 to 80 percent of cases, Counsel and Heal reported.
Researchers recruited 200 elders impacted by dementia who had high levels of homocysteine, which is associated with the condition. The study spanned two years, and over the course of it, they administered vitamin B-12, vitamin B-6 and folic acid to half of the participants at levels exceeding the recommended amounts. The remaining portion of individuals were given a placebo.
Researchers learned that the brains of people taking a placebo atrophied by 5.2 percent, while those given vitamins were affected by 0.2 percent atrophy.
A homocysteine test or similar type of lab test online can help to determine an individual's level of overall health - as well as the presence of folic acid in the body.
Alzheimer's disease impacts more than 5 million Americans and is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the Alzheimer's Association.
In 2013, the overall costs of Alzheimer's related care costs will be $203 billion, and by 2050 could increase to $1.2 trillion.
Sky News reported that an upcoming study will focus on the effectiveness of the NeuroVision test, which was developed in the U.S. to detect those potentially at risk for developing Alzheimer's. Primarily, the test could determine early on the buildup of plaque in the brain before it impedes cognitive function.... Full Story
Electronic medical records have helped make healthcare more convenient and accessible for providers, and patients are now able to enjoy a greater, more personalized level of care thanks to this technology, which in turn could reduce the time people need to spend in clinical settings.
For individuals who enjoy the autonomy of getting quality care without spending time in the hospital, doing everything from a basic lab test online to anonymous STD testing can be easy and help you have an additional layer of privacy.
EMRs also offer other benefits, and according to a recent study by the New Jersey Institute of Technology, they may be able to detect bad interactions between certain drugs.
"Medication safety requires that each drug be monitored throughout its market life as early detection of adverse drug reactions can lead to alerts that prevent patient harm," said Mei Liu, Ph.D., assistant professor at the NJIT. "Recently, electronic medical records have emerged as a valuable resource for detecting bad drug reactions."
Researchers analyzed data that was collected over a 12-year period from Vanderbilt University Medical Center on the use of retrospective medication orders and results from inpatient laboratory tests.
They were able to surmise that adverse drug reactions can be predicted from examining the chemical, biological and phenotypic properties of drugs. Through data-mining practices in EMRs, healthcare providers may be better equipped to reduce the occurrence of these emergencies.
According to the World Health Organization, the vast majority of adverse drug reactions are preventable and can occur around the world, both in developed and underdeveloped countries.... Full Story
People who are concerned about their risk of developing conditions such as Type 2 diabetes or heart disease should get regular blood tests to make sure they are healthy. They should also maintain a healthy diet, since consuming too much fat and sugar can increase the risk of both these conditions. For example, according to a recent study conducted by researchers from the University of Texas, consuming too much sugar can increase a person's risk of developing heart disease.
The scientists explained that the glucose metabolite glucose 6-phosphate may cause stress to the heart, leading to poor pump function and heart failure. The researchers stated that heart disease kills an estimated 5 million Americans each year, and the one-year survival rate after diagnosis is only 50 percent.
"Treatment is difficult. Physicians can give diuretics to control the fluid, and beta-blockers and ACE inhibitors to lower the stress on the heart and allow it to pump more economically," said Heinrich Taegtmeyer, M.D., D.Phil., principal investigator and professor of cardiology at the UTHealth Medical School. "But we still have these terrible statistics and no new treatment for the past 20 years."
Sugar and the heart... Full Story
Staying healthy takes hard work and determination - it is not easy. This is why people may benefit from getting regular lab tests that can help show them if they are in good shape. For example, cholesterol blood tests can show individuals whether they have healthy levels or need to re-examine their diet and exercise habits. Some people may not exercise regularly because they feel as though they do not have the time. However, a recent study has found that even if people can only exercise two or three days a week, they could be on their way to a healthy life.
According to scientists from Queen's University, people who exercise for 150 minutes a week over the course of just a few days are just as healthy as those who get those 150 minutes by exercising more frequently.
"The findings indicate that it does not matter how adults choose to accumulate their 150 weekly minutes of physical activity," said researcher Ian Janssen, Ph.D. "For instance, someone who did not perform any physical activity on Monday to Friday but was active for 150 minutes over the weekend would obtain the same health benefits from their activity as someone who accumulated 150 minutes of activity over the week by doing 20-25 minutes of activity on a daily basis."
It does not matter how you do it... Full Story
People who are trying to improve their health should consider ordering regular blood tests and lab tests to make sure that they have good cholesterol levels and are free of other signs of disease. They may also want to work on changing their diet, especially if they usually eat foods that are high in fat, salt and cholesterol. Eating healthy foods is not always easy, but there are some diet tricks that people may not be aware of. For example, the type of cutlery people use could make a difference in how they feel about their food.
According to a recent study conducted by researchers from the University of Oxford found that the type of plates, glasses and utensils people use can make an impact on how they perceive their food. This means that there may be ways to trick the body into thinking food tastes differently or is more filling than it really is.
Engage the senses ... Full Story
According to a recent study presented at the International Headache Congress meeting in Boston, Mass., people who do not receive proper treatment for acute migraine headaches may be more likely to struggle with chronic headaches or migraines over time, WebMD reported.
"These findings are exciting as they provide clinical targets for intervention. When we discover factors that increase the risk of progression, health care providers can focus their efforts in those areas to improve care and outcomes," said study co-author Dawn Buse, Ph.D.
More than 4,600 people participated in the study, which examined the occurrence of episodic migraines for the individuals. These are characterized by having migraines for 14 days or fewer per month.
Researchers - who were from the Montefiore Medical Center and Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Vedanta Research, in Chapel Hill, N.C. - learned that close to half of the individuals received poor to very poor treatment for their migraines, and as a result may have been more likely to sustain symptoms for chronic episodes exceeding 15 days a month.
They ultimately concluded that by treating migraines quickly and offering treatment methods shortly after a patient sought care, doctors may be able to improve patient outcomes and overall wellness.
Migraines are characterized by intense throbbing pain in one area of the head, but may also lead to nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light and sound, the U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke reported.
Individuals who are affected by chronic migraines may also have other health conditions they need to seek care for. To gain a better understanding of their overarching wellness, people should consider using lab tests online. With a lab test, people can learn more about their health and seek out the proper treatments as a result.... Full Story
Lab tests were the theme of a recent report released by the Infectious Diseases Society of America and the American Society for Microbiology. The IDSA and ASM identified lab tests as the key to identifying and treating infectious diseases.
The study examined the effect that the appropriate lab test has on patient outcome, and underscored the importance of lab testing in the diagnosis of infectious diseases. It also provided guidelines on the collection of specimens and how to obtain the most accurate results. The report was recently published in Clinical Infectious Diseases, and it provides guidelines for the use of labs in diagnostics.
"Getting the right diagnosis is contingent upon laboratory results that are accurate and clinically relevant," said Ellen Baron, coauthor of the study. "Physicians, their staff and microbiologists must communicate and work together to ensure the best outcome for patients, and this guide aims to help facilitate this collaboration."
The guide focused on 10 areas of specimen management and was geared toward laboratory scientists. It recommended that, to avoid inaccurate results, poor quality specimens should not be used and that specific diseases should be targeted rather than attempting to make a blanket diagnosis. The researchers also stressed the importance of ensuring that specimens are not contaminated and that swabs may not provide enough material to detect an infection. Lab scientists should not rely on samples that have been taken after the administration of antibiotics, and solid technical policies ought to be put in place in order to guarantee accurate results across the board.
The report noted that it should not take the place of lab scientists' judgment, but can act as a guide to look to when in the decision-making process.
Why a private lab test?... Full Story
Hysterectomies are a common procedure for women by the age of 60, according to the National Institutes of Health. After the surgery, doctors usually recommend that women undergo hormone therapy to treat symptoms of menopausal hormone deficiencies. However, a study conducted at Yale University noted that estrogen use experienced a serious decline after 2002, after a report regarding the dangers of hormone therapy was released.
The Yale study found that coverage of the 2002 report primarily focused on women who had not undergone a hysterectomy and engaged in treatment that combined estrogen pill therapy and a progestin - something that is necessary for women to take in order to reduce their risk of uterine cancer. Women who have had a hysterectomy, on the other hand, do not need to take the second hormone, so they do not mirror the risks found in the hysterectomy group.
"Sadly, the media, women and healthcare providers did not appreciate the difference between the two kinds of hormone therapy," said Philip Sarrel, lead author of the study. "As a result, the use of all forms of FDA-approved menopausal hormone therapy declined precipitously."
The second half of the 2002 study examined women who had their uterus removed, and found that estrogen-only therapy proved to have beneficial health outcomes. The Yale report noted that the women who took estrogen had lower mortality rates over the course of a decade than the subjects who were given a placebo. Their risk of cardiovascular disease and breast cancer was also reduced.
Sarrel stated that by refusing estrogen therapy for fear of adverse side effects, women put themselves at a higher risk of both breast cancer and cardiovascular disease. He estimated that 50,000 deaths occurred as a result of refusing estrogen, and he expressed hope that the new report will encourage women to engage in estrogen-only therapy.
What are the other benefits of estrogen? ... Full Story
If your cholesterol tests keep showing high results, it may be time to make a change. Eating breakfast is a well-known healthy habit, but new research showed that the size of your breakfast makes a difference, too. And, believe it or not, bigger is better.
A study led by a Tel Aviv University researcher revealed that people who eat their largest meal at breakfast are more likely to lose weight and have a smaller waist circumference than people who eat a big dinner. In addition to less scale stress, big breakfast eaters also had better levels of insulin, glucose and triglycerides - the main form of fat in the body. These factors mean a reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and lower cholesterol levels.
Perhaps the more surprising discovery is that those big breakfasts actually included dessert, implying that weight management is not just what you eat, but also when you eat it. The researchers noted that these findings may pave the way for future obesity treatment and lifestyle factors.
How did they do it?... Full Story
A researcher from Johns Hopkins University has won a grant worth nearly $250,000 that will help track the autoimmune disorder in patients' families. The chronic condition is often passed through families, so a greater understanding of how the disease passes between generations could lead to further discoveries in its treatment.
Grant for research... Full Story
An international research team consisting of members from the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, Mass., has found that taking regular cholesterol tests to monitor and control blood pressure may cut the risk of heart-related diseases in half. Published in The Lancet, the report details the threat of heart disease and stroke from high blood pressure in obese individuals.
According to the American Heart Association, obesity generates a high risk for developing diabetes, heart disease, stroke and other coronary afflictions. An estimated 60 to 70 percent of the U.S. population is overweight, leading to heart disease and stroke being the foremost causes of death in the country. High blood pressure, additionally, can result in both of these ailments.
The findings gathered from the study show that high blood pressure posed the greatest risk of the three conditions, responsible for increases of 65 percent in the risk of stroke and 31 percent in heart disease.
"Our results show that the harmful effects of overweight and obesity on heart disease and stroke partly occur by increasing blood pressure, serum cholesterol and blood glucose. Therefore, if we control these risk factors, for example through better diagnosis and treatment of hypertension, we can prevent some of the harmful effects of overweight and obesity," affirmed Goodarz Danaei, Sc.D., assistant professor of global health at HSPH and senior author of the study.
Reducing risk of heart disease and stroke... Full Story
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
Better known by its common name, Lou Gehrig's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a fatal disease that destroys muscle strength and eventually leads to full-body paralysis. A new study conducted in animal models by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania has found a way to reduce the toxicity of ALS that slows deteriorated neurons and can possibly be attributed to cells in mammals.
Published in the journal Nature Genetics, the study's research team has possibly uncovered a new strategy for ALS treatment by working with a fruit fly model of the disease. Led by senior author Nancy Bonini, Ph.D., the scientists have made progress in understanding the way that ALS moves and attacks the nerve cells. In a lab test, the flies were genetically altered to express the human version of a gene that binds to RNA and has been found to be abnormal in patients diagnosed with ALS. In recent years, there has been a large increase in the understanding of ALS at the genetic level, which is why the team was examining this specific gene.
"There's been an explosion over the last five-plus years in the identification of genes that contribute to genetically inherited ALS," explained Bonini.
The flies that expressed symptoms that could be correlated to ALS in humans were injected with a compound that was meant to restore physical mobility and increase muscle strength, reversing the effects of degeneration. After injection, the scientists found that the flies were able to fly higher and climb faster, giving hope that the same progress could eventually arise in human models.
The results show advancement in the treatment strategy for ALS going forward, as well as the benefits of using simple animal models to shed light on human neurological diseases.
Important facts on ALS... Full Story
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
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
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
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
Following thorough examination of participants from the North American AIDS Cohort Collaboration on Research and Design, researchers have determined that HIV-positive patients treated with antiretroviral therapy have a higher life expectancy than ever before. Published in the journal PLOS ONE, their results estimated that a 20-year-old adult living with HIV may live into their early 70's, an age similar to that of the general population.
Led by Hasina Samji, a doctoral student at the British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, the team from the Canadian university worked with the NA-ACCORD to determine the efficacy of ART on life expectancy for HIV-positive individuals. More than 23,000 patients, aged 20 or older, were examined based on mortality rates from the early 2000's. The scientists discovered that between 2000 and 2007, the average lifespan of an HIV-positive individual on ART jumped from 36.1 to 51.4 years. There was no gender bias, as both men and women had comparable expectancies throughout the study.
However, expectancy was considerably lower for individuals that began ART with low CD4 count, which are cells that accumulate to kick start the immune response to HIV, than those with a higher count. Additionally, a history of drug use via injections decreased life expectancy as well.
Using ART for HIV... Full Story
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
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
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