Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Scientist shows link between diet and onset of mental illness

From the December 13 2010 Eureka news alert

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Changes in diet have been linked to a reduction of abnormal behaviors in mentally ill people or animals, but a Purdue University study shows that diet might also trigger the onset of mental illness in the first place.

Joseph Garner, an associate professor of animal sciences, fed mice a diet high in sugar and tryptophan that was expected to reduce abnormal hair-pulling. Instead, mice that were already ill worsened their hair-pulling behaviors or started a new self-injurious scratching behavior, and the seemingly healthy mice developed the same abnormal behaviors.

“This strain of mouse is predisposed to being either a scratcher or a hair-puller. Giving them this diet brought out those predispositions,” said Garner, whose results were published in the December issue of the journal Nutritional Neuroscience. “They’re like genetically at-risk people.”…

…Garner’s study raises questions of how diet might be affecting other behavioral or mental illnesses such as autism, Tourette syndrome, trichotillomania and skin-picking. He said that before now, a link between diet and the onset of mental disorders hadn’t been shown.

“What if the increase of simple sugars in the American diet is contributing to the increase of these diseases?” Garner said. “Because we fed the mice more tryptophan than in the typical human diet, this experiment doesn’t show that, but it certainly makes it a possibility.”

Garner next wants to refine the experiments to better imitate human dietary habits, including the amount of tryptophan people consume. Internal Purdue funding paid for his work..
…Abstract on the research in this release is available at: http://www.purdue.edu/newsroom/research/2010/101213GarnerTryptophan.html

December 14, 2010 Posted by | Health News Items | , , , | Leave a comment

Human networking theory gives picture of infectious disease spread

Human networking theory gives picture of infectious disease spread

High school students’ interactions provide new look at disease transmission

From a December 13, 2010 Eureka news alert

It’s colds and flu season, and as any parent knows, colds and flu spread like wildfire, especially through schools.

New research using human-networking theory may give a clearer picture of just how, exactly, infectious diseases such as the common cold, influenza, whooping cough and SARS can spread through a closed group of people, and even through populations at large.

With the help of 788 volunteers at a high school, Marcel Salathé, a biologist at Penn State University, developed a new technique to count the number of possible disease-spreading events that occur in a typical day.

This results is published in this week’s issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The research was funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH)…

Using a population of high-school students, teachers and staff members as a model for a closed group of people, Salathé and his team designed a method to count how many times possible disease-spreading interactions occurred during a typical day.

Volunteers were asked to spend one school day wearing matchbox-sized sensor devices–called motes–on lanyards around their necks.

Like a cell phone, each mote was equipped with its own unique tracking number, and each mote was programmed to send and receive radio signals at 20-second intervals to record the presence of other nearby motes….

Salathé and his team found that, at the end of the day, most people had experienced a fairly high number of person-to-person interactions, but they also found very little variation among individuals.

Strikingly, they did not find any individuals who had an extraordinarily high number of contacts when compared with the rest of the group. Such individuals–called super-spreaders–are known to be very important in the dynamics of disease spread.

“For example, in sexual-contact networks, one often finds a group of people with a much higher potential to contract and spread a virus such as HIV,” Salathé said.

“This potential is due to these individuals’ extremely high number of interactions. But in our experiment, while there may have been kids with a few more interaction events, for the most part, everyone had about the same high level of interaction.”

Salathé explained that while schools may indeed be “hot beds” for colds and the flu, individual students do not seem to vary with regard to exposure risk due to their contact patterns.

Data from the motes also confirmed an important social-networking theory–that contact events are not random because many “closed triangles” exist within a community.

“If person A has contact with person B, and person B has contact with person C, chances are that persons A and C also have contact with each other,” Salathé said.

“Real data illustrating these triangles provide just one more piece of information to help us track how a disease actually spreads.”

Salathé also said that networking data such as his may help guide public-health initiatives such as vaccination strategies and prevention education.

 

 

December 14, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

18.3 million baby boomers could benefit from the Affordable Care Act

18.3 million baby boomers could benefit from the Affordable Care Act

Affordable health insurance, comprehensive benefits and stronger financial protections will be available to 8.6 million currently uninsured adults ages 50 to 64, and 9.7 million who have inadequate health insurance

From the press release

December 14, 2010, New York, NY—18.3 million men and women ages 50 to 64 stand to benefit from provisions in the Affordable Care Act that expand access to affordable health insurance, assure that all health insurance provides a standard comprehensive benefit, prevent insurers from denying coverage or charging higher premiums to people with pre-existing conditions, and eliminate lifetime and annual limits in health insurance policies, according to a new Commonwealth Fund report released today.

Adults ages 50-64 are currently suffering the highest rates of longtime unemployment among working-age adults, and millions are without health benefits. Of the 8.6 million currently uninsured in this age group—4.3 million men and 4.2 million women—3.3 million with incomes under $29,000 for a family of four will gain Medicaid coverage, 3.5 million with incomes up to $88,000 for a family of four will be able to gain subsidized private coverage through the new health insurance exchanges, and 1.4 million with higher incomes will gain new coverage with consumer protections.

In addition, an estimated 9.7 million older adults who have health insurance but have such high out-of-pocket costs relative to their income that they are effectively underinsured, will gain improved coverage through the implementation of essential benefit standards, limits on out-of-pocket spending, and elimination of lifetime benefit limits.

Uninsured adults in this age group face serious difficulty with access to needed care: three-quarters (75 %) report forgoing needed health care and medications because of costs and nearly half (46%) report not getting recommended preventive care. More than half of uninsured women in this age group had not had a mammogram within the past two years. Nearly 70 percent of uninsured and underinsured baby boomers report that they have problems paying medical bills or are paying off medical debt.

“A loss of employer health benefits can be devastating to men and women in this age group since their older age and higher rates of chronic health problems places them at risk of facing exorbitant premiums, having a condition excluded from their coverage, or being denied insurance altogether if they try to buy it on their own,” said Commonwealth Fund Vice President Sara Collins, lead author of the report. “The Affordable Care Act will change all of that. Once its provisions are in full effect, older adults who lose their employer health insurance will have access to affordable and comprehensive health benefits regardless of their age or health.”…..

Additional Benefits for Baby Boomers in the Affordable Care Act

The Affordable Care Act includes many additional features that will improve health insurance coverage for adults ages 50 to 64:

  • Beginning in 2010, adults in this age group with chronic health problems who have been uninsured for more than six months can join new plans for people with pre-existing conditions.
  • A ban on lifetime limits on insurance benefits beginning in 2010 will help an estimated 102 million people who currently have these limits on their plans; older adults are at greater risk than younger adults of exceeding their limits and being saddled with a crushing debt load as a result.
  • Requiring coverage of preventive care and immunizations without cost-sharing will assure access to services such as mammograms and colorectal cancer screenings for baby boomers beginning in 2010.
  • Requiring health plans to insure all who apply, preventing health plans from charging higher premiums to sicker people, and limiting how much premiums can rise by age will remove many of the barriers baby boomers face when they have to buy coverage on their own beginning in 2014.

Two lesser-known ACA provisions will also provide significant benefits to baby boomers, the report finds:

  • The Early Retiree Health Benefits Reinsurance Program for Employers helps public and private sector employers pay for health benefits for employees who retire before age 65. This $5 billion temporary program has already enrolled 3,600 employers and will run through 2014, when people who retire before age 65 will be eligible to purchase health insurance through the new insurance exchanges.
  • The Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Program will provide employers and their workers as well as self-employed individuals the option of participating in a national long-term care insurance program aimed at providing better access to affordable long-term care insurance.
###

This report is part of a series of Fund issue briefs that examines the way the Affordable Care Act of 2010 will benefit different populations and groups, as well as improve insurance coverage and change the delivery of care. For more information, please visit: http://www.commonwealthfund.org/Content/Publications/Issue-Briefs/2010/Sep/A-New-Series-of-Briefs-on-the-Affordable-Care-Act.aspx

December 14, 2010 Posted by | Health News Items, Public Health | , , , | 1 Comment

Pain and depression: Is there a link?

From the Mayo Clinic article by Daniel K. Hall-Flavin, M.D.

Pain and depression are closely related. Depression can cause pain — and pain can cause depression. Sometimes pain and depression create a vicious cycle in which pain worsens symptoms of depression, and then the resulting depression worsens feelings of pain.

In many people, depression causes unexplained physical symptoms such as back pain or headaches. Sometimes this kind of pain is the first or the only sign of depression.

Pain and the problems it causes can wear you down over time, and may begin to affect your mood. Chronic pain causes a number of problems that can lead to depression, such as trouble sleeping and stress. Disabling pain can cause low self-esteem due to work, legal or financial issues. Depression doesn’t just occur with pain resulting from an injury. It’s also common in people who have pain linked to a health condition such as diabetes or migraines.

To get symptoms of pain and depression under control, you may need separate treatment for each condition. However, some treatments may help with both.

Because of shared chemical messengers in the brain, antidepressant medications can relieve both pain and depression.

Psychological counseling (psychotherapy) can be effective in treating both conditions.

Stress-reduction techniques, meditation, staying active, journaling and other strategies also may help.

Treatment for co-occurring pain and depression may be most effective when it involves a combination of treatments.

If you have pain and depression, get help before your symptoms worsen. You don’t have to be miserable. Getting the right treatment can help you start enjoying life again.

Some related links

Pain (MedlinePlus topic) has links to overviews, latest news, alternative therapies, health check tools, videos, research, and more

Depression (MedlinePlus topic) has links to overviews, latest news, treatments, related issues, and more

Depression (eMedicine Health) includes information on types of depression, causes, treatments, getting help, and much more
American Chronic Pain Association includes a consumer guide to pain medications and treatments, pain management tools

December 14, 2010 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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