Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

We face an epidemic of excessive busyness

 

From the 11 August 2013 KevinMD.com article

 

In the past few years, I’ve observed an epidemic of sorts: patient after patient suffering from the same condition. The symptoms of this condition include fatigue, irritability, insomnia, anxiety, headaches, heartburn, bowel disturbances, back pain, and weight gain. There are no blood tests or x-rays diagnostic of this condition, and yet it’s easy to recognize. The condition is excessive busyness. It’s one with which, as a fellow sufferer, I empathize especially.

Being excessively busy has become so much a part of our culture that we’ve developed an extended vocabulary for it, like Eskimos and snow: tapped out, laid flat, on overload, crazy busy, fried. The other day, while discussing an interesting potential project with me, a colleague asked if I “had the bandwidth” to take it on.

The pervasiveness of busyness is such that we may not even notice it anymore. A patient of mine wanted to be tested for anemia–why else could she be so tired? It didn’t occur to her that working full time, going to school, and caring for a severely disabled child might have something to do with her exhaustion.

….

For the poor, as this recent editorial by science writer Moises Velasquez-Manoff points out, stress has a particularly pernicious effect on health. Velasquez-Manoff points out that it’s not busyness itself, but lack of control and resources to deal with stress that busyness engenders that makes poor people less healthy than rich people. He writes:

It’s not necessarily the strain of a chief executive facing a lengthy to-do list, or a well-to-do parent’s agonizing over a child’s prospects of acceptance to an elite school. Unlike those of lower rank, both the C.E.O. and the anxious parent have resources with which to address the problem. By definition, the poor have far fewer.

 

 

 

Read the entire article here

 

 

August 28, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health, Psychology | , , | 1 Comment

Great-Grandmother’s Cigarette Habit Could Be the Cause of Child’s Asthma

Smoking warning

Smoking warning (Photo credit: Eva the Weaver)

The day after I published this, I answered a related question about busyness at Quora.

Resources that were included in the answer are listed below.

 

 

From the 5 August 2013 article at Science Daily

With some 300 million people around the world living with asthma, a study by Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center (LA BioMed) researchers that was released ahead-of- print found for the first time that maternal smoking can cause the third generation of offspring to suffer from the chronic lung disease.

The study, published online by theAmerican Journal of Physiology — Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology, reported that maternal nicotine exposure during pregnancy is linked to asthma in the third generation in disease models. This is known as a “transgenerational” linkage because the third generation was never directly exposed to nicotine or smoking. Previous research had found nicotine exposure was linked to asthma in the second generation, or was a “multigenerational” cause of asthma.

“Even though there are multiple causes for childhood asthma, research linking this serious chronic condition to maternal nicotine exposure during pregnancy for up to three generations should give mothers-to-be even more reasons to reconsider smoking,” said Virender K. Rehan, MD, an LA BioMed lead researcher and the corresponding author of the study. “Eliminating the use of tobacco during pregnancy could help halt the rise in childhood asthma and ensure healthier children for generations to come.”

The current study “paves the way for determining the epigenetic mechanisms” behind smoking and the transmission of asthma to future generations, the researchers concluded.

Want to learn more about epigenetic? Here’s some good Web sites

 

Read the entire article here

 

Related Psychiatric/Psychologic/Counseling Resources (via MedlinePlus)

 

August 28, 2013 Posted by | environmental health, Medical and Health Research News | , , | 1 Comment

LSD and Other Psychedelics Not Linked With Mental Health Problems, Analysis Suggests

Well, I still don’t feel inclined to try any…despite my FB profile.

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Could psychedelics be healthy for you?

The researchers found that lifetime use of psilocybin or mescaline and past year use of LSD were associated with lower rates of serious psychological distress. Lifetime use of LSD was also significantly associated with a lower rate of outpatient mental health treatment and psychiatric medicine prescription.

The design of the study makes it impossible to determine exactly why the researchers found what they found.

“We cannot exclude the possibility that use of psychedelics might have a negative effect on mental health for some individuals or groups, perhaps counterbalanced at a population level by a positive effect on mental health in others,” they wrote.

Nevertheless, “recent clinical trials have also failed to find any evidence of any lasting harmful effects of psychedelics,” the researchers said, which supports the robustness of the PLOS ONE findings.

In fact, says Krebs, “many people report deeply meaningful experiences and lasting beneficial effects from using psychedelics.”

From the 19th August 2013 article at ScienceDaily

The use of LSD, magic mushrooms, or peyote does not increase a person’s risk of developing mental health problems, according to an analysis of information from more than 130,000 randomly chosen people, including 22,000 people who had used psychedelics at least once.

“After adjusting for other risk factors, lifetime use of LSD, psilocybin, mescaline or peyote, or past year use of LSD was not associated with a higher rate of mental health problems or receiving mental health treatment,” says Johansen.

Could psychedelics be healthy for you?

The researchers found that lifetime use of psilocybin or mescaline and past year use of LSD were associated with lower rates of serious psychological distress. Lifetime use of LSD was also significantly associated with a lower rate of outpatient mental health treatment and psychiatric medicine prescription.

The design of the study makes it impossible to determine exactly why the researchers found what they found.

“We cannot exclude the possibility that use of psychedelics might have a negative effect on mental health for some individuals or groups, perhaps counterbalanced at a population level by a positive effect on mental health in others,” they wrote.

Nevertheless, “recent clinical trials have also failed to find any evidence of any lasting harmful effects of psychedelics,” the researchers said, which supports the robustness of the PLOS ONE findings.

In fact, says Krebs, “many people report deeply meaningful experiences and lasting beneficial effects from using psychedelics.”

……….

Read the entire article here

August 28, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health, Psychiatry, Psychology | , , , | Leave a comment

Sweaty Palms and Racing Heart May Benefit Some Negotiators

From the 26 August 2013 post at ScienceDaily

The idea of having to negotiate over the price of a new car sends many into the cold sweats, but new research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, suggests that sweaty palms and a racing heart may actually help some people in getting a good deal.

As researchers Ashley D. Brown and Jared R. Curhan of the Sloan School of Management at MIT demonstrate in two experiments, physiological arousal isn’t always detrimental:

“It turns out that the effect depends on whether you are someone who dreads or looks forward to negotiating,” Brown explains. “It’s not inherently harmful.”

Read the entire article here

 

August 28, 2013 Posted by | Psychology | , , | Leave a comment

Even Mild Stress Can Make It Difficult to Control Your Emotions

From the 26 August 2013 Science Daily article

Even mild stress can thwart therapeutic measures to control emotions, a team of neuroscientists at New York University has found. Their findings, which appear in the journalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, point to the limits of clinical techniques while also shedding new light on the barriers that must be overcome in addressing afflictions such as fear or anxiety.

“We have long suspected that stress can impair our ability to control our emotions, but this is the first study to document how even mild stress can undercut therapies designed to keep our emotions in check,” said Elizabeth Phelps, a professor in NYU’s Department of Psychology and Center for Neural Science and the study’s senior author. “In other words, what you learn in the clinic may not be as relevant in the real world when you’re stressed.”

In addressing patients’ emotional maladies, therapists sometimes use cognitive restructuring techniques — encouraging patients to alter their thoughts or approach to a situation to change their emotional response. These might include focusing on the positive or non-threatening aspects of an event or stimulus that might normally produce fear.

 

Read the entire article here

 

August 28, 2013 Posted by | Psychiatry, Psychology | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Reblog] How Climate Change Is Fueling A Rise In Deadly Diseases

From the 21 July 2013 post at 2 degrees Centigrade

By Sy Mukherjee on July 17, 2013

In the summer of 2012, the mosquito-borne West Nile virus made a surprising comeback in America. In Dallas, the most affected region, 400 people contracted the disease and 19 of them died. That came as a shock to public health officials, since West Nile virus was thought to be in such precipitous decline that it was practically eradicated.

Now, a little detective work has led epidemiologists to the reason for its resurgence: warmer winters and wetter springs. In other words, the consequences of global climate change are fueling West Nile. And it’s just the tip of the iceberg. Health officials expect the number of people contracting other infectious diseases to rise right alongside global temperatures.

The diseases that are propagated by climate change tend to come in fungal, algal, tick-borne, and mosquito-borne forms. For instance, dengue fever — which causes a high fever, painful head and body aches, and rashes — will likely continue infecting Americans in hot and humid climates, as well as regions that are close to warming oceans:

Read the entire article here

August 28, 2013 Posted by | Health Statistics, Public Health | , , | Leave a comment

[Reblog] Food and health…again

Yes, this post is a bit left of center from most of my posts.
But it does raise some valid concerns.
The related articles are just a few ways some folks are trying their best to alert us and coax us into changing unhealthy food choices.

 

From the 23 August 2013 post at eek.ology

 

 

 

 

 

 

I found this on the image site imgur.com recently and it blew me away with its accuracy. I’m living in a country which seems to produce food largely based on fat, salt and sugar. I walk into the supermarket and have to check ingredients on cheese and yoghurt and jam and ice cream to avoid rBGH and high fructose corn syrup. I go to a pharmacy and they’re selling crisps and chocolate and cigarettes and booze. Things that were once simple aren’t anymore.  Once I just needed to worry about cage free eggs. Now I’m trying to toss up the environmental damage of the food miles of cheese from Europe vs. the health implications of local cheese from cows that have been treated with rBGH.

Wendell Berry is right. The connection between food and health (and indeed our environment), while it is so blatantly, blatantly obvious, is so frequently ignored.  We ignore what is in front of our noses in both the literal and metaphorical sense every single day, and our health is getting worse for it.

 

Some Related Organizations (variety of types & organizational values)

 

August 28, 2013 Posted by | health care, Nutrition | , , , , | 1 Comment

[Re-post] Opting-Out Of Vaccines; Dipping Below Herd Immunity

From the post at Boston Public Radio

With more and more families opting out of vaccinating their kids, one of the most sacred of public health goals, the concept of herd immunity, is being threatened.

A recent piece in Scientific American featured tantalizing graphics — on view above — illustrating this scary trend.  According to this analysis, the vaccination rates in some states — Oregon, West Virginia and Colorado, for instance, are shockingly low. So low, in fact, that they’ve dropped below the “herd immunity” levels (or what is thought to be the safe threshold) for MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) and DTP (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis).

So what’s the deal with herd immunity?  According to the CDC, a population has reached herd immunity when a sufficient proportion is immune to a particular infectious disease.  Immune population members get that protection either by being vaccinated or by having a prior infection.

 Read the entire post here

 

August 28, 2013 Posted by | Health Statistics, Public Health | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Biggest Urban Legend in Health Economics–and How It Drives Up Our Spending

Chronic Disease

Chronic Disease (Photo credit: tamahaji)

 

From the 24 August 2013 post at The Health Care Blog

 

The wellness emphasis in the Affordable Care Act is built around the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) 2009 call to action about chronic disease:  The Power to Prevent, the Call to Control.   On the summary page we learn some shocking statistics:

  • “Chronic diseases cause 7 in 10 deaths each year in the United States.”

  • “About 133 million Americans—nearly 1 in 2 adults—live with at least one chronic illness.”

  • “More than 75% of health care costs are due to chronic conditions.”

Shocking, that is, in how misleading or even false they are.  Take the statement that “chronic diseases cause 7 in 10 deaths,” for example.  We have to die of something.   Would it be better to die of accidents?  Suicides and homicides?  Mercury poisoning?   Infectious diseases?    As compared to the alternatives, it is much easier to make the argument that the first statistic is a good thing rather than a bad thing.

The second statistic is a head-scratcher.  Only 223 million Americans were old enough to drink in 2009, meaning that 60% of adults, not “nearly 1 in 2 adults,” live with at least one chronic illness — if their language is to be taken literally.   Our suspicion is that their “133-million Americans” figure includes children, and the CDC meant to say “133-millon Americans, including nearly 1 in 2 adults, live with at least one chronic illness.”   Sloppy wording is not uncommon at the CDC, as elsewhere they say almost 1 in 5 youth has a BMI  > the 95th percentile, which of course is mathematically impossible.

More importantly, the second statistic begs the question, how are they defining “chronic disease” so broadly that half of us have at least one?    Are they counting back pain?   Tooth decay?  Dandruff?   Ring around the collar?

 

Read the entire article here

 

 

 

August 28, 2013 Posted by | health AND statistics, Health Statistics | , , , , | Leave a comment

Status of Medicare patients can result in huge bills

The main entrance to the east campus of the Be...

The main entrance to the east campus of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, on Brookline Avenue in Boston. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“At the very least, Paulson said, patients should receive immediate written notice of observation status and the chance to appeal while they are still in the hospital. For now, she and Edelman recommend that patients and families always ask — and push back if needed.”

From the 25 August 2013 Boston Globe article

Harold Engler recently spent 10 days in a Boston teaching hospital, trying to snap back from complications after urgent hernia surgery. Nurses provided around-the-clock treatment, changing the 91-year-old’s catheter, for example, and pumping him with intravenous drugs for suspected pneumonia.

It all seemed like textbook hospital care to his wife, Sylvia. So she was shocked to learn that Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center had never “admitted” her husband at all.

“Mrs. Engler, we have bad news for you. This was marked ‘medical observation,’ ” said a nurse at the nursing home where her husband was sent for rehabilitation. The hospital had decided Harold Engler was not sick enough to qualify as an official “inpatient.”

The difference in terminology was not a mere technicality: the observation classification left the Englers with a huge bill. It triggered a mystifying Medicare rule that required the Framingham couple to pay the entire $7,859 cost of his rehabilitation care and the medications he needed while at the nursing facility. If Harold Engler, a retired sales executive, had been admitted to the hospital, they would have likely paid nothing.

It is a striking example of just how impenetrable the US health care system can be for those who use it. Thousands of Medicare enrollees in Massachusetts and across the country are finding themselves caught in the same perplexing bind: Despite long hospital stays, they have been deemed observation patients or outpatients whose follow-up care is not covered. They also can face higher costs for the hospital stay itself when they are not officially admitted.

Read the entire article here

August 28, 2013 Posted by | health care | , , , | Leave a comment

Useful Video For Understanding 2014 Health Care Changes and “Obama Care”

Great 7 minute overview, published by KaiserHealthCare. Really liked how the graphics (including Playschool like cartoon figures) outlined the major points without making me feel like a dummy!

From the 26 August 2013 post at Sara Zia Ebrahimi

Do you have a good sense of what the new health care options are starting 2014? The HR folks at work just shared this cute 7minute video that does a good job of clarifying what the options are and the advantages and disadvantages of each. I found it really useful and thought I’d pass it along.

Excerpts

  ” Individual exchanges in 34 states will be created via the federal government – but on July 5, it quietly granted another concession. The Department of Health and Human Services relaxed a requirement for the 16 other states and the District of Columbia to verify the income and health coverage status of applicants to those individual exchanges. These 17 exchanges will only check the income eligibility of applicants at random next year, and they will wait until 2015 to check if applicants are getting employer-sponsored health benefits.5″

Where do things stand state-by-state with the Medicaid expansion? Just 23 states and the District of Columbia have signed up for it. (You’ll recall that the Supreme Court allowed states to opt out of it when it ruled that the ACA was constitutional in 2012.) In these states and in Washington D.C., those with earnings of up to 138% of the federal poverty level may qualify for Medicaid (that works out to earnings of $15,856 for an individual and $32,499 for a family of four). The expansion of Medicaid in these states doesn’t require the federal government to recreate the wheel, but delays could happen in other ways. In Michigan, for example, state legislators have passed their own version of a Medicaid expansion requiring a 90-day federal review process, which will put Michigan weeks behind in enrolling participants in expanded Medicaid coverage.6,”

August 28, 2013 Posted by | health care | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Charting the Chemical Choreography of Brain Development

Diagram of the various parts of the brain of a...

Diagram of the various parts of the brain of a six-week old embryo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

 

 

 

From the 27 August 2013 Director’s blog item (National Institutes of Health)

 

Once in a while a research publication reveals an entirely new perspective on a fundamental issue in biology or medicine. Today’s blog is about such a paper. The story, though complex, is very significant.

The choreography of human brain development is amazing, but quite mysterious. Today’s post highlights a study [1] that reveals the locations of some of the chemical choreographers that collaborate with DNA to orchestrate these fancy moves in the brain.

This complex developmental dance starts in the womb as our brain cells arise, migrate to their proper locations, and mature. By the time we’re born, each of us has close to 100 billion of these cells, called neurons. But that’s not all. The brain also contains lots of other cell types—especially glia. Glial cells were previously thought to act primarily as servants to the neurons, but they’re actually more like partners. Our birth inventory is just the first act. Over the course of our lives, our experiences and environment continue to shape and re-shape the brain’s connections, albeit in varying paces and patterns.

The millions of chemical tags that modify or mark the genome tell it what to do, and when and where to do it. Taken together, we call this diverse collection of chemical cues the “epigenome.”

….

Just as genetic mutations can lead to disease, glitches in DNA methylation may also trigger or increase the severity of brain disorders. Several studies have already linked abnormal methylation with disorders like schizophrenia, and conditions like Traumatic Brain Injury. This research is particularly exciting because these DNA methylation tags are not permanent. So, if we discover patterns of methylation that cause particular brain diseases, we can develop strategies to restore the healthy epigenetic profile—in effect, to bring those errant brain cells back in step with the dance of normal brain development.

Sketched image of a brain, neuron, glia, DNA, methylation sites, and a graph of methylation decreasing over time

Caption: Researchers mapped methylation sites in genomes of neurons and glia in the frontal cortex. mCH methyl tags, or non-CG methylation (purple stars), were absent at birth, but were added rapidly during the first few years of life and then more slowly until about age 30. After age 50, the number of mCH tags declined.
Credit: Eran Mukamel, Salk Institute

This study is a powerful example of how recent technological advances are revealing the secrets and complexities of the human brain—a process we hope to accelerate with the start of the BRAIN initiative!

References:

[1] Global epigenomic reconfiguration during mammalian brain development. Lister R, Mukamel EA, Nery JR, Urich M, Puddifoot CA, Johnson ND, Lucero J, Huang Y, Dwork AJ, Schultz MD, Yu M, Tonti-Filippini J, Heyn H, Hu S, Wu JC, Rao A, Esteller M, He C, Haghighi FG, Sejnowski TJ, Behrens MM, Ecker JR. Science. 2013 Aug 9;341(6146):1237905.

[2] Sequence data can be downloaded from National Center for Biotechnology Information GEO (GSE47966). The analyzed data is also available for browsing.

 

 Read the entire article here

 

 

 

 

August 28, 2013 Posted by | Biomedical Research Resources, Medical and Health Research News, Psychiatry | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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