Category Archives: Health

Blood Holds Clues to Survival

Even within the normal range, higher bilirubin levels appear to be associated with reduced risks of lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and death, a longitudinal, prospective analysis of a large database showed.

For every 0.1-mg/dL increase in bilirubin level, the rate of lung cancer dropped by 8 percent in men and 11 percent in women, according to Laura Horsfall, MSc, of University College London, and colleagues.

In addition, the same incremental increase in bilirubin was associated with a 6 percent decline in the rate of COPD and a 3 percent decline in mortality for both sexes, the researchers reported in the Feb. 16 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

“Based on our findings, bilirubin levels within the normal range appear to capture information about patients that may reflect a combination of environmental and genetically determined susceptibility to respiratory diseases,” they wrote.

Most people are familiar with bilirubin because of its role in jaundice — the yellowing of the skin that is sometimes seen in newborns but is also associated with liver disease.

Bilirubin is actually a byproduct of the turn over of red blood cells — the cells that carry oxygen throughout the body. Healthy individuals constantly replace old red blood cells with new ones. As the old cells are broken down they produce bilirubin, a chemical characterized by a distinctive yellow color.

The Best Diet for Healthy Lungs

The spleen and the liver taking in bilirubin and use it to break down or metabolize other substances into bile, which is used to aid digestion.

Although the study cannot establish causality for any of the relationships, there is some experimental evidence that bilirubin has benefits for respiratory health because of its cytoprotective properties, including antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antiproliferative effects, according to the researchers.

They noted that a better understanding of the possible mechanisms linking bilirubin levels to lung cancer, COPD, and death may lead to potential therapies that target the activity of UGT1A1, a liver enzyme responsible for converting insoluble bilirubin to an excretable form.

Horsfall and her colleagues examined data from the Health Improvement Network, a U.K. primary care research database.

Help Ease Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Patients with chronic fatigue syndrome who participated in programs aimed at helping them overcome their symptoms — a combination of exercise and counseling — improved more than those whose treatment was intended to help them adapt to the limitations of the disease, a large randomized trial found.

Mean fatigue scores among patients treated with graded exercise therapy — a tailored program that gradually increases exercise capacity — were 3.2 points lower than scores in patients who received specialist medical care alone, according to Dr. Peter D. White, of Queen Mary University of London, and colleagues.

Furthermore, fatigue scores were lower by 3.4 points among patients receiving cognitive behavioral therapy, in which a therapist works with the patient to understand the disease, alleviate fears about activity, and help overcome obstacles to functioning.

In contrast, among patients who were treated with a program known as adaptive pacing therapy, which emphasizes energy limitations and avoidance of excess activity, scores differed by only 0.7 points the researchers reported online in The Lancet.

In a press briefing describing the study findings, co-investigator Dr. Trudie Chalder, of King’s College London, said, “We monitored safety very carefully, because we wanted to be sure we weren’t causing harm to any patients.”

“The number of serious adverse events was miniscule,” she added.

Another co-investigator, Dr. Michael Sharpe, of the University of Edinburgh, commented that a difficulty in the management of chronic fatigue syndrome has been ambiguity — about the causes and whether these treatments recommended by NICE actually are effective.

“The evidence up to now has suggested benefit, but this study gives pretty clear-cut evidence of safety and efficacy. So I hope that addresses the ambiguity,” Sharpe said during the press briefing.

 

4 Ways to Save Energy With Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

However, the investigators conceded that the beneficial effects of these treatments were only moderate, with less than one-third of participants being within normal ranges for fatigue and functioning, and only about 40 percent reporting that their overall health was much better or very much better.

“Our finding that studied treatments were only moderately effective also suggests research into more effective treatments is needed,” they wrote.

In addition, they stated that their finding of efficacy for cognitive behavioral therapy “does not imply that the condition is psychological in nature.”

The importance of cognitive behavioral therapy was further emphasized by Dr. Benjamin H. Natelson, of Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.

“This approach of encouragement of activity and discouragement of negative thinking should be a tool in every physician’s armamentarium,” he said.

“We know that cognitive behavioral therapy and gentle physical conditioning help people cope with any chronic disease — even congestive heart failure and multiple sclerosis,” Natelson said in an interview with MedPage Today.

Chronic fatigue syndrome is characterized by persisting or relapsing fatigue for at least six months that cannot be explained by any other physical or psychiatric disorder.

The fatigue is debilitating, and often is accompanied by joint and muscle pain, headaches, and tenderness of the lymph nodes.

In an editorial published with the study, Dr. Gijs Bleijenberg, and Dr. Hans Knoop, of Radboud University in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, explained the differences in these types of treatment for chronic fatigue.

“Both graded exercise therapy and cognitive behavior therapy assume that recovery from chronic fatigue syndrome is possible and convey this hope more or less explicitly to patients. Adaptive pacing therapy emphasizes that chronic fatigue syndrome is a chronic condition, to which the patient has to adapt,” Bleijenberg and Knoop wrote.

Graded exercise therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy have both been recommended by the U.K. National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, although evidence supporting these approaches remains sparse.

Carry Long Term Death Risk

The risk of death after head injury remained significantly increased for as long as 13 years, irrespective of the severity of the injury, results of a case-control study showed.

Overall, patients with a history of head injury had more than a twofold greater risk of death than did two control groups of individuals without head injury.

Among young adults, the risk disparity ballooned to more than a fivefold difference, Scottish investigators reported online in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.

“More than 40% of young people and adults admitted to hospital in Glasgow after a head injury were dead 13 years later,” Dr. Thomas M. McMillan, of the University of Glasgow, and coauthors wrote in the discussion of their findings. “This stark finding is not explained by age, gender, or deprivation characteristics.”

“As might be expected following an injury, the highest rate of death occurred in the first year after head injury,” they continued. “However, risk of death remained high for at least a further 12 years when, for example, death was 2.8 times more likely after head injury than for community controls.”

Previous studies of mortality after head injury have focused primarily on early death, either during hospitalization or in the first year after the injury. Whether the excess mortality risk persists over time has remained unclear, the authors noted.

Few studies have compared mortality after head injury with expected mortality in the community. To provide that missing context, McMillan and coauthors conducted a case-control study involving 757 patients who incurred head injuries of varying severity from February 1995 to February 1996 and were admitted to a Glasgow-area hospital.

For comparison, the investigators assembled two control groups, both matched with the cases for age, sex, and socioeconomic status and one matched for duration of hospitalization after injury not involving the head.

One control group was comprised of persons hospitalized for other injured and other comparison group included healthy non-hospitalized adults.

The cases comprised 602 men and 155 women who had a mean age of 43, and almost 70 percent were in the lowest socioeconomic quintile.

At the end of follow-up, 305 of the head-injured patients had died, compared with 215 of the hospitalized control group, and 135 of healthy, non-hospitalized adults.

Mortality after one year remained significantly higher in the head-injury group—34 percent versus 24 percent among the hospitalized comparison group and 16 percent for the healthy non-hospitalized adults.

Overall, the head-injury group had a death rate of 30.99/1,000/ year versus 13.72/1,000/year in the community controls and 21.85/1,000/year in the hospitalized-other injury control group.

The disparity was greater among younger adults (15 to 54), who had a rate of 17.36/1,000/year versus 2.21/1,000/year in the community controls. Older adults in the head injury group had a death rate of 61.47/1,000/year compared with 39.45/1,000/year in the community controls.

“Demographic factors do not explain the risk of death late after head injury, and there is a need to further consider factors that might lead to health vulnerability after head injury and in this way explain the range of causes of death,” the authors wrote in conclusion. “The elevated risk of mortality after mild head injury and in younger adults makes further study in this area a priority.”

Little League Pitchers

To prevent serious arm injuries, young baseball pitchers should pitch no more than 100 innings a year, researchers said.

In a 10-year prospective study, boys who pitched more than 100 innings were almost four times more likely to undergo elbow or shoulder surgery or to retire because of injury, according to Dr. Glenn Fleisig, of the American Sports Medicine Institute in Birmingham, Ala., and colleagues.

The cumulative rate of serious injury was 14 percent in those who exceeded that number and 4 percent in those who did not, the researchers reported in the February issue of the American Journal of Sports Medicine.

“On the basis of these findings and review of the literature, we recommend that pitchers in high school and younger pitch no more than 100 innings in competition in any calendar year,” Fleisig and his colleagues wrote.

“Young pitchers who have not developed should be limited to even less, and no pitcher should continue to pitch when fatigued.”

In recent years, researchers have detected an increase in the numbers of younger pitchers who require shoulder and elbow surgery, including ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction, or Tommy John surgery.

Many doctors believe that the trend is related to the growth of year-round baseball leagues and showcases for professional scouts, which reduces the amount of downtime pitchers would normally have in the off-season.

A 1999 study linked the number of pitches thrown to elbow and shoulder pain — assumed to be a predictor of future injury. That and similar studies led youth baseball organizations, including Little League Baseball, to replace innings limits with pitch counts.

But no studies had established a relationship between throwing volume and injury risk.

To explore the risk factors for serious arm injuries — those requiring surgery or those resulting in retirement — Fleisig and his colleagues followed 481 male pitchers ages 9 to 14 for 10 years using annual telephone interviews; about two were still pitching in the final year of the study.

The researchers focused on total innings pitched in the previous year rather than pitch counts because most youth players and their families do not keep track of the numbers of balls thrown.

Blood disorder adopts 3 kids with same condition

A Massachusetts mom recently spoke to People magazine about the rare genetic disease that she shares with the three daughters who she adopted from China.

Tracy Antonelli and her daughters have a blood disorder called thalassemia, which requires them to have blood transfusions to ensure that they have enough healthy red blood cells in their bodies, according to People .

Antonelli adopted her first daughter, Emmie, in 2012. When she and her husband learned that thalassemia is more common in China than it is in some other parts of the world, they decided to adopt two more girls, Rosie and Frannie.

But what is thalassemia?

In people with thalassemia, the body doesn’t make enough hemoglobin, a molecule found in red blood cells that’s responsible for carrying oxygen around the body, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Hemoglobin is an essential part of red blood cells, and without enough of it, the cells don’t function properly, and don’t live as long as healthy red blood cells.

This lack of healthy red blood cells is called anemia. Anemia can cause fatigue, weakness and shortness of breath, the CDC says. In severe cases, the condition can cause organ damage and lead to death.

People with mild forms of thalassemia may not need treatment, the Mayo Clinic says . For those with moderate forms of the disease, treatment may be needed only after a person has surgery, for example.

But when a person has severe thalassemia, that individual needs to receive blood transfusions regularly, in order to have enough healthy red blood cells, the CDC says. But red blood cells contain a lot of iron , so regular transfusions can cause the mineral to build up in the body, which can lead to organ damage. This means that people who receive regular blood transfusions may also need treatments to remove the excess iron from their bodies.

All of Antonelli’s daughters have severe forms of the disease — they all needed blood transfusions three times a week, she told People.

Thalassemia is an inherited disease, meaning that it’s passed down through families, according to the National Library of Medicine (NLM). People who inherit only one faulty gene (in other words, a faulty gene from only one parent) will have a milder form of the disease than those who inherit two faulty genes (one gene from each parent).

There are different types of thalassemia, depending on which part of the hemoglobin molecule is affected, the NLM says. Hemoglobin is made of two proteins: alpha globin and beta globin, and each is encoded by a different gene. People with a faulty gene for alpha globin are said to have alpha thalassemia; those with a faulty gene for beta globin have beta thalassemia.

Alpha thalassemia occurs most often in people from Southeast Asia, China, the Middle East and Africa, according to the NLM. Beta thalassemia occurs most often in people from Mediterranean countries.

Beta thalassemia is the more severe form of the disease and affects at least 1,000 people in the United States, the CDC says. Worldwide, this form is thought to affect about 1 in 100,000 people, according to the National Organization for Rare Disorders .

What vegetarians need

We all know how important it is to eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables, whether we’re pregnant or not. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, diets that include plenty of fruits and veggies can reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, certain cancers, eye problems, and digestive problems.

It’s probably not news to you that vegetables are healthy, and they’re even more important during pregnancy when your body is counting on the availability of certain vitamins and minerals to keep you and your baby healthy. A vegetarian diet can be a great starting point for pregnancy as long as certain nutrient requirements are met, and sometimes that means careful planning. Let’s look at a few of the nutrients that vegetarian moms-to-be need to include in their prenatal diets.

1.  Protein

Meat is the primary source of dietary protein for people all over the world, but it’s really not difficult to get enough protein from vegetarian sources if you seek out high-protein plant-based foods. These include legumes, nuts, quinoa, and meat substitutes like tofu. A typical American diet doesn’t focus on any of these foods, so it’s important to go out of your way to include them if you’re new to vegetarian eating. Eggs, milk, cheese, and yogurt are also excellent sources of protein for vegetarians who consume eggs and dairy products.

2.  Calcium

Dairy products are an excellent source of calcium for vegetarians who include them in their diets. An 8-oz glass of 1% milk contains 305 mg of calcium, almost a third of the 1,000 mg of calcium per day recommended by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) for pregnant women over the age of 19. (The recommendation for pregnant women under 19 is 1,300 mg.)

But expecting vegetarians who don’t consume dairy products may have to turn to fortified foods to get their calcium. There are plant-based sources of calcium like dark leafy greens and certain nuts and seeds, but the amount of calcium these foods contain is relatively small. A cup of chopped kale only contains 101 mg of calcium, and an entire cup of almonds contains 243 mg of calcium. Since it’s not realistic (or necessarily healthy) to eat enough of these sources each day to get your 1,000 mg of calcium, you may want to consider fortified breakfast cereals, fortified orange juice, or fortified milk substitutes, all of which can be excellent sources of calcium. Just check the nutrition label.

LIVING WITH CELIAC DISEASE

3.  Vitamin B12

Another important nutrient that can be difficult to include in a vegetarian or vegan diet is vitamin B12. This nutrient is so important and so easily overlooked that The Vegan Society has addressed the dangers of B12 deficiency in an open letter on their website. And it’s not just vegans who are in danger of B12 deficiency. Vegetarians who include dairy in their diet only occasionally aren’t getting enough B12 from those sources, and low B12 has been linked to neural tube defects in babies.

Vegetarians who don’t eat meat but will consume fish (pescatarians) can get enough B12 by eating low-mercury fish like salmon or Atlantic mackerel (be cautious of other types of mackerel that may be high in mercury). But vegetarians who don’t consume dairy or fish will probably have to turn once again to fortified foods. If the amounts of B12 in fortified foods look small, that’s ok. According to the National Institutes of Health, 2.6 micrograms per day is the recommendation for pregnant women.

Teen pregnancy rates drop as government

The reigning orthodoxy among public health officials is that the more government spends on sex education the fewer teen pregnancies there will be. Now, however, British researchers have found empirical evidence that appears to demonstrate the exact opposite.

In findings published in the Journal of Health Economics, Nottingham University Business School Professor David Paton and Liam Wright, a research assistant at the University of Sheffield, found budget cuts to sex education classes may have contributed to lower rates of teenage pregnancy in England.

Paton’s study compared changes in the rate of teen pregnancy with the change in the annual funding of teenage pregnancy services for 149 English local authorities between 2008 and 2014.

To their surprise, the researchers found that after sex education budgets were slashed, teen pregnancy rates fell by 42.6 percent.

“There are arguments to suggest that the impact [of budget cutbacks] on teenage pregnancy may be not as bad as feared,” conclude Wright and Patom in the study.

For teens under 18 years of age, the conception rate in Britain declined by nearly 50 percent between 2007 and 2015. While the United States compiles data on the number of births, the United Kingdom counts conceptions, including those which end in abortion. They do not factor in conceptions that end in miscarriages.

Like their U.S. cohorts, British sex education advocates attributed the decline to increased government investment through the 1999 Teenage Pregnancy Strategy, which boosted funding to initiatives that expanded access to birth control and sex education courses.

“If the programs which were cut had been successful in delaying sex, this would likely have fed through to pregnancy rates. So our findings suggest that they were not doing so and, by implication, that cutting some of these programs led to a reduction in teen sexual activity,” Paton tells Fox News.

Paton makes clear their research does not argue that budget cuts reduce teen pregnancies. The key lesson for policymakers, he says, is that it would be more productive to focus on the underlying causes (poverty and levels of education) of teen pregnancy, rather than on sex-prevention programs and providing minors access to birth control.

The publication of Paton’s study comes at a time when the debate over U.S. funding for prevention programs is heating up after the Trump administration released its budget, which eliminates the Teenage Pregnancy Prevention program. That program received $101 million from the government in the 12 months ending Sept. 30.

According to its budget justification, the Department of Health and Human Services argues that the teenage pregnancy rate “has declined significantly over recent years, but it does not appear this program has been a major driver in that reduction.”

Paton’s findings have garnered little media attention while a study co-authored by Dr. Julie DeCesare of the University of Florida’s OB-GYN residency program has been widely seized upon by proponents of more government funding for sex education.

The researchers analyzed county-by-county teen birth rate data and found “clusters” of cities that saw a slower rate of decline in teen pregnancies.

The learning experience in a Mississippi hospital

Dede Carraway was getting ready to give birth to her third child in Jackson, Miss., Tuesday, when her doctor, Walter Wolfe, noticed the mom’s oldest child, 12-year-old daughter Jacee, eagerly watching the process in the delivery room, right next to her mother.

Dr. Wolfe then asked if Jacee wanted to join in – and help him deliver her new baby brother. Jacee, eager and excited, agreed.

The doctor helped Jacee throughout the entire birth and even allowed her to cut the umbilical cord.

Carraway said Jacee wanted to help deliver her mom’s middle son 18 months ago, who Carraway noted her daughter has “such an emotional connection with.” But at that point, Carraway and her husband Zack thought their daughter was too young.

Knowing her third-born would be her last, Carraway said they decided it was time for Jacee to experience the miracle of childbirth.

“I don’t even know if there are words to describe how it felt,” Carraway told Fox News. “Never in a million years, if you would have told me 12 years ago she [Jacee] would be delivering my last born, I would have told you – you’re crazy!”

 

E coli bacteria contamination in Kentucky

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says a Kentucky-based food distributor has issued a recall on more than 22,000 pounds of ground beef and other beef products due to possible E. coli bacteria contamination.

USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service says the Creation Gardens Inc. products subject to the recall were shipped to food service locations in Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee.

The department says the problem was discovered Monday when plant management at the Louisville-based company notified Food Safety and Inspection Service officials of positive test results for E.coli.

Officials say the raw ground beef and beef primal cut products affected by the recall were produced from May 31 to June 2. The products subject to recall bear establishment number “EST. 7914” inside the USDA mark of inspection.

Like their U.S. cohorts, British sex education advocates attributed the decline to increased government investment through the 1999 Teenage Pregnancy Strategy, which boosted funding to initiatives that expanded access to birth control and sex education courses.

“If the programs which were cut had been successful in delaying sex, this would likely have fed through to pregnancy rates. So our findings suggest that they were not doing so and, by implication, that cutting some of these programs led to a reduction in teen sexual activity,” Paton tells Fox News.

Paton makes clear their research does not argue that budget cuts reduce teen pregnancies. The key lesson for policymakers, he says, is that it would be more productive to focus on the underlying causes (poverty and levels of education) of teen pregnancy, rather than on sex-prevention programs and providing minors access to birth control.

The publication of Paton’s study comes at a time when the debate over U.S. funding for prevention programs is heating up after the Trump administration released its budget, which eliminates the Teenage Pregnancy Prevention program. That program received $101 million from the government in the 12 months ending Sept. 30.

According to its budget justification, the Department of Health and Human Services argues that the teenage pregnancy rate “has declined significantly over recent years, but it does not appear this program has been a major driver in that reduction.”

Paton’s findings have garnered little media attention while a study co-authored by Dr. Julie DeCesare of the University of Florida’s OB-GYN residency program has been widely seized upon by proponents of more government funding for sex education.

The researchers analyzed county-by-county teen birth rate data and found “clusters” of cities that saw a slower rate of decline in teen pregnancies.

Begin in gut before affecting the brain

Parkinson’s disease, which involves the malfunction and death of nerve cells in the brain , may originate in the gut, new research suggests, adding to a growing body of evidence supporting the idea.

The new study shows that a protein in nerve cells that becomes corrupted and then forms clumps in the brains of people with Parkinson’s can also be found in cells that line the small intestine. The research was done in both mice and human cells.

The finding supports the idea that this protein first becomes altered in the gut and then travels to the brain, where it causes the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease .

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive movement disorder, affecting as many as 1 million people in the United States and 7 million to 10 million people worldwide, according to the Parkinson’s Disease FoundationThe protein, called alpha-synuclein, is abundant in the brain . And in healthy nerve cells, it dissolves in the fluid within the cell. But in Parkinson’s patients, alpha-synuclein folds abnormally. The misfolded protein can then spread through the nervous system to the brain as a prion, or infectious protein. In the brain, the misfolded protein molecules stick to each other and clump up, damaging neurons.

In 2005, researchers reported that people with Parkinson’s disease who had these clumps in their brains also had the clumps in their guts. Other research published this year looked at people who had ulcers and who underwent a surgery that removed the base of the vagus nerve, which connects the brain stem to the abdomen. These patients had a 40 percent lower risk of developing Parkinson’s later in life compared with people who didn’t have their vagus nerve removed.