A community for people who want to remain as healthy as possible as we age.

Anxiety heightens suicide risk

(ThinkProgress) [A recent study] showed that although 90 percent of respondents have been affected by suicide and knew of its link to depression and bipolar disorder, less than half knew that anxiety could inflict the same damage…
Anxiety, while considered a normal part of life, can become serious when feelings interfere with job performance, school work, and relationships. Signs of anxiety disorder often include fatigue, headaches, muscle tension and aches, irritability, and nausea. The National Institute of Mental Health designates post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and phobias among the most common types of anxiety, affecting more than 40 million Americans annually.
Risk factors for anxiety disorder include gender, childhood trauma, and stress brought on by an illness, a buildup of tension from seemingly insignificant situations, genetics, and alcohol and drug abuse.
Community: So do conservative governments engender suicidal-inducing anxiety?
Conservative Truths is no longer an active website, but it retained an archive of the misery-causing conditions in conservative U.S. states, including more suicides (click here and search the page for the word “suicide,” there are several applicable sections) than in liberal states. And here’s more recent evidence: “Suicide Risk Linked to Rates of Gun Ownership, Political Conservatism.”
Millions of years of evolution living in hunter-gatherer tribes molded us into creatures whose feelings of security and well being depend on being members of a cooperative group. But today’s right wingers want us to believe that we’re all on our own, and any cooperative effort to increase the common good is a catastrophic mistake. We're just not built that way, and trying to pretend we are or should be is apparently very detrimental to our mental health.
I’d write a book about it if I could ever find a publisher.
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Suicide-by-Firearm Rates Shift in Two States After Changes in State Gun Laws

(Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health) A new study examining changes in gun policy in two states finds that handgun purchaser licensing requirements influence suicide rates. Researchers estimate that Connecticut's 1995 law requiring individuals to obtain a permit or license to purchase a handgun after passing a background check was associated with a 15.4 percent reduction in firearm suicide rates, while Missouri's repeal of its handgun purchaser licensing law in 2007 was associated with a 16.1 percent increase in firearm suicide rates.
The study, from researchers with the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, appears in a special issue of Preventive Medicine that focuses on gun violence prevention research.
"Although these laws were not designed to reduce suicides, many of the risk factors that disqualify someone from legal gun ownership -- domestic violence, history of committing violent crimes, substance abuse, severe mental illness and adolescence -- are also risk factors for suicide," says lead study author Cassandra Crifasi, PhD, MPH.
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Suicide-risk behaviour patterns identified - study

(BBC News) Research by the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ECNP) concluded that [certain] behaviour patterns "precede many suicide attempts"…
[Researchers] said the risk of an attempt was "at least 50% higher" if a depressed patient displayed:
·         "risky behaviour" such as reckless driving or promiscuous behaviour
·         "psychomotor agitation" such as pacing around rooms or wringing their hands
·         impulsivity - defined by the researchers as acting with "little or no forethought, reflection, or consideration of the consequences"
Dr Dina Popovic, one of the report's authors, added: "We found that 'depressive mixed states' often preceded suicide attempts.
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Biomarkers and Questionnaires Predict Suicide Risk

(NIH Research Matters) Efforts to reduce suicides have focused on identifying and treating those at risk. However, asking people if they’re suicidal isn’t always a reliable approach. Finding a way to objectively measure a person’s risk for suicide is thus an important area of research. Some researchers are developing questionnaires that measure the likelihood of someone committing suicide. Others are looking for biological markers of people who are suicidal.
A study led by researchers at Indiana University School of Medicine combined these approaches…
The tool predicted which patients would go on to have serious suicidal thoughts with 92% accuracy. It also predicted with 71% accuracy which patients would be hospitalized for suicidal behaviors in the year following testing. The tool was even more accurate for patients with bipolar disorder, with 98% and 94% accuracy, respectively.
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Creative and Neurotic: Is Neuroticism Fueled by Overthinking?

(Cell Press) Isaac Newton was a classic neurotic. He was a brooder and a worrier, prone to dwelling on the scientific problems before him as well as his childhood sins. But Newton also had creative breakthroughs--thoughts on physics so profound that they are still part of a standard science education.
In a …paper published August 27, psychologists present a new theory for why neurotic unhappiness and creativity go hand-in-hand. The authors argue that the part of the brain responsible for self-generated thought is highly active in neuroticism, which yields both of the trait's positives (e.g., creativity) and negatives (e.g., misery).
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Forgiving Others Protects Women from Depression, but Not Men

(University of Missouri-Columbia) Forgiveness is a complex process, one often fraught with difficulty and angst.
Now, researchers in the University of Missouri College of Human Environmental Sciences studied how different facets of forgiveness affected aging adults' feelings of depression. The researchers found older women who forgave others were less likely to report depressive symptoms regardless of whether they felt unforgiven by others. Older men, however, reported the highest levels of depression when they both forgave others and felt unforgiven by others. The researchers say their results may help counselors of older adults develop gender-appropriate interventions since men and women process forgiveness differently.
"It doesn't feel good when we perceive that others haven't forgiven us for something," said Christine Proulx, study co-author and an associate professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Science. "When we think about forgiveness and characteristics of people who are forgiving -- altruistic, compassionate, empathetic -- these people forgive others and seem to compensate for the fact that others aren't forgiving them. It sounds like moral superiority, but it's not about being a better person. It's 'I know that this hurts because it's hurting me,' and those people are more likely to forgive others, which appears to help decrease levels of depression, particularly for women."
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A Single Cocaine Dose Lowers Perceptions of Sadness and Anger

(European College of Neuropsychopharmacology) A single dose of cocaine can interfere with the ability to recognise negative emotions, according to new research presented at the ECNP conference in Amsterdam…
As lead researcher, Dr Kim Kuypers (Maastricht University, The Netherlands) said: 'This is the first study to look at the short-term effect of cocaine on emotions. It shows that a single dose of cocaine interferes with a person's ability to recognise negative emotions, such as anger and sadness. This might hinder the ability to interact in social situations, but it may also help explain why cocaine-users report higher levels of sociability when intoxicated -- simply because they can't recognise the negative emotions'.
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Borderline Personality Traits Linked to Lowered Empathy

(University of Georgia) Those with borderline personality disorder, or BPD, a mental illness marked by unstable moods, often experience trouble maintaining interpersonal relationships. New research from the University of Georgia indicates that this may have to do with lowered brain activity in regions important for empathy in individuals with borderline personality traits…
"Our results showed that people with BPD traits had reduced activity in brain regions that support empathy," said the study's lead author Brian Haas, an assistant professor in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences psychology department. "This reduced activation may suggest that people with more BPD traits have a more difficult time understanding and/or predicting how others feel, at least compared to individuals with fewer BPD traits."
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Brain Scans Predict Response to Antipsychotic Medications

(North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System) Investigators at The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research have discovered that brain scans can be used to predict patients' response to antipsychotic drug treatment…
Led by Anil Malhotra, MD, director of psychiatry research at Zucker Hillside Hospital and an investigator at the Feinstein Institute, and Todd Lencz, PhD, associate investigator at the Zucker Hillside Hospital and the Feinstein Institute, researchers used fMRI scans obtained before treatment to predict ultimate response to medications in patients suffering from their first episode of schizophrenia. Connectivity patterns of a region of the brain called the striatum, which tends to be atypical in patients suffering from psychotic disorders, were used to create an index.
This index significantly predicted if psychotic symptoms were decreased in the studies' patients. What's even more significant is that the researchers applied this index to confirm their results in a separate group of patients with more chronic illness -- those who were hospitalized for psychotic symptoms. They found that treatment outcome could be predicted in the replication group as well.
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Pass the kimchee: Why fermented foods are good for you

(Tristaca Curley, Chatelaine) Fermenting foods ­—­ like kefir, kimchee, kombucha and sauerkraut­ —­ is actually an ancient practice used by one-third of the world’s population, even if it seems like a relatively new phenomenon in North American. Research shows that there’s good reason to incorporate these foods into your diet. During fermentation, the probiotics and other healthy micro-organisms that are created help “predigest” the food, making it easier to break down and absorb nutrients.
People who are lactose intolerant, for example, may find that they can eat yogurt or kefir without problem because the bacteria have partially broken down the lactose. Fermentation also improves absorption of many nutrients such as protein, magnesium, the B vitamins and zinc. Research also shows having high amounts of healthy bacteria in our gut can improve brain health and decrease symptoms of depression, anxiety, fatigue and stress.
But beware that most fermented foods you buy in a supermarket, such as pickles and sauerkraut, have been pasteurized and cooked at a high heat, killing most friendly bacteria. So you’ll have to ferment your own foods to retain these health benefits. Luckily, it’s relatively easy to make your own fermented foods — kefir and pickled beets are two of my personal faves to make!
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5 healthy reasons you need to eat more prunes

(Julie Daniluk, R.H.N., Chatelaine) Prunes (or shall we call them dried plums?) have been sold as a popular digestive remedy for decades and work as a laxative in three ways. Prunes contain fibre, a type of alcohol sugar called sorbitol that can loosen the stool and a natural laxative compound called diphenyl isatin.
Beyond the benefits to your digestive tract, and the fact that they offer a sweet hit for only 30 calories, plums and prunes have many other wonderful health properties. Here are just a few:
1. They protect against diseases like cancer…
2. They help prevent type 2 diabetes and obesity…
3. Prunes and plums help to lower cholesterol…
4. Get improved bone health and reduce the risk of osteoporosis…
5. They’re a good source of vitamin K and beta carotene.
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What about that second glass of wine? It may catch up with you as you age.

(Washington Post) There are a number of reasons why drinking is riskier in the elderly. Older people have less muscle mass and less water content, which means more alcohol ends up circulating in the blood. Also, older people metabolize alcohol more slowly, so that its effects last longer. An enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase, or ADH, is needed to begin breaking down alcohol. As the enzyme acts, alcohol’s effects decline. “When we age, starting at around age 50, we start to lose ADH,” says Alexis Kuerbis, a social worker at New York’s Hunter College who specializes in alcohol use disorders in older adults.
(ADH also accounts for the gender difference in alcohol effects. Women, on average, have half the amount of the enzyme as men, according to Kuerbis.)
Altogether, this means that a 60- or 70-year-old can develop a drinking problem even if his or her drinking habits haven’t changed in decades.
And even if you drink less, your older brain will be more sensitive to alcohol, says Sara Nixon, a psychologist who studies aging and alcohol effects at the University of Florida. Nixon finds subtle effects on cognitive abilities among older people who drink moderately…
The Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation offers information about older people and drinking at www.hazeldenbettyford.org.
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Eating Before Bed? Don't!

(Andrew Weil, M.D.) You may remember being warned not to eat just before you swim. But what about not eating just before bed? If you have ever eaten a big meal late in the evening, chances are you have had trouble falling or staying asleep…
Instead of eating large meals later in the evening, eat them earlier in the day, when the body will best use the energy the food provides. And be sure to limit any late-evening eating to small, healthful snacks.
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Could mobile devices raise skin cancer risk?

(Reuters Health) Devices like tablets, smartphones and laptops can reflect ultraviolet light from the sun and may indirectly increase users' exposure to the cancer-causing wavelengths, according to a new study.
“These devices are generally used for communication or entertainment, so it can be easy to overlook their reflective properties unless you happen to catch the glare off a screen,” said Mary E. Logue of the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, who coauthored the research with Dr. Barrett J. Zlotoff.
They wondered whether, like those old-fashioned tanning reflectors, personal electronics could also pose skin health risks, Logue told Reuters Health by email.
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Doctors Save Man's Hand by Attaching It Inside His Stomach

(Inside Edition) Frank Reyes' injuries were so severe that a skin graft was not possible, so doctors placed his hand inside a pocket of tissue in his stomach to give it time to heal and form a new blood supply.
Reyes agreed to the strange surgery at Houston Methodist Hospital and spent three weeks with his left hand surgically tucked into his belly…
Last week, doctors cut his hand free from his belly and patched him up. Reyes hopes for near full use of his hand.
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Research on health effects of fracking faces multiple challenges

(Reuters Health) Several years into the modern “fracking” era in the U.S., there still isn’t enough rigorous research to determine whether or how the practice may threaten human health, according to a recent commentary.
Investigators have begun trying to tease out the long-term effects of this natural gas extraction technology, but answers on whether people who live near fracking sites are at increased risk of disease are likely several more years away, given the complexity of this research - and the fact that many people who have allowed companies to lease their land for fracking have signed confidentiality agreements, says the lead author.
“For the most part, they’re not allowed to talk about any ill effects to themselves, to their water, to their land, even to their animals,” Dr. Madelon Finkel, an epidemiologist at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City, told Reuters Health in an interview. “That in a sense is hampering the ability to do good research.”
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Study: Needle-exchange program leads to big drop in DC HIV infections

(Washington Post) The average monthly rate of new HIV infections among drug users in the nation’s capital dropped by about 70 percent after the District implemented a needle exchange program in 2008, according to a study that was released Thursday.
On average, new HIV cases arising as the result of drug users sharing needles dropped from about 19 new infections per month before needle exchanges became available to fewer than six after the program was implemented, the study’s authors said.
Overall, that amounted to 120 “averted” HIV infections over a two-year period.
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U.S. government to extend healthcare nondiscrimination law to transgender people

(Reuters) The U.S. government said on Thursday it will extend its healthcare nondiscrimination law to transgender individuals and require health insurers and medical providers to treat all patients equally, regardless of sex.
The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, was passed in 2010 and included anti-discrimination provisions to prevent insurers from charging customers more or denying coverage based on age or sex.
That law left some areas open to interpretation and thousands of consumers complain each year about being discriminated against, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said on Thursday.
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CDC: Your heart is probably a lot older than you are

(Washington Post) As a new way of looking at our chances of having a heart attack or stroke, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a sobering nationwide statistic Tuesday on the "age" of your heart, the vital organ that we insist on abusing through smoking, rich food or other excesses.
Because of these factors and others, U.S. men's hearts are an average of 7.8 years older than their chronological ages. Women do a little better, with hearts an average of 5.4 years older than chronological age.
The effort is an attempt to more clearly show the urgency of controlling factors that affect heart health and the ability of individuals to do so…
"You can't turn back the clock in general, but you can turn back the clock on your heart age," CDC director Tom Frieden said at a briefing Tuesday…
To calculate your heart age, go here.
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Extra virgin olive oil linked to lower blood sugar and cholesterol

(Reuters Health) Compared to other kinds of fat, extra virgin olive oil may have healthier effects on levels of blood sugar and bad cholesterol after meals, according to an Italian study.
That may explain why a traditional Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil is linked to lower risk of cardiovascular disease, researchers say.
“Lowering (post-meal) blood glucose and cholesterol may be useful to reduce the negative effects of glucose and cholesterol on the cardiovascular system,” lead study author Francesco Violi, a researcher at Sapienza University in Rome, said by email.
Violi and his colleagues tested the effect of adding extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) to a Mediterranean diet based on fruits, vegetables, grains and fish, with only limited consumption of dairy or red meat.
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Carbonated Drinks Linked With out-of-Hospital Cardiac Arrest

(European Society of Cardiology) Carbonated beverages are associated with out-of-hospital cardiac arrests of cardiac origin, according to results from the All-Japan Utstein Registry… The study in nearly 800,000 patients suggests that limiting consumption of carbonated beverages may be beneficial for health.
"Some epidemiologic studies have shown a positive correlation between the consumption of soft drinks and the incidence of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and stroke, while other reports have demonstrated that the intake of green tea and coffee reduced the risk and mortality of CVD," said principal investigator Professor Keijiro Saku, Dean and professor of cardiology at Fukuoka University in Japan…
"Carbonated beverage consumption was significantly and positively associated with OHCAs [out-of-hospital cardiac arrest] of cardiac origin in Japan, indicating that beverage habits may have an impact on fatal CVD," said Professor Saku. "The acid in carbonated beverages might play an important role in this association."
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Hypertensive Patients Benefit from Acupuncture Treatments, Study Finds

(University of California – Irvine) Patients with hypertension treated with acupuncture experienced drops in their blood pressure that lasted up to a month and a half, researchers with the Susan Samueli Center for Integrative Medicine have found.
Their work is the first to scientifically confirm that this ancient Chinese practice is beneficial in treating mild to moderate hypertension, and it indicates that regular use could help people control their blood pressure and lessen their risk of stroke and heart disease.
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Rapid, More Sensitive Test Speeds Up Chest Pain Triage

(European Society of Cardiology) Patients arriving at the emergency department with chest pain suggestive of acute myocardial infarction (AMI) can be triaged more quickly and more safely using a new rapid assay with refined cut-offs, German research suggests…
"There is an urgent need for fast decision-making for this growing patient population," said principal investigator of the study Dirk Westermann, MD, PhD, from the University Heart Centre Hamburg, and the German Centre for Cardiovascular Research.
"Use of this algorithm in patients with suspected AMI allows for highly accurate and rapid rule-out as well as rule-in, enabling safe discharge or rapid treatment initiation. This rapid algorithm might be applicable to clinical practice without a loss of diagnostic safety."
Community: This is really good news. It took them hours to tell me I didn’t have a heart attack.
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Home-Based Treatment Is Cost-Effective Alternative for Heart Patients

(Griffith University) Post-discharge disease management provided in their own homes could be a cost-effective alternative for recently-hospitalised elderly patients [home-based intervention (HBI)] with chronic heart failure…
[T]his is the finding of a recent economic evaluation conducted by Griffith University using data from a randomised controlled trial (The WHICH Study)…
"A range of methodologies we used have converged on a common conclusion: HBI is likely to be cost-effective if decision makers are willing to pay up to $50,000 per quality-adjusted life year. The net benefit of HBI appeared to be pronounced among the patients with a low level of self-care confidence or with fewer co-existing diseases," says lead study author Dr Shoko Maru from the Menzies Health Institute Queensland…
"Our findings inform the long-term cost-effectiveness of intervention intended for a lifelong disease such as [chronic heart failure]."
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Working lots of overtime? Your risk of stroke may increase, study finds.

(Washington Post) In a meta-analysis of 17 studies that involved approximately 530,000 men and women from Europe, the United States and Australia, researchers from University College London found that the more hours people work, the higher their risk of stroke is.
After controlling for such factors as smoking, alcohol consumption and physical activity, the researchers found that people working between 41 hours and 48 hours had a 10 percent higher risk of stroke than those working a more normal schedule of 35 to 40 hours a week. Those working 49 hours to 54 hours, had a 27 percent higher risk; and those working 55 or more hours, a scary 33 percent greater risk.
“Long working hours are not a negligible occurrence,” Urban Janlert, a researcher from the Umea University in Sweden, wrote in a commentary. Janlert pointed out that in many countries, a high percentage of workers put in more than 50 hours a week — which probably puts them at risk for devastating events such as stroke or conditions including heart disease.
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Knee and hip replacements increase heart attack risk briefly

(Reuters Health) Operations to replace a knee or a hip appear to increase heart attack risk in the short term and the risk of blood clots in the long term, according to a new study.
The heart attack risk falls again over time, but blood clot risk is still elevated years later, the researchers found.
The reason for the elevated risks is unclear at this point, said senior author Yuqing Zhang of Boston University School of Medicine in email to Reuters Health.
Regardless, he said, the findings suggest that the risk of a heart attack in the weeks after total joint replacement surgery “may have been previously underappreciated,” and ways to prevent this serious complication may need to be considered.
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Diabetes drug cuts heart attack, stroke risk in trial

(Reuters) A new diabetes pill from Eli Lilly and Co and Boehringer Ingelheim cut risk of heart attack, stroke and death in a closely watched study, the first glucose-lowering drug to show such protective results in a large cardiovascular trial, the drugmakers said on Thursday.
Besides burnishing the image of the year-old drug, Jardiance, the results could raise the profile of rival new drugs in the same class of medicines called SGLT2 inhibitors, such as Johnson & Johnson's Invokana and AstraZeneca Plc's Farxiga…
Significantly fewer cardiac deaths, non-fatal heart attacks or non-fatal strokes were seen in patients who took Jaridance in combination with standard treatments, compared with patients who took standard treatments alone, meeting the trial's primary goal.
Standard treatments included statins and blood pressure drugs. Patients were followed an average of 3.1 years.
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Pollution and Weather Influence Outcomes After Heart Attack

(European Society of Cardiology) Pollution and weather influence outcomes after a heart attack, according to research…
"Weather changes like rain or heat affect our daily activity and even our productivity at work," said [Aneta Cislak, research fellow in the Silesian Centre for Heart Diseases, Medical University of Silesia in Zabrze, Poland]. "Since this influence is so noticeable we were interested to see if weather has any connection with cardiovascular diseases including acute coronary syndromes. Moreover, air pollution affects our health, especially in highly industrialised areas. We performed our research in Silesia, the most urbanised and industrialised region in Poland."…
She added: "This was a small observational study and our analysis was univariate so we cannot rule out the possibility that the associations were caused by the co-existence of other factors. Multivariate analysis is needed to confirm our observations. Possible mechanisms for our observations are various. They may include seasonal growth of death rates reported in the general population in Poland. Also the negative influence of air pollutants on the cardiovascular system could be explained by their connection with inflammation, affecting the respiratory system and as an effect impaired oxygenation. There is no doubt that the analysed factors may potentiate or diminish each other's effects e.g wind purifies the air by blowing pollutants or lower temperature causes more intensive home heating and combustion products emission."
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Common ‘heart Attack’ Blood Test May Predict Future Hypertension

(Johns Hopkins Medicine) Analysis of blood samples from more than 5,000 people suggests that a more sensitive version of a blood test long used to verify heart muscle damage from heart attacks could also identify people on their way to developing hypertension well before the so-called silent killer shows up on a blood pressure machine.
Results of the federally funded study, led by Johns Hopkins investigators, found that people with subtle elevations in cardiac troponin T -- at levels well below the ranges detectable on the standard version of this "heart attack" test -- were more likely to be diagnosed with hypertension within a few years. The study also shows the test could identify those at risk for left ventricular hypertrophy, an abnormal thickening of the lower left chamber of the heart, a common consequence of untreated high blood pressure.
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Entresto for Hypertension? Yes!

(MedPage Today) Valsartan/sacubitril, formerly known as LCZ696 -- but now bearing the brand name Entresto since it won FDA approval for heart failure -- may also be a potent treatment for isolated systolic hypertension, the number one driver of stroke, researchers said here.
Bryan Williams, MD, the study's principal investigator, and chair of medicine at University College London, said the findings from the 454-patient PARAMETER study suggest that "this drug may prove to be extremely useful in treating hypertension."…
Williams said an especially encouraging finding from PARAMETER was that a single dose of the drug in the morning -- it is given twice daily for heart failure -- provided 24-hour blood pressure reduction. He said this nighttime effect suggested the drug may also be beneficial for patients whose blood pressure does not "dip" while sleeping, a symptom that increases risk of stroke.
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New Approach to Tackling Uncontrolled High Blood Pressure Shows Significant Results

(Queen Mary, University of London) Scientists from Queen Mary University of London and Barts Health NHS Trust have successfully improved blood pressure control among patients with severe intolerance to antihypertensive medication -- by using medicines in unconventional ways and treating patients with a 'stepped care' approach (where the most effective yet least intensive treatment is delivered to patients first).
The study … devised a novel treatment strategy for 55 patients, involving fractional dosing with tablets (halving or quartering pills), liquid formulations of antihypertensive drugs and patch formulations of antihypertensive drugs -- plus use of unlicensed drugs that lower blood pressure.
Blood pressure was significantly reduced among patients after just six months on the novel treatment strategy, and the results were sustained. Significantly, the patients experienced no debilitating side effects.
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Bayer heart failure drug cuts deaths in mid-stage trial

(Reuters) Bayer will move a heart failure drug into final-stage testing this year, boosting its ambitions in cardiovascular treatments after the experimental medicine showed a "striking" reduction in deaths in a mid-stage trial…
Finerenone, which is still several years from reaching the market, is an improved version of a troublesome class of heart drugs called mineralocorticoid receptor antagonists (MRAs).
Existing MRAs spironolactone and eplerenone, branded as Inspra by Pfizer, are unsuitable for many patients since they can cause abnormally high levels of potassium in the
blood, leading to irregular heart beat or even cardiac arrest.
The two older medicines, whose patents have expired, are also linked to kidney problems.
Bayer's pill, however, works in a different way and appears to avoid these issues, so cardiologists are watching its development closely.
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Leadless Pacemaker Results Promising at 6 Months

(MedPage Today) A leadless pacemaker implanted transfemorally in the heart's right ventricle appeared to function well in the majority of patients over its first 6 months of use, researchers reported…
Overall, 504 out of 526 (95.8%) patients had the devices implanted successfully, [Vivek Reddy, MD, of Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City] reported…
"The leadless cardiac pacemaker met prespecified pacing and sensing requirements in the large majority of patients," Reddy's group wrote. "Device-related serious adverse events occurred in approximately 1 in 15 patients."
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Statin Side Effects Linked to Off-Target Reaction in Muscle Mitochondria

(Cell Press) Statins are a popular and easy-to-swallow option for people looking to lower their cholesterol. But for a quarter of patients, statins come with muscle pain, stiffness, cramps, or weakness without any clear signs of muscle damage. These symptoms may affect daily activities so much that people stop using the drugs. In [an article], Dutch researchers show, in mice and humans, that statins yield an off-target reaction that disrupts muscle mitochondria function, possibly causing the side effects.
"Adverse drug effects, like those of statins and many other drugs, have been linked to mitochondria--the cell's powerhouses--though the exact mechanisms are often unknown," says co-senior study author Frans Russel of the Nijmegen Center for Mitochondrial Disorders at the Radboud University Medical Center in the Netherlands. "This research leads to several opportunities to synthesize new classes of cholesterol-lowering drugs without the unwanted muscle effects, as well as the development of new avenues to counteract these effects, both of which we are currently investigating."
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Deaf mice cured with gene therapy

(Reuters) In a laboratory at Boston Children's Hospital a cure for genetic deafness is taking shape. Lead researcher Jeff Holt says that if all goes as planned, children of the future who lose their ability to hear due to genetic mutation will never go deaf.
Holt and his fellow researchers are attacking the problem at its source. They are using engineered viruses to repair damaged genes that make up parts of the inner ear…
Holt says there at least 70 different mutations that cause one in one thousand people [to] go deaf in adolescence. He says this gene therapy platform could potentially lead to treatment for all of them, ensuring that in the future, no child ever loses their ability to hear due to genetic mutation.
Community: There may also soon be an effective gene therapy to improve hearing in older adults.
Also, there are a number of practical ways to reduce the risk of hearing loss.
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New Technology Transforms Cell Phone Into High-Powered Microscope

(Texas A&M) New technology that transforms a cell phone into a powerful, mobile microscope could significantly improve malaria diagnoses and treatment in developing countries that often lack the resources to address the life-threatening disease, says a Texas A&M University biomedical engineer who has created the tool.
The add-on device, which is similar in look and feel to a protective phone case, makes use of a smart phone's camera features to produce high-resolution images of objects 10 times smaller than the thickness of a human hair, says Gerard Coté, professor of biomedical engineering and director of the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station's Center for Remote Health Technologies and Systems. Coté's development of the instrument, known as a mobile-optical-polarization imaging device (MOPID), is detailed in [a report].
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ACP Opposes 'Mass Deportation' Proposals on Health Grounds

(MedPage Today) The American College of Physicians (ACP) kicked another political hornets' nest Tuesday, urging physicians to make public statements opposing the deportation of all undocumented immigrants, which has been advocated by a number of Republican presidential candidates…
It cited the adverse health impacts on those immigrants as well as on the U.S. public in general, noting that a crackdown could discourage undocumented residents from seeking medical treatment for transmissible diseases. The ACP pointed to proposed legislation in some states would require physicians to report patients' illegal immigration status to the authorities.
ACP president Wayne J. Riley, MD, MPH, MBA, said in the statement, "Largely missing from the debate over immigration policies has been consideration of the potentially grave impact that large-scale deportation would have on the health of those directly affected, their families, their communities, and on overall U.S. public health.
"Large-scale deportation of undocumented residents would have severe and unacceptable adverse health consequences for many millions of vulnerable people. Numerous studies show that deportation itself, as well as the fear of being deported, causes emotional distress, depression, trauma associated with imposed family separations, and distrust of anyone assumed to be associated with federal, state and local government, including physicians and other health care professionals providing care in publicly-funded hospitals and clinics."
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Not getting enough sleep can make you sick

(CBS News) If you're one of the millions of Americans who's chronically sleep deprived, a new study may give you a little more motivation to get your zzzzz's.
Researchers found that people who slept less than six hours a night were over four times more likely to catch a cold than those who got more than seven hours of sleep…
The study authors took other factors into account including age, race and smoking status, among others.
"Short sleep was more important than any other factor in predicting subjects' likelihood of catching cold," [said  lead study author Aric Prather of UCSF's department of psychiatry] in a statement. "It didn't matter how old people were, their stress levels, their race, education or income. It didn't matter if they were a smoker. With all those things taken into account, statistically sleep still carried the day."…
The researchers said this new study is just one more piece of evidence that sleep, just like diet and exercise, is a crucial part of public health -- and attitudes toward it need to change.
"Sleep often takes a back seat to other health behaviors in terms of attention and investment," Prather said. "This shouldn't be the case."
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Are naps good or bad for you?

(WHIO) A Cambridge study found those who regularly napped for more than an hour had a 32 percent greater risk of dying, with longer naps being tied most to respiratory disease.
On the other hand, new research presented at a European Society of Cardiology conference found naps may actually save your life.
Midday sleepers' blood pressures were roughly 5 percent lower than those who didn't nap. And while that might not seem like much, the lead researcher noted previous studies have found drops in blood pressure half that amount still reduce the risk of cardiovascular problems by as much as 10 percent.
Interestingly, the longer participants napped, the more their blood pressure dropped. Those who slept more than an hour benefited the most.
But experts say if you want to feel alert, shorter naps are better.
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Easy exercises to help stop snoring

(Consumer Reports) Nearly a quarter of women and some 40 percent of men are habitual snorers. The reason for sawing logs is well known: soft tissue in the throat partially blocks the airway, and air flow causes this soft tissue to vibrate, producing the telltale noise.
How to stop snoring is less clear. Oral appliances, nasal strips, lifestyle changes (such as weight loss and not drinking alcohol), and adjustments to sleeping positions are all recommended treatments.
But researchers in Brazil found that when volunteers performed mouth “strength training” moves for three months it reduced the frequency of snoring by 36 percent and the intensity of snores by 59 percent. In contrast, a group who wore nasal-dilator strips to sleep saw minimal improvement, as measured by sleep studies and reports by their bed partners.
The short exercise routine, performed three times a day, includes moves that the researchers say can be done while commuting or after brushing teeth. Here are four exercises to try.
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Use This Sleep Position for Back Pain

(Sharecare) If you've got a testy lower back, here's something you can do in your sleep that might help: Sleep on your side.
Health experts say that this position puts less strain on your spine than sleeping on your back or your stomach does…
Keep your spine feeling fine with these other back tips as well:
·         Get a buff backside. Try these five tricks for a strong and resilient back.
·         Sit strong in front of the TV.
Community: And, as we’ve seen, sleeping on your side may help clear waste products from the brain.
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A Natural Sleep Aid

(Andrew Weil, M.D.) If getting enough deep, restful sleep has become more of a dream than reality, consider Valerian (Valeriana officinalis). This herb is a safe and effective sleep aid, and can help relieve insomnia. It is available in tincture, extract, or capsule form - use one teaspoon of the tincture in a quarter cup of water, or take one or two capsules at bedtime. Look for valerian products standardized to one percent valerenic acid.
When used appropriately, valerian has no known side effects, but it is best used only on an occasional basis to maintain its efficacy.
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Videos from Sharecare about Sleep

How Much Sleep Do I Need?
Getting enough sleep is a basic need of the body. In this video, Dr. Oz and Dr. Carol Ash discuss what can happen to the body if it doesn't get enough sleep.
Keep a Daily Routine for Better Sleep
Your daily routine has a big impact on how well you sleep. In this Health Smarts video, Robin Miller, MD, explains how sticking to a set schedule can help you fall asleep faster avoid and insomnia.
To Sleep Better, Turn on the Light
If you want to sleep better tonight, spend time outside this morning. In this Health Smarts video, Robin Miller, MD, explains how exposure to blue light first thing in the morning may be the key to a good night'ssleep.
How Can I Get to Sleep After a Really Stressful Day?
You can't "will" yourself to sleep, says Michael Timothy Smith, MA, PhD, director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at Johns Hopkins University. In this HealthMakers video, he discusses the importance of "winding down."
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Researchers Identify Potential Sleep-Related Treatment Targets for Fibromyalgia

(American Physiological Society) Fibromyalgia is characterized by chronic pain from no clear source. Patients with fibromyalgia frequently have sleep problems: Their deep sleep brain wave patterns are often disrupted by brain waves that correspond to wakefulness. Previous studies have suggested that these irregular wave patterns worsen and may cause the pain.
In a new study…, researchers constructed a computational model that recreated the sleep patterns observed in patients with fibromyalgia to understand how the abnormal patterns arose…
According to the researchers, drugs acting on one of [two] targets in the thalamus, a region in the brain that regulates sleep, might be enough to prevent disrupted sleep and its related adverse effects and provide relief to patients with fibromyalgia. In addition, "since no animal models of fibromyalgia exist, our model provides a much-needed tool for understanding what makes current fibromyalgia drugs efficacious and for finding more effective drugs," the researchers wrote.
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Scientists Find What Controls Waking Up and Going to Sleep

(Northwestern University) Fifteen years ago, an odd mutant fruit fly caught the attention and curiosity of Dr. Ravi Allada, a circadian rhythms expert at Northwestern University, leading the neuroscientist to recently discover how an animal’s biological clock wakes it up in the morning and puts it to sleep at night. 
The clock’s mechanism, it turns out, is much like a light switch. In a study of brain circadian neurons that govern the daily sleep-wake cycle’s timing, Allada and his research team found that high sodium channel activity in these neurons during the day turn the cells on and ultimately awaken an animal, and high potassium channel activity at night turn them off, allowing the animal to sleep. Investigating further, the researchers were surprised to discover the same sleep-wake switch in both flies and mice.
“This suggests the underlying mechanism controlling our sleep-wake cycle is ancient,” said Allada…
Better understanding of this mechanism could lead to new drug targets to address sleep-wake trouble related to jet lag, shift work and other clock-induced problems. Eventually, it might be possible to reset a person’s internal clock to suit his or her situation.
Read more.                        
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The Latest from The People’s Pharmacy

How Hot Peppers Can Improve your Health and Extend Your Life
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Fennel Seeds Help Overcome Heartburn Drug Withdrawal
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Stopping Lyrica Suddenly Can Trigger Withdrawal Symptoms
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New FDA Warning About Januvia Joint Pain Side Effect
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Home Tests for High Cholesterol or High Blood Sugar
Patients curious about how well their cholesterol-control regimens are working could use home tests for high cholesterol to monitor their progress.
Community: At Osco Drug, they can take your blood sample and give you a reading within minutes.
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Trial Eases Worries About NSAID Risks

(MedPage Today) Among older patients with no history of heart disease, extended treatment with NSAIDs did not increase the risk of heart attack or stroke, researchers said…
Moreover, the actual event rate was "much, much lower" than the rate anticipated by researchers when they designed the trial -- so much lower that they lost industry support when it became apparent that there would be no difference in outcome between patients assigned to a nonselective NSAID (ibuprofen or diclofenac) or celecoxib (Celebrex), the selective cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) inhibitor, said Thomas M. MacDonald, MD, of the University of Dundee in Scotland.
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Deadly fake Viagra: Online pharmacies suspected of selling counterfeit drugs

(CNN) "Buy real Viagra here, for a fraction of the price! Free Shipping included! All without a prescription!" shout the online headlines. A quick Google search brings up a plethora of enticing choices for any consumer looking for a deal on one of the world's most popular prescription medications.
Need beta blockers to bring down your blood pressure? Cholesterol lowering agents? Antibiotics? You name it, you can find it on the Internet. All the popular brand-name drugs are readily available online at discounted prices, and often without a valid prescription.
Many online retailers say they can cut through the red tape that ties up more traditional brick and mortar pharmacies and pass on a substantial savings to the customer in the process.
But before you pop that discounted capsule or tablet in your mouth, you might want to consider the real price of such pills. Chances are, if an Internet pharmacy deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
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Imitating Viruses to Deliver Drugs to Cells

(CNRS) Viruses are able to redirect the functioning of cells in order to infect them. Inspired by their mode of action, scientists from the CNRS and Université de Strasbourg have designed a "chemical virus" that can cross the double lipid layer that surrounds cells, and then disintegrate in the intracellular medium in order to release active compounds. To achieve this, the team used two polymers they had designed, which notably can self-assemble or dissociate, depending on the conditions…
The in vitro results are encouraging, particularly since this "chemical virus" only becomes toxic at a dose ten times higher than that used during the study. Furthermore, preliminary results in the mouse have not revealed any excess mortality. However, elimination by the body of the two polymers remains an open question. The next stage will consist in testing this method in-depth and in vivo, in animals.
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Paralyzed Men Gain Movement Without Surgery

(NIH Research Matters) [S]cientists ... tested a nonsurgical strategy for stimulating the spinal cord. Called transcutaneous stimulation, the method delivers electrical current to the spinal cord via electrodes strategically placed on the skin over the spine…
During the final 4 weeks, the men received twice-daily doses of buspirone. This drug has been shown to induce mobility in mice with spinal cord injuries…
The researchers recorded electrical signals of the men’s calf muscles while they attempted to flex their feet during stimulation. Over time, the signals increased with the same amount of stimulation, suggesting a re-establishment of communication between the brain and spinal cord.
“It’s as if we’ve reawakened some networks so that once the individuals learned how to use those networks, they become less dependent and even independent of the stimulation,” [Dr. V. Reggie] Edgerton says.
Although the movements achieved in this study aren’t comparable to walking, the results represent progress toward a potential therapy for spinal cord injury.
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Asterias's stem cell therapy shows promise in study

(Reuters) Asterias Biotherapeutics Inc said initial data from a small study showed that its lead stem cell therapy could improve mobility in patients paralyzed by a spinal cord injury.
The therapy, AST OPC-1, is the first product derived from human embryos to be tested on humans.
Its success is a key step toward proving that embryonic stem cell research could cure diseases such as cancer, Parkinson's and serious health conditions such immune deficiencies, stroke and spinal injuries.
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