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Updated: 1 hour 4 min ago

A glance back: the Framingham Heart Study

Tue, 2018-07-31 17:19

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the landmark FrFramingham physiciansamingham Heart Study. It is named for the town of Framingham, MA from which the original cohort (there are now six groups of participants) of 5,209 men and women were recruited.

Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States, and it achieved that rank by the 1940s. But for many at the time, it was considered unavoidable consequence of getting older. Fortunately, in 1948, President Harry Truman signed into law the ‘National Heart Act’ which did two things:

  1. Established the National Heart Institute, better known today at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI)
  2. Allocated funds for a twenty-year epidemiological heart study

Its milestones over the years have been significant and numerous – here are just a few:

  • In 1967, it was discovered that physical activity reduced the risk of heart disease
  • In 1988, HDL or “good” cholesterol was found to reduce risk of death
  • In 2002, obesity was determined as a risk factor for heart failure

To learn more, you can read a history published in 2014 that details its origins and contributions, including the fact that this study was closely linked to the health of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

To celebrate the anniversary, Daniel Levy, M.D., Director, Framingham Heart Study, and Chief of the Population Sciences Branch, NHLBI, gave a recorded talk earlier this year.

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Photo Credit: “Framingham Heart Study physicians” by NIH History Office via The Commons (Flickr)

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Could Your Favorite Snack be Causing Manic Episodes?

Thu, 2018-07-26 18:07

hot dogs

Baseball season is in full swing and ballparks across the country are serving up a classic ballpark favorite – hot dogs.  In fact, it is estimated that baseball fans alone will con

sume nearly 19 million hot dogs in 2018.  Could they be getting more than they bargain for with this ballpark food choice?

A recent John Hopkins Medicine study collected data between 2007 and 2017 from 1,101 people with and without psychiatric disorders.   Their study found that those who had been hospitalized for mania were more than three times as likely to have had a history of eating cured meat as those without a psychiatric disorder.

Although hot dogs are nitrate-curated, they aren’t the only food item that falls into this category.  Beej jerky, salami, and other processed meats are also included.  Curating meats with nitrates is not a new process and neither are its associated health issues.  In the past, curated meats have been linked to colorectal cancer and neurodegenerative diseases.

While the study did not address cause and effect, it could have an impact on future interventions, according to lead author Robert Yolken, M.D., the Theodore and Vada Stanley Distinguished Professor of Neurovirology in Pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.  “Future work on this association could lead to dietary interventions to help reduce the risk of manic episodes in those who have bipolar disorder or who are otherwise vulnerable to mania.”

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Psychedelic Drugs and Mental Health

Tue, 2018-07-24 16:46

Two women grievingIf you were to ask someone what they know about the effects of LSD or MDMA, their response would not likely include reduction of depression and anxiety. However, if you were to ask that same question to a team of scientists at the University of California, Davis, they might give you a “maybe!”

This UC Davis team is exploring the impact that psychedelic drugs have on the brain, specifically the structure and function of neurons. Findings suggest that changes caused by these drugs can repair the circuits that are malfunctioning in mood and anxiety disorders.

“People have long assumed that psychedelics are capable of altering neuronal structure, but this is the first study that clearly and unambiguously supports that hypothesis,” said David Olson who is leading the research team.

These discoveries could potentially create new methods for treating mood and anxiety disorders that are safer and act faster.

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Free Crisis Counseling Available for Harvey Survivors

Thu, 2018-07-19 11:04
Coffee Shop Picture

“Coffee Shop” by Raw Pixel via Unsplash, May 14, 2018, CCO.

Living through a traumatic event such as a hurricane can result in damage to structures, belongings, and even your mental health.  Studies after Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy examined the mental impact of experiencing a natural disaster traumatic event.  In addition to short term distress, some survivors even experience Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

PTSD is a mental illness that can cause sufferers to have difficulty sleeping, angry outburst, uncontrollable feelings of guilt or sadness, and possibly even suffer flashbacks.  Although initial studies on PTSD focused on soldiers experiencing war, more recently it has been accepted that any trauma (sexual assault, physical abuse, natural disasters, etc) can result in PTSD.

Common reactions to disaster can include:

  • Intense or unpredictable feelings.
  • Changes to thoughts and behavior patterns.
  • Sensitivity to environmental factors.
  • Strained interpersonal relationships.
  • Stress-related physical symptoms.

Texans Recovering Together provides crisis counseling and referrals to hurricane survivors who might be experiencing some of these common reactions.  Their services are free and confidential.  If a client is not comfortable meeting in an office or has transportation issues, their providers can do home visits or meet in a community setting.

The Counties covered under this program and additional disaster behavioral health resources can be found at  For further information on Hurricane Harvey and Texas recovery, visit the Hurricane Harvey disaster web page at, Facebook at, the FEMA Region 6 Twitter account at or the Texas Division of Emergency Management website at

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New Study Reveals Risks of Catheters

Tue, 2018-07-17 10:57

“Bladder.” via MedlinePlus, June 28, 2018, Public Domain.

A recent study found that over 50% of patients who had been catheterized reported complications from indwelling catheters.  This statistical evidence confirms that anecdotal evidence that patients have shared with hospital staff, friends, and family members for years.

A urinary catheter is used to drain the bladder when the body is unable to do so naturally.  It consists of a small tube inserted into the body.  There are 3 main types of catheters:  Indwelling, condom, and intermittent.  This study focused on indwelling catheters which are left in the bladder for a period of time.

Catheters are typically used for the following health situations:

Although catheters are often deemed medically necessary, one of the study’s authors warns against using them too often or for too long.  “”Our findings underscore the importance of avoiding an indwelling urinary catheter unless it is absolutely necessary and removing it as soon as possible,” said Dr. Sanjay Saint.

The study found increased risk of infection, negative impact on activities of daily living, and other complications such as ongoing pain and discomfort.  Learn more about the findings and recommendations for improvement by reading the entire article.

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Does the Body Produce an Anti-Inflammatory Naturally?

Thu, 2018-07-12 09:56
Picture of Dietary Fats

“Dietary Fats” via MedlinePlus, March 22, 2018, Public Domain.

Researchers from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have found a lipid naturally produced by the body is capable of reducing inflammation caused by a specific bacteria and virus.

The bacteria being studied is Francisella tularensis (tularemia), a life-threatening disease that can be difficult to diagnose.  It is typically spread to humans through the bite of a tick, mosquito, or deer fly.  Once a diagnosis is confirmed, the disease can be successfully treated with antibiotics.

Dengue fever is spread by mosquitoes.  It is not life threatening like tularemia but there is not a specific method of treatment for it.  Symptoms include severe headache and general body pain.

Both tularemia and dengue fever have a component of inflammation that scientists believe could be reduced by phosphatidylethanoloamine (PE) which is a lipid.  A lipid, or fat, is a nutrient that provides the body with energy and assists with vitamin absorption.   This reduction in inflammation has already been proved in cell-culture experiments.

To learn more about the study and findings, read the entire NIH press release.

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Battling the Summer Heat can Result in Health Issues

Tue, 2018-07-10 10:55
Photo of Kid

“Cao Lãnh, Vietnam.” by Mi Pham via Unsplash, March 17, 2017, CCO.

It’s July and that means high temperatures and oppressive humidity for a good portion of our country.  The temperature can be uncomfortable, but it can also be downright risky to your health!

Sweat is your body’s way of cooling itself but in high temperature with added humidity, sometimes this mechanism isn’t effective enough.  Illnesses related to heat include stroke, exhaustion, cramps, and skin rash.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have some great recommendations to avoid heat-related illnesses.

  • Stay Cool! Wear appropriate clothing and apply sunscreen.  Be cautious when scheduling outdoor activities and make sure to pace yourself when you are active.  Stay indoors or take often breaks inside a cool structure.
  • Stay Hydrated! Drink plenty of fluids and replace nutrients that your body sweats out.
  • Stay Informed! Pay attention to health/weather alerts and know the signs of heat related illness.

While you may not be able to beat the heat, you can certainly make sure the heat doesn’t beat you!

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NIH Study Finds Drug Therapy Could Restore Hearing

Thu, 2018-07-05 13:30

“Image of Cell Scans from Mouse Inner Ear” via, June 28, 2018, Public Domain.

Testing on mice has shown that partial hearing can be restored using drug therapy.  Researchers at the National Institutes of Health and the University of Iowa have been studying a molecular mechanism that underlies a form of deafness named DFNA27.  Their findings suggest that a new treatment option might be available for people who are impacted by deafness.

Chief of the Laboratory of Human Molecular Genetics at the National Institute of Deafness and other Communication Disorders, and a coauthor of the study, Thomas B. Friedman, Ph.D said,  “We were able to partially restore hearing, especially at lower frequencies, and save some sensory hair cells.”  He went on to add, “If additional studies show that small-molecule-based drugs are effective in treating DFNA27 deafness in people, it’s possible that using similar approaches might work for other inherited forms of progressive hearing loss.”

This is welcome news for the nearly 50 million Americans who suffer from some form of hearing loss.  According to the CDC, hearing loss is the third most common chronic physical condition and is twice as prevalent as diabetes or cancer.

Read the entire press release to find out the specifics of the study.

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UAMS Device Studies Fetal Health After Opioid Exposure

Tue, 2018-07-03 11:53

“Expecting 1.” by Jordan Bauer via Unsplash, November 7, 2017, CCO.

The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) has developed a biomagnetic technique that can assess the health of a fetus in the third-trimester.  Specifically, it looks at the brain and heart heath of fetuses who have been exposes to opioids.

A recent pilot study compared a group of women who had been exposed to an opioid versus a group of women who had not been exposed.  Researchers acquired the data noninvasively by using the SARA (SQUID-Array for Reproductive Assessment) device developed by UAMS researchers.

Two of the doctors involved in the study feel the ability to assess fetus health without invasive measures might have the potential to change standard of care in the future.  “A biomagnetic device such as SARA could help to understand the impact of buprenorphine on the clinical care of pregnant women with opioid use disorder as well as care of their exposed children,” Diana Escalona-Vargas, PH.D. said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that babies born with health issues due to opioid exposure has increased substantially over a 15-year stretch.  Dr. Jessica Coker added, “For pregnant women, studies like these can help us identify babies who may be at higher risk for negative outcomes such as neonatal abstinence syndrome.”

To learn more about the impact opioids can have on fetal health and treatment options, visit the National Institute on Drug Abuse website.

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Can Probiotics be Beneficial for Bipolar Disorder Mania?

Thu, 2018-06-28 11:50

“Bipolar Disorder” via MedlinePlus, April 3, 2018, Public Domain..

Bipolar Disorder is a mental illness that causes those that have it to experience unusual mood changes.  An individual will bounce between manic phases in which they feel happy and active to depression phases where they feel sad and hopeless.

With growing evidence pointing toward gut health and inflammation playing a role in a variety of health conditions, researchers at John Hopkins University School of Medicine launched an interesting study.  The study was designed to determine if probiotics could help discharged patients avoid rehospitalization

The findings of the JHU study showed that those treated with probiotics were rehospitalized significantly less than those in the placebo group.  Those that did require rehospitalization required substantially less time in the hospital than those in the placebo group.  Although the results could change future treatment options the data is new and the sample size was small.

Read the entire study here.

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Strength Training Can Help Fight Bone Loss

Wed, 2018-06-27 14:51
Photo of Shoes and Kettle Ball

Photo by Maria Fernanda Gonzalez on Unsplash

According to a recent article in Harvard Health, people tend to lose bone mass at a rate of 1% per year after age 40. This can result in osteoporosis, with even simple activities such as bending over to tie a shoelace becoming a potential risk for a fracture.

Unfortunately, at least in my networks, aerobic exercise, let alone strength training, is often talked about as more of a lifestyle option rather than necessary for health. But both are important for delaying bone loss and improving bone health.

The 2008 Physical Health Guidelines for Americans recommends one of the following aerobic for substantial health benefits:

  • 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) each week of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity (such as brisk walking or gardening)
  • 75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) each week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity (such as jogging or swimming laps)
  • An equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity

Additionally, they also recommend muscle strengthening exercises using weights or bands two or more times a week.

However, a study done by National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion researchers in 2008 found that only a third of older adults (defined as greater or equal to 65) actually meet these guidelines and less than a sixth (14.1%) met muscle-strengthening guidelines.

While habits are harder to form the older one gets, it’s never too late (or early to start). The National Institute on Aging at NIH designed a physical activity campaign called Go4Life. It’s divided into three phases:

  • Get Ready – becoming motivated and learning about the importance of exercise and diet
  • Get Set – figuring out where to start or restart your exercise program by setting goals and planning
  • Go! – tracking your activities and building it into your daily life (e.g. signing up for weekly coaching tips via text)

Exercises are divided into four types (Endurance, Strength, Balance, and Flexibility) and participants are encouraged to integrate all four into their routine. The website provides instructions on how to complete these activities, downloadable templates for tracking progress, and both educational and motivational materials you can order for free.

Always consult a doctor before starting a new exercise program. Learn more and get started at

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World Health Organization Releases ICD-11

Tue, 2018-06-26 08:42
Medical Photo

“Picture.” by RawPixels via Unsplash, March 18, 2018, CCO.

The World Health Organization has released the newest version of the International Classification of Diseases, ICD-11.  The ICD tracks health trends and statistics globally.  The nearly 55,000 unique codes identify injuries, diseases, symptoms, and causes of death.  These codes are the common language that health care professionals use to share information worldwide.

This new version of ICD has been in progress for several years and involved a large team of contributors.  Due to the scope of the project, it will not start being used until 2022.  This will allow time for users to familiarize themselves with the new product and prepare for implementation.

One new feature that is being touted as user friendly is a fully electronic version of the product which is a first for ICD.  There are also new chapters that include traditional medicine and sexual health.  The sexual health chapter is most notable for reclassifying transgender so that is no longer a mental health condition.  Another well publicized addition to ICD-11 is gaming disorder is now listed as an addictive disorder.

WHO’s Assistant Director-General for Health Metrics and Measurement, Dr Lubna Alansari, says: “ICD is a cornerstone of health information and ICD-11 will deliver an up-to-date view of the patterns of disease.”

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