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Apr 4

By Maureen Salamon, HealthDay ReporterTHURSDAY, Oct. 27, 2011 (HealthDay News) — While smoking has long been linked to cancer, its frequent companion, drinking, may be as well, a new study suggests. Research also found extra pounds, black tea and fruit might all shield against the disease.

Three new studies presented at a medical meeting this week find a link between heavy boozing and a rise in risk for the number one cancer killer.

On the other hand, studies also suggest that heavier people are less likely to develop lung cancer than smaller folk, and black tea might help ward of the disease, as well.

The findings were to be presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Chest Physicians, Oct. 22-26, in Honolulu.

More Americans die from lung cancer than any other form, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In 2007, the most recent year for which statistics are available, more than 203,000 people in the United States were diagnosed with lung cancer, and nearly 159,000 died.

In one study presented at the meeting, Dr. Stanton Siu and colleagues at Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, Calif., looked at the diets and lifestyles of more than 126,000 people first surveyed between 1978 and 1985. They then tracked their incidence of lung cancer through 2008.

The team found that having more than three alcoholic drinks per day upped lung cancer risk, with a slightly higher risk ascribed to beer consumption versus wine or liquor. Specifically, compared to teetotalers, people who had three or more drinks daily were 30 percent more likely to develop lung cancer, with a 70 percent rise in risk if the drink of preference was beer.

One expert stressed, however, that it’s tough to tease out drinking from another, even more carcinogenic habit, smoking, since the two often go together.

“Smoking remains an overwhelming factor, but . . . heavy drinking, whether it’s the alcohol itself, or that heavy drinking is a surrogate for hanging out in smoky bars and getting more smoke, I don’t know,” said Dr. Norman Edelman, chief medical officer of the American Lung Association, who was not involved in any of the studies.

In another intriguing finding from the study, a higher body mass index (BMI), which indicates overweight or obesity, was linked to a reduction in the odds for lung malignancies.

The finding may not mean that packing on extra pounds insulates one against lung cancer, however. Edelman noted that being overweight or obese is typically associated with poorer health, while “people who are sick weigh little,” he said. So, the results may just mean that the heavier study participants haven’t suffered the ill effects of their lifestyle — yet.

In a separate study also slated for presentation at the meeting, researchers from the Czech Republic found that among non-smoking women, regular black tea consumption appeared to lower lung cancer risk by about 31 percent, and higher amounts of fruit in the diet was also linked to lowered lung cancer risk for both genders.

Edelman and Dr. Mark Rosen, chief of the division of pulmonary/critical care and sleep medicine at the North Shore-LIJ Health System in New Hyde Park, N.Y., cautioned that all of the study results need to be replicated before being taken seriously.

“They show some interesting associations, but that doesn’t mean they’re necessarily factual,” Rosen said. “If you put a lot of data into a computer, you’re going to find some things come out [linked] just by chance. Associations are interesting, but they all require further studies.”

Experts also note that research presented at scientific meetings is considered preliminary and has not been peer-reviewed.

New research suggests that drinking soda, especially diet soda, is associated with an increased risk of depression.
WEDNESDAY, Jan. 9, 2013 — Just under half of all Americans reported drinking at least one glass of soda per day, while two-thirds said they drink at least one cup of coffee daily, according to a 2012 Gallup poll. Despite popular opinion about soda and weight gain, the same poll found that frequent soda drinkers do not weigh more than non-soda drinkers.

But health experts still say that even one glass of soda a day is too much, as it has been linked to a variety of health problems, including a relatively new one, clinical depression.

Preliminary data from a National Institutes of Health report that will be released in March at the American Academy of Neurology’s 65th Annual Meeting in San Diego show that regular soda drinkers, particularly those who drink diet soda, are more likely to be diagnosed with depression. The data showed that coffee drinkers, on the other hand, have a slightly lower risk of a depression diagnosis.

The researchers do not say that soda causes depression — they did not determine whether people who are likely to become depressed are also simply more likely to drink soda in the first place, and the study did not control for all relevant factors, such as socioeconomic status. What they did find was that people who drank more than four cans or cups of soda per day were 30 percent more likely to develop depression over the course of the 10-year study than people who drank no soda. Fruit punch drinkers were 38 percent more likely to develop depression than those who did not drink sweetened drinks. Depression risk appeared to be even greater for people who drank diet soda rather than regular soda, and diet rather than regular fruit punches and iced tea.

Meanwhile, heavy coffee drinkers in the study experienced more than a caffeine buzz: They were also about 10 percent less likely to develop depression than those who drank no coffee.

This most recent finding doesn’t necessarily mean you should quit Diet Coke cold turkey and run out for a cup of joe instead. But it’s not the first time researchers have found a link between soda consumption and mood. One study of teens in Boston found that those who drank six or more cans of soda per week were more likely to be violent with family and friends and even carry weapons. Researchers associated heavy soda consumption with a 9 percent to 15 percent increase in the risk for aggressive behavior, and suggested that sugar or caffeine may be to blame.

Because past studies have linked poor emotional health to the sugar in soda, this most recent finding is a little more ambiguous. It either indicates that both sugar and the artificial sweeteners in diet drinks may be related to depression, or that other factors contribute to the link between soda drinking and clinical depression. Still, cutting down on both regular and diet soda can help your health in a number of ways.

“Our research suggests that cutting out or down on sweetened diet drinks or replacing them with unsweetened coffee may naturally help lower your depression risk,” said study author Honglei Chen, MD, PhD, in a release. “More research is needed to confirm these findings, and people with depression should continue to take depression medications prescribed by their doctors.”

Mar 21

Training of Working Memory


Author: Torkel Klingberg, MD, PhD, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at the Karolinska Institute
Working memory deficits occur in many conditions
There is a normal variability from individual to individual in working memory capacity. In the individual, capacity can also be temporarily decreased due to stress or lack of sleep. Moreover, there is a normal decline in capacity with aging, starting around 25-30 years of age, with a decline of about 5-10% per decade.

Except for this normal variability, working memory capacity is also affected in a range of clinical conditions, affecting the neural systems underlying working memory. Studies on both animals and humans have shown that the prefrontal and parietal cortexes are essential for working memory performance; as is the basal ganglia, as well as correct dopaminergic transmission. When these systems are affected, working memory is impaired.

Stroke affecting the frontal lobe is associated with working memory deficits, as are traumatic brain injuries (Robertson and Murre, 1999). In these cases, the working memory deficits lead to attention and planning problems. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD and ADD) is associated with disturbances of both the frontal lobe and the dopaminergic system, and is consequently also associated with working memory deficits. Learning disability is another prevalent condition, in children and in adults, which can be defined as academic difficulties that are not due to inadequate opportunity to learn, general intelligence, nor to physical/emotional disorders, but to basic disorders in specific psychological processes. It has been shown that learning disability can be directly linked to deficits in working memory (Gathercole and Pickering, 2000).

ADHD is a widespread and serious disorder with a key WM component
ADHD is a disorder which includes severe problems of attention, impulsivity and hyperactivity. ADHD affects 3-5% of children between 6-16 years, which makes it the most common neuropsychiatric disorder. When children with ADHD grow older, the hyperactivity decreases, but problems of inattention, which often lead to academic and occupational failure, remain in the majority of cases. ADHD has a strong genetic component, with heritability estimated around 70%. Deficits in working memory are thought to be of central importance in explaining many cognitive and behavioral problems in ADHD (Barkley, 1997; Castellanos and Tannock, 2002; Rapport et al. , 2000; Westerberg et al., 2004). Westerberg et al. (2004) com¬pared working memory tasks with other tasks and showed that children had most problems with working memory tasks. A meta-analysis of 46 studies (Martinussen et al., 2005) confirmed the WM deficits in ADHD, and also showed that the deficits are most pronounced in the visuo-spatial domain.

Can working memory be improved?
Torkel Klingberg, MD PhD, has conducted research at Karolinska Institutet for several years concerning the neural basis of working memory and working memory deficits in children. Working memory capacity has generally been held to be a fixed property of the individual.However, Klingberg, Helena Westerberg, Ph.D., and others at the Department for Neuropediatrics at Astrid Lind¬gren’s Children’s Hospital (part of Karolinska University Hospital), started to develop methods for improving working memory in 1999. These methods are influenced by animal research on mechanisms for training induced plasticity (Buonomano and Merzenich, 1998). Development was conducted in collaboration with Jonas Beckeman and David Skoglund, professional game developers who helped solve technical issues and helped make the training more rewarding.

The training consists of a specific set of working memory tasks that are performed on a computer, where the difficulty level is adjusted according to a specific algorithm. The users complete a fixed number of trials every day, taking about 30-40 minutes daily. This is done for five days a week over five weeks. During training, performance results are saved and can be used for later analysis.

The program is called Cogmed RM, and has been developed by Cogmed Systems AB.

Mar 21

What is Working Memory


Author: Torkel Klingberg, MD, PhD, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at the Karolinska Institute

Working memory is the ability to keep information online for a brief period of time, which is essential for many cognitive tasks such as control of attention and problem solving. In contrast to what was previously assumed, we have shown that systematic training can improve working memory capacity, in both children and adults. Brain imaging studies also show that working memory training leads to increased brain activity in the prefrontal and parietal cortex. Improving working memory capacity leads to better performance on several tasks that require working memory and control of attention and it translates to increased attentiveness in everyday life.

Working Memory is a key function necessary for critical cognitive tasks
Working memory is the ability to keep and manipulate information online for a brief period of time. This ability can be measured for example by testing how many digits a subject can repeat back after hearing them once (verbal working memory) or how many positions a subject can remember after seeing them once (visual working memory).

In daily life we use working memory to remember plans or instructions of what to do next. But keeping information online is a very basic function that has proved to be of central importance in a wide range of cognitive tasks. Verbal working memory is necessary for comprehending long sentences; and verbal working memory capacity predicts performance on reading comprehension in the scholastic aptitude test (SAT) (Daneman and Carpenter, 1980). Working memory is also important for control of attention, and to maintain task-relevant information during problem solving. More generally, working memory has been suggested to be the single most important factor in determining general intellectual ability (SüB et al., 2002). About 50% of differences between individuals in non-verbal IQ can be explained by differences in working memory capacity (Conway et al., 2003).

More recently, it has also become clear that there is a strong link between working memory capacity and the ability to resist distractions and irrelevant information. One study used the so called “cocktail party effect”, i.e. our ability to focus on one voice despite noisy surroundings, and showed that this ability is related to working memory capacity (Conway et al., 2001). Recent studies have also shown that low working memory is related to being “off-task” and daydreaming (Kane et al., 2007). These psychological studies are consistent with neuroimaging studies, which have shown that subjects with higher working memory capacity are less likely to store irrelevant information (Vogel et al., 2005). The prefrontal cortex is important in providing this “filtering” of irrelevant information, and subjects with higher working memory capacity have a higher prefrontal activity and are better at filtering out distractors (McNab and Klingberg, 2008).

When people have deficits in working memory, they are often experienced as “inattention problems”, e.g. to have problems focusing on reading a text; or “memory problems”, e.g. forgetting what to do in the few seconds of walking from one room to the another, or being easily distracted while trying to focus on a task. In children the problem is often remembering what to do next, which makes them unable to finish an activity according to plan.

In conclusion, working memory allows us to hold on to information in order to complete a task, and is especially important in any cognitively demanding environment with irrelevant distractions.

Mar 19

What is Alzheimer’s Disease?


Written by Wendy Leonard, MPH
The most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease (AD). AD is a progressive and irreversible brain disorder. The actual cause of AD is unknown. AD slowly damages, and then destroys, a person’s memory, judgment, reasoning skills, personality, autonomy, and bodily functions.

The disease specifically affects several components of the brain. These include:
•a gradual loss of brain cells, called neurons
•damage to neurons so they no longer function properly
•the loss of neural connections—called synapses— where messages are passed from neuron to neuron

Forgetfulness: A Normal Part of Aging?

It’s normal to sometimes forget things, but as we age, it often takes longer to learn new skills or remember words, names, or where we left our glasses. Of course, this does not mean an individual has dementia. In fact, scientists have found that healthy older adults perform just as well as their young counterparts on complex and learning tests—if given extra time to complete.

However, there’s a difference between occasional forgetfulness and behavior that may be cause for concern. Not recognizing a familiar face, trouble performing common tasks (such as using the telephone or driving home); or being unable to comprehend or recall recent information are all red flags that need to be checked by a medical professional.

Who Gets AD?

Also known as late-onset Alzheimer’s disease, AD is primarily a disease of the elderly. The first noticeable symptoms can occur as early as age 60.

When AD runs in families, it’s called familial Alzheimer’s disease (FAD).

AD sometimes can affect people as young as 30. This type of AD is called early-onset AD. It is rare and affects less than one out of every 1,000 people with AD.

The underlying cause or causes of AD, and specific risk factors, remain unclear. Yet experts believe AD is likely due to a combination of environmental and genetic factors. Lifestyle choices, such as diet, exercise, and staying mentally active like learning new skills, also are factors.
About 5.3 million Americans have AD, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). That number will only climb as the elderly population rises.

AD is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. and the fifth leading in Americans age 65 and older. Worldwide, approximately 24 million people have AD.

What’s Being Done?

Scientists are working to better understand AD in order to create more effective early diagnostic tools, improve treatments, and perhaps even discover a cure.

In terms of what’s immediately available, there are numerous reputable resources and services for people who suffer with AD and their loved ones and caregivers. Some current treatment options even may slow the progression of AD, however, their effectiveness varies and diminishes over time.

Mar 16

The Link Between Pain and Depression


By Dennis Thompson Jr.
Medically reviewed by Pat F. Bass III, MD, MPH

Deep connections exist between chronic pain and depression. A person experiencing chronic pain is more likely than a well person to be depressed. And the connection runs in the other direction, too — depressed people are more likely to complain of chronic aches and pains.

Studies have found that people dealing with chronic pain run three times the risk of developing a mood disorder such as depression or anxiety. About a third of people with persistent pain experience clinical depression.

What’s more, people with depression have three times the risk of chronic pain. “When people have chronic depression over a long period of time, about half of them will develop chronic pain problems without any clear injury to explain that pain,” says Michael Moskowitz, MD, assistant clinical professor for the department of anesthesiology and pain medicine at the University of California, Davis and a board member of the American Pain Foundation.

Pain and Depression Connections

Doctors believe the structure and function of the human brain form the basis of the link between chronic pain and depression:

Brain structure. There is a lot of overlap among the parts of the brain that deal with pain signals and the locations where mood disorders develop. “If you look at the nine places in the brain where pain occurs, six of them are where we experience mood disorders like depression and anxiety,” Dr. Moskowitz says.

Brain function. Some of the neurotransmitters that the brain uses to receive and process pain signals also are used to regulate mood. These include serotonin and norepinephrine. It’s no coincidence that most drugs used to treat mood disorders have been found to be effective when used for pain relief.

Chronic pain and chronic depression both can alter your brain structure and chemistry, with each condition influencing the other. As Moskowitz explains, “Your brain changes every day of your life, with connections made and broken all the time. The brain remodels all the time due to the stimulus it gets.”

“What actually happens in the brain is a kind of expansionism,” Moskowitz continues. “The nerve cells dedicated to pain branch into a new area when there’s chronic pain. With mood and pain sharing so many areas, sometimes they’re kind of encroaching into each other’s areas.”

How to Manage Pain and Depression

How do you manage pain in the face of chronic depression, and how do you treat depression in someone who is experiencing chronic pain? Medical experts believe you need to treat both conditions simultaneously, with initial emphasis on whichever one occurred first.

“You have to look at what the person presents with,” Moskowitz says. “If it comes from the mood, you start with the mood first. If it started from an injury, you start with the cause of the pain first.”

Pain management can be achieved through the use of pain medications and physical therapy, while also tackling depression through exercise, psychotherapy, and antidepressant drugs. Some techniques like progressive muscle relaxation, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and meditation can help with both manage pain and depression.

The goal is to help the brain rewire itself out of both chronic conditions. “You’re retraining the brain to move back to a more normal state,” Moskowitz says.

By Janice Wood Associate News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on February 17, 2013

Adults undergoing bariatric surgery who are more physically active are less likely to be depressed, according to a new study, which found that being active for as little as eight minutes a day made a difference.

Obese adults are nearly twice as likely to have a major depressive disorder (13.3 percent) or anxiety disorder (19.6 percent) compared to the general population (7.2 and 10.2 percent), according to Wendy C. King, Ph.D., an epidemiologist at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health.

“Typically, clinical professionals manage their patients’ depression and anxiety with counseling and/or antidepressant or anti-anxiety medication,” she said. “Recent research has focused on physical activity as an alternative or adjunct treatment.”

Just one hour of moderate-intensity physical activity a week — or eight minutes a day — was associated with 92 percent lower odds of treatment for depression or anxiety among adults with severe obesity.

Similarly, just 4,750 steps a day — less than half the 10,000 steps recommended for a healthy adult — reduced the odds of depression or anxiety treatment by 81 percent.

“It could be that, in this population, important mental health benefits can be gained by simply not being sedentary,” said King, who also was the lead author of the study.

The researcher notes it is important to treat depression and anxiety prior to bariatric surgery. Preoperative depression and anxiety increase the risk of these conditions occurring after surgery — and have been shown to have a negative impact on long-term surgically induced weight loss.

As part of the Longitudinal Assessment of Bariatric Surgery-2, an observational study designed to assess the risks and benefits of bariatric surgery, King and her colleagues assessed participants’ physical activity for a week prior to undergoing bariatric surgery using a small electronic device worn above the ankle. Participants also completed surveys to assess mental health, symptoms of depression, and treatment for psychiatric and emotional problems, including depression and anxiety.

The study included 850 adults who were seeking bariatric surgery between 2006 and 2009 from one of 10 different hospitals throughout the United States.

Approximately one-third of the participants reported symptoms of depression, while two in five reported taking medication or receiving counseling for depression or anxiety.

The researchers noted that the link between physical activity and less depression was strongest when only moderate intensity physical activity was considered. However, the number of steps a person walked each day, no matter the pace, also was related.

“Another goal of this study was to determine physical activity thresholds that best differentiated mental health status,” said King. “We were surprised that the thresholds were really low.”

Because this was an observational, cross-sectional study — meaning patients’ regular physical activity and symptoms of depression were measured at the same time — the study could not prove that a patient’s physical activity influenced mental health.

“Results of the study are provocative, but we would need further research to verify that physical activity was responsible for lower levels of depressive symptoms in this patient population,” said study co-author Melissa A. Kalarchian, Ph.D., associate professor at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, part of University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC). “Nonetheless, physical activity is a key component of behavioral weight management, and it is encouraging to consider that it may have a favorable impact on mental health as well.”

The study is published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research.

Source: University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

Doctors, nurses, and other health-care professionals need to communicate with each other quickly and effectively. They also have a sense of humor, as you’ll notice in the following list of slang terms used in hospitals.
1.Appy: a person’s appendix or a patient with appendicitis
2.Baby Catcher: an obstetrician
3.Bagging: manually helping a patient breathe using a squeeze bag attached to a mask that covers the face
4.Banana: a person with jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
5.Blood Suckers/Leeches: those who take blood samples, such as laboratory technicians
6.Bounceback: a patient who returns to the emergency department with the same complaints shortly after being released
7.Bury the Hatchet: accidentally leaving a surgical instrument inside a patient
8.CBC: complete blood count; an all-purpose blood test used to diagnose different illnesses and conditions
9.Code Brown: a patient who has lost control of his or her bowels
10.Code Yellow: a patient who has lost control of his or her bladder
11.Crook-U: similar to the ICU or PICU, but referring to a prison ward in the hospital
12.DNR: do not resuscitate; a written request made by terminally ill or elderly patients who do not want extraordinary efforts made if they go into cardiac arrest, a coma, etc.
13.Doc in a Box: a small health-care center, usually with high staff turnover
14.FLK: funny-looking kid
15.Foley: a catheter used to drain the bladder of urine
16.Freud Squad: the psychiatry department
17.Gas Passer: an anesthesiologist
18.GSW: gunshot wound
19.MI: myocardial infarction; a heart attack
20.M & Ms: mortality and morbidity conferences where doctors and other health-care professionals discuss mistakes and patient deaths
21.MVA: motor vehicle accident
22.O Sign: an unconscious patient whose mouth is open
23.Q Sign: an unconscious patient whose mouth is open and tongue is hanging out
24.Rear Admiral: a proctologist
25.Shotgunning: ordering a wide variety of tests in the hope that one will show what’s wrong with a patient
26.Stat: from the Latin statinum, meaning immediately
27.Tox Screen: testing the blood for the level and type of drugs in a patient’s system
28.UBI: unexplained beer injury; a patient who appears in the ER with an injury sustained while intoxicated that he or she can’t explain

Feb 5

7 major health issues that regular sexual activity helps to cure.
BY DR. JONI FRATER AND ESTHER LASTIQUEThe old saying that, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” is true, but having an orgasm a day works just as well and has extra benefits! This is by far the ultimate health stimulus plan. If you want to live a long, vibrant life with your spouse filled with excitement that keeps your sexual appetite into your golden years then read on.

Medical research has revealed enormous data proving that sexual climax (orgasm) has resulted in as many as 55 reasons to have sex on a regular basis. We’re focusing on just the top seven major health crises that are helped by climaxing regularly for both men and women. In order for the optimal health benefits, having an orgasm every 24 hours keeps the health benefits at their maximum and the levels of oxytocin, estrogen and testosterone consistently flowing. Any increase in sexual frequency is beneficial, and for those who are alone, masturbation with orgasm is a perfect substitute—so love yourself!

1. Increases Immunity to Infection
Good sexual health may mean better physical health. Healthier people usually are happier as well, which also means that we are taking better care of ourselves. Science has proven that having sex once or twice a week has been linked with higher levels of an antibody called immunoglobulin A or IgA, which can protect you from getting colds and other infections. This includes reducing the possibility of getting the H1N1 infection in addition to the flu!

2. Improve Cardiovascular Health
Getting your blood flowing through sexual activity keeps blood flowing to all of the right spots, starting with your heart. Starting as young married, increasing the frequency of sexual activity, directly correlates to healthier blood vessels and heart function. Researchers also found that having sex twice or more a week reduced the risk of fatal heart attack by half for men, compared with those who had sex less than once a month. Reducing heart disease also reduces erectile dysfunction, which causes the penis to not maintain an erection.

3. Reduce Risks of Prostate Cancer
Frequent ejaculations, especially in 20-something men, may reduce the risk of prostate cancer later in life. Research reported in the British Journal of Urological Health found men who had five or more ejaculations weekly while in their 20s reduced their risk of getting prostate cancer later in life by a third. Another study, reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that frequent ejaculations, 21 or more a month, were linked to lower prostate cancer risk in older men, as well, compared with less frequent ejaculations of four to seven times monthly.

4. Decrease Incontinence for Men and Women
Who wants to be wearing adult diapers if it can be avoided? The muscles used while having sex are called the PC muscles. Both men and women have them and women are often advised to do Kegel exercises to strengthen them in order to keep incontinence at bay. But these are the same muscles used during orgasm in both men and women. Squeezing these muscles together during climax strengthens them the same way, but is way more fun! To start strengthening them, men and women need to find where the PC muscles are located. To do this, try to stop the flow of urine several times during urination. The muscles you’re squeezing are the PC muscles and are the ones you should focus on during intercourse. The squeezing motion gives more sensation to the penis and vagina and will intensify the sexual experience and keep away the diapers!

5. Reduce the Possibility of Osteoporosis
Bone loss during our elder years can be devastating with increased chances of hip or bone fractures. Both testosterone and estrogen levels experience a boost through regular sexual activity. Testosterone does more than just boost your sex drive. Testosterone helps fortify bones and muscles. Since men and women both have testosterone, turn up the heat and get sexy! Nobody wants to be an invalid as we age. Keep doing those pelvic thrusts and push-ups while having sexual activity and let your body keep those bones healthy and strong.

6. Increase Longevity
Who doesn’t want to live longer and look younger as we age? Well, research shows that maintaining a healthy sex life can add three to seven years to your life and keeps your skin looking younger. Throw away the Botox and stay healthier the sexy way. Surveys show that happy couples live longer. Every time you reach orgasm, the hormone DHEA (Dehydroepiandrosterone) increases in response to sexual excitement and ejaculation. DHEA can boost your immune system, repair tissue, and even work as an antidepressant. Meaning, a health benefit of sex, if you keep the orgasms coming, is potentially a longer life.

7. Burns Calories
Would you rather run on the treadmill or have sex? Just 30 minutes of sexual activity (that results in orgasm) burns an average of 150 calories. Sex, like exercise, releases endorphins—your feel good hormones. It gives you the same runner’s high that exercise provides. If you have sex for an hour, that is 300 calories per session at three to seven times a week, you will lose weight while having fun with your intimate erotic friend, your spouse!

The health benefits of regular orgasmic sex are bountiful and our bodies naturally want to stay healthy. In order to accomplish this you have to use it or lose it. Staying sexually connected isn’t the key to happiness, but it is a great way to increase the emotional part of your relationship, keep healthier and live longer. Your life and your marriage will flourish as a result and your kids will learn that a passionate connection is a happier family as well.

Jan 29

Erectile dysfunction (ED) may be a problem for your sex life, but it could also point to an equally important issue: heart disease.

An Austrialian study published this week in PLOS Medicine offers new evidence than the common sexual condition is linked to the most pervasive killer in the Western world—cardiovascular disease.

Putting Two & Two Together

Researchers from the Australian National University and other research facilities examined patients in the Australian data pool known as the 45 and Up Study. They looked into the connection between incidents of erectile dysfunction and cardiovascular disease in more than 95,000 men.

The research revealed that men who didn’t report any cardiovascular problems but experienced severe erectile dysfunction were 35 percent more likely to be hospitalized for cardiovascular problems within two years. Those men also had a startling 93 percent greater chance of death from any condition than those without ED.

Because erectile dysfunction is often a side effect of cardiovascular disease and many of its treatments, it’s no surprise that 64 percent of the men who already knew they had cardiovascular problems also experienced ED.

What the Results Mean

This research isn’t the first to connect erectile dysfunction to heart problems, but the scope and size of the study does lend validity to the theory that men with ED run a much higher risk of a cardiovascular event, such as a heart attack or stroke.

The researchers made a point of saying that their findings do not demonstrate that ED causes heart problems, but rather that the two conditions may share the same underlying cause, namely atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries.

The study authors say that erectile dysfunction should be considered a warning sign or risk factor for cardiovascular disease, which encompasses heart disease and other heart-related ills.

These results could lead to advances in men’s health screening techniques. Men are notorious for not going to the doctor, especially for problems related to the bedroom and the heart, so doctors should be on the lookout and begin screening for the two conditions at once.

How to Improve Your Erections & Your Heart

The penis-heart connection may be the basis for Fifty Shades of Grey and other romance novels, but that’s not what we’re talking about. It’s not about dating advice, it’s about staying alive.

Not all causes of erectile dysfunction are immediately linked to heart health, although many are associated with behavior that’s bad for your heart. Causes of erectile dysfunction include:
•drugs, smoking, and alcohol use
•stress, anxiety, and other mental issues
•physical injury affecting the nerves
•hypogonadism or low testosterone (Low T)

Many behaviors, namely consuming drugs and alcohol, smoking, and living under stress, are bad for your heart anyway. Thankfully, certain lifestyle changes are good for both your heart and your, ahem, neither regions:
•losing weight
•getting regular exercise
•cutting out the bad: smoking, alcohol, and drugs
•reducing your stress through meditation or therapy

Benzodiazepines were associated with an increased risk of, and mortality from, community acquired pneumonia (CAP), according to a report published online in the journal Thorax. British researchers looked at 29,697 controls and 4,964 cases of CAP from The Health Improvement Network, a U.K. primary care patient database, to investigate a reported link between benzodiazepines and pneumonia.

They found that diazepam, lorazepam, and temazepam, but not chlordiazepoxide, were associated with an increased incidence of CAP. As a class, benzodiazepines were associated with increased 30-day and long-term mortality in patients with a prior diagnosis of CAP. Individually diazepam, chlordiazepoxide, lorazepam, and temazepam affected long-term mortality in these patients.

“Benzodiazepines and zopiclone are commonly prescribed medications that have significant immune effects, the researchers said. “Our data…suggest that they may increase both the risk of and mortality from pneumonia. This is consistent with data from clinical trials and concerns expressed over the intensive care unit effects of these drugs leading to movement away from benzodiazepine sedation. Nonetheless, given the widespread use of benzodiazepine drugs, further studies are required to evaluate their safety in the context of infection.”

by Aaron Levin
The association of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) with substance dependence is no random pairing.
As many as 65 percent of patients with PTSD have a comorbid substance use disorder, and up to 62 percent of people with substance dependence have PTSD, according to sources cited by Katherine Mills, Ph.D., in a new study of combined PTSD/substance dependence therapy. Mills is a senior lecturer in the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia.

“Substance abuse may follow PTSD as a way of coping with stress or as an avoidance strategy,” noted Paula Schnurr, Ph.D. “Or it can predate and lead to PTSD by encouraging risky behavior that results in trauma.”
However, many clinicians have worried that exposure-based therapy could increase those stresses and cause patients to revert to primary coping strategies such as substance abuse, said Schnurr, deputy executive director of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ National Center for PTSD in White River Junction, Vt., and a research professor of psychiatry at Dartmouth Medical School, in an interview with Psychiatric News.

Nevertheless, exposure-based therapies are the standard for treating PTSD, and conventional wisdom has held that prolonged exposure should be used only with patients who have been off substances for some time. The truth of that belief was unknown, however, since substance-dependent subjects have usually been excluded from other than pilot studies of combined therapies.

Now Mills and colleagues have presented evidence indicating that such fears may be misplaced. The researchers randomized 103 patients to receive either “usual treatment” for substance dependence—that is, anything available in the community, or usual treatment plus a modified version of COPE—Concurrent Treatment of PTSD and Cocaine Dependence.

The participants were 34 years old on average; 62 percent were women and 80 percent had a history of injection drug use. Most had experienced noncombat trauma exposure, such as sexual or physical assault, or accidents or disasters. The COPE protocol included 13 individual sessions with a therapist, cognitive-behavioral therapy for substance use, psychoeducation, and in-vivo and imaginal exposure.

After nine months of treatment, symptom severity had decreased in both groups. “However, the treatment group demonstrated a significantly greater reduction in PTSD symptom severity,” said the researchers in the August 15 Journal of the American Medical Association. There was also no significant difference in changes in substance use or in depression, or anxiety symptoms, but those symptoms did not worsen either.

“The complex trauma, substance use, and psychiatric presentations commonly found among individuals with PTSD and substance dependence should not be a deterrent to providing trauma-focused treatment,” concluded Mills and colleagues. “This study may minimize potential benefits of combined therapy,” said Schnurr. “It provides evidence that such treatment doesn’t create other problems, although I’m surprised and a little disappointed that the treatment didn’t help with substance dependence symptoms.”

While the COPE treatment protocol called for 13 sessions, participants attended a median number of only five sessions. Perhaps a greater number of therapy sessions attended or a different type of treatment might have made a difference, she said. However, the fact that the study report appears in a journal of wide general circulation will help communicate the importance of the topic, said Schnurr.

“My hope is that people pay attention to this study,” she said. “Opinions have changed over time about whether people who have PTSD and substance abuse can engage in PTSD care. Many people still believe that these people were fragile and that treating PTSD would increase substance abuse. I hope that this paper changes some minds in that regard, because I worry that people have not received the treatment that they need and that they could benefit from.”

“Integrated Exposure-Based Therapy for Co-occurring Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Substance Dependence” is posted at

by Kyle. J. Norton
Serotonin or 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT) is a monoamine neurotransmitter derived from tryptophan, primarily found in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, platelets, and in the central nervous system (CNS). In Gut, serotonin regulates intestinal movements, in CNS, it regulates mood, appetite, sleep, memory and learning, etc.

Brain serotonin, carbohydrate-craving, obesity and depression

Serotonin-releasing brain neurons are unique in that the amount of neurotransmitter they release is normally controlled by food intake, according to the study by Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge serotonin release is also involved in such functions as sleep onset, pain sensitivity, blood pressure regulation, and control of the mood. Hence many patients learn to overeat carbohydrates (particularly snack foods, like potato chips or pastries, which are rich in carbohydrates and fats) to make themselves feel better. This tendency to use certain foods as though they were drugs is a frequent cause of weight gain, and can also be seen in patients who become fat when exposed to stress, or in women with premenstrual syndrome, or in patients with “winter depression,” or in people who are attempting to give up smoking. (Nicotine, like dietary carbohydrates, increases brain serotonin secretion; nicotine withdrawal has the opposite effect.) It also occurs in patients with normal-weight bulimia. Dexfenfluramine constitutes a highly effective treatment for such patients. In addition to producing its general satiety-promoting effect, it specifically reduces their overconsumption of carbohydrate-rich (or carbohydrate-and fat-rich) foods(1).

Nov 15

A Hormone Can Help Keep Men Faithful

When men are given the hormone oxytocin they are more likely to stay away from attractive women they don’t know and remain faithful in monogamous relationships, according to a new study published in The Journal of Neuroscience.

The hormone oxytocin, which is made in a part of the brain called the hypothalamus, plays a part in prompting childbirth, helps women nurse, and assists the human ability to form social relationships. It also encourages the bond between mothers and children and the bond between couples. A 2011 study said that oxytocin makes people act more courageous.

Prior research has also shown that oxytocin plays a role in developing trust, but experts had not, until now, discovered that it helps preserve monogamous relationships among humans.

During the new trial, René Hurlemann, MD, PhD, from the University of Bonn and team found that men who were given oxytocin were more likely to keep away from women they didn’t know when they were approached, even when they found them attractive. On the other hand, single men were not affected by the hormone.

Hurlemann explained:

“Previous animal research in prairie voles identified oxytocin as major key for monogamous fidelity in animals. Here, we provide the first evidence oxytocin may have a similar role for humans.”

For their study, the researchers gave nasal spray containing oxytocin to healthy, heterosexual men. Three quarters of an hour later, the men met an “attractive” female introduced by the experts. When the women moved closer to the men, or further away, the participants were questioned whether the woman was either at an “ideal distance” or a “slightly uncomfortable” proximity.

“Because oxytocin is known to increase trust in people, we expected men under the influence of the hormone to allow the female experimenter to come even closer, but the direct opposite happened,” said Hurlemann.

Oxytocin’s effect on the participants remained steadfast, despite whether the woman looked away from the men, or made direct eye contact. The results remained the same when the men were the ones moving away or closer to the female subject. All of the men, whether they had received a placebo or the oxytocin, reported the woman as being attractive. Therefore, the hormone did not alter the male’s feelings toward how she looked.

In a different part of the study, the experts discovered that oxytocin did not impact the space the men put between themselves and a male subject brought in by the researchers.

By Deborah Mitchell Twenty percent or more of women are affected by a form of sexual dysfunction called anorgasmia, or female orgasmic disorder, for which there are no approved treatments. Now a new study will explore the effect of a drug on pre-menopausal women with this type of orgasm disorder.
What is anorgasmia?

Anorgasmia in women is the inability or failure to achieve orgasm. This term includes women who are medically unable to have an orgasm, but in the majority of cases the causes of this sexual dysfunction involve psychological, cultural, or relationship factors.

Prior to this newest report, a study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine in 2010 noted that potential treatments for anorgasmia in women included bupropion (Wellbutrin, a type of antidepressant), sildenafil (Viagra, typically used to treat erectile dysfunction), estrogen, and testosterone, among others. The authors also stated that “significant progress is being made” in understanding and managing orgasm disorders among women.

New study on anorgasmia
This latest study is an example of the efforts being made to find an effective treatment for this sexual dysfunction. The international Phase II study will explore the ability of Tefina™, a nasal gel that contains testosterone, to improve the occurrence of orgasm in pre-menopausal women who have the disorder. A total of 240 women from the Australia, Canada, and the United States will be enrolled.

According to Trimel Pharmaceuticals, which makes Tefina, the drug has been used in a successfully completed clinical trial of patients who had both hypoactive sexual desire disorder and anorgasmia. The results of that trial verified that the intranasal delivery of testosterone is safe and effective and can produce a positive response.

This new study is one of the largest clinical trials to examine “use-as-needed” Tefina for women who have anorgasmia. The medication is administered via an applicator by patients 1 to 4 hours before anticipated sexual activity, and the testosterone is absorbed by the membranes in the nasal cavity, which then raises the body’s level of the hormone.

Low testosterone levels have been named as one cause of anorgasmia. That’s because testosterone, even though it is present in low levels in women, is involved in sexual desire, blood flow to the vagina, and the development of an orgasm.

Other possible causes of anorgasmia in women include medical problems (e.g., diabetes, multiple sclerosis, hysterectomy, gynecologic surgery), use of certain medications (e.g., selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, antihistamines), alcohol use, hormonal birth control, depression, performance anxiety, stress, cultural and religious beliefs, fear of pregnancy, relationship problems (e.g., lack of communication with partner, infidelity), and guilt about enjoying sex.

The head of the new study, Sheryl Kingsberg, PhD, who is chief of behavioral medicine at University Hospitals MacDonald Women’s Hospital, explained that “Tefina is a potentially revolutionary treatment to restore women’s ability to obtain orgasm and sexual satisfaction.” Women ages 18 to 49 who have this form of sexual dysfunction can inquire about the study at the local site, which is University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland, Ohio.

By Rick Nauert PhDSenior News Editor

Communication problems with a spouse or partner often lead to problems. Now, a new study discovers that some couples are unable to share or even understand their own emotions, a condition that can lead to additional stress.

This condition of having difficulty sharing and understanding emotional issues is a personality trait called alexithymia. When a partner has alexithymia, the partners can experience loneliness and a lack of intimate communication that leads to poor marital quality.

Nick Frye-Cox, a University of Missouri doctoral student says people with alexithymia can describe their physiological responses to events, such as sweaty palms or faster heartbeats, but are unable to identify their emotions as sad, happy or angry.

In addition, those with alexithymia have difficulty discerning the causes of their feelings or explaining variations in their emotions, he said. “People with alexithymia have trouble relating to others and tend to become uncomfortable during conversations,” Frye-Cox said.

“The typical alexithymic person is incredibly stoic. They like to avoid emotional topics and focus more on concrete, objective statements.” People with alexithymia avoid forming relationships; however, they get married because they still feel the basic human need to belong, which is just as fundamental as the need to eat or sleep, Frye-Cox said.

“Once they are married, alexithymic people are likely to feel lonely and have difficulty communicating intimately, which appears to be related to lower marital quality,” Frye-Cox said. “People with alexithymia are always weighing the costs and benefits, so they can easily enter and exit relationships. They don’t think others can meet their needs, nor do they try to meet the needs of others.”

In the study, researchers collected data from both spouses in 155 heterosexual couples. The proportion of alexithymic people in the sample, 7.5 percent of men and 6.5 percent of women, is representative of the general population, according to previous research. The trait is often found with other conditions on the autism spectrum, as well as with post-traumatic stress disorders. Studies also have shown that alexithymia has been related to eating and panic disorders, substance abuse and depression.

The study will be published in the Journal of Family Psychology.

Nov 12

Joseph Brownstein, MyHealthNewsDaily Contributor Having a fever or flu in pregnancy may be linked with the development of autism in children, a new study suggests. While researchers are hesitant to draw strong conclusions, the study is at least the second showing such a link.

The researchers followed mothers in Denmark and the nearly 97,000 children they had between 1997 and 2003. During the study, 976 children in the study were diagnosed with autism. Children were more likely to be diagnosed with autism if their mothers had the flu or developed a prolonged fever during the first or second trimester of pregnancy.

But the topic needs further study before stronger conclusions can be drawn, said study researcher Hjördis Osk Atladottir, of the University of Aarhus. “Around 99 percent of women experiencing influenza, fever or taking antibiotics during pregnancy do NOT have children with autism,” Atladottir wrote to MyHealthNewsDaily in an email.

Dr. Marshalyn Yeargin-Allsopp, chief of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Developmental Disabilities Branch, who was not involved in the study, said, “We’re not recommending clinically that physicians change their management of pregnant women based on these findings.” Tne reason for the caution may be that pregnant women who are concerned about lowering their child’s risk of autism would, for the most part, simply need to adhere to existing guidelines, which recommend getting a flu shot, and treating fevers by taking acetaminophen and contacting their physician.

Some researchers were puzzled by the authors’ caution. “The data indicates that maternal flu infection or an extended fever increases the risk for autism in the offspring — a twofold increase,” said Paul H. Patterson, a biology professor who researches the connections between infection and neurological development at the California Institute of Technology.

Noting that the new finding is consistent with other research, Patterson said, “I’m not clear on why they appear to soft-pedal their results in their conclusions.” A study published in May from researchers at the University of California, Davis found a similar connection, showing that mothers of children with autism were more likely to have had a prolonged fever in the late first or second trimesters of pregnancy, compared with mothers of children who didn’t have autism.

Irva Hertz-Picciotto, an author of the UC Davis findings, said while the reason that fevers or flu during pregnancy may be linked with autism are unclear, it’s thought that inflammation may have an adverse effect on early brain development. “I think there’s some growing evidence that perhaps inflammation in the wrong tissue at the wrong time could interfere with normal developmental processes,” Hertz-Picciotto said.

There is also evidence for a link between mothers who have inflammatory conditions such as diabetes and autism in children, but that link, too, has not been conclusively established, she said. “There is some growing evidence that in neurodevelopment, this could be part of a pathologic process, this could lead to behavioral type syndromes,” Hertz-Picciotto said.

Indeed, researchers are just beginning to develop an understanding of autism’s causes, the experts said. “We know a lot more than we knew five years ago, but the science is really in its infancy,” said Coleen Boyle, of the CDC.

A CDC-sponsored study, called the Study to Explore Early Development (SEED), is following more than 2,700 children in California, Colorado, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, with the hope of identifying factors that might influence autism spectrum disorders. Boyle said that the possible environmental causes of autism can be more challenging to research than the disorder’s genetic causes. For example, data in the new study had to be collected starting in the late 1990s.

“You can just see the time that’s required to collect that kind of information,” Boyle said. “There’s not a lot of people looking at these environmental factors,” Hertz-Picciotto said. “This is something people should be paying more attention to, because it’s actionable.”

By Rick Nauert PhD Senior News Editor

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorders (ADHD) is now a common diagnosis with the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimating that almost one in ten (9.5 percent) children aged 4-17, has at some time, received a diagnosis of ADHD.

Common treatment strategies for ADHD include cognitive-behavioral therapy and pharmaceuticals. The Food and Drug Administration has now approved Quillivant XR (methylphenidate hydrochloride), the first once-daily, extended-release liquid methylphenidate available for patients with ADHD.

The new medication is a welcome addition to traditional medication regimens as authorities say that in 2011, there were more than 52 million prescriptions filled for ADHD medications, representing a 10 percent increase over 2010.

“The approval of Quillivant XR fills a void that has long existed in the treatment of ADHD,” said Ann Childress, M.D., president of the Center for Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine, Las Vegas, who was an investigator in the Quillivant XR laboratory classroom study.

“We routinely see the struggles of patients who have difficulty swallowing pills or capsules. Having the option of a once-daily liquid will help alleviate some of these issues while still providing the proven efficacy of methylphenidate for 12 hours after dosing.”

Researchers determined the efficacy of Quillivant XR by performing a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 45 children with ADHD.

For the study children received an initial 20mg dose of Quillivant XR once daily in the morning. The dosage was then titrated weekly until an optimal dose or maximum dose of 60mg per day was reached.

After this, a two-week double-blind study was performed on the study using a crossover design (meaning that kids would alternate between receiving the medication or a placebo.

At the end of each week, trained observers evaluated the attention and behavior of the patients in a laboratory classroom using an established behavioral rating scale.

Quillivant XR significantly improved ADHD symptoms compared to placebo at the primary endpoint of four hours post-dose, and in a secondary analysis, showed significant improvement at every time point measured, from 45 minutes to 12 hours after dosing.

“We are pleased with the FDA’s approval of Quillivant XR and believe it will address an important need for many patients with ADHD and their caregivers,” said Jay Shepard, President and CEO of NextWave Pharmaceuticals.

“We are eager to enter into the ADHD market and believe the unique liquid formulation of Quillivant XR—which was developed in conjunction with NextWave’s technology and manufacturing partner Tris Pharma—will provide another treatment option for patients with ADHD.”

Quillivant XR is expected to become available in pharmacies in January 2013. Quillivant XR was developed using Tris Pharma’s patent protected drug delivery platform.

Sep 18

A new research study suggests that individuals who worry excessively have more electrical activity in the brain than those who don’t. Michigan State University has conducted the study and believes that these new findings could help identifying treatment of anxiety disorders. To conduct the study, volunteers were asked to fill out questionnaires regarding how much they worry and placed on electrode caps to capture the electrical activity of the brain. They were asked to identify the middle letter in a series of letters. In some versions, all the letters were the same. Ex: EEEEE In other versions, the middle letter remained different EEFEE.

Data revealed that anxious women had more electrical activity in their brains during those selected tasks, compared to those who were not anxious. It has been concluded that the brains of anxious individuals work harder to perform tasks because of distracting thoughts. Consequently, their brains suffer from burning out more often.

The body does not know the difference between good stress and bad stress. It treats all stress the same—and as a result it can have long lasting harmful effects on the body. The adrenal glands release adrenaline and other hormones that increase breathing, heart rate and blood pressure. As a result, more oxygen-rich blood rushes through the body and gets to the brain in a quicker time, helping your body reach the flight-or-fight response.

For an anxious individual—the result is the same. Your body always remains in a ‘hyper’ state, even if you don’t feel like you are. Any state of being that is contrary to the natural rhythm of the body will induce these defense mechanisms within, to help control external stimuli that get us distressed. In a normal “once-in-a-while” stress reaction, other hormones shut down unnecessary functions in the body.

Growth, reproduction and the immune system go on a hiatus. Blood flow to the skin is reduced—and other processes go on that get us prepared to respond to a life-threatening situation. Having said this, imagine bodily, emotional, and mental impairment that may go hand in hand with chronic stress!

Chronic stress really does put a strain on the body, even if you feel fine and believe you can deal with it. With ongoing stress, you may find that your immune system is compromised more and more, making it almost impossible to fight in infections.

The stress response—the body’s hormonal reaction to danger, uncertainty or change—evolved to help us survive, and if we learn how to keep it from overrunning our lives, it still can. In the short term, it can energize us, “revving up our systems to handle what we have to handle,” says Judith Orloff, a psychiatrist at UCLA.

When perceived danger passes, your body tries to return back to homeostatic balance. However, with age — this process may become more and more difficult. Even though the sympathetic nervous system jumps into action immediately, it takes a while to slow down and allow the parasympathetic nervous system to take over.

However, some studies suggest that not all stress is bad stress. An appropriate stress response is necessary to life and studies have found that various hormones and neurotransmitters are activated when this process kicks in.

One of these neurotransmitters is Norepinephrine, which is needed to create memories as well as improve mood. Problems begin to be seen as challenges that can be overcome, and this in turn stimulates creative thinking that encourages new connections within the brain.

There has also been a connection between acute stress—and health benefits. For instance, meeting deadlines allows people to meet challenges at work. However, people often need to learn about healthy coping mechanisms to stress—since stress is, after all, an inevitable part of life at times. Stress can play a mental role in many ways.

One may think there is not enough time to accomplish the tasks at hand, or there may simply be too much to do and no knowledge of where to begin. The important thing to note is that many people have successfully combated stress by the aids of many forms of relaxation, beginning with meditation.

In conclusion—only you know when you are facing too much. The truth is, only you have control. You can choose to compromise your health by wallowing in chronic stress, or you can choose to address this stress in a positive manner, allowing yourself to relax and take time off as needed.

Numerous studies over the years have proven that meditation and other relaxation techniques are by far more beneficial that anti-anxiety medications and things of the sort. Be sure to listen to your body, and if something becomes too much for you to handle—take a step back and look at the situation and see what you would do differently.


“The Human Brain – Stress.” Stress and the Mind-body Connection. The Franklin Institute, Web. 08 Sept. 2012. .

Thoits, Peggy A. “Stress and Health.” Stress and Health. Indiana University, Nov.-Dec. 2010. Web. 12 Sept. 2012. .

Sep 13

Imagine if you could look at something once and remember it forever. You would never have to ask for directions again. Now a group of scientists has isolated a protein that mega-boosts your ability to remember what you see.

A group of Spanish researchers reported today in Science that they may have stumbled upon a substance that could become the ultimate memory-enhancer. The group was studying a poorly-understood region of the visual cortex. They found that if they boosted production of a protein called RGS-14 (pictured) in that area of the visual cortex in mice, it dramatically affected the animals’ ability to remember objects they had seen.

Mice with the RGS-14 boost could remember objects they had seen for up to two months. Ordinarily the same mice would only be able to remember these objects for about an hour.

The researchers concluded that this region of the visual cortex, known as layer six of region V2, is responsible for creating visual memories. When the region is removed, mice can no longer remember any object they see.

If this protein boosts visual memory in humans, the implications are staggering. In their paper, the researchers say that it could be used as a memory-enhancer – which seems like an understatement. What’s particularly intriguing is the fact that this protein works on visual memory only. So as I mentioned earlier, it would be perfect for mapping. It would also be useful for engineers and architects who need to hold a lot of visual images in their minds at once. And it would also be a great drug for detectives and spies.

Could it also be a way to gain photographic memory? For example, if I look at a page of text will I remember the words perfectly? Or will I simply remember how the page looked?

I can’t see much of a downside for this potential drug, unless the act of not forgetting what you see causes problems or trauma.

via Science

Sep 12

By Chris Iliades, MD
Medically reviewed by Pat F. Bass III, MD, MPH What if you could avoid depression with a better diet? Recent research supports the idea that certain foods could be connected to depression, and that some types of diets can lower your risk of becoming depressed.

“When researchers came up with the term ‘brain chemical imbalance’ to explain depression, the next step should have been to supply the brain with nutrients. However, chemicals were prescribed instead,” says Carolyn Dean, MD, an author and medical director of the Nutritional Magnesium Association.

Some recent studies are showing that a diet rich in whole foods lowers the risk of depression, while a diet containing mainly processed foods may increase your risk of becoming depressed. Whole foods are natural foods that have all their nutrients intact and don’t contain additives. Processed foods are foods that may have additives and often have lost some of their nutritional value through being altered or processed. The loss of these vital nutrients from processed foods may be one of the causes of depression.

“We know that nutrients such as magnesium, essential fatty acids, and vitamin B6 and B12 help create neurotransmitters, and we are also learning that a deficiency in these nutrients can lead to a chemical imbalance in the brain,” says Dr. Dean. Neurotransmitters are chemicals in the brain that transmit signals between nerve cells. When these transmitters get too low depression can result.

Recent Research on Diet and Depression

Recently published studies are contributing to our knowledge of how nutrition might influence depression. These studies suggest that a poor diet is as dangerous for your mental health as it is for your physical health:

A study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry compared a whole-foods diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fish with a diet high in processed meats and grains and fast foods. People in the study who ate the whole-foods diet had a one-third lower risk of becoming depressed.
Another study in The British Journal of Psychiatry compared a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, and fish with one heavily loaded with sweetened desserts, fried foods, processed meats, and processed grains. The researchers concluded that after five years, eating mostly processed foods increased the risk of depression while eating whole foods decreased the risk of depression.
One small study, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, found that people with a low fat intake had a 25 percent higher risk of depression compared to those with those who consumed healthy sources of dietary fat, such as omega 3 fats, which can be found in fish like salmon and tuna, flaxseed, and walnuts.
A diet high in processed foods, sugar, and fat increases the risk of obesity. A study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry found that people who were overweight increased their risk for becoming depressed.

Diet Tips for Depression

Depression is a serious medical condition, and diet alone is not a substitute for depression treatment. If you have symptoms of depression, talk to your doctor. However, research does suggest that diet plays a role in depression and that good nutrition can lower your risk of being depressed. Consider these nutrition tips:

Eat right. Enjoy plenty of fruits, vegetables, low-fat proteins, and whole grains. Avoid processed and fatty foods, fast foods, and foods with lots of added sugar.
Watch your weight. Maintain a healthy weight with the right mix of diet and exercise.
Get your omega-3s. Make sure your diet includes foods high in omega-3 fatty acids like deepwater fish. “Among healthy volunteers, low plasma concentrations of this fatty acid found in fish predict low concentrations of a marker of brain serotonin turnover,” says Dean.
Don’t skip meals. “When you are hungry or skip meals, you lower your blood sugar. Pound for pound, the brain uses more blood sugar than any other part of the body. With balanced meals to prevent low blood sugar, you can protect yourself against depression, anxiety, and mood disorders,” says Dean.
Make sure you get enough B vitamins. These are important for maintaining brain health. “Research at the University of California at Berkeley by Dr. Bruce Ames shows that certain people have an increased need for nutrients due to minor genetic mutations,” Dean says. “Ames says that inadequate intake of folate, B12, or B6 leads to chromosome breaks just as if radiation caused those breaks.”
Get enough magnesium. “Serotonin, the feel-good brain chemical, depends on magnesium for its production and function. A person going through a stressful period without sufficient magnesium can set up a deficit that, if not corrected, can linger and cause depression,” warns Dean. Magnesium can be taken as a dietary supplement and can also be found in green vegetables and whole grains.

Sep 5

Stress Over Time Linked to Stroke


By Crystal Phend, MedPage Today
Reviewed by Zalman S. Agus, MD THURSDAY, Aug. 30, 2012 (MedPage Today) — Chronic stress from major life events and type A personality traits appears to substantially boost stroke risk, Spanish researchers found.
The Side Effects of Pent-Up Anger on Your Heart

An intermediate to high score for stressful events like divorce, death in the family, or bankruptcy in the prior year nearly quadrupled the risk of a stroke in a case-control study by Jose Antonio Egido, MD, of the Hospital Clinico Universitario San Carlos in Madrid, and colleagues.

Individuals fitting the competitive, impatient type A personality pattern were 2.23 times more likely to have a stroke, the group reported online in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry.

These findings were independent of conventional stroke risk factors and unhealthy lifestyle, they noted.

“Addressing the influence of psychophysical factors on stroke could constitute an additional therapeutic line in the primary prevention of stroke in the at-risk population and, as such, warrants further investigation,” they wrote.

Because chronic stress has also been linked to cardiovascular disease, Egido’s group looked for a link to stroke in 150 stroke cases seen at a single hospital stroke unit and 300 of their healthy neighbors recruited from the census registry.

These groups of working-age adults in Madrid (range 18 to 65, mean 54) were compared from 2008, the beginning of a period of financial downturn when the housing market in that country collapsed, through 2010.

The strongest risk factor in the multivariate analysis was stressful life events over the prior year. The odds of stroke were 3.84 times higher for individuals with a score over 150 on the Holmes & Rahe questionnaire than for those with lower life stressor scores.

For perspective, death of a spouse equals 100 points on that scale; 150 to 300 is considered intermediate risk with a 50 percent probability of suffering illness related to the stress in the near future.

Those with signs of depression, as measured on the General Health Questionnaire 28 psychosocial subscale, were 22 percent more likely to have a stroke as well, but that association didn’t reach statistical significance.

“The level of distress and the depression symptoms associated with stress have somatic repercussions such as hypertension and are also associated with poor lifestyle choices such as low physical activity, tobacco habit, alcoholism and poor dietary habits,” Egido’s group pointed out.

However, tobacco, alcohol, gender, and physical activity levels didn’t appear to account for the stroke risk from stressful life events or from type A personality-related stress.

The researchers cautioned that their study excluded stroke patients who couldn’t respond on their own to the questionnaire, because proxy responses didn’t correlate well with patients’ own responses.

That exclusion of more severe or fatal cases may have minimized the association with stress, they noted.

Patient’s recall of stress in the prior year may have been biased by the stress of the stroke itself as may lifestyle factors, they added.

Source: Stress Over Time Linked to Stroke

Aug 25

By Mary Elizabeth Dallas, Healthday News — Positive airway pressure, which is used to treat obstructive sleep apnea, may also help ease symptoms of depression among people with the sleep-related breathing disorder, a new study suggests.

Although depression is common among people with sleep apnea, researchers from the Cleveland Clinic Sleep Disorders Center found that patients who used positive airway pressure therapy had fewer depressive symptoms — even if they didn’t follow the treatment exactly as prescribed.

Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the tissue in the back of the throat blocks the airway, which causes people to stop breathing while they are sleeping. The condition disrupts sleep and can increase the risk of other health problems such as heart disease and stroke. Positive airway pressure therapy helps correct this problem by keeping the airway open with a stream of air. CPAP, or continuous positive airway pressure, is the term commonly used to describe a form of the therapy that is delivered through a mask worn during sleep.

In conducting the study, researchers asked 779 sleep apnea patients to complete a questionnaire, known as PHQ-9, which assessed and scored their symptoms of depression. Following positive airway pressure treatment, the patients repeated the questionnaire. The study revealed that all of the participants reported improvements in their depression symptoms.

Patients using positive airway pressure for more than four hours each night showed more improvement than those who did not adhere to their treatment regimen as strictly.

“The score improvements remained significant even after taking into account whether a patient had a prior diagnosis of depression or was taking an antidepressant,” lead investigator Dr. Charles Bae said in a news release from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

“The improvements were greatest in sleepy, adherent patients but even non-adherent patients had better PHQ-9 scores. Another interesting finding was that among patients treated with [positive airway pressure], married patients had a greater decrease in PHQ-9 scores compared to single or divorced patients,” Bae added.

By Amy Solomon, Senior Editor TUESDAY, April 10, 2012 — Excruciating, throbbing head pain; nausea and vomiting; sensitivity to light and sound. These classic signs of migraine can make daily life difficult for the estimated 36 million Americans who experience these chronic, debilitating headaches. Although there are medications and other migraine treatments available, they don’t work for everyone and may come with unwanted side effects.

But a surgical procedure performed by plastic surgeons may do the trick — and as a bonus, you may end up looking younger. That’s because it’s based on forehead rejuvenation surgery, otherwise known as a forehead lift.

Known as nerve decompression surgery, the procedure was pioneered by Bahman Guyuron, MD, who heads the department of plastic surgery at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland, Ohio. Dr. Guyuron noticed that in some of his patients, migraine symptoms disappeared after he performed forehead lifts. Regarding one patient, Guyuron told ABC News, “[S]he was not only happy with the way she looked, but she hadn’t had a migraine for the previous six months.”

Based on these results, Guyuron developed a surgical technique designed to deactivate migraine trigger sites, specific areas in the muscles or nerves of the head that when irritated are thought to lead to migraine pain. Guyuron has been performing the procedure for the past 12 years and has published several reports on his results. One paper co-authored by Guyuron and published last year in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery found that after five years, 61 of 69 patients who underwent the surgery (88 percent) had at least partial relief from migraine symptoms. About 30 percent said their migraines went away completely, and 60 percent said they decreased significantly.

Botox injections are also thought to help migraines by paralyzing muscles and nerves at trigger points. Before undergoing surgery, Guyuron’s patients receive Botox to determine the correct trigger site; if they respond, it’s more likely that they’ll have a good outcome.

Who Should Get Nerve Decompression Surgery?

If you’re interested in nerve decompression surgery for migraines, there are some caveats to keep in mind:

Although the results so far are encouraging, the studies have been performed in a very small, select number of patients, Cathy Glaser, founder of the Migraine Research Foundation, told ABC News. “Surgical interventions are…not something you are going to do when you are first diagnosed.”
W.G. Austen, MD, chief of plastic and reconstructive surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital, told the Boston Globe that only about five percent of migraine sufferers are good candidates for nerve decompression surgery. Criteria include being under a neurologist’s treatment, having severe migraines more than once a week, and failing to see improvement with standard migraine treatments. Dr. Austen is one of about 250 plastic surgeons trained by Guyuron to perform the procedure.
Some headache specialists believe that it’s “inappropriate” for plastic surgeons to treat headache patients, according to Alexander Mauskop, MD, a board-certified neurologist and head of the New York Headache Center in New York City. Speaking to Medscape Medical News, Dr. Mauskop also noted that “the issue with surgery is that it is permanent and there are potential side effects, including risk of infection.” Other side effects can include bleeding, numbness, or hair loss around the incision site.
Insurance may not cover the treatment, and out-of-pocket costs can run between $5000 and $10,000, Austen told the Globe.

But if nothing seems to work for your migraine pain, you may want to talk to your doctor or neurologist what other treatment options, including surgery, may be right for you.

Aug 7

Creatine for Depression?


By Rick Nauert PhDSenior News Editor

Creatine is a naturally occurring amino acid typically associated with providing fuel for intense bursts of energy during high-intensity, short-duration exercises, such as lifting weights or sprinting. A new study finds the dietary supplement may also help women overcome major depression.

In a new study, researchers found that women with major depressive disorder (MDD) — also known as clinical depression — who augmented their daily antidepressant with 5 grams of creatine responded twice as fast and experienced remission of the illness at twice the rate of women who took the antidepressant alone. Researchers say that taking creatine under a doctor’s supervision could provide a relatively inexpensive way for women who haven’t responded well to SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) antidepressants to improve their treatment outcomes.

“If we can get people to feel better more quickly, they’re more likely to stay with treatment and, ultimately, have better outcomes,” said psychiatrist Perry F. Renshaw, M.D., Ph.D., M.B.A, senior author on the study. Although researchers are quick to point out that the findings need to be replicated in larger trials, the benefits of taking creatine could help many Americans battling major depression.

Improving treatment of depression will not only help individuals, but will also provide significant savings in both hospital and ambulatory based care settings. Experts say the economic windfall would bring a significant boost to state and federal coffers. In Utah alone, the state paid an estimated $214 million in depression-related Medicaid and disability insurance in 2008. Add the costs of inpatient and outpatient treatment, medication, and lost productivity in the workplace, and the total price of depression in Utah reached $1.3 billion in 2008, according to the U estimate.

The mechanism by which creatine works against depression is not precisely known, but Renshaw and his colleagues suggest that the pro-energetic effect of creatine supplementation, including the making of more phosphocreatine, may contribute to the earlier and greater response to antidepressants.

The eight-week study included 52 South Korean women, ages 19-65, with major depressive disorder. All the women took the antidepressant Lexapro (escitalopram) during the trial. Twenty-five of the women received creatine with the Lexapro and 27 were given a placebo. Neither the study participants nor the researchers knew who received creatine or placebo.

Eight women in the creatine group and five in the placebo group did not finish the trial, leaving a total of 39 participants. Participants were interviewed at the start of the trial to establish baselines for their depression, and then were checked at two, four, and eight weeks. In the study, researchers used three measures to check the severity of depression, with the primary outcomes being measured by the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HDRS), a well-accepted tool.

Investigators discovered that the group that received creatine showed significantly higher improvement rates on the HDRS at two and four weeks (32 percent and 68 percent) compared to the placebo group (3.7 percent and 29 percent). Remarkably, at the end of eight weeks, half of those in the creatine group showed no signs of depression compared with one-quarter in the placebo group. There were no significant adverse side effects associated with creatine.

The findings are important because antidepressants typically don’t start to work until four to six weeks. Still, research suggests that the sooner an antidepressant begins to work, the better the treatment outcome. As a result, Renshaw and his colleagues are excited about the outcomes in this first study. “Getting people to feel better faster is the Holy Grail of treating depression,” he says. Researchers say that future research efforts will test creatine supplements in both men and women. The South Korean University and University of Utah study is published in the American Journal of Psychiatry online.

Source: University of Utah
APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2012). Creatine for Depression?. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 7, 2012, from

Aug 2

Anxiety, Depression, And Sleep


By Richard Zwolinski, LMHC, CASAC & C.R. Zwolinski
How’re you sleeping?

If you can’t sleep, or if you can but you wake up every so often choking or gasping for breath, or if you snore loudly and often, you probably have a sleep disorder.

You also might be at risk of developing anxiety or depression or might already be struggling with one or both of these mental health issues.

Amir Sharafkhaneh, MD, PhD and Max Hirshkowitz, PhD, recently discussed the correlation between one sleep disorder, called sleep-disordered breathing (SBD) and anxiety disorders and depression in Psychiatric Times. Any observant therapist (those who do thorough evaluations) will tell you that many, if not most of their patients, actually have some kind of sleep disorder, possibly including sleep-disordered breathing.

Whether the sleep disorder precedes the mental illness or the mental illness precedes the sleep disorder appears to vary on your point of view, as much as your psychosocial history. As for causality, well clinicians and researchers come down on both sides of the issue.

Years ago clinicians believed that symptoms of mental illness included various types of sleep disorders. Today research seems to indicate that many of them precede mental illness. Sleep disorders appear to indicate that you might have a higher risk of mental illness and some research does indeed show that they actually contribute to psychiatric problems.

We don’t have to construct complicated studies to recognize that withholding sleep from someone causes mental dysfunction (such as memory problems or problems concentrating). We know that at a certain point, sleep deprivation causes serious problems including hallucinations and psychosis, or even death.

For example, we can look at world history and current events for some answers.

Sleep deprivation has been used in interrogation as a method of torture. In the former Soviet Union, the NKVD (which the KGB branched from), Menachem Begin former prime minister of Israel was famously a victim of sleep-deprivation torture. In White nights: The Story Of A Prisoner in Russia, we read “In the head of the interrogated prisoner, a haze begins to form. His spirit is wearied to death, his legs are unsteady, and he has one sole desire: to sleep… Anyone who has experienced this desire knows that not even hunger and thirst are comparable with it.”

Other countries, both tyrannical dictatorships and democracies, have used sleep deprivation during interrogation. China is well-known for using it, not only with Chinese dissidents but also with Tibetan political prisoners. Recently a young Chinese man sadly lost his life, not from interrogation and torture but from staying up to watch every game in the European soccer championship.

History, current events, clinical research (and ordinary observation and clinical experience) show that lack of sleep (including sleep disorders) may not only contribute to serious health problems, anxiety, and depression, but also bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses and cognitive dysfunction.

Whether you have a mental illness or not, (or an addiction, by the way; our program often sees people who became addicted to the medication they were prescribed for insomnia or pain-related insomnia), getting a good night’s sleep is essential to functioning well and living a meaningful life.

Make a good night’s sleep, nutritious diet, exercise and other good physical health habits a priority in your life—your mental health will definitely get a boost.

See C.R.’s recipe for a good night’s sleep.

Jul 30

Marijuana Use Linked to Psychosis


By Traci Pedersen Among individuals with psychosis who are also heavy marijuana users, the age they first used marijuana is strongly linked to the age of their first bout of psychosis, according to a study of 57 patients.

Although marijuana use by itself is neither sufficient nor needed to trigger schizophrenia, “if cannabis use precipitates the onset of psychosis, efforts should be focused on designing interventions to discourage cannabis use in vulnerable individuals,” Dr. Juan A. Galvez-Buccollini and his associates said.

This caution pertains to someone with a first-degree relative with psychosis, which is “the highest risk factor for schizophrenia,” said Dr. Lynn E. Delisi, senior investigator for the study, a psychiatrist at the Boston VA Medical Center in Brockton, Mass., and professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, Boston.

If someone had a first-degree relative, “I would caution them about the consequences of cannabis use and the association with schizophrenia,” she said.

Findings from previous research has shown that marijuana use is associated with an earlier age of psychosis onset in people abusing multiple substances, but studies have not looked at a possible link between the onset of cannabis use itself and resulting psychosis.

Because of this, Dr. Galvez-Buccollini, a psychiatry researcher at VA Boston Healthcare System and Harvard, and his colleagues interviewed 57 patients with a current diagnosis of schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, schizophreniform disorder, or psychosis not otherwise specified, who also had a history of heavy cannabis use before the onset of psychosis. They defined heavy cannabis use as 50 or more uses during a one year period.

Average age of the subjects was 25 years with a range of 18-39 years. Of the total, 83 percent were men, and 88 percent were not married. The average age of psychosis onset was 22 years, and the average age for first psychosis-related hospitalization was 23.

Schizophrenia was the most common psychosis (42 percent), followed by schizoaffective disorder (32 percent). The average age of first marijuana use was 15, preceding psychosis onset by an average of 7 years.

During the study period, the prevalence of daily cannabis was 59 percent with another 30 percent reporting use 2-5 days per week, and the remaining 11 percent reporting weekly use. Alcohol abuse was 16 percent and alcohol dependence was 8 percent.

The researchers found a statistically significant link between the age when cannabis use first started and the age when psychosis was first diagnosed. This association was consistent after researchers excluded patients with any diagnosis of alcohol abuse or dependency during their lifetime.

The analysis also showed a strong link between the time a patient first smoked marijuana and their age of first psychosis hospitalization.

Marijuana affects dopamine receptors and can have other neurochemical effects.

“There are two components of cannabis, one that potentiates and another that antagonizes psychotic symptoms,” said Delisi. The balance between these two effects can differ among various strains of cannabis, she added.

Steven Reinberg, HealthDay Reporter WEDNESDAY, March 21, 2012 (HealthDay News) — Aspirin, a popular weapon in the war against heart attacks, may also play a role in cancer prevention and treatment, three new British studies suggest.

“We have now found that after taking aspirin for three or four years there starts to be a reduction in the number of people with the spread of cancers, so it seems as well as preventing the long-term development of cancers, there is good evidence now that it is preventing the spread of cancers,” said lead researcher Dr. Peter M. Rothwell, a professor of neurology at the University of Oxford and John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford. “Because aspirin prevents the spread of cancers, it could potentially be used as a treatment,” he added.

But the research is not conclusive, and did not prove that aspirin combats cancer. So, people should not start popping aspirin in the hopes of thwarting cancer, experts said. Previously, these investigators showed that a daily dose of aspirin taken over 10 years appeared to prevent some cancers, but the short-term benefits and the benefits for women weren’t clear.

Currently, a daily low-dose aspirin is recommended for people who have had a heart attack or stroke to prevent another. “It may well be that taking aspirin to prevent cancer becomes the main reason for taking it,” Rothwell said. Aspirin may work against cancer by inhibiting platelets, which promote clotting and also help cancer cells spread, he said.

The papers were published March 21 in The Lancet and The Lancet Oncology. In one study, Rothwell’s team analyzed data from 51 clinical trials comparing aspirin with no aspirin in preventing heart attacks.

Overall, daily low-dose aspirin reduced the risk of dying from cancer 15 percent. Taking aspirin five years or more reduced the risk 37 percent, and over three years, the risk reduction was about 25 percent for both men and women, the researchers noted. In addition, aspirin was associated with a 12 percent reduction in deaths from non-cardiovascular causes, they found.

In another study, Rothwell’s team looked at the effect of aspirin on slowing the spread of cancer, or metastasis. Their data came from five clinical trials that also looked at daily low-dose aspirin (75 milligrams or more) and heart attack and stroke prevention. The researchers zeroed in on patients who developed cancer.

Over more than six years of follow-up, low-dose aspirin reduced the risk of distant metastasis by 36 percent, compared with cancer patients receiving a placebo, they found. Moreover, aspirin reduced the risk of metastasis in solid tumors, such as colon, lung and prostate cancer, by 46 percent and by 18 percent for cancers of the bladder and kidney.

It also reduced the risk of diagnosing a cancer that had already spread by 31 percent. For those who continued to take aspirin after a cancer diagnosis, the risk of metastasis was cut by 69 percent, the researchers calculated. Aspirin also reduced the risk of dying from cancer by about half. These risk reductions remained after taking into account age and sex, the researchers said.

In a third study, Rothwell’s group looked at the effect of aspirin on metastases by analyzing observational studies rather than clinical trials. These studies revealed a 38 percent reduction in colon cancer, which matched well with the risk reduction seen in clinical trials, they said. There were similar findings for esophageal, gastric, biliary and breast cancer, they added.

While the study is attention-getting, not everyone agrees with the overall conclusions. Among them is Nancy R. Cook, an associate biostatistician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston and co-author of an accompanying journal editorial. She pointed out that these studies only dealt with trials where aspirin was given daily, whereas two large trials in which aspirin was given every other day found no connection with cancer prevention.

“Aspirin seems to work for people who have had cardiovascular disease. Perhaps in the long-term it will turn out to be protective for cancer, but we need to verify that and get more information,” Cook said. And, aspirin is not benign, Cook said, pointing out risks for bleeding and other gastrointestinal problems.

People should not start taking aspirin hoping to preventing cancer, Cook said. “Most of the studies show that the effect doesn’t accrue until after 10 years,” she noted. Eric Jacobs, strategic director of pharmacoepidemiology for the American Cancer Society, said that “this study provides important new evidence that long-term daily aspirin, even at low doses, may lower risk of developing cancer.”

However, any decision about treatment should be made on an individual basis in consultation with a doctor, he said.
“Because these results are new,” Jacobs added, “it will take time for the broader scientific community to evaluate the data in the context of existing knowledge and to consider whether the clinical guidelines should be changed.”

Jun 28

Exercise Can Reduce Hot Flashes


By Rick Nauert PhD Senior News Editor Although it is not a panacea for everything that ails, exercise comes close, and new research suggests physical activity may reduce hot flashes in menopausal women.

Penn State researchers discovered exercise has the capacity to reduce hot flashes in the 24 hours following physical activity. Women who are relatively inactive, overweight or obese tend to have a risk of increased symptoms of perceived hot flashes, noted Steriani Elavsky, Ph.D., assistant professor of kinesiology at Penn State.

Experts say that perceived hot flashes do not always correspond to actual hot flashes. This factor has limited extrapolation of prior research findings as earlier studies typically analyzed only self-reported hot flashes. Researchers say the current study is the first to look at objective versus subjective hot flashes. Elavsky and colleagues studied 92 menopausal women for 15 days. Participants were recruited for a study of activity and consisted of women with mild to moderate symptoms.

This sample, while reflective of the real world, is in stark contrast to earlier menopausal studies that used women experiencing severe symptoms and seeking help. “Our sample included women with mild to moderate symptoms and they were recruited for a study of physical activity, not for a study of menopause,” said Elavsky. “We recruited women residing in the community. We used recruitment sources that included a variety of outlets in the community frequented by women, like libraries, fairs, gyms, advertisements in local newspapers, etc.”

Women ranged in age from 40 to 59 years old, had two children on average, and were not on hormone therapy. During analysis the researchers separated the women into normal weight and overweight/obese categories and higher fit and lower fit categories. These categories were not necessarily mutually exclusive.

The participants wore accelerometers to monitor their physical activity and also wore monitors that measured skin conductance, which varies with the moisture level of the skin. Each participant recorded the individual hot flashes she had throughout the 15-day period on a personal digital assistant. Using two methods of recording hot flashes allowed researchers to analyze the frequency of objective and subjective hot flashes. Objective hot flashes occurred when the monitor recorded them; subjective hot flashes occurred when the woman reported them.

When an objective and a subjective hot flash were recorded within five minutes of each other, it was considered a “true positive” hot flash. “Some physiological explanations would suggest that performing physical activity could increase hot flashes because it acutely increases body core temperature,” said Elavsky.

However, researcher discovered that on average, the women in the study experienced fewer hot flash symptoms after exercising. That said, women who were classified as overweight, having a lower level of fitness or those experiencing more frequent or more intense hot flashes, noticed the smallest reduction in symptoms.

Researchers say that they do not know if a diet and exercise regime could help a woman lose weight and become more fit and therefore experience fewer hot flashes, but it is a possibility worthy of future investigation. “For women with mild to moderate hot flashes, there is no reason to avoid physical activity for the fear of making symptoms worse,” said Elavsky.

“In fact, physical activity may be helpful, and is certainly the best way to maximize health as women age. Becoming and staying active on a regular basis as part of your lifestyle is the best way to ensure healthy aging and well-being, regardless of whether you experience hot flashes or not.”

The study is reported in the journal Menopause.

Jun 21

Bipolar Disorder and Anosognosia


One of the biggest problems in the treatment of bipolar disorder is that many people aren’t aware they are ill. This lack of awareness, termed anosognosia, can be a major barrier that keeps some people with bipolar disorder from getting the treatment they need. In their minds, they’re not sick, so why take medication?

Anosognosia in Bipolar Disorder

It is estimated that around 40 percent of people who have bipolar disorder also have anosognosia. In fact, anosognosia is the primary reason why those with this disease do not take their bipolar medications. Anosognosia is even more common in people who have delusions or hallucinations associated with their bipolar disorder. When people with anosognosia have a hallucination or delusion, they believe that what they are seeing or thinking is real, and are not convinced that an illness is causing these symptoms.

Many people with bipolar disorder have anosognosia that comes and goes, and anosognosia is often not a problem during periods of bipolar remission. But when a bipolar episode hits, they cannot grasp that they have an illness.

Anosognosia is different from denial, which is a common psychological tool people use to suppress the painful emotions associated with an illness or another stressful event. Instead, anosognosia is thought to be caused by damage to the brain, particularly the frontal and parietal lobes of the brain’s right hemisphere. The right hemisphere of the brain controls thinking skills, and damage can result in a number of problems, including difficulty with reasoning and problem solving.

Anosognosia is not unique to bipolar disorder. It is also seen in schizophrenia, stroke, brain tumor, Alzheimer’s disease, and Huntington’s disease.

Bipolar Disorder and Anosognosia: Coping Tips for Caregivers

As the caregiver for someone with bipolar disorder, you play a major role in your loved one’s life.

The patient “really need[s] to have a reliable care partner,” says Gary Sachs, MD, founder and director of the Bipolar Clinic and Research Program at Massachusetts General Hospital, and associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School in Boston.

Dr. Sachs says it is critical for someone with bipolar disorder to have somebody who can help the patient follow the treatment plan, especially when he is ill and cannot do it on his own.

Here are some ways to encourage your loved one to stick with prescribed bipolar treatment:

By Krisha McCoy When his mood is stable, tell him that studies show that people with bipolar disorder can improve with medication. Without medication, the odds of him getting sicker increase, which in turn increases the risk of hospitalization, incarceration, suicide, violent behavior, and becoming a victim of violence.
Developing a partnership with the patient is vital. And that means listening to your loved one’s fears, whether those fears revolve around the diagnosis or being hospitalized against his will.
Empathize; don’t dismiss his opinions or emotions. Get the patient to talk about what is going on, person to person.
Pay more attention to what she thinks is important, not what you think. As the caregiver, you might think that the hallucinations are a huge deal, but your loved one might think lack of sleep is the biggest problem. Discuss her problem; it will help develop trust.
Together, plan how to deal with an acute bipolar episode, especially when anosognosia is an issue.
Don’t get discouraged if you cannot convince her that she has an illness. Focus on helping her stick to her prescribed treatment. The patient might take the medications if you help her remember some of the negative experiences that occurred when she skipped medications before.

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