Category Archives: Studies

Mammograms: How They Can Reveal Heart Disease

The routine mammograms women receive to check for breast cancer may also offer clues to their risk for heart disease, new research suggests.

White spots or lines visible on mammograms indicate a buildup of calcium in breast arteries. This breast arterial calcification is different from coronary artery calcification, which is known to be a marker for higher cardiovascular risk. For the study, researchers followed 5,059 postmenopausal women (ages 60 to 79) for six and a half years. They found that those with breast arterial calcification were 51% more likely to develop heart disease or have a stroke than those without calcification. The study was published March 15, 2022, in Circulation: Cardiovascular Imaging.

Dementia Study: A High-Fiber Diet May Lower Risk

Fiber is known for keeping your digestive system healthy and lowering cholesterol levels. Now, study findings suggest it also may protect the brain from dementia.

The study involved approximately 3,700 healthy adults, ages 40 to 64, who completed routine dietary surveys for 16 years. Researchers then monitored the participants for two decades to see which ones developed dementia. The study revealed that people who consumed the most daily fiber had the lowest rates of dementia. The reverse also was true — those who ate the least fiber had the highest rates. Specifically, the low-risk group consumed an average of 20 grams daily, while those with the highest risk averaged only 8 grams. (The USDA recommends that men over age 50 eat 30 grams of fiber daily.)

Chronic Back Pain: Anti-Inflammatory Drugs & NSAID’s Increase The Risks

Chronic pain can develop from an acute pain state. The mechanisms mediating the transition from acute to chronic pain remain to be elucidated. Here, Parisien et al. focused on the immune system using samples from patients and animal models. Transcriptomic analysis in immune cells from subjects with low back pain showed that neutrophil activation–dependent inflammatory genes were up-regulated in subjects with resolved pain, whereas no changes were observed in patients with persistent pain. In rodents, anti-inflammatory treatments prolonged pain duration and the effect was abolished by neutrophil administration. Last, clinical data showed that the use of anti-inflammatory drugs was associated with increased risk of persistent pain, suggesting that anti-inflammatory treatments might have negative effects on pain duration.

Studies: Covid Increases Type 2 Diabetes Risk By 40%

The true disability cost of the COVID-19 pandemic is still unknown, but more and more studies are adding to the list of potential fallout from even mild COVID 19 infection. 

In this episode of Coronapod we discuss a massive association study which links COVID-19 cases with an increase in the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. We delve into the numbers to ask how big the risk might be? Whether any casual relationship can be drawn from this association? And what might be in store from future research into COVID and chronic disease?

News: Diabetes risk rises after COVID, massive study finds

Health: Four Tests For Chronic Inflammation

These are four of the most common tests for inflammation:

  • Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (sed rate or ESR). This test measures how fast red blood cells settle to the bottom of a vertical tube of blood. When inflammation is present the red blood cells fall faster, as higher amounts of proteins in the blood make those cells clump together. While ranges vary by lab, a normal result is typically 20 mm/hr or less, while a value over 100 mm/hr is quite high.
  • C-reactive protein (CRP). This protein made in the liver tends to rise when inflammation is present. A normal value is less than 3 mg/L. A value over 3 mg/L is often used to identify an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, but bodywide inflammation can make CRP rise to 100 mg/L or more.
  • Ferritin. This is a blood protein that reflects the amount of iron stored in the body. It’s most often ordered to evaluate whether an anemic person is iron-deficient, in which case ferritin levels are low. Or, if there is too much iron in the body, ferritin levels may be high. But ferritin levels also rise when inflammation is present. Normal results vary by lab and tend to be a bit higher in men, but a typical normal range is 20 to 200 mcg/L.
  • Fibrinogen. While this protein is most commonly measured to evaluate the status of the blood clotting system, its levels tend to rise when inflammation is present. A normal fibrinogen level is 200 to 400 mg/dL.

Commentary:

Inflammation is an essential, evolutionarily conserved mechanism that our bodies have developed for excluding infections, toxins, and damaged or cancerous cells.

Acute inflammation in response to infections is almost always beneficial, except where it is disproportionate to the danger that it fights; the common cold is  probably innocuous, but we develop symptoms from our bodies’ response. Covid has been found to incite disproportionately severe inflammation, which can lead to severe disease, and the need for corticosteroids.

Chronic inflammation is a different animal, and is usually undesirable. Sometimes it is due to an infection, such as tuberculosis, which won’t go away. Sometimes the bodies immune system develops a disordered communication system, and fights its own cells, called auto immunity.

Chronic inflammation can also be caused by obesity, chronic stress, cigarette smoking, alcohol in excess, and cancer, which can also be CAUSED BY chronic inflammation.

Chronic inflammation is also associated with Alzheimer’s, heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and type two diabetes. Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease of the airways. IBD, inflammatory bowel disease, is a chronic inflammatory disease of the intestinal tract.

The symptoms of chronic inflammation very widely depending on the area involved. Abdominal pain, chest pain, joint pain, skin rashes, fatigue, and fever are some of the symptoms.

You can reduce your likelihood of chronic inflammation by maintaining normal weight, having regular exercise, eating a diet rich in natural vegetables and fruits (antioxidants),  avoiding alcohol and cigarette smoke, and by reducing or handling your stress.

—Dr. C.

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Diet & Nutrition: Nine Healthy ‘Brain Food’ Tips

• Find time to snack healthily. Take short food breaks to help keep your blood-sugar level reasonably high without surging. Eating a piece of fruit every three hours or so, for example, could prevent hunger and overconsumption of calories. And when you eat, relax. Try not to think about your research. If you routinely stand in the lab, sit down. If your role is more sedentary, get up and take a quick stroll — perhaps to see a colleague on the next floor.

• Put food on your agenda. Schedule regular mealtimes in your work diary — because if you don’t, someone else will fill the gap for you by inviting you to a meeting. Choose a slot that aligns with your ‘biological clock’ and alterations in hormones such as insulin to optimize metabolic health, including microbiota diversity and composition. In other words, follow your gut and eat at times of the day when you feel that your body needs it, but generally try to avoid taking lunch too late in the afternoon. Eating earlier in the day can improve your energy balance, weight regulation, glycaemic control and sleep satisfaction6. Your brain consumes about 20% of the total energy used by your body, so maintaining consistent energy levels is important for optimal functioning. Use the time you’ve booked. Focus on what you eat and take your time. Do not grab a sandwich and munch it down in front of a screen. Your body deserves a rest.

• Enjoy your food. Transform your meal break into a pleasant event by sharing it with colleagues. Propose that everyone take turns preparing a dish from their home country or area so that you can all enjoy the cuisines of different cultures. Eating in a group and discussing the day’s events can help you to relax, to laugh and to share useful information and experiences.

• Plan your meals. If you are feeling particularly hungry, your eyes and hypothalamus (a small region in the brain that controls many bodily functions including hunger and thirst) will not help you to make healthy food choices; instead, they will prompt you to go for sugary, salty or fatty options. Try to organize your meals in advance. Increase your intake of low-calorie items, such as soups, salads, vegetables and minimally processed foods that are rich in dietary fibre. Among these are wholegrains, cereals, fruits, pulses, whole rice and wholemeal pasta. These foods are also rich in micronutrients and antioxidants such as potassium, magnesium, vitamin C, vitamin E, B-vitamins and healthy lipids — especially unsaturated omega-3 ones — that can help to prevent chronic disease. Neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, epinephrine and norepinephrine — all important for good brain function, mood and emotional regulation — require food-derived precursors, as well as vitamins and minerals, to be synthesized7.

• Diversify your diet. Stimulate your appetite by altering your food choices, preferably by incorporating more fruit and vegetables into your diet and reducing consumption of red meat and meat products. Each new day merits a new meal experience. But this doesn’t mean being a fully fledged connoisseur: overthinking what you eat will lead to compromises with your time and will make further compromises in what you eat more tempting. A saying from the Japanese Okinawa islands, where people have one of the lowest rates of chronic diseases in the world, and where many centenarians live, points the way: “Eat until you are 80% full”8. In practice, this means you should eat slowly and avoid ‘stuffing’ yourself.

• Avoid the insulin roller coaster. As well as contributing to chronic disease, excessive sugar intake might harm cognitive performance9. Sugared drinks, such as sodas, smoothies and even fruit juices, have a very low satiety value. After the sugar surge, glucagon — a hormone produced when sugar levels are low — as well as ghrelin, an appetitive hormone, and others kick back in and you’ll be hypoglycaemic and feel hungry again. Artificially sweetened beverages might not work much better — there is scientific debate about their perceived health benefits, because they might stimulate appetite centrally in the hypothalamus, rather than by modulating insulin levels10. Go for water, coffee, teas (including fruit teas), low-fat milk — or, if you’re desperate for sugar, a homemade fruit juice.

• Drink loads of water. Working inside, where the air is often dry (owing to heating in winter and artificial cooling in summer) can hasten water loss through respiration. Two litres a day of fluid intake is recommended by many health agencies. Pay attention to signs of dehydration. Drinking plenty will increase your blood volume and brain tissue fluid and thus boost your circulation and concentration levels. You will also become more tolerant of heat and cold — which is helpful when working in warm offices and cooled labs. Water is the essential carrier for all life functions in your body. It can also increase daily energy expenditure and feelings of satiety. Drinking water half an hour before your meal is an especially good option because it improves satiety11.

• Use healthy leftovers. Pre-packaged sandwiches and processed foods often have high quantities of fat, sugar, salt and additives that trigger the brain’s dopamine reward system, among other neuronal systems, inducing compulsive eating behaviour12. If you have time, prepare a healthy dish from scratch at home, perhaps making more than is needed for an evening meal and using leftovers for lunch the following day. Among homemade foods, well-balanced traditional dishes can improve your performance and health: for instance, the classic Mediterranean diet has long been linked with improved cognitive function and a decreased likelihood of both cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease3. A Tupperware lunch made with leftovers from even the most indulgent dinner could often make a healthier lunch than a standard pre-packaged sandwich.

• Scrap the salt. Excessive use of salt is among the major killers worldwide, leading to increased blood pressure, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases. Some salt is essential to the taste of most foods, as well as for life, however, so don’t attempt to cut it out of your diet entirely. Try pepper, curcuma, nutmeg or other spices to add flavour. Some spices, including curcuma and pepper, also help to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and can even decrease total mortality rates13.

Journals: Telemedicine And e-Health – FEB 2022

Original Research

Patient Experience and Satisfaction with Telemedicine During Coronavirus Disease 2019: A Multi-Institution Experience


Implementation and Evaluation of a Neurology Telemedicine Initiative at a Major Academic Medical Center


Telemedicine in Primary Care During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Provider and Patient Satisfaction Examined

Dementia: Progress In Treatments (Harvard)

The potential benefit of nonpharmacologic memory-boosting strategies in the mild stages

One study from a group of Boston researchers examined 32 individuals with mild memory problems, half with mild cognitive impairment and half with mild Alzheimer’s disease dementia. They found that both groups improved their memory by simply thinking about the following question when learning new information: “What is one unique characteristic of this item or personal experience that differentiates it from others?” Another study by Boston researchers found that 19 individuals with mild cognitive impairment could improve their ability to remember items at a virtual supermarket by simply thinking systematically about whether items were already in their cupboard before putting them in their shopping cart. Larger studies are needed, however, to determine if such memory strategies are generalizable.

Music, pets, robots, and the environment in the moderate to severe stages

Similarly, there are many nonpharmacological treatments that appear to provide comfort and reduce agitation in individuals with moderate to severe dementia, but larger and more rigorous studies are needed to prove or disprove their efficacy, and thereby promote more widespread utilization.

  • A group of Portuguese clinicians and researchers reviewed more than 100 studies evaluating music-based interventions for people with dementia who had agitation or other behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia, finding that the vast majority were efficacious with little or no side effects.
  • A team of neurologists from Florida reviewed the effects of dog therapy and ownership, finding that both were safe and effective approaches to treat chronic and progressive neurological disorders.
  • Other researchers found reductions in anxiety and psychoactive medication use when robot pets were given to individuals with dementia.
  • A review of the built environment (the architecture of the home or facility) concluded that “specific design interventions are beneficial to the outcomes of people with dementia.”

Knee Osteoarthritis: New Study Shows Telehealth Visit Benefits (Harvard)