Category Archives: Brain & Nervous System

For autistic adults, coverage options are scarce

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Graphic showing an umbrella sheltering medicinesBy Michelle Andrews
KHN / September 19th

It’s getting easier for parents of young children with autism to get insurers to cover a pricey treatment called applied behavioral analysis.

Once kids turn 21, however, it’s a different ballgame entirely. Continue reading

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California to broaden autism coverage for kids through Medicaid

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This KHN story also ran in the .

Maria Cruz had never heard the word autism until her daughter, Shirley, was diagnosed as a toddler.

“I felt a knot in my brain. I didn’t know where to turn,” recalled Cruz, a Mexican immigrant who speaks only Spanish. “I didn’t have any idea how to help her.”

No one in her low-income South Los Angeles neighborhood seemed to know anything about autism spectrum disorder, a developmental condition that can impair language, learning and social interaction.

Starting Monday, Sept. 15, thousands of children in California from low-income families who are on the autism spectrum will be eligible for behavioral therapy under the state’s health plan for the poor.

Years passed as Shirley struggled through school, where she was bullied and beaten up. Now 9, Shirley aces math tests but can barely dress herself, brush her teeth or eat with utensils.

Shirley is like many autistic children from poor families: She hasn’t gotten much outside help. The parents often lack the know-how and means of middle-class families to advocate for their children at schools and state regional centers for the developmentally disabled.

A new initiative seeks to help level the playing field. Starting Monday, Sept. 15, thousands of children from low-income families who are on the autism spectrum will be eligible for behavioral therapy under Medi-Cal, the state’s health plan for the poor. Continue reading

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Women’s health – Week 51: Traumatic Brain Injury

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tacuin womenFrom the Office of Research on Women’s Health

Traumatic brain injury (TBI), a form of acquired brain injury, occurs when a sudden force, such as from an explosive blast or an automobile accident, causes damage to the brain.

TBI can result when the head suddenly and violently hits an object, or when an object pierces the skull and enters brain tissue.

In most of these cases, the skull remains intact and the damage is believed to be caused by a pressure wave of the explosion’s concussive force passing through the brain.

Symptoms of a TBI can be mild, moderate, or severe, depending on the extent of the damage to the brain. Continue reading

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Federal officials order Medicaid to cover autism services

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Jigsaw puzzle with one piece to add

Photo: Willi Heidelbach

When Yuri Maldonado’s 6-year-old son was diagnosed with autism four years ago, she learned that getting him the therapy he needed from California’s Medicaid plan for low-income children was going to be tough.

Medi-Cal, as California’s plan is called, does provide coverage of autism services for some children who are severely disabled by the disorder, in contrast to many states which offer no autism coverage.

But Maldonado’s son was approved for 30 hours a week of applied behavioral analysis (ABA), a type of behavior modification therapy that has been shown to be effective with autistic children, and she was worried that wasn’t enough.

So she and her husband, neither of whose jobs offered health insurance, bought an individual private policy for their son, with a $900 monthly price tag, to get him more of the comprehensive therapy.

“I don’t know any family that can really afford that,” says Maldonado. “We made some sacrifices.”

That should be changing soon. In July, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced that comprehensive autism services must be covered for children under all state Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program plans, another federal-state program that provide health coverage to lower-income children. Continue reading

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If you have a stroke, better it should be in Paris

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Frank Browning (Photo by Christophe Sevault)

Frank Browning. (Photo by Christophe Sevault)

Frank Browning writes from Paris
KHN

I had a stroke last month, oh boy.

It’s just that I didn’t know it. Here’s what happened:

Only after three days of flashing, floating visual squiggles — commonly known as ocular migraines that usually last 20 minutes — do I email my old friend Dr. John Krakauer, who helps run stroke recovery at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.

After a few questions he told me to get an MRI scan as soon as possible.

In the U.S. that could involve the emergency room (with its hours-long wait) or a complicated process of getting the referral — and then finding a radiologist who would take my coverage.

Here in France, it is so much simpler. Continue reading

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Most of the genetic risk for autism due to versions of common genes

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From the National Institutes of Health

Most of the genetic risk for autism comes from versions of genes that are common in the population rather than from rare variants or spontaneous glitches, researchers funded by the

National Institutes of Health have found. Heritability also outweighed other risk factors in this largest study of its kind to date.

About 52 percent of the risk for autism was traced to common and rare inherited variation, with spontaneous mutations contributing a modest 2.6 percent of the total risk.

Gene autism

The bulk of risk, or liability, for autism spectrum disorders (ASD) was traced to inherited variations in the genetic code shared by many people. These and other (unaccounted) factors dwarfed contributions from rare inherited, non-additive and spontaneous (de novo) genetic factors. Source: Population-Based Autism Genetics and Environment Study.

“Although each exerts just a tiny effect individually, these common variations in the genetic code add up to substantial impact, taken together,” Buxbaum said. Continue reading

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Women’s Health – Week 46: Stroke

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tacuin womenFrom the Office of Research on Women’s Health

A stroke, also called a brain attack, occurs when blood flow to the brain suddenly stops. Blocked or damaged vessels are the two major causes of stroke.

During a stroke, brain cells begin to die because oxygen and nutrients cannot reach them. The longer blood flow is cut off to the brain, the greater the damage.

Every minute counts when someone is having a stroke. Immediate treatment can save a person’s life and enhance the chance for a successful recovery.

stroke

Diagram showing what happens in the brain during a hemorrhagic stroke and a ischemic stroke.

There are two kinds of stroke: Continue reading

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Extreme obesity may shorten life expectancy up to 14 years

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ScaleFrom the National Cancer Institute

Adults with extreme obesity have increased risks of dying at a younger age from cancer and many other causes including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and kidney and liver diseases, according to a new study.

The study, led by researchers from the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health, found that people with class III (or extreme) obesity had a dramatic reduction in life expectancy compared with people of normal weight. The findings appeared July 8, 2014, in PLOS Medicine.

 Six percent of US adults are now classified as extremely obese

“While once a relatively uncommon condition, the prevalence of class III, or extreme, obesity is on the rise. In the United States, for example, six percent of adults are now classified as extremely obese, which, for a person of average height, is more than 100 pounds over the recommended range for normal weight,” said Cari Kitahara, Ph.D., Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, NCI, and lead author of the study.  Continue reading

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Moms, kids eat more (low mercury) fish – FDA says

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Medieval woodcut of fish in a netFDA Consumer Update

If you’re pregnant, you’ve no doubt been given a list of foods to avoid—undercooked meat, soft cheeses made from unpasteurized milk, and alcohol, to name a few.

The good news is that there is a food you should have more of while pregnant and while breastfeeding: fish and shellfish.

The latest science shows that eating fish low in mercury during pregnancy and in early childhood can help with growth and neurodevelopment. It can also be good for your health. Continue reading

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Heads Up — Free concussion app from the CDC

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Heads up appThe US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has created a free app to help you learn how to spot and what to do if you think your child or teen has a concussion or other serious brain injury.

The “Heads Up” APP will also teach you about helmet safety and features information on selecting the right helmet for your child’s or teen’s activity, including information on what to look for and what to avoid.

To learn more go here.

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Can an aspirin a day help prevent a heart attack? That depends, says FDA

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fda-logo-thumbnailAn FDA Consumer Update

Can an aspirin a day help you ward off a heart attack or stroke?

That depends.

Scientific evidence shows that taking an aspirin daily can help prevent a heart attack or stroke in some people, but not in everyone. It also can cause unwanted side effects. Continue reading

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Value of routine dementia screening questioned

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Illustration of the skull and brainMichelle Andrews
KHN
MAY 06, 2014

For the millions of seniors who worry that losing their keys may mean they’re losing their minds, the health law now requires Medicare to cover a screening for cognitive impairment during an annual wellness visit.

But in a recent review of the scientific research, an influential group said there wasn’t enough evidence to recommend dementia screening for asymptomatic people over age 65.

What’s a worried senior to think? Continue reading

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New study again finds higher rate of rare neurological birth defects in central Washington

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Washington MapA new study has again found a higher rate of a rare neurological birth defect, anencephaly, in Yakima, Benton and Franklin counties, Washington state health officials said Tuesday.

The study identified seven cases of the birth defect in these three counties in 2013, which translates into a rate of 8.7 per 10,000 births. That rate is similar to the rate seen in 2010-2012 and remains well above the national rate of 2.1 per 10,000 births, health officials said. Continue reading

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Alzheimer’s support model could save states millions

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And younger man's hand holds an elderly man's handBy Lisa Gillespie

As states eye strategies to control the costs of caring for Alzheimer’s patients, a New York model is drawing interest, and findings from a study of Minnesota’s effort to replicate it shows it could lead to significant savings and improved services.  Continue reading

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