Category Archives: Brain & Nervous System

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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UCLA memory program offers ‘gym for your brain’

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UCLA Memory 1

Vikki Helperin, 84, dances with her husband Sidney, 88, a retired anesthesiologist, at the Longevity Center at the University of California Los Angeles Medical Center. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s about four years ago, and the couple is hoping the memory sessions will slow the progression of the disease (Photo by Anna Gorman/KHN).

 

By Anna Gorman
KHN Staff Writer
MAR 15, 2014

This KHN story was produced in collaboration with wapo

Just as they had so many times during the past 60 years, Marianna and Albert Frankel stepped onto the dance floor. He took her hand in his, and smiling, waltzed her around the room.

“I remembered how it used to be and we could really do the waltz and he would whirl me around until I got dizzy,” said Marianna Frankel, 82, who is 10 years younger than her husband.

For just a few minutes as the music played, she didn’t think about her husband’s memory loss, the long days of silence or how much he had changed.

The Frankels and about 20 others had come to the University of California Los Angeles Medical Plaza on a breezy Tuesday afternoon to learn ways to boost the memory and help both patients and caregivers cope with what already had been lost.  Continue reading

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Can a dietary supplement treat a concussion? No

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Illustration of the skull and brainA Consumer Update from the US Food and Drug Administration

Exploiting the public’s rising concern about concussions, some companies are offering untested, unproven and possibly dangerous products that claim to prevent, treat or cure concussions and other traumatic brain injuries (TBIs).

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is monitoring the marketplace and taking enforcement actions where appropriate, issuing warning letters to firms—the usual first step for dealing with claims that products labeled as dietary supplements are intended for use in the cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease.

The agency is also warning consumers to avoid purported dietary supplements marketed with claims to prevent, treat, or cure concussions and other TBIs because the claims are not backed with scientific evidence that the products are safe or effective for such purposes.

These products are sold on the Internet and at various retail outlets, and marketed to consumers using social media, including Facebook and Twitter.

One common claim: Using a particular dietary supplement promotes faster healing times after a concussion or other TBI.

Even if a particular supplement contains no harmful ingredients, that claim alone can be dangerous, says Gary Coody, FDA’s National Health Fraud Coordinator.

“We’re very concerned that false assurances of faster recovery will convince athletes of all ages, coaches and even parents that someone suffering from a concussion is ready to resume activities before they are really ready,” says Coody. “Also, watch for claims that these products can prevent or lessen the severity of concussions or TBIs.”

A concussion is a brain injury caused by a blow to the head, or by a violent shaking of the head and upper body. Concussions and other TBIs are serious medical conditions that require proper diagnosis, treatment, and monitoring by a health care professional.

The long-term impact of concussions on professional athletes and children who play contact sports has recently been the subject of highly publicized discussions.

A growing body of scientific evidence indicates that if concussion victims resume strenuous activities—such as football, soccer or hockey—too soon, they risk a greater chance of having a subsequent concussion.

Moreover, repeat concussions can have a cumulative effect on the brain, with devastating consequences that can include brain swelling, permanent brain damage, long-term disability and death.

“As amazing as the marketing claims here are, the science doesn’t support the use of any dietary supplements for the prevention of concussions or the reduction of post-concussion symptoms that would enable one to return to playing a sport faster,” says Daniel Fabricant, Ph.D., director of FDA’s Division of Dietary Supplement Programs.

The Claims

One of the first alarms raised about dietary supplements being promoted to treat TBI came from the U.S. Department of Defense.

“We first learned from the military about a product being marketed to treat TBI, obviously a concern with wounded veterans. We were taken aback that anyone would make a claim that a supplement could treat TBI, a hot-button issue,” says Jason Humbert, a senior regulatory manager with FDA’s Office of Regulatory Affairs. “That sparked our surveillance.”

FDA routinely monitors the marketplace. However, with more than 85,000 dietary supplements on the market and no product registration, products making false claims can slip through, at least for a time.

Typically, products promising relief from TBIs tout the benefits of ingredients such as turmeric and high levels of omega-3 fatty acids derived from fish oil. Turmeric is an Indian spice in the ginger family.

For Omega-3, FDA has recommended a maximum daily level of 3 grams per day from all sources due to possible problems with increased risk of bleeding, increases in cholesterol and problems with controlling blood sugar levels.

In its initial surveillance, FDA identified two companies selling multiple products claiming to prevent and treat concussions and other TBIs. One company claimed to have “the world’s first supplement formulated specifically to assist concussion recovery,” saying “it has the dynamic ability to minimize long-term effects and decrease recovery time.”

A National Football League player testified to its “proven results in my own recovery” from a concussion, and an unnamed “licensed trainer” said he had incorporated it into his “concussion management protocol.”

Similar claims were made by the other company, which was selling four products claiming to protect against and help heal TBIs. FDA sent letters in 2012 warning both companies that their products were not generally recognized as safe and effective for treating TBIs, that the products were misbranded (a legal term meaning, in this case, that the labeling of the products did not have adequate directions for use), and that unless various violations cited in the letters were promptly corrected, the violations could result in legal action taken without further notice, such as seizure or injunction.

Both companies changed their websites and labeling.

In December 2013, FDA issued a warning letter to Star Scientific, Inc., for marketing its product Anatabloc with claims to treat TBIs. FDA continues to monitor the marketplace for products with similar fraudulent claims, and will take appropriate regulatory action to protect the public health.

“As we continue to work on this problem, we can’t guarantee you won’t see a claim about TBIs. But we can promise you this: There is no dietary supplement that has been shown to prevent or treat them,” says Coody. “If someone tells you otherwise, walk away.”

This article appears on FDA’s Consumer Updates page, which features the latest on all FDA-regulated products.

Dec. 31, 2013

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Women’s health – Week 15: Depression and Anxiety

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Office of Research on Women’s Health

Everyone feels sad sometimes, but these feelings usually pass within a couple of days. But when a woman has a depressive disorder, it can interfere with daily life and cause pain for her and those who care about her. The good news is that the vast majority of people, even those with the most severe depression, can get better with treatment.

Your health care provider may conduct a complete medical and psychological evaluation and will recommend an appropriate treatment. The most proven treatment methods are certain antidepressant medications and kinds of psychotherapy.

Women with depressive illnesses may not all experience the same symptoms. The severity, frequency, and duration of symptoms will vary depending on the person and her particular illness.

The most common symptoms of depression can include:

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings.
  • Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism (belief that things will not get better).
  • Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex.
  • Insomnia, waking up during the night, or excessive sleeping.
  • Fatigue and decreased energy.
  • Irritability, restlessness, or anxiety.
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness.
  • Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts.
Antidepressant medication and pregnancy and breastfeeding
Women can be depressed while pregnant, especially if they have a history of depression. Women also can develop depression during pregnancy and especially after giving birth. The decisions about how to treat depression during pregnancy are complex and should be made in consultation with your health care provider before becoming pregnant to develop the best treatment plan.Antidepressants are excreted in breast milk, usually in very small amounts. Health care providers have not noticed many problems among infants nursing from mothers who are taking antidepressants, but research into possible side effects is ongoing. Whether you are planning to get pregnant, or are now pregnant or breastfeeding, consult your health care provider about the risks and benefits to you and your baby when deciding whether to take an antidepressant during pregnancy or while breastfeeding.

Anxiety disorders

People with anxiety disorders feel extremely fearful and unsure. Most people feel anxious about something for a short time now and again. For people with anxiety disorders, the anxiety is so frequent and intense that it seriously disrupts daily activity and quality of life.

Examples of anxiety disorders include:

  • Panic disorder.
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (see Week 38 for more information).
  • Social phobia (or social anxiety disorder).
  • Specific phobias.
  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).

Each anxiety disorder has different symptoms, but all the symptoms cluster around excessive, irrational fear and dread. There is help for people with anxiety disorders. The first step is to talk to your health care provider about your symptoms. Your health care provider will examine you to make sure that another physical problem is not causing the symptoms. He or she may refer you to a mental health specialist.

Health care providers may prescribe medication to help relieve your anxiety disorder, but it is important to know that some of these medicines may take a few weeks to start working. The kinds of medicines that have been found to be helpful for anxiety disorders include antidepressants, anti-anxiety medicines, and beta blockers.Many people get relief from their anxiety with certain kinds of psychotherapy. These treatments can help people feel less anxious and fearful. You may be referred to a social worker, psychologist, psychiatric nurse, or psychiatrist for psychotherapy.

For more information: www.nimh.nih.gov
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“Multiple Sclerosis in the Pacific Northwest” – Science Cafe, Monday, Dec. 9

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Illustration of the skull and brain“Multiple Sclerosis in the Pacific Northwest”
Monday, December 9, 2013 – 7 p.m. – Wilde Rover

Multiple sclerosis is a mysterious disease that is particularly common here in the Pacific Northwest. At the December Eastside Science Café, join the Swedish Neuroscience Institute’s James Bowen, M.D., to discover more about MS as a disease, trends and changes in its distribution around the world, and how it uniquely impacts our region.

Wilde Rover is located in downtown Kirkland at 111 Central Way.

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Women’s Health – Week 14: Dementia

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From the Office of Research on Women’s Health

Dementia is the loss of thinking, memory, and reasoning skills to the extent that it seriously affects a person’s ability to carry out daily activities. Dementia is not a disease itself but a group of symptoms caused by certain diseases or conditions.

The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. People with dementia lose their mental abilities at different rates and may eventually need total care.

Symptoms of dementia
  • Being unable to remember things.
  • Asking the same question or repeating the same story over and over.
  • Becoming lost in familiar places.
  • Being unable to follow directions.
  • Getting disoriented about time, people, and places.
  • Neglecting personal safety, hygiene, and nutrition.
  • Changing clarity in memory, language, and reasoning.
  • Changing moods and personality.
  • Losing the ability to perform daily activities like driving a car or handling money.

A person with dementia should be under the care of a health care provider. The health care provider might prescribe medications that may help maintain thinking, memory, and speaking skills, and that may lessen certain behavioral problems for a few months to a few years.

Family members and friends can help people in the early stages of dementia to continue their daily routines, physical activities, and social contacts. If you are concerned that you or someone you know has a serious memory problem, talk with your health care provider.

Note
There are now drugs to treat diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease. Although these drugs do not stop the disease or reverse existing brain damage, they may be able to lessen symptoms of the disease for a time. This may improve a person’s quality of life, ease the burden on caregivers, or delay admission to a nursing home.
 
For more information: www.nia.nih.gov
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