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Monday, March 28, 2016

Adding Stress Management to Cardiac Rehab Cuts New Incidents in Half

 Newswise, March 28, 2016-- Patients recovering from heart attacks or other heart trouble could cut their risk of another heart incident by half if they incorporate stress management into their treatment, according to research from Duke Health.
The findings, published March 21 in the American Heart Association journal Circulation, are the result of a randomized clinical trial of 151 outpatients with coronary heart disease who were enrolled in cardiac rehabilitation due to heart blockages, chest pain, heart attacks or bypass surgery. They ranged in age from 36 to 84 years old.

About half of the patients participated in three months of traditional cardiac rehabilitation, which included exercise, a heart-healthy diet and drugs to manage cholesterol and high blood pressure.

The other half went to cardiac rehab and also attended weekly, 90-minute stress management groups that combined support, cognitive behavior therapy, muscle relaxation and other techniques to reduce stress. Patients were followed for an average of three years after rehab.

Thirty-three percent of patients who received only cardiac rehabilitation had another cardiovascular event such as a heart attack, bypass surgery, stroke, hospitalization for chest pain or death from any cause. By comparison, 18 percent of the patients who participated in stress-management training during their cardiac rehabilitation had subsequent cardiovascular trouble -- about half the rate of the other group.

Both sets of patients who went to rehab fared better still than recovering heart patients who elected not to attend rehab; 47 percent of this group later died or had another cardiovascular incident, according to the article.

Reducing stress may seem like an obvious part of any plan for improving heart health, said lead author James Blumenthal, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke.

“Over the past 20 to 30 years, there has been an accumulation of evidence that stress is associated with worse health outcomes,” Blumenthal said. “If you ask patients what was responsible for their heart attacks, most patients will indicate that stress was a contributing factor.”

 But stress management is typically not part of most cardiac rehabilitation programs, he said.

“I think part of the issue is that stress is hard to define, and there’s no universally accepted way of measuring it or treating it,” Blumenthal said. “The data we provide indicate that by reducing stress, patients can improve clinical outcomes, even beyond the benefits that we know exercise already has on reducing stress and improving cardiovascular health.”

For the trial, patients’ stress levels were measured using five standard instruments on which participants self-reported their levels of depression, anxiety, anger and perceived stress. Overall, those who participated in stress management reported reductions in anxiety, distress and their overall level of perceived stress.

Both groups that participated in cardiac rehabilitation saw similar and significant physical improvements in their cholesterol levels and proteins that indicate heart disease-related inflammation, as well as their exercise capacity.

"We have known for some time that participation in a supervised exercise program is beneficial in patients with coronary heart disease,” said Alan Hinderliter, M.D., cardiologist with UNC Health Care and co-investigator on the trial.

“The results of this study suggest that stress management is also a very important element of a comprehensive cardiac rehabilitation program. The intervention was clearly helpful in reducing stress levels, but we need additional research to confirm the benefits of stress management in improving cardiovascular outcomes.”

Although death rates from heart disease have improved, it remains the No. 1 cause of death in the U.S. and is growing worldwide, according to the American Heart Association.

In addition to Blumenthal and Hinderliter, study authors included Andrew Sherwood, Ph.D.; Patrick J. Smith Ph.D.; Lana Watkins Ph.D.; Stephanie Mabe; William E. Kraus, M.D.; Krista Ingle, Ph.D.; and Paula Miller, M.D.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, a component of the National Institutes of Health, supported this study (R01HL093374-01A2). The authors reported no conflicting financial interests.

Financial Burden of Cancer Survivors

Health and quality of life negatively affected

March 28, 2016--An analysis of US data from 2011 indicates that nearly 29 percent of cancer survivors are financially burdened as a result of their cancer diagnosis and/or treatment.

Published early online in CANCER, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, the study also reveals that such hardships can have lasting physical and mental effects on cancer survivors.

Few studies have assessed the impact of cancer-related financial burden on cancer survivors' quality of life. To investigate, Hrishikesh Kale, MS, and Norman Carroll, PhD, of Virginia Commonwealth University School of Pharmacy, analyzed 2011 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey data on 19.6 million cancer survivors.

They considered financial burden to be present if one of the following problems was reported: borrowed money/declared bankruptcy, worried about paying large medical bills, unable to cover the cost of medical care visits, or other financial sacrifices.

The researchers found that nearly 29 percent of US cancer survivors reported at least one financial problem resulting from cancer diagnosis, treatment, or lasting effects of that treatment.

Of all cancer survivors in the analysis, 21 percent worried about paying large medical bills, 11.5 percent were unable to cover the cost of medical care visits, 7.6 percent reported borrowing money or going into debt, 1.5 percent declared bankruptcy, and 8.6 percent reported other financial sacrifices.

Cancer survivors who faced such financial difficulties had lower physical and mental health-related quality of life, higher risk for depressed mood and psychological distress, and were more likely to worry about cancer recurrence compared with cancer survivors who did not face financial problems.

Also, as the number of financial problems reported by cancer survivors increased, their quality of life continued to decrease and their risk for depressed mood, psychological distress, and worries about cancer recurrence continued to increase.

The investigators also identified the effects of different types of financial problems on quality of life: declaring bankruptcy was associated with a 20 percent to 25 percent reduction in quality of life, while worrying about paying large medical bills was associated with a reduction of 6 percent to 8 percent.

"Our results suggest that policies and practices that minimize cancer patients' out-of-pocket costs can improve survivors' health-related quality of life and psychological health," said Dr. Carroll.

"Reducing the financial burden of cancer care requires integrated efforts, and the study findings are useful for survivorship care programs, oncologists, payers, pharmaceutical companies, and patients and their family members."

Mr. Kale noted that oncologists should consider selecting treatments that are less expensive but similar in effectiveness, discuss treatment costs with patients, and involve patients in making decisions about their therapy.

"Also, cancer patients and family members should educate themselves regarding survivorship issues, coverage and benefit design of their health plans, and organizations that provide financial assistance. Cancer survivorship care programs can identify survivors with the greatest financial burden and focus on helping them cope with psychological stress, anxiety, and depression throughout their journey with cancer."

Friday, March 18, 2016

Conservative Care May Be a Reasonable Option for Elderly Kidney Failure Patients

Dialysis may not prolong patients’ survival

Among kidney failure patients aged ≥80 years, there was no statistically significant survival advantage for those who chose dialysis over conservative management.'

Half or more of all patients on dialysis are aged ≥65 years in some countries.

Newswise, March 18, 2016— A new study found no significant survival advantage among elderly kidney failure patients who chose dialysis over conservative management. The findings, which appear in an upcoming issue of the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (CJASN), indicate that conservative care may be a reasonable choice for selected older patients.

Worldwide, increasing numbers of older patients are developing kidney failure, or end-stage renal disease (ESRD), that can be treated with renal replacement therapy such as kidney transplantation or dialysis.

Some experts have questioned whether older patients, who often have other medical conditions, are likely to benefit from these treatment options and should instead opt to be treated conservatively, with care that includes control of fluid and electrolyte balance, correcting anemia, and providing appropriate palliative and end of life care.

To look at the issue, a team in the country where hemodialysis was originally invented compared survival in older patients with ESRD who chose either dialysis (204 patients) or conservative management (107 patients) between 2004 and 2014. In this single-center observational study, investigators led by Wouter Verberne, MD and Willem Jan Bos, MD,PhD (St. Antonius Hospital, Nieuwegein, in The Netherlands) found no statistically significant survival advantage among patients aged ≥80 years old who chose dialysis over conservative management. In general, patients with additional medical illnesses died sooner than patients without comorbidities.

“We do not conclude that dialysis treatment should not be given to anybody ≥80 years or with severe comorbidity, but we show that the treatment is on average of little advantage regarding survival,” said Dr. Verberne.

“Our next task is to predict who benefits and who does not. Until we are able to give a better prediction of the results of dialysis treatment at high age, we can merely suggest that conservative management is an option which should honestly be discussed when ESRD is approaching.” Dr. Verberne added that more research is needed to determine how different treatment options affect patients’ other outcomes, such as quality of life and severity of symptoms.

In an accompanying editorial, Helen Tam-Tham, MSc and Chandra Thomas, MSc, MD (University of Calgary, in Canada) noted that conservative management programs can vary considerably from place to place. “Further research is necessary for enhancing and evaluating the multiple components necessary for a comprehensive conservative management program,” they wrote.

Study co-authors include A.B.M. Tom Geers, MD, PhD, Wilbert Jellema, MD, PhD, Hieronymus Vincent, MD, PhD, and Johannes van Delden, MD, PhD.
Disclosures: This research was made possible thanks to an unrestricted grant from Roche (Woerden, The Netherlands) to the St. Antonius Research Fund.

The Brain May Show Signs of Aging Earlier Than Old Age

Newswise, March 18, 2016--A new study published in Physiological Genomics suggests that the brain shows signs of aging earlier than old age. The study found that the microglia cells—the immune cells of the brain—in middle-aged mice already showed altered activity seen in microglia from older mice.

Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and other aging-related neurodegenerative disorders are associated with excessive inflammation in the brain. Scientists believe that overactive microglia cells contribute to the excess inflammation. Normally, microglia protect the brain from infection and ensure the brain functions properly. Their immune response is tightly controlled.

Microglia produce pro-inflammatory molecules to turn the inflammation process on, followed by anti-inflammatory molecules to turn inflammation off. With aging, microglial cells can overreact, and their immune activity can become less controlled—they turn inflammation on too quickly or turn it off too slowly. The prolonged or constant inflammation that results can damage the brain.

While it is known that microglia immune activity changes with aging, which response is affected first—the pro-inflammatory or the anti-inflammatory—or, more importantly, when microglial aging begins is not clear, says Jyoti Watters of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and lead investigator of the study. “We show in a mouse model that it may begin earlier than we thought,” Watters says.

The research team at the University of Wisconsin-Madison studied the microglia activity of young (two months old) and middle-aged (nine to 10 months old) mice. The researchers injected the mice with lipopolysaccharide, a molecule found in bacteria that strongly activates the immune system and causes inflammation. The mice were injected twice to assess the microglia’s ability to reset their immune activity and respond to another bout of inflammation.

The researchers found that middle-aged mice displayed exaggerated pro-inflammatory responses after the first injection. However, anti-inflammatory responses were normal. After the second injection, both pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory responses were normal.

The data suggest that at middle age, the microglia already showed signs of an altered immune response. But not everything is impaired: The microglia of the middle-aged mice still responded normally to the second injection.

“At this time, age-related alterations may only be beginning since other critical capacities have not begun to deteriorate yet,” according to Watters. “Of course, it is not known when aging-associated changes in microglial activities begin in the human brain, but these results in mice suggest that it may be earlier than we had previously appreciated,” Watters says.

The article “Age-dependent differences in microglial responses to systemic inflammation are evident as early as middle age” is published ahead-of-print in Physiological Genomics.

About the American Physiological Society
Physiology is the study of how molecules, cells, tissues and organs function in health and disease. Established in 1887, the American Physiological Society (APS) was the first U.S. society in the biomedical sciences field. The Society represents more than 10,000 members and publishes 15 peer-reviewed journals with a worldwide readership. 

Women May Keep Verbal Memory Skills Longer than Men in the Early Stages of Alzheimer’s

Women keep Verbal Memory Skills Longer than Men in ALzheimer's
Newswise, March 18, 2016 – Women may have a better memory for words than men despite evidence of similar levels of shrinkage in areas of the brain that show the earliest signs of Alzheimer’s disease, according to a study published in the March 16, 2016, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology
According to study author Erin E. Sundermann, PhD, of Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx, NY, “One way to interpret the results is that because women have better verbal memory skills than men throughout life, women have a buffer of protection against loss of verbal memory before the effects of Alzheimer’s disease kick in.

Because verbal memory tests are used to diagnose people with Alzheimer’s disease and its precursor, mild cognitive impairment, these tests may fail to detect mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease in women until they are further along in the disease.”

The study included participants from the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative: 235 people with Alzheimer’s disease, 694 people with mild cognitive impairment that included memory problems, and 379 people with no memory or thinking problems. The groups’ performance on a test of verbal memory was compared to the size of the hippocampal area of the brain, which is responsible for verbal memory and affected in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

Women performed better than men on the tests of both immediate recall and delayed recall among those showing evidence of minimal to moderate amounts of hippocampal shrinkage.

At the high level of hippocampal shrinkage, there was no difference in the scores of men and women. At the score that indicates the start of verbal memory impairment, or 37 on a scale of zero to 75 for immediate recall, women showed greater evidence of hippocampal shrinkage (ratio of hippocampal volume to total brain volume multiplied by 103 was 5 compared to 6 for men).

Mary Sano, PhD, of Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, NY, and a member of the American Academy of Neurology, said in a corresponding editorial, “At a public policy level, the potential health care cost for under-detection or delayed diagnosis of women with Alzheimer’s disease or its early stages is staggering and should motivate funding in this area.”

“If these results are confirmed, then we may need to adjust memory tests to account for the difference between men and women in order to improve our accuracy in diagnosis,” said Sundermann.

The Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative was supported by the National Institute on Aging, National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Abbott, Amorfix Life Sciences, AstraZeneca, Bayer HealthCare, BioClinica, Biogen Idec, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eisai, Elan Pharmaceuticals, Eli Lilly, F. Hoffmann-La Roche and Genentech, GE Healthcare, Innogenetics, IXICO, Janssen Alzheimer Immunotherapy Research and Development, Johnson and Johnson Pharmaceutical Research and Development, Medpace, Merck, Meso Scale Diagnostics, Novartis Pharmaceuticals; Pfizer, Servier, Synarc and Takeda Pharmaceutical.

To learn more about Alzheimer’s disease, please visit

The American Academy of Neurology, an association of 30,000 neurologists and neuroscience professionals, is dedicated to promoting the highest quality patient-centered neurologic care. A neurologist is a doctor with specialized training in diagnosing, treating and managing disorders of the brain and nervous system such as Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, migraine, multiple sclerosis, brain injury, Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy.

Alzheimer’s Plaques Found in Middle-Aged People with Brain Injuries

Alzheimer's Plaques found in Middle-aged people with Brain Injuries
Newswise, March 18, 2016 —  A new study suggests that people with brain injuries following head trauma may have buildup of the plaques related to Alzheimer’s disease in their brains. The research is published in the  online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

A corresponding editorial states that over the past decade the rate of emergency department visits related to traumatic brain injury (TBI) has increased by 70 percent. The editorial also says an estimated three to five million Americans live with a TBI-related disability.

“The study is small and the findings preliminary, however, we did find an increased buildup of amyloid plaques in people who had previously sustained a traumatic brain injury,” said study author Professor David Sharp, MD, of Imperial College London, in the United Kingdom.

 “The areas of the brain affected by plaques overlapped those areas affected in Alzheimer’s disease, but other areas were involved. People after a head injury are more likely to develop dementia, but it isn’t clear why. Our findings suggest TBI leads to the development of the plaques which are a well-known feature of Alzheimer’s disease.”

For the study, nine people with an average age of 44 who had a single moderate to severe TBI had PET and MRI brain scans. The brain injuries occurred between 11 months and up to 17 years before the start of the study. The participants were compared to 10 people with Alzheimer’s disease and nine healthy participants.

The PET scans used a marker that detects plaques in the brain. The MRI scans used diffusion tensor imaging to detect damage to brain cells that occurs after TBI. Both the people with brain injuries and the people with Alzheimer’s disease had plaques in the posterior cingulate cortex, which is affected early in Alzheimer’s, but only those with brain injuries had plaques in the cerebellum. The researchers also found that plaques were increased in patients with more damage to the brain’s white matter.

“It suggests that plaques are triggered by a different mechanism after a traumatic brain injury,” Sharp said. “The damage to the brain’s white matter at the time of the injury may act as a trigger for plaque production.”

“If a link between brain injury and later Alzheimer’s disease is confirmed in larger studies, neurologists may be able to find prevention and treatment strategies to stave off the disease earlier,” said Sharp.

The study was supported by the Imperial College Healthcare Trust Biomedical Research

To learn more about Alzheimer’s disease, please visit

The American Academy of Neurology, an association of 30,000 neurologists and neuroscience professionals, is dedicated to promoting the highest quality patient-centered neurologic care. A neurologist is a doctor with specialized training in diagnosing, treating and managing disorders of the brain and nervous system such as Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, migraine, multiple sclerosis, brain injury, Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy.

Combining Two Techniques to 'Rewire' the Brain May Improve Arm and Hand Movement for Stroke Survivors

Newswise, March 18, 2016-- Used in combination, two innovative rehabilitation approaches can promote better long-term recovery of arm and hand movement function in stroke survivors, suggests a paper in the American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, the official journal of the Association of Academic Physiatrists. The journal is published by Wolters Kluwer.

Adding peripheral nerve stimulation (PNS) to "constraint-based" therapy enhances recovery of movement in the affected arm and hand—even more than one year after a stroke, according to the study by Dr. Lumy Sawaki and colleagues of University of Kentucky, Lexington.

Adding Nerve Stimulation Improves Results of Constraint-Based Therapy

The preliminary study evaluated the effects of combining two emerging approaches to post-stroke rehabilitation of partial paralysis (hemiparesis). Constraint-induced therapy (CIT) is an approach that forces "intensive, task-oriented use" of the affected hand. This is done by limiting movement of the less-affected hand, forcing the patient to use the partially paralyzed limb.

Peripheral nerve stimulation consists of non-invasive, low-level electrical stimulation applied to the nerves in the paralyzed arm muscles, which in turn increases activity in the brain area that controls the arm. Both CIT and PNS take advantage of the brain's potential for "neuroplasticity"—the ability to reorganize or "rewire" itself after injury.

The study included 19 stroke survivors who were left with mild to moderate hemiparesis of one upper limb, at least one year after a stroke. All received a modified CIT approach, including wearing a padded mitt on the less-affected hand during therapy sessions. Subjects were also asked to wear the mitt for 90 percent of waking hours during their daily lives.

In addition, subjects received either active or "sham" (inactive) PNS, delivered through electrodes placed on the affected arm. At each session, PNS was applied for two hours, followed by four hours of CIT.

After ten sessions, arm and hand function improved for both groups. But on most measures, improvement was significantly greater for patients who received active PNS added to CIT. Grip strength was the only measure to show no significant added advantage with active PNS.

Significant differences between groups persisted to one-month follow-up. "Compared with the sham PNS group, the active PNS group may have made more extensive use of the affected upper extremity in settings outside the lab, such as in activities of daily living," Dr. Sawaki and coauthors write. However, they caution that further studies are needed to provide conclusive evidence in this regard.

There's a crucial need for treatments to enhance long-term recovery of function after a stroke—particularly after the first year, when most spontaneous improvement occurs. Both CIT and PNS can enhance movement function after stroke. The new study is the first to suggest that combining these two techniques can lead to further improvement in arm and hand movement in stroke survivors with mild-to-moderate chronic hemiparesis.

"It appears that PNS has enormous promise as a clinical intervention to enhance outcomes of motor training for stroke survivors with mild to moderate hemiparesis," Dr. Sawaki and colleagues conclude. They emphasize the need for further research to maximize the benefits of combined PNS and other rehabilitation techniques—including studies to optimize the PNS sites and settings and the other approaches used.

‘Broken’ Heart Breakthrough: Researchers Reprogram Cells to Better Battle Heart Failure

Reprogrammed Cells Battle Heart Failure
UNC School of Medicine scientists overcame a significant barrier to convert scar-making fibroblasts into living, beating cardiomyocytes
Newswise, March 18, 2016--Patients with heart failure often have a buildup of scar tissue that leads to a gradual loss of heart function. In a new study published today in the journal Cell Stem Cell, researchers from the University of North Carolina School of Medicine report significant progress toward a novel approach that could shrink the amount of heart scar tissue while replenishing the supply of healthy heart muscle.

“Our past work brought hope that we could one day improve heart function in people with heart failure by converting scar tissue into beating heart muscle,” said Li Qian, PhD, assistant professor of pathology and laboratory medicine and the study’s senior author.

“But that was more of a proof-of-principle study, and the conversion rate was quite low. Now we have found the barrier to conversion, and by removing it, we have been able to significantly increase the yield of muscle-like cells.”

Heart failure has no cure and currently affects an estimated 5.7 million people in the United States. Common symptoms include shortness of breath, fatigue, and swelling, all of which often worsen as the heart weakens over time.

“Our hope is that this approach could extend the lives of people with heart failure and markedly improve their quality of life in the future,” said Qian, who is also a member of the McAllister Heart Institute at UNC.

In 2012, Qian and her colleagues created a “cocktail” of proteins capable of converting fibroblasts, which create scar tissue, into cardiomyocytes – heart muscle cells that beat on their own exactly the way regular heart muscle cells do.

Notably, the team’s approach did not require converting fibroblasts into stem cells, which is typical of other tissue regeneration techniques. Qian’s approach lowered the likelihood of uncontrolled cell growth and tumor formation.

In experiments using mice, the cocktail proved successful at shrinking the size of scar tissue and improving heart function. But the process had remained disappointingly slow – until now.

“We wanted to have a better yield and shorten the conversion time so in the future this process could be fast, easy, and efficient for disease modeling or for treatment,” Qian said.

The new breakthrough came when the team discovered that a gene called Bmi1 interfered with the expression of other key genes needed to convert fibroblasts into heart muscle cells. Bmi1 previously had been investigated for its role in neural stem cells and cancer cells, but this is the first study to pinpoint a role in its interaction with cardiogenic genes.

When the team depleted Bmi1, the conversion rate sped up markedly; the percentage of fibroblasts that transformed into heart muscle cells increased 10-fold. Repressing Bmi1 also allowed Qian’s team to simplify the cocktail by reducing the number of different proteins in it.

The ultimate goal, Qian said, is to refine the cocktail into a pill that could safely be given to patients during a heart attack or after the heart has already become damaged, thus reducing the long-term loss of functional heart tissue and helping people live longer, healthier lives. If further experiments using larger animal models bear out, Qian estimates such a pill could be developed within a decade.

The technique also holds potential for improving personalized medicine. Currently, there are a number of therapeutics doctors can prescribe to help improve a patient’s heart function, but there is often trial and error involved to find the most effective drug with the fewest side effects. Qian’s protein cocktail could help avoid this.

For instance, if Qian’s technique could convert a patient’s skin cells into heart muscle cells in a lab dish, then lab technicians could use the resulting cell culture to quickly screen existing drugs and find the one most likely to help a specific patient.

In addition, the team’s approach and platform built to study barriers to cardiac reprogramming could help to increase yields for studies focused on reprogramming other cells, such as neurons, pancreas cells, and liver cells for regenerative purposes.

“Hopefully these findings and our approach can be leveraged so that other researchers can identify the barriers to regenerating other types of target tissues more efficiently,” Qian said.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Link Between Gum Disease and Cognitive Decline in Alzheimer’s

Newswise, March 14, 2016 — A new study, jointly led by the University of Southampton and King’s College London, has found a link between gum disease and greater rates of cognitive decline in people with early stages of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Periodontitis or gum disease is common in older people and may become more common in Alzheimer’s disease because of a reduced ability to take care of oral hygiene as the disease progresses. 

Higher levels of antibodies to periodontal bacteria are associated with an increase in levels of inflammatory molecules elsewhere in the body, which in turn has been linked to greater rates of cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s disease in previous studies.

The latest study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, set out to determine whether periodontitis or gum disease is associated with increased dementia severity and subsequent greater progression of cognitive decline in people with Alzheimer’s disease.

In the observational study, 59 participants with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s Disease were cognitively assessed and a blood sample was taken to measure inflammatory markers in their blood. 

Participants’ dental health was assessed by a dental hygienist who was blind to cognitive outcomes. The majority of participants (52) were followed-up at six months when all assessments were repeated.

The presence of gum disease at baseline was associated with a six-fold increase in the rate of cognitive decline in participants over the six-month follow-up period of the study. Periodontitis at baseline was also associated with a relative increase in the pro-inflammatory state over the six-month follow-up period. The authors conclude that gum disease is associated with an increase in cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s Disease, possibly via mechanisms linked to the body’s inflammatory response.

Limitations of the study included the small number of participants; the authors advise that the study should be replicated ideally with a larger cohort. The precise mechanisms by which gum disease may be linked to cognitive decline are not fully clear and other factors might also play a part in the decline seen in participants’ cognition alongside their oral health.

However, growing evidence from a number of studies links the body’s inflammatory response to increased rates of cognitive decline, suggesting that it would be worth exploring whether the treatment of gum disease might also benefit the treatment of dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease.

Professor Clive Holmes, senior author from the University of Southampton, says: “These are very interesting results which build on previous work we have done that shows that chronic inflammatory conditions have a detrimental effect on disease progression in people with Alzheimer’s disease. 

"Our study was small and lasted for six months so further trials need to be carried out to develop these results. However, if there is a direct relationship between periodontitis and cognitive decline, as this current study suggests, then treatment of gum disease might be a possible treatment option for Alzheimer’s.”

Dr Mark Ide, first author from the Dental Institute at King’s College London says: “Gum disease is widespread in the UK and US, and in older age groups is thought to be a major cause of tooth loss. In the UK in 2009, around 80% of adults over 55 had evidence of gum disease, whilst 40% of adults aged over 65-74 (and 60% of those aged over 75) had less than 21 of their original 32 teeth, with half of them reporting gum disease before they lost teeth.

“A number of studies have shown that having few teeth, possibly as a consequence of earlier gum disease, is associated with a greater risk of developing dementia. 

"We also believe, based on various research findings, that the presence of teeth with active gum disease results in higher body-wide levels of the sorts of inflammatory molecules which have also been associated with an elevated risk of other outcomes such as cognitive decline or cardiovascular disease. Research has suggested that effective gum treatment can reduce the levels of these molecules closer to that seen in a healthy state.

“Previous studies have also shown that patients with Alzheimer’s Disease have poorer dental health than others of similar age and that the more severe the dementia the worse the dental health, most likely reflecting greater difficulties with taking care of oneself as dementia becomes more severe.”

Monday, March 7, 2016

Long Work Hours Linked to Higher Cardiovascular Disease Risk

Over a Decade or Longer, Risk Increases Beyond 45 Hours per Week

Long Work Hours Linked to Heart Disease Risk
Newswise, March 7, 2016— Working long hours—particularly 46 hours per week or more—may increase the long-term risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) events such as heart attack, reports a study in the March Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, official publication of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM).

"In general, we found that the risk of CVD increased as the average weekly working hours increased," write Sadie H. Conway, PhD, of University of Texas Health Sciences Center, Houston, and colleagues. 

They note that among full-time workers, CVD risk appears lowest between 40 and 45 hours per week.

The researchers analyzed the relationship between work hours and CVD using data on more than 1,900 participants from a long-term follow-up study of work and health. 

All participants had been employed for at least ten years. During the study, a physician-diagnosed CVD event—angina, coronary heart disease or heart failure, heart attack, high blood pressure, or stroke—occurred in about 43 percent of participants.

Risk of CVD events increased by one percent for each additional hour worked per week over at least ten years, after adjustment for age, sex, racial/ethnic group, and pay status. 

The difference was significant only for full-time workers, not part-timers. Among those who worked more than 30 hours per week, risk increased as weekly hours approached 40, but then decreased again between 40 and 45 hours per week.

Beginning at 46 hours, increasing work hours were progressively associated with increased risk of CVD. Compared to people who averaged 45 hours per week for ten years or longer, overall CVD risk was increased by 16 percent for those who worked 55 hours per week and by 35 percent for those who worked 60 hours per week.

While previous research has suggested increased CVD risk with longer working hours, the new study is the first to show a "dose-response" effect. 

Dr. Conway comments, "This study provides specific evidence on long work hours and an increase the risk of CVD, thereby providing a foundation for CVD prevention efforts focused on work schedule practices, which may reduce the risk of CVD for millions of working Americans."

The Medical Minute: Eight Things to Know About Colorectal Cancer

Medical Minute 8 things to know about colon Cancer
Newswise, March 7, 2016— March is colorectal cancer awareness month –- a great time to test your knowledge about the disease and how it can be prevented and treated. Below, two doctors from Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center highlight eight things you may not have known:

1. Colorectal cancer is the only type of cancer that doctors can prevent by screening for it. “Unlike most of the time, when you are trying to find early stages of cancer, we can prevent this disease from even happening by removing polyps,” said Dr. Thomas McGarrity, chief of the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology.

2. National recommendations that call for everyone to get screened for colorectal cancer starting at age 50 have led to a decrease in the cases of colorectal cancers. “We think that’s because more people are getting screened,” McGarrity said. The American Cancer Society has a target of having 80 percent of eligible people screened for colorectal cancers by 2018.

3. Factors such as race and ethnicity, genetics and lifestyle play a role in your likelihood of developing such a cancer. African Americans are more likely than Caucasians to get colorectal cancer. Yet Caucasians get it more often than Hispanics and Asians. Those who have a first-degree relative with large polyps or colorectal cancer should get screened earlier and more often. Staying fit by exercising and having a normal body weight – along with not smoking – also help your chances of preventing the disease.

4. A Mediterranean diet is not only good for your heart, but your colon as well. This means less red meat and more fiber from sources such as fresh fruits and vegetables.

5. The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force recommended in September that every man and woman with a risk of heart disease take an aspirin a day. This is to prevent not only heart attacks and stroke, but also colon cancer. However, McGarrity said it’s important to check with your family doctor before starting a daily aspirin regimen.

6. When caught early, colorectal cancers are very curable. And only about 10 percent of cases require a permanent colostomy, according to Dr. Walter Koltun, chief of the Division of Colorectal Surgery.

7. A multi-disciplinary approach to treatment produces the best outcomes for patients. Although surgery is the most important part of the treatment triad, chemotherapy and radiation augment the likelihood of a cure.

8. Treatment options have improved. "Increasingly, the surgery we do is robotic and minimally invasive," Koltun said. "Over the past 15 years, we have developed much more effective chemotherapy that has allowed us to treat not only patients with curable cancer, but also those with very advanced stages of it and give them a higher chance of cure."

Low Vision Patients Don’t Suffer Alone Thanks to New Support Group

New Support Groiup Helps Low Vision Seniors
Newswise, March 7, 2016 — A slip and fall with his face hitting a concrete step left David French with a detached retina in one eye and damage in the other. He now faces life with diminished or low vision. 

While not totally blind, French lacks the ability to make out objects a few feet away, read materials or see at night without the aid of powerful equipment.

French is one of more than 350 patients annually seen in the Low Vision Clinic at Harris Health System’s Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital. Patients suffering from congenital diseases like glaucoma or cataracts, diabetic retinopathy or macular degeneration to victims of trauma or stroke get a chance to regain some vision independence.

Patients are evaluated and paired up with high-powered lenses like magnifying glasses, telescopes or electronic magnifiers. 

Additionally, they work with an occupational therapist who trains patients on the equipment or ways to maximize their vision levels. Now, patients also have access to a new support group where like-diagnosed patients can share and learn from each other.

“It’s a place where people are like you and you can relate,” French says. “It’s where if you make a mistake, you don’t have to worry because most of the people in the group are going to make the same mistakes. I don’t know what I’m doing all the time, so it’s good to be with others who don’t either.”
Regina Budet, occupational therapist, LBJ Hospital, and support group coordinator, says having patients learn and motivate each other is a major reason for the group.

“They need to know they’re not alone,” she says. “There are others facing the same issues they encounter on a daily basis. It’s also a great way for them to get out, socialize and talk in a comfortable setting.”

For French, opportunities to get out and socialize are few. He relies on others to drive him places. His nephew takes him out often. However, they limit their visits to locations, stores and restaurants French had frequented prior to his vision loss. In restaurants, he feels most comfortable when he knows the layout of restrooms and seating areas.

“I don’t ever want to walk into a women’s restroom,” he says. “That would not be good.”

The Low Vision Clinic, the only one at Harris Health, is in its third year of operation. Staff works with various organizations and agencies like the Texas State Department of Health Services to provide patients with free or discounted vision aids. 

Support groups and others training tools are funded through the Harris County Low Vision Project, funded by a Lions Clubs International Foundation SightFirst grant.

“With low vision, it’s hard to tell that other people have the same problem when you look at them,” says Dr. Bhavani Iyer, director, Low Vision Clinic, LBJ Hospital, and clinical assistant professor, the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth). “When someone’s completely blind, they look and act different. But a lot of times, people with low vision don’t act different or look different, but suffer silently.”

For his part, French is excited about the group and the arrival of a high-powered monocular lens set that he thinks will open up greater opportunities for independence and allow him to do more activities including one of his favorite pastimes of fishing.

“I’ll be able to see from two feet to infinity,” he gushingly says of his new eyepiece. “Right now, I can only think about how much I want to do what I used to do in the past. So when I get my new lenses, I’m going to explore and maybe go fishing again.”

For more information about the support group, call Regina Budet at 713-873-4728 or by e-mail at

Thursday, March 3, 2016

. Cancer patients with limited finances are more likely to have increased symptoms and poorer quality of life

Cancer Patients with limited finance more likely to have poorer quality of life.
• Study can help doctors direct resources and treatments for those patients who were already struggling before their cancer diagnosis

Newswise, March 3, 2016 — If you’re a lung or colorectal cancer patient, what’s in your wallet could determine your level of suffering and quality of life during treatment, according to a new study by Dana Farber Cancer Institute researchers. The findings appear in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

“Most of the studies looking at financial stress look at what cancer does to your finances after diagnosis,” said Christopher Lathan, MD, MS, MPH, lead author of the study and a thoracic oncologist at Dana-Farber.

“We were interested in looking at what happens when you have financial distress, defined in our study as little or no savings at the time of your diagnosis, and how that factor can impact quality of life.”

In the study, researchers looked to measure the association between patient financial strain and symptom burden and quality of life (QOL) for patients with new diagnoses of lung or colorectal cancer.

Patients participating in the Cancer Care Outcomes Research and Surveillance study were interviewed about their financial reserves, QOL, and symptom burden at 4 months of diagnosis and, for survivors, at 12 months of diagnosis.

Researchers assessed the association of patient-reported financial reserves with patient-reported outcomes, including the Brief Pain Inventory, symptom burden on the basis of the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer Quality of Life Questionnaire C30, and QOL on the basis of the EuroQoL-5 Dimension scale.

Among patients with lung and colorectal cancer, 40 percent and 33 percent, respectively, reported limited financial reserves. Relative to patients with more than 12 months of financial reserves, those with limited financial reserves reported significantly increased pain for lung and colorectal symptoms, greater symptom burden, and poorer QOL.

With decreasing financial reserves, a clear dose-response relationship was present across all measures of well-being. These associations were also manifest for survivors reporting outcomes again at 1 year and persisted after adjustment for stage, co-morbidity, insurance, and other clinical attributes.

“We found that patients who had financial distress at the time of diagnosis were more likely to have poorer outcomes in physical and mental quality of life measures, pain, and symptom burden,” noted Lathan.

“This effect persisted after adjusting for stage of disease, co-morbidity, income, age, and insurance.”

Researchers say the findings highlight the need to evaluate patients for potential financial distress at the time of diagnosis and to allow for clinicians to target appropriate resources and treatments for those patients who were already struggling before their cancer diagnosis. 

PET Scans Reveal Key Details of Alzheimer’s Protein Growth in Aging Brains

Alzheimer's Protein Growth in Aging Brains
March 3, 2016--New research led by scientists at UC Berkeley shows for the first time that PET scans can track the progressive stages of Alzheimer’s disease in cognitively normal adults, a key advance in the early diagnosis and staging of the neurodegenerative disorder.

In the process, the scientists also obtained important clues about two Alzheimer’s-linked proteins – tau and beta-amyloid – and how they relate to each other.

The findings, published March 2 in the journal Neuron, come from positron emission tomography (PET) of 53 adults. Five were young adults aged 20-26, 33 were cognitively healthy adults aged 64-90 and 15 were patients aged 53-77 who had been diagnosed with probable Alzheimer’s dementia.

The stages of tau deposition were established by German researchers Heiko and Eva Braak through post-mortem analysis of the brains of suspected Alzheimer’s patients.

“Braak staging was developed through data obtained from autopsies, but our study is the first to show the staging in people who are not only alive, but who have no signs of cognitive impairment,” said study principal investigator Dr. William Jagust, a professor at UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health and at the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute and a faculty scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. “This opens the door to the use of PET scans as a diagnostic and staging tool.”

PET scans are used to detect early signs of disease by looking at cellular-level changes in organs and tissue. The results of the scans in this study paralleled Braak neuropathological stages, which range from one to six, describing the degree of tau protein accumulation in the brain.
Jagust worked with study co-lead authors Michael Schöll, a visiting scholar, and Samuel Lockhart, a postdoctoral fellow, both at UC Berkeley’s Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute.

Tau vs. amyloid
Their findings also shed light on the nature of tau and amyloid protein deposits in the aging brain. For many years, the accumulation of beta amyloid plaques was considered the primary culprit in Alzheimer’s disease. Over the past decade, however, tau, a microtubule protein important in maintaining the structure of neurons, has emerged as a major player. When the tau protein gets tangled and twisted, its ability to support synaptic connections becomes impaired.

While a number of symptoms exist that signal Alzheimer’s disease, a definitive diagnosis has been possible only through an examination of the brain after the patient has died. The availability of amyloid imaging for the past decade has improved this situation, but how Alzheimer’s developed as a result of amyloid remains a mystery. Studies done in autopsies linked the development of symptoms to the deposition of the tau protein.

Through the PET scans, the researchers confirmed that with advancing age, tau protein accumulated in the medial temporal lobe — home to the hippocampus and the memory center of the brain.

“Tau is basically present in almost every aging brain,” said Schöll, who holds an appointment at Sweden’s University of Gothenburg. “Very few old people have no tau. In our case, it seems like the accumulation of tau in the medial temporal lobe was independent of amyloid and driven by age.”

The study revealed that higher levels of tau in the medial temporal lobe was associated with greater declines in episodic memory, the type of memory used to code new information. The researchers tested episodic memory by asking subjects to recall a list of words viewed 20 minutes earlier.

Both proteins involved in dementia

One question yet to be answered is why so many people have tau in their medial temporal lobe yet never go on to develop Alzheimer’s. Likewise, adults may have beta amyloid in their brains and yet be cognitively healthy.

“It’s not that one is more important than the other,” said Lockhart. “Our study suggests that they may work together in the progression of Alzheimer’s.”
While higher levels of tau in the medial temporal lobe was linked to more problems with episodic memory, it was when tau spread outside this region to other parts of the brain, such as the neocortex, that researchers saw more serious declines in global cognitive function. Significantly, they found that tau’s spread outside the medial temporal lobe was connected to the presence of amyloid plaques in the brain.

“Amyloid may somehow facilitate the spread of tau, or tau may initiate the deposition of amyloid. We don’t know. We can’t answer that at this point,” said Jagust. “All I can say is that when amyloid starts to show up, we start to see tau in other parts of the brain, and that is when real problems begin. We think that may be the beginning of symptomatic Alzheimer’s disease.”

What the study does indicate is that tau imaging could become an important tool in helping to develop therapeutic approaches that target the correct protein — either amyloid or tau — depending on the disease stage, the researchers said.

Funding from the National Institutes of Health helped support this research.

Routine Colonoscopies Save Lives

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month
Newswise, March 3, 2016 — Stan Quinn’s routine colonoscopy may have saved his life.

When Mr. Quinn, 57, became a new patient at Loyola University Health System last year, his physician prescribed a routine colonoscopy to catch him up on preventive health recommendations.

“I didn’t think anything of it, just that it was a routine exam that was going to reveal nothing wrong,” said Mr. Quinn, who was not experiencing any health problems. “What they actually found was a mass that was too big to remove during the colonoscopy.”

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and the message is simple: this disease is highly preventable. Colorectal cancer is 100 percent preventable through screenings that detect and remove small, pre-cancerous growths called polyps.

Loyola staff will raise awareness for the prevention of colon cancer by wearing blue next Friday, March 4, in support of National Dress in Blue Day™.

Cancer of the colon or rectum is the second leading cause of cancer deaths among both men and women in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 140,000 Americans are diagnosed annually with colorectal cancer, and more than 50,000 people die from it.

“Colorectal cancer really should get the same attention as breast cancer, prostate cancer and skin cancer,” said Theodore Saclarides, MD, division director of colorectal surgery at Loyola. “Regular screenings really do save lives.”

“It is now clear that not every colonoscopy is equal,” says Neil Gupta, MD, co-director of the digestive health program and director of interventional endoscopy at Loyola. “Once you’ve decided it’s time to get a screening colonoscopy, the next step is to make sure that you get a high quality one.”

Loyola offers all of the colorectal cancer screening tests that are recommended by the United States Preventive Services Task Force and national medical societies. There are two types of colorectal cancer screening tests: tests that detect colorectal cancer and tests that can detect both colorectal cancer and pre-cancerous polyps, Dr. Gupta said. Colonoscopy, CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy), and flexible sigmoidoscopy are all screening tests that can detect colorectal cancer and pre-cancerous polyps.
Stool tests for blood or DNA (such as fecal occult blood test, fecal immunochemical test, or cologuard) are designed to detect colorectal cancer only.

Get checked, Dr. Saclarides advises, if:
You have a change in bowel habits.
You reach an age at which a colonoscopy is recommended. Current guidelines recommend that everyone get screened for colorectal cancer starting at the age of 50.
Your lifestyle and family history predispose you to colon cancer. People with a family history of colorectal cancer or polyps, people with inflammatory bowel disease (such as Crohn’s disease or Ulcerative colitis), and people with hereditary cancer syndromes should start screening earlier.
Loyola physicians perform high quality colonoscopies, performing consistently above the national average on colonoscopy quality measures, including being able to examine the entire colon (cecal intubation rate), having a good bowel prep during the colonoscopy, and detection of pre-cancerous polyps (adenoma detection rate).

“The higher your physician’s adenoma detection rate, the less chance you have of developing colon cancer after your colonoscopy,” said Dr. Gupta, who has an adenoma detection rate of more than 50 percent, meaning he has removed pre-cancerous polyps in more than 50 percent of the screening colonoscopies he has performed. “An adenoma detection rate of at least 20 percent is currently considered a minimum benchmark.”

In addition to the clinic, Loyola treats patients at the GI cancer risk assessment program, where gastroenterologists and geneticists examine and assign a risk to concerned patients.

After Mr. Quinn’s colonoscopy, a biopsy revealed the tumor might be early cancer so the mass had to be removed quickly. Mr. Quinn was referred immediately to Dr. Saclarides, who removed a portion of the colon through laparoscopic surgery, a less-invasive technique involving a small incision, less blood loss and a faster recovery time.

“Stan is basically cured,” Dr. Saclarides said. “And it is all thanks to his getting a colonoscopy, his physicians recommending him to a colorectal surgeon and his being compliant and following through with the procedure.”
Randomized Trials Network Collaborative Research Group.
The National Institutes of Health funded research efforts critical to the study.