Connecticut educator teaches students life lessons after being diagnosed with ALS

Published: Friday, June 23, 2017 @ 11:38 AM



Oko_SwanOmurphy/Getty Images/iStockphoto
(Oko_SwanOmurphy/Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Nearly 11 months after being diagnosed with Asymotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), Connecticut educator Andrew Niblock is using his diagnosis to teach students about life.

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Niblock, the head of the elementary school at Greenwich Country Day School in Connecticut, said he wanted to continue working after being diagnosed with the disease so that he could teach his students a lesson about life and be an example for them.

“I want children to understand curve balls,” the father of two told ABC News. “No matter what is thrown your way […] if a kid powers through or makes the most of something later because of knowing me, that’d be great.”

>> RELATED: Neighborhood kids use lemonade stand to raise a surprising amount of money for disabled veteran

ALS, a rare and incurable progressive neurodegenerative disease, affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord and causes the brain to be unable to initiate and control muscle movement, according to the ALS Association. As a result, people may lose the ability to speak, eat, move and breathe, with some patients ending up completely paralyzed in the later stages of the disease.

>> RELATED: Mass. teacher battling ALS fired months before earning pension

Instead of hiding the changes occurring to his speech and mobility, Niblock is working with the school’s headmaster to create age-appropriate videos with the goal of teaching students about ALS and spreading awareness about it.

By being open about his battle with the disease, Niblock said he hopes to convey to the students that hope is resilient.

“Hope can drive you forward,” he said. “And I hope […] that the kids see that, and run with it.”

Heartburn drugs linked to higher risk of early death, study says

Published: Thursday, July 06, 2017 @ 2:19 AM

Heartburn (stock photo).
nebari/Getty Images/iStockphoto
Heartburn (stock photo).(nebari/Getty Images/iStockphoto)

People taking common heartburn and indigestion medicines may face a heightened risk of premature death, according to new observational research published Monday in the British Medical Journal Open.

A team of scientists from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri, found that the use of proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) — drugs commonly taken to treat both heartburn and stomach acid — led to 25 percent higher risk of early death by any cause when compared to those using H2 blockers, common acid reducers.

>> RELATED: Differences between PPIs and H2 blockers for heartburn 

To come up with the findings, the team examined medical records of 3.5 million middle-aged Americans in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs system and compared those taking PPIs and those taking H2 blockers to treat heartburn.

Researchers did not examine over-the-counter PPIs or particular brands of prescription-strength drugs. Instead, the team focused on prescription PPIs typically used at higher doses and for longer durations, CNN reported.

According to senior author Ziyad Al-Aly, for every 500 patients taking PPIs for one year, there would be one additional death that wouldn’t have occurred if the patient wasn’t using PPIs.

And with millions of people using PPIs on a daily basis to treat heartburn and stomach acid, thousands of additional deaths could result.

>> RELATED: Popular heartburn medications may increase dementia risk, study says

Al-Aly and his team also found that the longer a patient used PPIs, the higher their risk of premature death.

Though the precise biological reason for a possible link between PPIs and risk of premature death is unclear, the gene-changing effect of the drugs may contribute to the potential problem. 

Because the research is based on observational study, the team noted the findings are “far from conclusive,” meaning they do not prove cause and effect.

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But the findings “may be used to encourage and promote pharmacovigilance [monitoring the side-effects of licensed drugs],” the authors wrote, urging patients to be judicious in their use of PPIs and limit the duration of use unless there is a clear medical benefit that outweighs any potential risk.

It’s not the first time PPIs have been linked to some dangerous health trends. Previous research has also shown links between the drugs and dementia, cardiovascular disease, hip fractures and more.

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7 things to know about the human plague, symptoms and how to protect yourself

Published: Tuesday, June 27, 2017 @ 3:39 PM

What You Need To Know: The Plague

Two new cases of the human plague have been confirmed in New Mexico Tuesday, according to health officials.

» RELATED: Possible plague case in Georgia 

This year, New Mexico has seen three cases of the plague, the first of which was reported in early June.

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All three cases required hospitalization, according to the New Mexico Department of Health.

Here are seven things to know about the plague:

What is it?

According to Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, plague is a disease caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis that affects humans and other mammals.

» RELATED: Stray cat's plague death prompts 'fever watch' 

What is the history of plague?

Historians and scientists have recorded three major plague pandemics, according to the CDC.

The first, called the Justinian Plague (after 6th century Byzantine emperor Justinian I), began in A.D. 541 in central Africa and spread to Egypt and the Mediterranean.

The “Great Plague” or “Black Death” originated in China in 1334 and eventually spread to Europe, where approximately 60 percent of the population died of the disease.

» RELATED: The 'Black Death': Are gerbils, not rats, to blame for plague? 

Lastly, the 1860s “Modern Plague,” which also began in China, spread to port cities around the world by rats on steamships, according to the CDC.

In 1894, French bacteriologist Alexandre Yersin discovered the causative bacterium, Yersinia pestis.

Ten million deaths resulted from the last pandemic, which eventually affected mammals in the Americas, Africa and Asia.

It was during this last pandemic that scientists identified infectious flea bites as the culprit in the spread of the disease.

More about the history of plague.

Where in the U.S. is human plague most common?

Human plague usually occurs after an outbreak in which several susceptible rodents die, infected fleas leave the dead rodents and seek blood from other hosts.

These outbreaks usually occur in southwestern states, particularly in Arizona, California, Colorado and New Mexico, according to the CDC.

» RELATED: Lyme disease risks could increase after mouse plague, experts warn 

According to the World Health Organization, an average of five to 15 cases occur annually in the U.S.

Since 1900, more than 80 percent of those cases have been in the bubonic form.

Worldwide, there are approximately 1,000-3,000 cases of naturally occurring plague reported every year.

More about plague in the U.S.

How do humans and other animals get plague?

Usually, humans get plague after a bite from a rodent flea carrying the bacterium.

Humans can also get plague after handling (touching or skinning) an animal (like squirrels, prairie dogs, rats or rabbits) infected with plague.

According to the CDC, inhaling droplets from the cough of an infected human or mammal (sick cats, in particular) can also lead to plague.

» RELATED: Rare tick-borne illness worries some medical professionals 

What are the types of plague and their symptoms?

Bubonic plague (most common)

  • Tender, warm and swollen nymph nodes in the groin, armpit or neck usually develop within a week after an infected flea bite.
  • Signs and symptoms include sudden fever and chills, headache, fatigue, muscle aches.
  • If bubonic plague is not treated, it can spread to other areas of body and lead to septicemic or pneumonic plague.

Septicemic plague

  • Occurs when bacteria multiply in the bloodstream.
  • Signs and symptoms include fever and chills; abdominal pain; diarrhea; vomiting; extreme fatigue and light-headedness; bleeding from mouth, nose, rectum, under skin; shock; gangrene (blackening, tissue death) in fingers, toes and nose.
  • Septicemic plague can quickly lead to organ failure.

Pneumonic plague (least common)

  • Pneumonic plague, which affects the lungs, is the most dangerous plague and is easily spread person-to-person through cough droplets.
  • Signs and symptoms (within a few hours after infection) include bloody cough, difficulty breathing, high fever, nausea, vomiting, headache, weakness.
  • If it is not treated quickly, pneumonic plague is almost always fatal.

» RELATED: What is Lyme disease and how to avoid it 

How is plague treated?

Immediately see a doctor if you develop symptoms of plague and have been in an area where the disease is known to occur.
Your doctor will likely give you strong antibiotics (streptomycin, gentamicin or others) to combat the disease.

If there are serious complications like organ failure or bleeding abnormalities, doctors will administer intravenous fluids, respiratory support and give patients oxygen.

How to protect yourself, your family and your pets against plague

You and your family

The CDC warns against picking up or touching dead animals and letting pets sleep in the bed with you.

Experts also recommend eliminating any nesting places for rodents such as sheds, garages or rock piles, brush, trash and excess firewood.

Other ways to protect yourself and your family include wearing gloves if handling dead or sick animals, using an insect repellent with DEET to prevent flea bites and reporting sick or dead animals to your local health department or to law enforcement officials.

» RELATED: Ticks the season: How to prevent, find and get rid of ticks this summer 

Pets

Flea medicine should be administered regular for both dogs and cats.

Keep your pet’s food in rodent-proof containers and don’t let them hunt or roam in rodent habitats.

If your pet becomes ill, see a veterinarian as soon as possible.

More about plague at CDC.gov.

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Bathe and burn, baths as good as 30-minute walks

Published: Sunday, April 02, 2017 @ 10:06 AM

Baths as Good As 30-Minute Walks

 

Soaking in a hot tub is just as beneficial to your health as a 30-minute walk. That’s the conclusion of a new British study comparing bathing to exercise.

Researchers at the U.K.’s Loughborough University measured study participants’ blood sugar levels and calories burned when taking an hour-long hot bath or biking for an hour.

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They discovered that while taking a bath did not burn as many calories as a bike ride, bathing did burn the same number of calories as a 30-minute walk.

Researchers said they discovered something else, too. Hot baths deliver other potential health benefits, as well, including a boost to the immune system by reducing chronic inflammation and reducing blood sugar spikes after meals. 

The study was published last month in the journal Taylor & Francis Group.

New studies find compelling evidence against drinking diet soda

Published: Saturday, June 27, 2015 @ 2:25 AM
Updated: Saturday, June 27, 2015 @ 2:25 AM

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It seems it may be almost getting to the point where it may be healthier to pick up a cigarette than a can of Diet Coke.

Just kidding.

Not really.

Earlier this month, the advocate website Collective Evolution – grant you its agenda is to keep us healthy – published a story about a study out of the University of Iowa linking diet drinks and cardiovascular issues such as heart attack and stroke in healthy, postmenopausal women. The research – the largest study of its kind – was presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 63rd Annual Scientific Session in Washington, D.C. About 60,000 women participated in the study.

Researchers found that women who consumed two or more diet drinks a day are 30 percent more likely to experience a cardiovascular event and 50 percent more likely to die from a related disease. They emphasized how the association between diet drinks and cardiovascular problems raises more questions that it answers and “should stimulate further research.”

“It’s too soon to tell people to change their behavior based on this study; however, based on these and other findings, we have a responsibility to do more research to see what is going on and further define the relationship, if one truly exists,” one of the researchers, Dr. Ankur Vyas, told a University of Iowa  publication because “this could have major public health implications.”  

Sugar-sweetened sodas aren’t much better, of course.

Another study published in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology determined that consumption of sugar-sweetened soda increases the odds for kidney function decline.

Another study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that aspartame – a sugar substitute – is linked to non-Hodgkin lymphoma and leukemia in men.

(Everyone who drinks diet soda can use this pause here to curse.)

A new study shows that the diet sodas also lead to belly fat.

The study linking diet sodas and belly fat, which Forbes calls the ugliest form of fat, comes from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.

The researchers followed 466 European-American and Mexican-American participants over the age of 65 for almost 10 years. It turned out that people who drank at least one diet soda per day had a much steeper rise in waist circumference over the years than those who didn't.

Earlier this year, Forbes wrote about how consumers were sold a bill of goods on the nutritional value of artificial sweeteners. The story points out that consumption of these chemicals has increased dramatically.