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Published: Saturday, November 04, 2017 @ 3:29 PM
— Do you like to indulge in an occasional soda every once in a while? Be careful, because two sugar-laden drinks a week could up your risk for diabetes and strokes, according to researchers.
Researchers from universities in South Africa recently conducted an experiment, published in Journal of Endocrine Society, to determine the link between sugary drinks, including sodas and juices, and metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions that increase the chance of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
To do so, they reviewed 36 studies from the last decade that examined people who drank more than five sugary drinks a week, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. With the data, they were able to assess the possibility of disease.
They found that consuming two sugar-sweetened drinks a week could increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 42 percent. And just one sugar-sweetened drink can significantly elevate blood pressure.
“Sugar-sweetened beverage consumption is steadily rising among all age groups worldwide,” lead author M. Faadiel Essop said in a statement. “Our analysis revealed that most epidemiological studies strongly show that frequent intake of these beverages contributes to the onset of the metabolic syndrome, diabetes and hypertension.”
They believe their findings prove there should be more education about the harmful effects of such drinks, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. That’s why they hope to conduct more studies to confirm their results.
“Our understanding of this topic would benefit from additional research to further clarify how sugar-sweetened beverages affect our health,” Essop said. “We do see some limitations in the current research on this topic, including a need for longer-term studies and standardized research methods.”
Published: Tuesday, May 22, 2018 @ 3:02 PM
— You're asleep, right? You can hardly be expected to control your actions, much less your thoughts. But if bad dreams are ruining your sleep (and affecting your waking moments), you can work to eliminate or minimize them, according to psychologists and sleep experts.
How nightmares work
"One way of thinking about dreams is that they're part of the same problem-solving processes that we use during the day time," Gregory White, a California-based clinical psychologist and psychology professor at National University, told U.S. News and World Report. "If you're really distressed, you're more likely to have distressing dreams."
In turn, a night of bad dreams can leave you feeling depressed or angry the next day, and repetitive sleep loss can cause a slew of negative side effects, from poor performance to obesity. Long-term sleep loss can even lead to mental illness.
Tore Nielsen, a professor of psychiatry, who directs the University of Montreal's Dream and Nightmare Laboratory, told U.S. News about his research, which showed excessive numbers of nightmares are frequently linked to mental health problems including anxiety disorders, PTSD, depression and even a higher risk of suicide.
"Fortunately, there are effective treatments for nightmares," he added, like rehearsing the "bad dream script" with a more positive ending, or treating nightmares and anxiety disorders simultaneously.
Know the ordinary causes
According to Psychology Today, nightmares occur during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and result in feelings of extreme fear, horror, distress or anxiety. "This phenomenon tends to occur in the latter part of the night and often awakens the sleeper, who is likely to recall the content of the dream," according to PT, which detailed these common causes:
How to fight nightmares
Writing in Physchology Today, Susan Krauss Whitbourne looks at recent nightmare research and recommends the following steps for those suffering from nightmares:
In addition to these steps, Gregory White suggests breathing exercises. While holding on to the memory of the bad dream, take a deep breath and then release it very slowly "so that you decondition" the anxious feeling you've associated with the dream. He also recommended getting out of bed quickly, since movement tends to disrupt the ability to remember dreams.
Published: Monday, May 21, 2018 @ 6:23 AM
TRENTON, N.J. — If you suffer from chronic migraines, relief is here.
According to The Associated Press, the Food and Drug Administration last week approved Aimovig, a monthly shot that aims to reduce migraines. The drug, developed by Amgen Inc. and Novartis AG, is "injected monthly just under the skin using a pen-like device," the AP reported. Its price tag: $6,900 annually before insurance.
But how does Aimovig work? The FDA said it blocks "the activity of calcitonin gene-related peptide, a molecule that is involved in migraine attacks." Amgen researchers said participants in one study saw their migraines reduced by half and experienced "minor side effects" like colds, the AP reported.
If Aimovig doesn't sound right for you, you're still in luck: Three similar shots and various pills to combat migraines are in the works.
Published: Thursday, May 17, 2018 @ 6:05 AM
BOSTON — A groundbreaking study is being done at Boston Children's Hospital that researchers say could potentially predict whether a child as young as 3 months old is at-risk for developing autism.
Right now, most children can't receive a reliable diagnosis until they are at least 1 year old.
Chase Minicucci and his mother, Hillary Steele Minicucci, regularly go to Boston Children’s to track his development. Chase seems to be a typically developing toddler, and he’s learning to point and use words to express his needs.
However, Chase has been identified as at risk because his older brother, who is 7, has autism.
“We did the testing, and one day after his 4th birthday … the doctor said, ‘so your son has autism,’” said Hillary Steele Minicucci.
Hillary and her husband also have a 6-year-old daughter who does not have autism, but autism is more prevalent in boys.
Research shows one in five children whose siblings have autism will also be on the spectrum. Hillary spent the first year of Chase's life watching his behavior closely and worrying.
“I was literally making myself crazy over it,” she said.
Hillary was able to find a spot for Chase in a study at Boston Children's Cognitive Neuroscience Lab, involving 99 siblings of children with autism.
Infants as young as 3 months old and toddlers up to 36 months old spend only a few minutes wearing a cap with more than 100 sensors. While wearing it, they watch a T.V. showing cartoons, which is also an eye tracker.
Boston Children's Cognitive Neuroscience Lab Director Dr. Charles Nelson said by studying their EEG signals, the electrical activity in the brain, they can predict which infants are likely to develop autism.
“What we've seen is at 3 months of age, we've seen patterns of brain activity that basically predict who, three years later, will develop autism,” said Nelson.
One of the big unknowns is when does autism develop, and Nelson said the study is shining light on whether it happens before or after birth.
“It's very unlikely that brain development was perfectly normal until birth and then something happened. The fact that we see it so early, just at 3 months, makes me think that it started before birth. But what derailed brain development, we don't know,” he said.
A fascinating story: researchers @BostonChildrens are potentially predicting whether infants as young as 3 months old will develop Autism. How it works, & how they’re hoping it will someday lead to preventing Autism, on @boston25 at 6. pic.twitter.com/nHpglclUvV— Heather Hegedus (@HeatherHegedus) May 16, 2018
Dr. Nelson stressed the medical community is not at the point yet where a 3-month-old could receive a diagnosis, but the child could be flagged. The next step is developing early intervention strategies for that age group.
As for Chase, his mother said that right now, he doesn't seem to be exhibiting some of the warning signs, which has given her some much-needed reassurance.
“I can start to enjoy my baby now,” she said.
The study is ongoing and open to three groups of children:
Published: Monday, May 14, 2018 @ 6:59 AM
— Over the past five years, diagnoses of major depression in the United States have risen by at least 33 percent.
That’s according to a new report from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, for which analysts assessed the BCBS Health Index built from billions of claims for more than 41 million commercially insured Americans annually.
The index, which quantifies how more than 200 diseases and conditions affect quality of life, showed that major depression is the second most significant condition on overall health in America. The first is hypertension, or high blood pressure.
According to the report, those diagnosed with major depression are nearly 30 percent less healthy on average than those without the condition. Such a decrease in overall health may mean a loss of nearly 10 years of healthy life for both men and women.
More than 9 million commercially insured Americans in the index are affected by major depression. The rate of diagnosis in the country is 4.4 percent. But while diagnoses are up 33 percent since 2013 overall, the rate is even higher among teens and young adults − 47 percent. For teen girls, specifically, the rate has risen by 65 percent.
"The high rates for adolescents and millennials could have a substantial health impact for decades to come," Trent Haywood, senior vice president and chief medical officer for BCBSA, said in a statement. "Further education and research is needed to identify methods for both physicians and patients to effectively treat major depression and begin a path to recovery and better overall health."
Analysts also found that overall, women are more than twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with major depression (6 percent compared to 2.8 percent, respectively).
Geographically, 49 of the 50 states saw rising diagnosis rates between 2013 and 2016. Hawaii was the only state that experienced a slight decline (a rate of less than 2 percent). Communities in New England, the Pacific Northwest and areas throughout the South and Midwest had higher rates of major depression compared to the rest of the country.
Rhode Island had the highest diagnosis rate with 6 percent. However, the authors noted that differences in efforts to screen for major depression can result in varying diagnoses rates across states.
“While major depression is the second most impactful health condition for the nation, it is complicated by an increased likelihood of overlapping diagnoses of other chronic, behavioral health and pain-related conditions,” authors of the report wrote.
In fact, of the 9 million Americans diagnosed with major depression in 2016, only 15 percent were diagnosed with depression alone. Eighty-five percent, according to the analysis, were diagnosed with an additional health condition.
In addition to a lower quality of life, those diagnosed with major depression are more likely to use more healthcare services, resulting in more than twice the spending.
It’s important to note that the report’s findings, based on people with BCBS commercial health insurance, are likely an underestimate. Most Americans are covered by a commercial health plan, but many who report symptoms of depression say they have not been diagnosed or received treatment for the condition.
According to the World Health Organization, more than 300 million people of all ages suffer from depression, and it’s the leading cause of disability worldwide.
Additionally, approximately 800,000 people die of suicide each year; that’s one person every 40 seconds. In the U.S., between 1999 and 2014, the suicide rate rose by 24 percent. And, according to recent data released from the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide rates among 15- to 19-year-old girls doubled between 2007 and 2015, reaching a 40-year high.