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With the official beginning of summer, physicians at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-School of Osteopathic Medicine (UMDNJ-SOM) who specialize in treating children and the elderly are urging everyone to take special precautions to protect those who are most vulnerable to the dangers posed by this season's heat and humidity.
"It's always dangerous to leave a child in a parked car, even for a few minutes," said Dr. Martin Finkel, co-director of the Child Abuse Research and Education Services (CARES) Institute at UMDNJ-SOM. "Already this year, 13 children have died in this country when left behind in a parked car. Seven of those tragedies happened on days when the outside temperature was less than 90 degrees, including one instance when it was just 73 degrees."
A parked car's interior temperature can increase by 19 degrees after just 10 minutes and, within 20 minutes, will soar by nearly 30 degrees, even when the windows are "cracked."
Dr. Finkel cautioned that high temperatures can also lead to brain or internal organ damage in young children. "If you accidently leave a child in a hot, parked car and return to find that child asleep, don't assume he or she is taking a nap. You could be seeing signs of heat exhaustion or serious heat injury. Remove the child from the car immediately and call 911 if the child is unresponsive."
According to Dr. Thomas Cavalieri, founder of the New Jersey Institute for Successful Aging and the dean of UMDNJ-SOM, elderly individuals may be even more susceptible to the dangers of summer weather.
"Forty percent of all heat-related deaths occur in people aged 65 or older," Dr. Cavalieri noted. "Many older individuals have medical conditions that increase the dangers of hot weather. Their bodies are slower to adjust to temperature changes and they may have a diminished thirst reflex that keeps them from drinking adequate amounts of liquid. Some individuals may have safety and financial concerns that keep them behind locked doors and windows without fans or air conditioners."
On warm, summer days, Dr. Cavalieri recommends checking regularly on older friends, neighbors and relatives, and being alert for signs - such as dizziness, confusion and nausea - that indicate the need for medical intervention.
Dr. Finkel and Dr. Cavalieri offered these hot-weather safety tips:
SOURCE: UMDNJ-School of Osteopathic Medicine, June 20, 2010
The Army is using dogs "much more" to help soldiers recovering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) according to the Army Surgeon General's special assistant for mental health, Col. Elspeth Cameron Ritchie, M.D., who spoke at the annual convention of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).
"Animals are not just cute," Ritchie said. "They provide support."
The effectiveness of man's best friend and other animals, such as horses for equine therapy, as part of mental health care is anecdotal, Ritchie said, but it is being taken seriously and researched.
The observation came at a 2010 NAMI Convention symposium on "Veterans and Military Mental Health," focusing on the needs of returning soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as other veterans.
Ritchie's statement was consistent with the findings of a NAMI report released last year, Depression: Gaps and Guideposts, which found that about 20 percent of people living with depression have used animal therapy in treatment, with 54 percent finding it "extremely" or "quite a bit" helpful.
In 2006, NAMI's Advocate e-magazine published an article noting that although more research was needed, Aaron Katcher, M.D., emeritus professor of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania, had found that "social support is a critical variable in the recovery from many serious biological disorders including psychiatric illnesses."
The 2010 NAMI convention symposium was broadcast live on C-SPAN. During the question and answer, three psychiatric service dogs named Mozart, Precious and Ozzie, patiently stood in line with their owners, who waited at an aisle microphone for a turn to speak.
The Psychiatric Service Dog Society provides information for persons living with severe mental illness who wish to train a service dog to assist with the management of symptoms.
"One size does not fit all," said Ira Katz, M.D., senior consultant for mental health services in the office of patient services in the Department of Veterans Affairs. Across the board, more research is needed on evidence-based treatment to provide a broad range of options.
SOURCE: NAMI, July 6, 2010
Scientists are reporting a possible explanation for the symptoms of anxiety and depression that occur in some patients taking the popular statin family of anti-cholesterol drugs, and reported by some individuals on low-cholesterol diets. These symptoms could result from long-term, low levels of cholesterol in the brain, the report suggests. It appears in ACS' weekly journal Biochemistry.
Amitabha Chattopadhyay and colleagues note in the study that statins work by blocking a key enzyme involved in the body's production of cholesterol. Some studies link the drugs to an increased risk of anxiety and depression, but the reasons are unclear. The scientists previously showed that maintaining normal cholesterol levels is important for the function of cell receptors for serotonin, a brain hormone that influences mood and behavior. But the long-term effect of cholesterol depletion on these receptors, which can occur in patients taking anti-cholesterol drugs, is unknown.
The scientists turned to the statin medication mevastatin to find out. In lab tests using human serotonin receptors expressed in animal cells, they showed that long-term use of the drug caused significant changes in the structure and function of serotonin cell receptors. Adding cholesterol to cells treated with mevastatin restored them to normal. The results represent the first report describing the effect of long-term cholesterol depletion on this type of cell receptor and suggest that chronic, low cholesterol levels in the brain might trigger anxiety and depression, the scientists say.
Article: "Chronic Cholesterol Depletion using Statin Impairs the Function and Dynamics of Human Serotonin1A Receptors"
SOURCE: Michael Bernstein , American Chemical Society, July 2, 2010
A recent report in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research, adds to the growing evidence that fish oil supplements may play a role in preventing chronic disease.
Researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Wash., led by Emily White, Ph.D., a member of the public health sciences division, asked 35,016 postmenopausal women who did not have a history of breast cancer to complete a 24-page questionnaire about their use of non-vitamin, non-mineral "specialty" supplements in the Vitamins and Lifestyle (VITAL) cohort study.
After six years of follow-up, 880 cases of breast cancer were identified using the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results registry.
Regular use of fish oil supplements, which contain high levels of the omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, was linked with a 32 percent reduced risk of breast cancer. The reduction in risk appeared to be restricted to invasive ductal breast cancer, the most common type of the disease.
The use of other specialty supplements, many of which are commonly taken by women to treat symptoms of menopause, was not associated with breast cancer risk.
This research is the first to demonstrate a link between the use of fish oil supplements and a reduction in breast cancer. Studies of dietary intake of fish or omega-3 fatty acids have not been consistent.
"It may be that the amount of omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil supplements are higher than most people would typically get from their diet," White said.
However, White cautioned against gleaning any recommendations from the results of one study.
"Without confirming studies specifically addressing this," she said, "we should not draw any conclusions about a causal relationship."
Edward Giovannucci, M.D., Sc.D., professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health and an editorial board member of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, agreed.
"It is very rare that a single study should be used to make a broad recommendation," said Giovannucci. "Over a period of time, as the studies confirm each other, we can start to make recommendations."
Still, fish oil continues to excite many, as evidence emerges about its protective effect on cardiovascular disease and now cancer.
Harvard researchers are currently enrolling patients for the randomized Vitamin D and Omega-3 Trial (also called VITAL), which will assess the impact of fish oil supplements and vitamin D on cancer, heart disease and stroke.
The researchers plan to enroll 20,000 U.S. men aged 60 years and older and women aged 65 years and older who do not have a history of these diseases and have never taken supplements.
Recruitment for this National Institutes of Health funded study began in January, and more information can be found here.
SOURCE: American Association for Cancer Research, July 8, 2010
High levels of several vitamin E components in the blood are associated with a decreased risk for Alzheimer's disease (AD) in advanced age, suggesting that vitamin E may help prevent cognitive deterioration in elderly people. This is the conclusion reached in a Swedish study published in the July 2010 issue of the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.
"Vitamin E is a family of eight natural components, but most studies related to Alzheimer's disease investigate only one of these components, ±-tocopherol", says Dr. Francesca Mangialasche, who led the study. "We hypothesized that all the vitamin E family members could be important in protecting against AD. If confirmed, this result has implications for both individuals and society, as 70 percent of all dementia cases in the general population occur in people over 75 years of age, and the study suggests a protective effect of vitamin E against AD in individuals aged 80+."
The study was conducted at the Aging Research Center (ARC), Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden, in collaboration with the Institute of Gerontology and Geriatrics, University of Perugia, Italy. The study included a sample of 232 participants from the Kungsholmen Project, a population-based longitudinal study on aging and dementia in Stockholm (Kungsholmen parish). All participants were aged 80+ years and were dementia-free at the beginning of the study (baseline). After 6-years of follow-up, 57 AD cases were identified.
The blood levels of all eight natural vitamin E components were measured at the beginning of the study. Subjects with higher blood levels (highest tertile) were compared with subjects who had lower blood levels (lowest tertile) to verify whether these two groups developed dementia at different rates. The study found that subjects with higher blood levels of all the vitamin E family forms had a reduced risk of developing AD, compared to subjects with lower levels. After adjusting for various confounders, the risk was reduced by 45-54%, depending on the vitamin E component.
Dr Mangialasche notes that the protective effect of vitamin E seems to be related to the combination of the different forms. Another recent study indicated that supplements containing high doses of the E vitamin form ±-tocopherol may increase mortality, emphasizing that such dietary supplements, if not used in a balanced way, may be more harmful than previously thought.
"Elderly people as a group are large consumers of vitamin E supplements, which usually contain only ±-tocopherol, and this often at high doses", says Dr Mangialasche. "Our findings need to be confirmed by other studies, but they open up for the possibility that the balanced presence of different vitamin E forms can have an important neuroprotective effect."
SOURCE: New York-Presbyterian Hospital, June 1, 2010
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