Posts tagged with "doctor"

10 Unexpected Causes of a Headache and How to Prevent Them

What causes headaches? Is it your boss? Your friends? Maybe it’s something you ate or the song you jammed out to on the way to work. Either way, your head hurts, and you don’t know why. If you did, you might be surprised by what’s to blame. 

Take a look at your diet, weight, environment and personal habits to determine whether one of the following unexpected causes is contributing to the pain. 

1. Obesity 

If you’re carrying around a few extra pounds, you’re likely to suffer migraines and headaches more frequently. Some research suggests that low physical activity may be to blame for this co-occurrence. However, scientists still aren’t entirely sure how obesity causes more severe and frequent attacks. Maybe it’s due to inflammation or dietary choices. Either way, it wouldn’t hurt to focus on your health and fitness. 

Hit the gym or try incorporating a few cardio or strength-based exercises into your daily routine. Head to the kitchen and prepare a few healthy dinners, too. Eventually, your hard work and determination will pay off so you look and feel happier and healthier. 

2. Poor Posture

How many hours do you spend in an office chair every day? Poor posture or sitting in the same position all day can cause tension in your back, shoulders and neck, which can easily lead to a migraine. Typically, the pain will begin at the base of the skull and radiate up through your head. Sometimes, your forehead and face will ache, too. 

Luckily, you can prevent these headaches by frequently switching positions and practicing better posture when you do have to sit or stand for long periods. A midday stretch or a more ergonomic office chair may also minimize symptoms and alleviate pain. 

3. Sex

You’ve probably heard that a little hanky panky can cure a headache but, sometimes, sex can actually cause one. That’s right. Any type of sexual activity — especially the big O — can trigger a dull ache or sudden, throbbing pain in your head. Symptoms can last anywhere from several minutes to multiple days. 

If avoiding sex altogether isn’t an option, try taking a more passive role during intercourse. Drinking water before and after may also help prevent headaches. However, if your symptoms grow more severe, there may be an underlying issue. In that case, it’s best to consult your doctor. 

4. Bruxism

Have you ever woken up with a sore jaw or toothache? Odds are you’re subconsciously clenching or grinding your teeth at night. This condition is called bruxism, and it often causes headaches and worn-down teeth. However, it may lead to more serious problems like temporomandibular joint disorder, which can cause lockjaw and chronic soreness in or near the ear.

What can you do to stop clenching and grinding in your sleep? Wear a mouthguard and try reducing your stress levels. Up to 70% of bruxism is triggered by stress, so consciously relaxing your face and investing in self-care throughout the day may help. 

5. Pollutants

Various air pollutants, including volatile organic compounds, lead, particulate matter and nitrogen oxide, can rob your body of oxygen and alter blood flow. These acute effects often result in headaches but can also trigger migraine attacks in sensitive populations.

Unfortunately, air pollution is unavoidable, especially if you live in a metropolitan area or someplace that experiences frequent forest fires. However, you can limit exposure to some pollutants inside your home by avoiding harsh chemical cleaners and paints that contain VOCs. Opt for all-natural products instead, and periodically open windows to increase airflow and improve ventilation. 

6. Weather 

Gray skies, high humidity, storms and temperature fluctuations can all incite head pain. These weather conditions alter atmospheric pressure and create an imbalance in your sinus cavities and inner ear. Chemical imbalances can also occur within your brain, so headaches are common whenever the weather changes. 

You can’t control the weather, so preventing pressure-related headaches ultimately comes down to taking care of yourself. Drink plenty of water, get adequate sleep, avoid stress triggers and keep some pain relievers nearby just in case. Limiting your time outside may also help. 

7. Hunger 

Most people know you can get a headache from being dehydrated, but few realize hunger can have the same effect. When you skip a meal, your body releases hormones that tell your brain you’re hungry. These same hormones raise your blood pressure and tighten vessels, triggering a headache. 

The most obvious way to prevent these symptoms is to eat something. Snacking throughout the day will also help ward off hunger-induced migraines. Plan ahead and pack meals for work, long car rides and other situations that limit your access to food. 

8. Coffee 

For most people, a morning cup of joe is nonnegotiable. In some cases, it can even relieve a headache. However, drinking too much coffee can trigger caffeine rebound, which occurs from withdrawals after repeated overconsumption. 

If you consume more than 200 mg of caffeine per day and often experience headaches between lattes, you might be dealing with rebound. In this case, it’s best to slowly decrease your intake, enjoy coffee in moderation and find more natural ways to boost your energy. 

9. Hair Accessories 

How you wear your hair can also take a toll on your noggin. Tight ponytails, headbands, twists and braids can pull on your hair and strain the connective tissue on your scalp. Eventually, these styles can cause headaches and even hair loss. 

If you suspect your updo is hurting your head, let your hair down and give your scalp some time to recover. You can also try switching up your style to include loose braids or messy buns that don’t put so much stress on your scalp. 

10. Lunchmeat

Cold cuts and other processed foods often contain tyramine and nitrates, additives that can constrict blood vessels in your head and brain. If you’re sensitive to these substances, you’ll typically develop a headache within 24 hours due to the stress on those nerves and vessels. 

Avoid food-induced headaches by skipping the premade grocery store subs and cured or processed lunch meats. Opt for deli meat and fresh protein sources like chicken, pork and fish instead.  

Talk to Your Doctor

Taking preventive measures is key to keeping headaches at bay. However, if you take precautions and still suffer frequent or severe migraines, it’s time to seek professional help. Schedule an appointment with your doctor to discuss your symptoms and consider potential causes. They may also schedule an MRI or CAT scan to take a closer look at your brain and rule out any underlying conditions. At the very least, they’ll offer a diagnosis or prescribe treatment to alleviate or prevent symptoms.

Art by Heather Skovlund of 360 Magazine for use by 360 Magazine

Dr. Ahron Friedberg – Through a Screen Darkly

Through A Screen Darkly Details Pandemic Mental Health Struggles

Dr. Ahron Friedberg’s Book Offers Context on CDC & KFF Data 

In his latest book, Through a Screen Darkly: Psychoanalytic Reflections During the Pandemic, New York City psychiatrist Dr. Ahron Friedberg portrays a range of individuals dealing with mental health issues related to the pandemic, providing context for these harrowing recent statistics:

The average share of adults reporting symptoms of anxiety disorder and/or depression almost quadrupled from January 2019 to June 2021

  • 36% of adults report difficulty sleeping, 32% cited eating problems, and 12% reported increase in alcohol and substance abuse
  • Communities of color and essential workers are suffering disproportionately
  • Young adults, more likely to lose jobs and / or be in lockdowns, are also suffering disproportionately
  • Suspected suicide attempts have increased in teenagers, especially girls

Commenting on the statistics, Dr. Friedberg stated: Stress has physical as well as mental consequences. It weakens the immune system and increases the incidence of major depression as well cardiac and pulmonary issues.

Friedberg continues: I coined the term Post-COVID Re-entry Syndrome to describe the stress that people suffer as they re-enter the workforce, reconnect with friends and family, and attempt to resume some semblance of a normal life.

To manage this anxiety, Dr. Friedberg recommends: 

  • Taking a walk outdoors
  • Connecting with friends and family – safely
  • Self- Reflection

If symptoms become severe, he recommends consulting a trained mental health professional. Primary care physicians and clergy can also provide resource and emotional support.

The ultimate goal is to bolster your resilience, states Dr. Friedberg. In my experience counseling patients through the pandemic, I found that they had greater capacity for resilience than they realized. Deploying this resilience was their pathway to successfully managing their mental health.

Through a Screen Darkly offers practical examples of how patients coped with these conditions and (in many cases) found the resilience to get past them.

In addition to Through a Screen Darkly, Dr. Friedberg wrote Psychotherapy and Personal Change: Two Minds in a Mirror with Dr. Sandra Sherman. With Dr. Jack Hirschowitz, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Mount Sinai, he wrote Flashing Seven: Seven Essential Skills for Living and Leading. With his father, Dr. Eugene Friedberg, he wrote Between Us, A Father and Son Speak. 

Through a Screen Darkly is available for purchase at amazon.com.

ABOUT DR. AHRON FRIEDBERG: 

Dr. Ahron Friedberg, M.D. is a Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. He is a practicing psychiatrist and psychoanalyst in Manhattan. At Mount Sinai, Dr. Friedberg served as Co-Chair of the Psychiatry Advisory Board and has helped develop and lead several academic and teaching initiatives including their Innovations in Psychiatry Symposium. Dr. Friedberg also directs the Symposium, a national meeting held annually at Mount Sinai. He has participated in clinical research as part of the Department’s Mood and Anxiety Program, which focuses on translational neuroscience and understanding resilience.

Dr. Friedberg has served twice as national President of the American Society of Psychoanalytic Physicians. He was named first Executive Editor of International Psychoanalysis.net, a highly regarded online psychoanalytic resource. In addition, he is an Acquisitions Editor of International Psychoanalytic Books, Book Editor of Psychodynamic Psychiatry, Editor of the American Academy of Psychodynamic Psychiatry and Psychoanalysis Academy Forum, elected chair of the International Council of Editors, Psychoanalytic Journals, as well as a regular contributor to Psychology Today.

His research has been published in numerous peer-reviewed journals, including The Psychoanalytic Review, The American Journal of Psychoanalysis, Neuro-psychoanalysis, and Psychodynamic Psychiatry. Dr. Friedberg’s writing focuses on the treatment of anxiety and trauma, clinical technique, and the concepts of resilience, consciousness, and desire in psychoanalysis. He has received awards for excellence in writing, in addition to originality and scholarship.

For more information on Dr. Ahron Friedberg, visit his site.

illustration for use by 360 Magazine

ROSELAND COMMUNITY HOSPITAL SERVES CHICAGO’S SOUTH SIDE

With a rich and storied history in the Greater Roseland Area, Roseland Community Hospital demonstrates a stellar example of a community hospital that is both owned and operated by the people that it serves  

Since opening in 1924, the Roseland Community Hospital, or RCH for short, has been offering comprehensive healthcare services to residents of Chicago’s far South Side neighborhoods, including outpatient services, a well-known Obstetrics Unit, behavioral health services, and most recently plays host to a COVID-19 clinic. The Hospital, which is located in the Greater Roseland Area at 45 W. 111th St., is open 24-hours, and strives to satisfy the community and offer quality resources to each individual, a mission it has maintained since its inception. At the forefront, professional caregivers provide valuable services to patient’s recovery and overall wellness. Throughout the myriad of social, economic and political changes that have dramatically affected the neighborhoods, the Hospital has maintained a strategic focus to help those they serve. Throughout the calendar year, the team at the Roseland Hospital has created special programming as a way to give back to its surrounding community, with various activations scheduled including a Back to School celebration, an annual coat drive, a Giving Tuesday and Toy Drive initiative and much more.

“Our vision has been, and continues to be, to develop quality hospital programs and services that enable our community residents to grow and live healthy lifestyles,” said Tim Egan, President and CEO of the Roseland Community Hospital. “We see ourselves as a major lifeline to many in the surrounding communities, and will continue to strive and satisfy this community we call home.”

Due to the rich history in the Greater Roseland Area, the neighborhood surrounding the hospital has continually evolved beginning with a Dutch settlement in 1840. Since then, most importantly, “The Great Migration” played a major role in immigrants and thousands of African Americans pouring into the community in search of employment opportunities. Today, African Americans comprise of ninety-nine percent of Roseland Community Hospital’s patients; and seventy-five percent of RCH’s administrators, doctors, nurses and staff. Increasingly, the community has also been seeing a rising percentage of Latino residents to the area.

The Hospital provides a wide range of services including an Obstetrics Unit, Behavioral Health Services, a Medical Stabilization Unit, Outpatient Services, a Mobile Dental Clinic, a COVID-19 Clinic and a Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children. Roseland Community Hospital has experienced the privilege of providing healthcare services for the people who currently call Roseland their home.

To learn more about Roseland Community Hospital and all the services they have to offer, please click HERE.

Image courtesy of Purdue News Services for use by 360 Magazine

Purdue Names First Innovation and Entrepreneurship Fellow

Purdue Engineering names first Innovation and Entrepreneurship Fellow, Yung-Hsiang Lu, professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, has been named the first Innovation and Entrepreneurship Fellow in Purdue University’s College of Engineering. 

A Purdue University professor and innovator who works to inspire the next generation of technology leaders has been named the first Innovation and Entrepreneurship Fellow for the College of Engineering.

Yung-Hsiang Lu, a professor of electrical and computer engineering, has developed several patented technologies and helped his students start their own companies. He is a Purdue Faculty Scholar, Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and Distinguished Scientist of the Association for Computing Machinery.

We move our discoveries in the lab out to the world for impact through patents and commercialization opportunities, Lu said. This new role provides me with a great opportunity to help connect members of our engineering family with resources to move their technologies and research to communities and people in need.

Lu’s appointment comes as the College of Engineering has put a new emphasis on the importance of faculty innovation and commercialization. These entrepreneurial activities can be documented in the formal tenure review process.

Yung is the perfect fit for this position to help connect our College of Engineering with the Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship and resources to support entrepreneurship and commercialization, said Wayne Chen, associate dean for research and innovation in the College of Engineering and Reilly Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics and Materials Engineering. We want to further develop our culture of support for faculty and students who take their research and lab work to the world through patents and startups.

Lu will collaborate with the Purdue Foundry, an entrepreneurship and commercialization hub, and the Purdue for Life Foundation. He has advised several student teams that won business plan competitions and helped a company obtain two Small Business Innovation Research grants.

Everett Berry, a Purdue alumnus who, with Lu, co-founded a company called Perceive, said he remembers fondly the professor’s belief in the ability of undergraduate innovators.

Having seen Silicon Valley inside and out by this point, I know Dr. Lu embodies the best of the entrepreneurial instinct that we celebrate, Berry said. He was my first, and still strongest, inspiration for building hard technology.

Another alumnus and former member of Lu’s research team, Zohar Kapach, started a company called Oqullo. He said Lu helped him realize his love for computer engineering and the opportunities to grow an entrepreneurial career in the field.

I continue to apply my experiences working with Dr. Lu to my daily research work, Kapach said. I was able to apply the knowledge I gained from working with him to raise a substantial seed fund.

Lu continues to work with the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization to patent inventions. This office operates one of the most comprehensive technology transfer programs among leading research universities in the U.S.

About Purdue University

Purdue University is a top public research institution developing practical solutions to today’s toughest challenges. Ranked the No. 5 Most Innovative University in the United States by U.S. News & World Report, Purdue delivers world-changing research and out-of-this-world discovery. Committed to hands-on and online, real-world learning, Purdue offers a transformative education to all. Committed to affordability and accessibility, Purdue has frozen tuition and most fees at 2012-13 levels, enabling more students than ever to graduate debt-free. See how Purdue never stops in the persistent pursuit of the next giant leap at Purdue’s website.

NB Pure illustration by Heather Skovlund (Photo by Engin Akyurt from Pexels) for 360 Magazine

Summer Tips for Melanoma Prevention

Protect yourself from melanoma without becoming deficient in vitamin D

By Leah Johnston, RDN

Don’t be so quick to overlook concerns around melanoma just because it’s often viewed as preventable. Melanoma is one of the most common cancers and the deadliest form of skin cancer. However, there is a conflict between how we prevent melanoma and how we ensure we are getting enough vitamin D. Sun exposure is the main source of this essential vitamin, but it’s also the primary culprit in the formation of melanoma. With May being Melanoma Awareness Month, it’s time to take notice and learn how we can protect our skin while still absorbing enough vitamin D.

The Stats

Cases of melanoma have been rising over the last few decades, especially among young adults, as it’s the most commonly diagnosed cancer among people aged 25 to 29. According to the Melanoma Research Alliance, one person dies from melanoma every hour of every day. The American Cancer Society reports that the risk for getting melanoma is approximately 2.6% (1 in 38) for whites, 0.1% (1 in 1,000) for Blacks, and 0.6% (1 in 167) for Hispanics. While fair skin poses a higher risk, darker complexions are also at risk.

How Melanoma forms

Melanocytes are cells that produce melanin and give skin its brown or tan color. It’s when melanocytes start to grow out of control on the skin’s top layer that cancer can develop and then spread to other parts of the body. Usually appearing as a brown or black spot or mole, melanoma is most commonly found on the chest and back for men and legs for women. It’s best not to ignore any irregular spots you may find on your skin because this cancer can also appear in other colors or patterns. Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun or tanning beds can damage DNA in cells and significantly increase the risk of melanoma. Early detection is important for effective treatment.

Tips for melanoma prevention:

  • Use a broad-spectrum SPF sunscreen all year when outdoors. This will help protect against sun damage, which can occur even when the sun might be hiding behind a cloud.
  • Limit sun exposure during the middle of the day when the UV rays are at their peak. Instead, plan outdoor time for the morning or later afternoon to lessen the risk. 
  • Opt for a spray tan over laying out by the pool. If you love to have a tan, spray tans are a safer option and will help protect the longevity of your skin.
  • Schedule annual skin exams with a dermatologist. This is especially important if you have fair skin or immediate family members who have had melanoma, such as a parent or sibling.

The importance of Vitamin D

What doesn’t vitamin D do? Known as the sunshine vitamin, the human body absorbs an inactive form of vitamin D from the sun, food, or supplements and converts it into an active form of vitamin that it can use. In its active form, vitamin D plays many roles in the body.

Bone Health: Vitamin D and calcium work together to maintain bone health and density. Calcium cannot be absorbed into bones without the help of vitamin D. A vitamin D deficiency can result in bone softening, known as osteomalacia, and muscle weakness. Osteoporosis can also be associated with vitamin D deficiency due to the lack of calcium absorption. Both osteoporosis and melanoma affect older adults making it essential to couple melanoma prevention strategies with vitamin D supplementation.

Immunity: Recently, researchers have been investigating a possible link between vitamin D deficiency and the severity of COVID-19 symptoms. While this research is still in its infancy, scientists have been finding that low vitamin D status may result in the increased severity of symptoms and higher mortality rate. More research is needed in this area.

Inflammation: Research has shown an association between vitamin D status and inflammation-related autoimmune and inflammatory diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, inflammatory bowel disease, and type 1 diabetes. Vitamin D also helps to regulate insulin levels for diabetes management.

Depression: People with depression are more likely to have low vitamin D levels. A 2011 study found that women who ate more foods rich in vitamin D had a lower risk of depression than women who got less vitamin D in their diets. Vitamin D has also demonstrated the ability to improve the symptoms of depression.

The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for vitamin D is 15 mcg (600 IU) for most children and adults up to the age of 70, according to the National Institutes of Health. Adults who over 70 need 20 mcg (800 IU) daily.

Tips for getting enough Vitamin D:

  • Get outside but be strategic. As previously discussed, the best time to be in the sun is in the morning or later afternoon. Plan your days to limit your exposure to the midday sun.
  • Add at least one vitamin D rich food into your daily diet. These may include fortified dairy and non-dairy beverages such as milk or orange juice, fortified cereals, salmon (wild caught contains more than farmed), sardines, and egg yolks. Wild mushrooms or those that have been treated with UV light are a good plant source of the vitamin. 
  • Take a daily Vitamin D supplement. This may be particularly important if you live in regions of the world that are further from the equator, such as the Midwest. If you struggle to remember or don’t enjoy taking pills, NB Pure has a Vitamin D3 supplement in the form of a spray for the utmost convenience.
  • Have your doctor check your vitamin D levels at least once a year. Getting an annual physical is important for your long-term health. Ask your doctor to make sure they check your vitamin D levels at that visit.

The sun may be the main reason for the increasing rates of melanoma, but it’s also our number one source of vitamin D. It is possible to protect yourself from developing melanoma and ensure that you are obtaining ample amounts of vitamin D to prevent the consequences of a deficiency.

Healthcare Equity article illustrated by Rita Azar for 360 MAGAZINE

The Importance of Education for Advancing Healthcare Equity

By: Maria Hernandez, Ph.D.

If you’ve been tracking the nation’s progress in the fight against Covid-19, physicians and public health officials of color have been highlighting the need for health equity in the national dialogue. As the data on mortality rates becomes clearer, there is no mistake that the pandemic is impacting African American and Latino communities to a much greater extent. Current mortality rates for Blacks and Latinos is almost 2.8 times that of whites suggesting significant health inequities exist. The discussion about why these inequities are taking place has been less clear and even less clear is how to address this reality.

The key may be in educating healthcare providers about the root cause of these inequities and empowering patients that access healthcare systems.

Health inequities are the differences in health outcomes due to unfair conditions or factors that different populations may face. These factors can include access to quality care, inadequate housing, lack of access to quality food, poverty and systemic racism. Public health researchers and healthcare providers have known about health inequities in the US for over 40 years and the research about what to do point to a confluence of factors that center on economic, educational and social change. Even before the pandemic, Native American and Black women are 2.5 times more likely to die in childbirth than Whites. Women are under diagnosed for heart disease.

Research points to the presence of unconscious and systemic bias as well as a lack of culturally competent care.

https://www.cbpp.org/research/poverty-and-inequality/tracking-the-covid-19-recessions-effects-on-food-housing-andThe pandemic exacerbated the impact of these factors in profound ways. If we look at the fact that essential front line workers–cashiers, bus drivers, food service providers, healthcare workers, postal carriers, warehouse workers, receptionists–have high concentrations of Black and Latino workers, it becomes much easier to understand why so many victims of Covid-19 are from these communities. And if we also explore the role poverty plays in the pandemic, we know that crowded housing conditions where social distancing is not possible has been a factor. The reality is that low income, hourly workers are not able to do their jobs remotely using telecommuting or video conferencing. Many of these workers also experience a harder time finding personal protective equipment that can be a burden for tight household budgets.

The pandemic has set the stage for profound changes in healthcare and its about time.

Two important responses that have emerged in the nation’s healthcare systems is an awareness that physicians, nurses and other caretakers must accept that–like all other human beings–they suffer from unconscious biases. It’s those snap judgements about a person’s race, ethnicity, age, ability, and socioeconomic status that enter into each encounter which can influence the recommended course of care. Those biases can be positive or negative but we all make those associations. The pandemic has accelerated the

extent to which hospitals are seeking training for front line staff and providers in order to reduce the likelihood of these biases and provide more culturally competent care.

These programs include an awareness of how bias impacts the experiences of patients and what may be important factors to consider in working with different populations. Culturally competent care encourages staff to look at how the patient may be experiencing their illness and what their own understanding of how to improve their health. It means taking into account the patients cultural of reference and listening to their unique needs.

Another response is the effort hospitals are making to partner with community clinics, faith based organizations and community organizations to win the trust of patients. This was present before the pandemic, but it has taken on a new sense of urgency as vaccine adoption rates have faltered in Black and Brown communities. Since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, not for profit hospitals which are the majority of facilities in the US have been asked to report what community benefits they provide to address known community needs.

Despite all of these approaches for improved healthcare services for diverse patients, it will take years before all health systems are aligned on their approach to advance health equity.

The most vulnerable patients need quality care now.

A visit to the doctor—even on-line—may require some key steps to ensure the best care is made available. Three steps that can make a big difference for patient visits. First, bring an advocate with you–a family member or friend who will join you in your visit and support your being heard or to help you ask the right questions. You’ll have to give them permission to be with you given privacy rules in healthcare but it’s worth it. Having a trusted advocate can be a big relief if there’s a lot of options to explore or if there’s different treatment steps involved. There’s a growing field of professional Patient Advocates — sometimes called Patient Navigators that help individuals with navigating treatment options, getting insurance payments, and arranging for home health care if needed. Your health may rely on having someone who understands the complexity of healthcare systems to support you.

Next, review the information your physician provides about the condition or illness and the medicines you may be asked to take. Ask your doctor what information you most need to understand for your treatment or what to do to support your health. Most physicians will provide information on a condition or point you to a reputable website for more information like the Mayo Clinic Review what your physician provides to be informed about the options and treatments presented.

Last, communicate with your care team throughout the course of your treatment or care. If you are struggling with side effects in your treatment or symptoms worsen, call your doctor or the nurse practitioner assigned to your care. Take an active role–with your advocate–to look at options for continued treatment. Poor communication with your physician can put you at greater risk for poor health outcomes. During these challenging days, preparing for each time you visit your physician can set the stage for you to receive the very best care available

About the author -Maria Hernandez, Ph.D., President and COO of Impact4Health is a thought leader in health equity and pay for success initiatives designed to address the upstream social determinants of health among vulnerable populations.  Maria currently leads the Alameda County Pay for Success Asthma Initiative which is testing the feasibility of reducing asthma-related emergencies using health education and proven home-based environmental interventions for children.  

Gym Illustration by Rita Azar for 360 Magazine

UVA on Battling Diseases by Exercise

A top exercise researcher and colleagues at the University of Virginia School of Medicine have launched an ambitious effort to understand the whole-body benefits of exercise so that doctors can use that information to prevent and treat disease.

Zhen Yan, PhD, and his collaborators aim to identify the sources, functions and targets of the molecules that provide exercise’s well-documented health benefits. By understanding this, doctors will better understand how exercise helps fend off disease, and they may be able to design drugs to mimic those benefits for people who cannot exercise, such as those with limited mobility. The cutting-edge research could open new doors both for preventing and treating many common illnesses, the researchers hope.

“No one would dispute that physical activity or regular exercise is the best measures for health promotion and disease prevention,” said Yan, director of the Center for Skeletal Muscle Research at UVA’s Robert M. Berne Cardiovascular Research Center. “In fact, the health benefits of exercise are way beyond our imagination. The underlying reasons for the superb health benefits of exercise are being uncovered by many talented and passionate scientists around the world.”

Understanding How Exercise Improves Health

The UVA researchers have recently joined a national consortium seeking to create a “molecular map” of exercise benefits. Known as the Molecular Transducers of Physical Activity Consortium, or MoTrPAC, the group includes researchers at top institutions across the country, including Harvard, Duke, Stanford and Mayo Clinic.

The consortium came about after the National Institutes of Health invited Yan and a dozen other prominent scientists to a roundtable discussion in 2010 about the future of exercise research and the obstacles that stood in its way. The NIH then set aside almost $170 million for MoTrPAC’s research – believed to be the agency’s largest-ever investment into the mechanisms of how physical activity improves health and prevents disease.

“The program’s goal,” Yan explained, “is to study the molecular changes that occur during and after exercise and ultimately to advance the understanding of how physical activity improves and preserves health.”

The consortium is looking at exercise benefits in both humans and animal models. Initial animal research was conducted at Harvard, the University of Iowa and the University of Florida. In the latest round, UVA is joined by the University of Missouri, the University of Kansas Medical Center and the University of California, Los Angeles.

The vast amount of information collected as part of the project so far has poised the UVA team to make “unprecedented” advances, Yan reports. He and his multi-disciplinary team will employ advanced computer algorithms to sift through the heaps of data to identify specific molecules to study. They will then conduct state-of-the-art research in lab mice using gene editing, combined with a wide range of functional assessment, including muscle, cardiac, metabolic and cognitive/mental functions. This will let them determine the effects the molecules have and lay a foundation for doctors to harness the molecules to benefit human health in the future.

Yan’s team will work closely with colleagues at Stanford, who will conduct advanced “multiomics” analyses, meaning they will bring together data on genes, cellular proteins and much more to obtain a more holistic understanding of exercise’s benefits to the body.

UVA’s research team includes Yan, of the Robert M. Berne Cardiovascular Research Center and the Departments of Medicine, Pharmacology and Molecular Physiology and Biological Physics; Wenhao Xu, PhD, of the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Cancer Biology; Chongzhi Zang, PhD, of UVA’s Center for Public Health Genomics, the Department of Public Health Sciences and the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics; Matthew Wolf, MD, PhD, of the Department of Medicine’s Division of Cardiovascular Medicine and the Robert M. Berne Cardiovascular Research Center; Thurl Harris, PhD, of the Department of Pharmacology; and Alban Gaultier, PhD, and John Lukens, PhD, both part of UVA’s Department of Neuroscience and the Center for Brain Immunology and Glia (BIG).

“It is well known that exercise is one of the best treatments for mood disorders,” Gaultier said. “We are excited to test the group discoveries using animal models of anxiety and depression.”

“This is an exciting opportunity for team science,” Zang said. “I am happy to work with colleagues at UVA and across the country and use data-science approaches to unravel the complex molecular effects of exercise.”

UVA’s effort has received almost a half-million dollars in backing from the NIH’s fund for MoTrPAC’s research.

“Our research team encompasses exceptional talents. The collective wisdom and expertise of the team at UVA and MoTrPAC will allow us to reach a level that we would not be able to reach by an individual,” Yan said. “It is an unprecedented opportunity in our lifetime to tackle this incredibly important question to mankind.”

To keep up with the latest medical research news from UVA, subscribe to the Making of Medicine blog at http://makingofmedicine.virginia.edu.

MORE: Exercise may help prevent deadly COVID-19 complication.

Kaelen Felix Illustrates a Dental Article for 360 MAGAZINE

Oral Hygiene × SARS-CoV-2

The British Dental Journal recently found that poor oral hygiene may be linked to more severe cases of COVID-19 because of the harmful bacteria found in mouths that have not been properly taken care of.

While the mouth has always been known as a gateway to the rest of the body, giving it the ability to cause problems in other areas, it is now found that poor oral hygiene can cause respiratory infections, making COVID-19 stronger.

The good news is that the best defense, in this scenario, is to follow good oral practices, like flossing, brushing and using mouthwash.

COVID-19 continues to be deadly, but there does appear to be some sort of link in more than half of fatal cases.

According to the British Dental Journal, “More than 80% of COVID-19 patients in ICUs exhibited an exceptionally high bacterial load, with more than 50% of deaths exhibiting bacterial superinfections.”

Even though COVID-19 is transferred virally, complications like pneumonia and acute respiratory distress might be caused by bacterial superinfection, which begins in the mouth.

The study says, “We recommend that oral hygiene be maintained, if not improved, during a SARS-CoV-2 infection in order to reduce the bacterial load in the mouth and the potential risk of a bacterial superinfection.”

Again, hygiene can be maintained by brushing, flossing and using mouthwash, but oral-care probiotics can also offer protection.

Oral-care probiotics are a specialized type of probiotic formulated to repopulate the oral cavity bacteria, which battles harmful bacteria that could lead to cavities, gingivitis and periodontal disease.

Dr. Eric Goulder, founder of the Heart and Stroke Prevention Center of Central Ohio, said he thinks heart health is also determined by oral health. His team uses ProBiora, which supports health in teeth and gums.

“We think everyone should be extra careful during the pandemic, and oral-care probiotics are a great way to help keep the oral cavity in balance 24-7,” Dr. Goulder said.

To see the study, you can click right here.

Loose Standards Undermined Research on COVID-19 Test Accuracy

The COVID-19 pandemic was met with a rush of research on the many factors related to the crisis, including the accuracy of different testing methods. However, many of the studies conducted in the early stages of the pandemic did not meet the usual rigorous scientific standards, according to researchers at Rice University and Baylor College of Medicine.

In “The estimation of diagnostic accuracy of tests for COVID-19: A scoping review,” which will appear in an upcoming edition of the Journal of Infection, authors Dierdre Axell-House, Richa Lavingia, Megan Rafferty, Eva Clark, E. Susan Amirian and Elizabeth Chiao found that better-designed studies are needed to appropriately evaluate the different types of COVID-19 tests.

They reviewed 49 articles published between Dec. 31, 2019, and June 19, 2020, that evaluated the validity of different types of coronavirus testing. These studies were assessed using elements of the Quality Assessment of Diagnostic Accuracy Studies (QUADAS-2) guidelines, which are used to evaluate if bias could be playing a role in the results of studies on diagnostic test accuracy.

Amirian, an epidemiologist at Rice’s Texas Policy Lab (TPL), said when it comes to conducting studies on testing accuracy, design is critically important. She said the major limitations found in the design of most of the studies they examined could lead to erroneous or misleading results.

“Without rigorous evaluations of which tests are the most accurate, it’s hard to know which tests are more likely to lead to false negatives, which could contribute to greater spread of the virus,” said Rafferty, a health data analyst at the TPL. “Although it’s difficult to say, some of the quality issues may have resulted from these studies being streamlined in response to the immediate need for timely information.”

“COVID-19 has now been a health crisis for nearly a year,” Amirian said. “With regard to research, the academic community needs to move away from being in acute emergency mode and think about how we’re going to handle this as a chronic crisis. When researchers are in emergency mode, we tend to be more open to sacrificing a lot of the strict quality standards for conducting research that we usually uphold.”

The paper is available online here.

How to get rid of mosquitoes

Mosquitoes may not transmit COVID-19, but they can carry other dangerous diseases, including West Nile virus and Zika.

Most regions of the U.S. have issues with mosquitoes, but knowing prevention and mitigation measures can stop them from mushrooming into a big problem, says Dr. Craig Stoops (www.mosquito-authority.com), a retired U.S. Navy medical entomologist and chief science officer at Mosquito® Authority, a mosquito control company. 

“People are unfortunately attractive to mosquitoes,” Dr. Stoops says, “but there are numerous ways we can avoid the irritation and the potential danger of a bite. So much has to do with preparing your property and knowing how mosquitoes thrive.

“Some people are more susceptible to bites than others. Mosquitoes can be attracted to different chemicals found in human skin. But just because mosquitoes are an inevitable part of summer doesn’t mean you’re defenseless.”

Dr. Stoops offers five tips to reduce the appearance of mosquitoes and their biter:

  • Consider a professional service. Sometimes people prefer to do it themselves when it comes to fixing home issues, but they later find that a persistent problem is often better left to trained professionals. “Companies that specialize in mosquito control can effectively address the problem by implementing an entire program over a period of time, including follow-ups,” Dr. Stoops says. “There is a science and strategy to a program, and it requires considerable knowledge of how to treat different types of yards in different regions of the country. A good company in this industry continually educates its people as well as the consumers on how to effectively stay ahead of the problem.”
  • Get rid of standing water. Still water is a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes. Common places of standing water include: clogged drain gutters, corrugated drain pipes, bird baths, pet bowls, planters, trash and recycling bins, children’s toys, and kiddie pools. “It is important to remain vigilant and remove any containers and debris from your yard to lower the habitats available to mosquitoes,” Dr. Stoops says. “A mosquito needs only about a tablespoon of water to lay eggs.”
  • Use safe repellents. Repellents registered by the Environmental Protection Agency have been reviewed and approved to pose minimal risk when used properly. “Some of the most effective ingredients commonly referred to in a repellent are DEET, Picaridan, and oil of lemon eucalyptus,” Dr. Stoops says. EPA-approved repellents provide up to two hours of protection.
  • Dress appropriately. “Studies have shown that some mosquitoes are more attracted to dark clothing,” Dr. Stoops says. “Avoid wearing lightweight, thin materials, which mosquitoes can bite right through. Instead, opt for tightly woven materials, like cotton, denim, nylon, or windbreaker-type materials, which are more difficult for the bugs to penetrate. Clothing that provides UV protection is typically tightly woven and often protects against insect bites, too.”
  • Keep your landscape clean. “Trimmed trees and shrubs improve a property’s air circulation,” Dr. Stoops says. “The increased air flow will physically push mosquitoes out of that area and remove the environment they thrive in. Also, there are some gardening choices that can deter mosquitoes: basil, lavender, and catnip are all plants that mosquitoes don’t like.”

“Many people just think of bug spray during mosquito season,” Dr. Stoops says. “The main idea should be to keep them out of your yard as much as possible. From there, considering summer is the time to get away, always prepare for your environment, especially if hiking or camping.”

About Dr. Craig Stoops

Dr. Craig Stoops (www.mosquito-authority.com), LCDR (ret.) MSC USN, is a retired U.S. Navy Medical Entomologist and chief science officer at Mosquito® Authority, a mosquito control company. He has conducted mosquito control and research in the United States, South and Central America, Southeast Asia, Africa and the Middle East. He has a B.S. in biology from Shippensburg University and an M.S. and Ph.D. in Entomology from Clemson University. Dr. Stoops is board certified by the Entomological Society of America in Medical and Veterinary Entomology.