Medical Assistant

2015: What’s New for Alzheimer’s


Rates of Alzheimer’s disease in the US are not climbing as fast as they were, possibly because people are getting their blo0d pressure and cholesterol under control which is good fro the brain.

Prevention is key- a half-dozen trials are underway to test whether lifestyle changes good for the heart such as exercising and adopting a Mediterranean diet can prevent or postpone this disease.

Brain stimulation works- and many types of brain-stimulation devices are being tested not only to treat and prevent the disease but also to improve cognition in people without dementia. Some of these devices ae implanted into the b rain and some are worn externally like a headband.

Get walking which is as good as running as it enhances blood supply to the memory centers.

P. Murali Doraiswamy is the director of the neurocognitive disorders program at Duke University and coauthor of The Alzheimer’s Action Plan.

Nutrition fact-check


The FDA is proposing to update the Nutrition Facts label first introduced 20 year ago to help consumer make more well-informed food choices.

The changes will incorporate three main goals:

1. Greater understanding of nutrition science

2. Refreshed design

3. Updated serving size requirements and new labeling requirements for certain package sizes

Some of the changes would require manufacturers to do the following:

1. Declare the amount of potassium and vitamin D on the label with vitamins A and C included on a voluntary basis

2. Make calories and serving sizes more prominent

3. Provide ‘per serving’ and ‘per package’ information on calories and nutrients

For more information on the differences between the current and proposed Nutrition Facts label, visit the FDA website.



2015: What’s New for Cancer Treatment


Among the most promising new treatment strategies is personalized or precision medicine in which doctors analyze the genetic blueprint of a patient’s tumor and use that information to choose the targeted therapy most likely to work for that particular patient.

Another area of tremendous potential is cancer immunotherapy. Researchers enlist the patient’s own immune system in the fight against disease engineering key immune cells in ways that turn them into tiny tumor fighting warriors.

Francis Collins, MD, Director of NIH

2015: What’s New for Vaccines


Responding to the devastating outbreak of Ebola in West Africa, NIH recently initiated emergency human testing of two vaccines designed to protect against Ebola. If the trials meet with success, we’ll hear a lot more about them.

Researchers are also using new insights into the structure of viruses to improve vaccines for some common infectious diseases, including influenza. Human trials are underway for a universal flu vaccine that hopefully will prove effective against all strains of the influenza virus. Wouldn’t it be nice that in about 10 years we will be well protected without the need for an annual flu shot?

Francis Collins, MD, Director of NIH

Say sayonara to SAD


Seasonal affective disorder correlates with the winter months for some. Consumer Reports on Health recommends these tips:

Catch a sunrise and boost your serotonin for a feel-good start to the day.

Eat breakfast as it improves energy, curbs cravings, and helps regulate your circadian rhythm.

Sweets are craved more during the winter, but can cause glucose levels to spike and crash. Munch on goodies with a combination of protein, fiber and healthful fat.

Acts of kindness can lift your spirits, so be nice to someone.

Develop a ritual in the hours before bed to put you in sleep mode. After dinner, take a hot bath, have a warm cup of caffeine-free tea, or meditate for 10 minutes. Good nights mean better days.

Depression Quiz

Critics Applauding Story, Performances of Still Alice

Sony Pictures’ Still Alice is based on Lisa Genova‘s 2007 bestselling novel of the same name and stars Julianne Moore in the role of Alice, a Columbia cognitive psychologist diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease. The film follows Alice and her family as she struggles to maintain her identity through the disease’s progression.
Moore’s performance is already being lauded by critics and like the source material, the film has been widely praised for its accurate and sensitive portrayal of the impact of Alzheimer’s on a family. Currently in limited release, Still Alice will open widely on January 6, 2015.


Watch the trailer

Purchase the Book via Amazon Smile, and a portion of proceeds will go to the Alzheimer’s Association. Search ‘Alzheimer’s’ when prompted.

Homework for good health


Cap your total added sugar intake at 20 grams a day. 1 teaspoon equals about 4 grams. Research shows that eating too much sugar can raise your risk of heart disease.

Track your tech time: logging lots of hours in front of a screen is linked to a variety of health issues, including heart disease and depression.

Take a CPR class because 4/5 cardiac arrests happen at home so knowing this lifesaving procedures is crucial.

Get a mole check from a dermatologist. It is important to catch early-stage cancers.

Determine how much sleep you need. Constant lack of shut eye raises your risk for many conditions, including diabetes and heart disease. Adults need seven to nine hours, but everyone is different.

Visit the dentist. Periodontal disease is linked to a higher risk of heart disease.


Better Homes and Gardens September 2014

Pre-diabetes: What Is It?


Pre-diabetes means that blood glucose levels are higher than normal but aren’t high enough to be called diabetes. You can have this condition and not know it.

If you have pre-diabetes it means you might get type 2 diabetes soon or sometime down the road and you are also more likely to get heart disease or have a stroke.

You can delay or prevent Type 2 Diabetes with regular physical activity, such as walking almost every day and weight loss. Other ways to boost your activity is to go dancing, try an exercise class on television, walk around while on the phone, take stairs instead of an elevator, try a water exercise class at a pool, as you watch television lift cans of food to build muscle or play with your kids.

If you’re overweight, any weight loss, even 5 or 10 pounds, will lower your chances of getting type 2 diabetes. Small steps add up to big rewards and include adding a fruit or vegetable with each meal or snack. If you have seconds, reach for vegetables, salad and fruit. Cut back on regular soft drinks and juice and have water or calorie-free drinks instead. Take a little less than usual. When dining out, order the smallest portion or split entrees. Make lower-fat versions of favorite recipes. Use less fat in cooking. Bake, broil or grill and use nonstick pans and cooking sprays. Use small amounts of butter, margarine, oil or salad dressing. Try lower-fat dairy products. Eat lean meats such as the round or loin cuts or chicken without the skin. Be sure to check food labels because some foods with lower fat, contain more calories.

Risk factors for diabetes include:

  1.  age over 45

  2. being overweight, especially around the waist

  3. low physical activity level

  4. parent, brother or sister with diabetes

  5. African American, Native American, Asian American, Pacific Islander or Hispanic American

  6. had a baby weighing more than 9 pounds or if you have had gestational diabetes

  7. high blood pressure (over 140/90), low HDL cholesterol (40 or lower), or high triglycerides (150 or higher)

Get your blood glucose level checked and get moving!

American Diabetes Association

Concussions Clarified


There are currently 40 definitions of concussion. No wonder it is difficult to diagnose and manage head injuries in clinical and research settings.

The Congress of Neurological Surgeons has published evidence-based concussion guidelines. There are four “prevalence indicators” of concussion:

  1. observed and documented disorientation or confusion immediately after the event
  2. impaired balance within one day after injury
  3. slower reaction time within two days after injury
  4. impaired verbal learning and memory within two days after injury


Stress: Don’t let it make you sick


New research reveals the links between stress and disease.

1. Common cold: in a study, those experiencing chronic stress exposed to a cold virus were cortisol resistant and more likely to get sick.

2. Weight gain: stress hormones stimulate a preference for foods that are full of sugar, starch and fat. New studies show that the link between stress and weight gain is more complex. In addition to triggering changes in metabolism, the stress response produces a rise in insulin levels and a fall in fat oxidation, a dual process that promotes fat storage. Other research has revealed a correlation between excess cortisol and abdominal fat.

3. Slower healing: excess cortisol slows wound healing and lowers vaccines’ effectiveness in older people who are caring for sick family members. This study showed that for those caring for relatives with dementia took about 10 days longer to heal than a non caregiver; the longer the stress goes on, the longer the immune system is disrupted.

4. Sleep dysfunction: older adults already experience a natural decrease in the amount of deep sleep and an increase in nighttime wakefulness. Stress  may aggravate these sleep deficits, making it especially hard for older people to get back to sleep when they wake up at night. To compound the problem, people with troubled sleep may find it harder to handle the stress in their lives.

5. Heart disease: blood samples taken from those enduring high levels of stress contained a surplus of disease-fightin white blood cells. Previous research suggesting that cortisol actually changes the texture of WBCs, encouraging the cells to attach themselves to blood vessel walls was confirmed. The result is plaque which is a key marker of this disease.

6. Depression: stress throws several brain neurotransmitters systems like serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine out of balance, negatively affecting mood, appetite, sleep and libido. Some severely depressed people have permanently elevated cortisol levels which can alter the hippocampus and permanently damage brain cells.

7. Ulcers and stomach problems: stress can be a critical factor in irritable bowel syndrome, indigestion, heartburn, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease which is characterized by chronic inflammation.

8. Back, neck and shoulder pain: stress can intensify both the severity and duration of the pain

November 2013