January 31, 2015

Saturday, January 31, 2015
In recent news, engineers at the Samsung Electronics Creative Lab (C-Lab) have developed an Early Detection Sensor & Algorithm Package (EDSAP) that has the ability to detect strokes.

“The resulting headset is equipped with sensors that transfer data to algorithms that allow you to observe your brainwaves on your Smartphone, tablet or upright computer to make sure you are not at risk.”

Interestingly, this device could potentially save lives by ensuring that people obtain proper medical attention in a timely manner.  Samsung claims that it’s even more efficient than hospital equipment as it analyzes brainwaves more rapidly and detects more detail due to a rubber-like ultra-conductive material.

Apparently, the headset is merely a prototype and the sensors will actually function effectively in any type of headgear such as barrettes or even eyeglasses.

There is no word on when this device could be available to the general public; however they do suggest that this technology could lead to other applications such as monitoring heart muscle activity.

Despite the fact that the device is not approved or regulated, it is refreshing that companies like Samsung are spending some of their efforts on developing gadgets other than newer models of Smartphones and Tablets.

Until then…
“A stroke, sometimes referred to as a cerebrovascular accident (CVA), cerebrovascular insult (CVI), or colloquially brain attack is the loss of brain function due to a disturbance in the blood supply to the brain. This disturbance is due to either ischemia (lack of blood flow) or hemorrhage. As a result, the affected area of the brain cannot function normally, which might result in an inability to move one or more limbs on one side of the body, failure to understand or formulate speech, or a vision impairment of one side of the visual field.”
Warning Signs:
  • Sudden numbness or weakness of face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body.
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking, or understanding.
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination.
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause.
Some Statistics:
  • In 2010, worldwide prevalence of stroke was 33 million, with 16.9 million people having a first stroke. 
  • Stroke was the second-leading global cause of death behind heart disease, accounting for 11.13% of total deaths worldwide.
  • Stroke is the No. 4 cause of death in the United States, killing nearly 129,000 people a year.
  • Stroke kills someone in the U.S. about once every four minutes.
  • African-Americans have nearly twice the risk for a first-ever stroke than white people, and a much higher death rate from stroke.
  • Over the past 10 years, the death rate from stroke has fallen about 35 percent and the number of stroke deaths has dropped about 21 percent.
  • About 795,000 people have a stroke every year.
  • Someone in the U.S. has a stroke about once every 40 seconds.
  • Stroke causes 1 of every 20 deaths in the U.S.
  • Stroke is a leading cause of disability.
  • Stroke is the leading preventable cause of disability.
Samsung developing wearable headset to detect strokes
Stroke
American Heart Association

© www.mentalhealthblog.com

January 30, 2015

Friday, January 30, 2015
New research in Canada reveals that inflammation deep in the brain may be linked to depression.  Specifically, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) studied the brain scans of patients with depression and those without.  Results showed 30% more inflammation in the brains of patients with clinical depression.  In addition, symptoms worsened with the degree of inflammation.  Keeping in mind that researchers only studied the scans of 40 patients, concrete conclusions are a tad premature.

Nevertheless, this research does offer new ideas for investigation, which could uncover other possible causes for the illness as well as potential new treatments for depression.  In other words, perhaps reducing inflammation in the brain may alleviate or eliminate the symptoms.  This is exciting news for the individuals that do not respond to medication, which, according to this research, consists of 30 to 50 per cent of patients!
“Inflammation is part of the complex biological response of vascular tissues to harmful stimuli, such as pathogens, damaged cells, or irritants.
[…] The purpose of inflammation is to eliminate the initial cause of cell injury, clear out necrotic cells and tissues damaged from the original insult and the inflammatory process, and to initiate tissue repair.
[…] Too little inflammation could lead to progressive tissue destruction by the harmful stimulus (eg. bacteria) and compromise the survival of the organism. In contrast, chronic inflammation may lead to a host of diseases, such as hay fever, periodontitis, atherosclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and even cancer (e.g., gallbladder carcinoma).”
According to Dr. Jeffrey Meyer of CAMH, it is theorized that the body of patients that have suffered some type of infection or trauma may have healed, however the brain has not had the opportunity to recover.  This may explain why patients with certain types of inflammatory disease, such as lupus, are several times more likely to develop clinical depression.

Of course, it is still unclear whether the inflammation in the brain occurs before depression sets in or as a result of the illness.
_______________________________________________

Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. Also called major depression, major depressive disorder or clinical depression, it affects how you feel, think and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems. You may have trouble doing normal day-to-day activities, and depression may make you feel as if life isn't worth living.

During these episodes, symptoms occur most of the day, nearly every day and may include:
  • Feelings of sadness, emptiness or unhappiness
  • Angry outbursts, irritability or frustration, even over small matters
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities, such as sex
  • Sleep disturbances, including insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Tiredness and lack of energy, so that even small tasks take extra effort
  • Changes in appetite — often reduced appetite and weight loss, but increased cravings for food and weight gain in some people
  • Anxiety, agitation or restlessness — for example, excessive worrying, pacing, hand-wringing or an inability to sit still
  • Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or blaming yourself for things that are not your responsibility
  • Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
  • Frequent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts or suicide
  • Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches
Facts: 
  • Depression is a common mental disorder. Globally, more than 350 million people of all ages suffer from depression.
  • Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, and is a major contributor to the global burden of disease.
  • More women are affected by depression than men.
  • At its worst, depression can lead to suicide.
  • There are effective treatments for depression.
Study finds link between depression, brain inflammation
Inflammation
Depression (major depressive disorder)
Depression

© www.mentalhealthblog.com

January 27, 2015

Tuesday, January 27, 2015
A new study reveals that higher doses or prolonged use of medications with anticholinergic effects significantly increases the risk for developing dementia.  Although, this is not the first study to discover such a link, it is the first to suggest that the risk of dementia as a result of taking such medications may not be reversible.
“An anticholinergic agent is a substance that blocks the neurotransmitter acetylcholine in the central and the peripheral nervous system. Anticholinergics inhibit parasympathetic nerve impulses by selectively blocking the binding of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine to its receptor in nerve cells. The nerve fibers of the parasympathetic system are responsible for the involuntary movement of smooth muscles present in the gastrointestinal tract, urinary tract, lungs, etc.”
Anticholinergic agents are used to treat a variety of conditions such as gastrointestinal disorders, respiratory disorders, insomnia, dizziness etc.  Some of these commonly used medications include Diphenhydramine (Benadryl, Advil PM etc.), Bupropion (Zyban, Wellbutrin), Dextromethorphan (cough suppressant) and the list goes on.  In addition, some of these medications can be acquired without a prescription and can have very strong anticholinergic effects.

Moreover, many older patients, already at higher risk of developing dementia, are frequently using these types of medications.  Doctors should be taking a proactive approach and monitoring the use of these drugs, including non-prescription use.
“For instance, the most commonly used medications in the study were tricyclic antidepressants like doxepin (Sinequan), first-generation antihistamines like chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimeton), and antimuscarinics for bladder control like oxybutynin (Ditropan). The study estimated that people taking at least 10 mg/day of doxepin, 4 mg/day of chlorpheniramine, or 5 mg/day of oxybutynin for more than three years would be at greater risk for developing dementia.”
Consequently, the study suggests that medical professionals should seek substitutes such as citalopram (Celexa) or fluoxitene (Prozac) for depression or loratadine (Claritin) for allergies or behavioral changes for urinary incontinence.  However, if substitutes are not available, the suggestion is to prescribe the lowest dose possible, monitor its effectiveness closely and cease use if there is no real benefit to the patient.

This study differs from other research as it used more rigorous methods, longer follow-up periods and better assessment of medication use by using pharmacy records of both prescription and non-prescription use.  It is also the first of its kind to link anticholinergic medication dosages to dementia risk.  Results were obtained by tracking nearly 3,500 Group Health seniors participating in the long-running Adult Changes in Thought study (a longitudinal population-based prospective cohort study of brain aging and incident dementia in the Seattle metropolitan area), some of which have also agreed to have their brains autopsied after they die.  Stay tuned.

Quick Facts:

Dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life.

Alzheimer's is the most common type of dementia.

While symptoms of dementia can vary greatly, at least two of the following core mental functions must be significantly impaired to be considered dementia:

Memory
Communication and language
Ability to focus and pay attention
Reasoning and judgment
Visual perception

Many dementias are progressive, meaning symptoms start out slowly and gradually get worse.
Dementia is caused by damage to brain cells, which interferes with the ability of brain cells to communicate with each other.

There is no one test to determine if someone has dementia. Doctors diagnose Alzheimer's and other types of dementia based on a careful medical history, a physical examination, laboratory tests, and the characteristic changes in thinking, day-to-day function and behavior associated with each type.

Some risk factors for dementia, such as age and genetics, cannot be changed, however some of the most active areas of research in risk reduction and prevention include cardiovascular factors, physical fitness, and diet.

The total number of new cases of dementia each year worldwide is nearly 7.7 million, implying one new case every four seconds. The number of people with dementia is expected to nearly double every 20 years, to 65.7 million in 2030 and 115.4 million in 2050.

The costs are estimated at US$ 604 billion per year at present and are set to increase even more quickly than the prevalence.

Caring for dementia patients is overwhelming for caregivers. The stresses include physical, emotional and economic pressures. Care givers require support from the health, social, financial and legal systems.

People with dementia are frequently denied the basic rights and freedoms available to others. For example, physical and chemical restraints are used extensively in aged-care facilities and acute-care settings.

Improving the awareness and understanding of dementia across all levels of society is needed to decrease discrimination and to improve the quality of life for people with dementia and their caregivers.

More research is needed to develop new and more effective treatments and to better understand the causes of dementia. Research that identifies the modifiable risk factors of dementia is still scarce.

Higher dementia risk linked to more use of common drugs
Anticholinergic
alz.org
World Health Organization

© www.mentalhealthblog.com

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