February 8, 2015

Sunday, February 08, 2015
Currently, new research suggests that the anticonvulsant medication, retigabine, could dramatically reduce the effects of stroke.  Researchers have already recognized the potential of this medication in treating neurologic conditions, such as migraine, tinnitus and neuropathic pain.

By observing mice models, researchers discovered that merely a single dose of retigabine prevented loss of balance and motor coordination following a stroke.  Balance and coordination was tested by using a balance beam.  The mice that were not treated with retigabine following a stroke displayed more slips and falls whereas the treated mice easily manoeuvred along the beam.  Researchers even remarked that it had appeared as though the treated mice had not even experienced a stroke.

In addition, brain tissue showed significantly less damage following a stroke when mice were treated with retigabine.  Interestingly, the medication also protected brain tissue for up to 5 days post-stroke.

The team studied ischemic stroke, the most common occurring type, where oxygen and nutrients are blocked due to a clot in a blood vessel.  After only 6 hours, cells deprived of oxygen and nutrients that are dying can be affected in such a way that they are unlikely to be repaired.  “Moreover, when cells die, they release factors that trigger many types of responses including an inflammatory response, leading to more cell death in the areas around the blood clot.”

“Retigabine and similar agents open specific proteins called potassium ion channels, whose action stops the electrical activity of nerve cells in the brain.”  Therefore, researchers theorize that electrical activity can be stopped before causing more damage and conserved until blood supply is restored.

According to researchers, “future studies will assess how long brain function can be protected after a stroke, and whether injury-related seizures can be prevented.

At this time, embolic or thrombotic strokes are treated with tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) drugs, which dissolve clots and restore blood flow. However, tPA works by thinning the blood therefore, cannot be used in many circumstances, such as patients with high blood pressure or weak blood vessels.  Additionally, it must be used within a few short hours following a stroke as later treatment with this drug may actually cause more damage.

According to the World Health Organization, 15 million people suffer a stroke each year.  Of these, 5 million die and another 5 million are permanently disabled.  Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States and every seven minutes, a Canadian dies of heart disease or stroke.  Now is the time to continue research and improve these figures.

Anti-epilepsy drug preserves brain function after stroke, research suggests
Stroke Statistics

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February 2, 2015

Monday, February 02, 2015
Recently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the very first weight loss device that controls satiety.  The Maestro Rechargeable System targets the neural pathway between the brain and the stomach that controls feelings of hunger and fullness.

However, this device will only be available to adults aged 18 years of age and older with a body mass index of 35-45 combined with at least one other obesity-related condition (i.e. type 2 diabetes) that have had no success with weight loss programs.

How does it work?
“The Maestro Rechargeable System consists of a rechargeable electrical pulse generator, wire leads and electrodes implanted surgically into the abdomen. It works by sending intermittent electrical pulses to the trunks in the abdominal vagus nerve, which is involved in regulating stomach emptying and signaling to the brain that the stomach feels empty or full. Although it is known that the electric stimulation blocks nerve activity between the brain and the stomach, the specific mechanisms for weight loss due to use of the device are unknown.”
In addition, health care professionals will have the ability to adjust settings on this surgically implanted device as required throughout treatment.

Is it safe?

A clinical trial consisting of 233 patients with a BMI of 35+ were tested over a period of 12 months to ensure the product is safe and effective.  The Maestro Rechargeable System was tested on all patients however, 76 of the devices were not activated. Results showed that those with the activated devices lost 8.5% more weight than those with inactive devices.  Remarkably, fifty-two and a half percent of the patients with the active device experienced a 20% weight loss and 38.3% lost 25% of their excess weight.

However, both groups experienced a weight loss.  In fact, participants with the active devices did not even lose at least 10% more than those with inactive devices.  In addition, reported side effects included nausea, pain at the neuroregulator site, vomiting, surgical complications, pain, heartburn, problems swallowing, belching, mild nausea and chest pain.

Despite these results, the FDA determined that the benefits outweigh any risk to a patient that meets the eligibility criteria.  An FDA-sponsored survey also indicated that individuals would be willing to use this device based on the presumed weight loss.  Still, the FDA requires that the manufacturer conduct a five year follow up study of a minimum of 100 patients to further review the device’s safety and effectiveness.

Facts on obesity:
  • During the past 20 years, there has been a dramatic increase in obesity in the United States and rates remain high.
  • More than one-third (34.9% or 78.6 million) of U.S. adults are obese.
  • Obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer, some of the leading causes of preventable death.
  • The estimated annual medical cost of obesity in the U.S. was $147 billion in 2008 U.S. dollars; the medical costs for people who are obese were $1,429 higher than those of normal weight.
FDA approves first-of-kind device to treat obesity
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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February 1, 2015

Sunday, February 01, 2015
According to a new study, drinking more than 2 alcoholic drinks each day in middle-age increases a person’s risk of stroke more than typical risk factors such as high blood pressure and diabetes.

Researchers used data gathered between 1967 and 2010 from 11,644 individuals from the Swedish Twin Registry to compare the effects of heavy drinking on risk of stroke. Heavy drinking was defined as 2 or more drinks per day and light drinking as less than 0.5 drinks per day.  

Results demonstrated that heavy drinking increased the risk of stroke by 34% in comparison to light drinking.  The heavy drinkers were also more likely to have a stroke 5 years earlier than their counterparts, regardless of genetics or other factors.  In addition, middle-aged heavy drinkers exhibited a risk of stroke comparable to individuals with high blood pressure and diabetes.  Moreover, the study found that almost 30% of participants had suffered a stroke and by age 75, blood pressure and diabetes were regarded as the main cause of stroke. 

“Among identical twin pairs, siblings who had a stroke drank more than their siblings who hadn't had a stroke, suggesting that mid-life drinking raises stroke risks regardless of genetics and early lifestyle.”

Not only does regular heavy drinking increase the risk of stroke, it also affects blood pressure and causes various health complications.  


Effects of Alcohol:

Drinking too much – on a single occasion or over time – can take a serious toll on your health.  Here’s how alcohol can affect your body:

Heart: Drinking a lot over a long time or too much on a single occasion can damage the heart, causing problems including:
  • Cardiomyopathy – Stretching and drooping of heart muscle
  • Arrhythmias – Irregular heart beat
  • Stroke
  • High blood pressure  
* Research also shows that drinking moderate amounts of alcohol may protect healthy adults from developing coronary heart disease.

Liver: Heavy drinking takes a toll on the liver, and can lead to a variety of problems and liver inflammations including:
  • Steatosis, or fatty liver
  • Alcoholic hepatitis
  • Fibrosis
  • Cirrhosis
Pancreas: Alcohol causes the pancreas to produce toxic substances that can eventually lead to pancreatitis, a dangerous inflammation and swelling of the blood vessels in the pancreas that prevents proper digestion. 

Cancer: Drinking too much alcohol can increase your risk of developing certain cancers, including cancers of the:
  • Mouth
  • Esophagus
  • Throat
  • Liver
  • Breast
Immune System: Drinking too much can weaken your immune system, making your body a much easier target for disease.  Chronic drinkers are more liable to contract diseases like pneumonia and tuberculosis than people who do not drink too much.  Drinking a lot on a single occasion slows your body’s ability to ward off infections – even up to 24 hours after getting drunk.

Brain: Alcohol interferes with the brain’s communication pathways, and can affect the way the brain looks and works. These disruptions can change mood and behavior, and make it harder to think clearly and move with coordination.  

People who have been drinking large amounts of alcohol for long periods of time run the risk of developing serious and persistent changes in the brain. Damage may be a result of the direct effects of alcohol on the brain or may result indirectly, from a poor general health status or from severe liver disease.

Up to 80 percent of alcoholics, however, have a deficiency in thiamine, and some of these people will go on to develop serious brain disorders such as Wernicke–Korsakoff syndrome (WKS).  WKS is a disease that consists of two separate syndromes, a short–lived and severe condition called Wernicke’s encephalopathy and a long–lasting and debilitating condition known as Korsakoff’s psychosis.

The symptoms of Wernicke’s encephalopathy include mental confusion, paralysis of the nerves that move the eyes (i.e., oculomotor disturbances), and difficulty with muscle coordination. For example, patients with Wernicke’s encephalopathy may be too confused to find their way out of a room or may not even be able to walk. 

Approximately 80 to 90 percent of alcoholics with Wernicke’s encephalopathy also develop Korsakoff’s psychosis, a chronic and debilitating syndrome characterized by persistent learning and memory problems. Patients with Korsakoff’s psychosis are forgetful and quickly frustrated and have difficulty with walking and coordination. Although these patients have problems remembering old information (i.e., retrograde amnesia), it is their difficulty in “laying down” new information (i.e., anterograde amnesia) that is the most striking. 

Heavy drinking in middle-age may increase stroke risk more than traditional factors
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

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I have an educational background is in Psychology and Sociology. In addition, I have worked with many diverse individuals of all ages, with varying degrees of mental and/or physical illness. I enjoy following current news and research that impacts my area of expertise.

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