Archive for June, 2009
June 23rd, 2009 by Nina Thompson, ARNP
Many studies have shown that not only does exercise improve depression, but it also significantly boosts the mood of those who are not depressed.
In one study, researchers found that adults who participated in a three-month rigorous exercise program experienced improvement in depressive symptoms about as great as they would have experienced had they received antidepressant medication.
Other studies have found exercise also to be associated with a significant decline in panic disorder, post-traumatic stress and other anxiety disorders.
Experts believe that exercise’s mood-boosting effects are partly due to a rise in levels of mood-enhancing neurotransmitters, such as endorphins, in the brain.
The 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults, who can physically tolerate exercise, get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week. This can be done in 30-minute sessions, five days a week.
Read more about the “18 Reasons to Exercise” from Bay Area Medical Information
SOURCES: Jeremy Sibold, Ed.D., certified athletic trainer and assistant professor, rehabilitation and movement science, University of Vermont, Burlington; Jennifer Mears, exercise physiologist and corporate fitness specialist, Colorado Springs, Colo.; presentation, May 27, 2009, 56th annual meeting, American College of Sports Medicine, Seattle
Source: Harvard Mental Health Newsletter
June 19th, 2009 by Nina Thompson, ARNP
Scientists in Brazil report discovery of a new strain of the swine flu virus. This new strain was found in a 26-year-old man who had been hospitalized in Sao Paulo in April. He reportedly came down with flu symptoms after returning from Mexico and has since made a full recovery,
It’s not yet clear if the newly discovered strain is any more dangerous than the original strain that first surfaced in Mexico in April which has killed 108 people worldwide, but this is a concerning discovery.
While the swine flu doesn’t yet seem any more lethal than the regular flu that each winter kills 36,000 people in the United States alone, scientists fear it could mutate as it circulates around the world, become more virulent and then return to the Northern Hemispere with a vengeance in the fall, as did the swine flu virus of 1918.
The virus that caused the the epidemic of 1918 was the most devastating epidemic in recorded world history. It is thought to also be caused by a swine flu virus which was an exceptionally virulent strain. It started with cases in the spring, seemingly disappeared over the summer, and then returned with a vengeance in the fall ultimately infecting 28% of all Americans and a fifth of the world’s population. During the worst of the epidemic, the virus moved quickly, killing young and healthy people within hours of the onset of symptoms.
Experiences with the 1918 swine flu pandemic have been the driving force behind the heightened concern over the most recent outbreak.
Source: CDC, June 19, 2009
June 16th, 2009 by Nina Thompson, ARNP
Once daily application of the prescription drug, 5FU, can significantly restore sun-damaged skin, according to researchers from the University of Michigan Medical School in Ann Arbor.
In their recent study, significant improvement was found in coarse wrinkling on the skin of participants using 5FU cream. Fine wrinkling, tactile roughness, mottled hyperpigmentation was also improved from baseline. Lentigines, or liver spots, were significantly decreased, and sallowness was improved from baseline. As expected, the average number of actinic keratoses fell significantly.
Fluorouracil, or 5FU, is a prescription chemotherapy drug that has long been used to treat the precancerous lesions known as actinic keratoses, regarded as precursors of squamous cell carcinoma. During such treatment, physicians have noticed improvements in wrinkles, texture, and pigmentation but such changes haven’t been systematically studied.
Topical application of 5-FU frequently results in a mild to severe stinging or burning sensation, depending on the sensitivity of the skin, the severity of the sun damage and how long it has been used. After five to ten days of treatment, the sun-damaged parts of treated skin become red and irritated. As treatment is continued, sores and crusts may appear. These raw areas result from the destruction of defective skin cells and can be covered with a dressing. They are only temporary, but a necessary part of 5-FU treatment.
Source: Sachs DL, et al “Topical fluorouracil for actinic keratoses and photoaging: a clinical and molecular analysis” Arch Dermatol 2009; 145(6): 659-666.
Source: MedPage Today, June 15, 2009
June 16th, 2009 by Nina Thompson, ARNP
The FDA has reported serious problems with three Zicam Nasal Gel/Nasal Swab products sold over-the-counter as cold remedies.
The Agency has received more than 130 reports of loss of sense of smell associated with the use of these products. In these reports, many people who experienced a loss of smell said the condition occurred with the first dose; others reported a loss of the sense of smell after multiple uses of the products.
The loss of sense of smell may be long-lasting or permanent, according to the FDA, and can adversely affect a person’s quality of life. The loss of ability to smell can also limit the ability to detect the smell of gas or smoke or other signs of danger in the environment.
Anyone using one of these products should discontinue use immediately. People who have experienced a loss of sense of smell or other problems after use of the affected Zicam products should contact their health care professional.
Source: FDA, MedWatch 2009 Safety Summary for Zicam
June 15th, 2009 by Nina Thompson, ARNP
The FDA has reported that some stolen vials of the long-acting insulin Novo Nordisk (Levemir) are being sold in the U.S. market. They may not have been stored and handled properly and thus may be dangerous for patients to use. The FDA is advising patients who use Levemir insulin to:
- Check your personal supply of insulin to determine if you have Levemir insulin from one of the following lots: XZF0036, XZF0037, and XZF0038.
- Do not use your Levemir insulin if it is from one of these lots.
- Always visually inspect your insulin before using it. Levemir is a clear and colorless solution.
- Contact the Novo Nordisk Customer Care Center at 1-800-727-6500 for what to do with vials from these lots or if you have any other questions.
- Read the complete MedWatch 2009 Safety Summary, including a link to the FDA News Release, at:
June 8th, 2009 by Nina Thompson, ARNP
Actos (pioglitazone), an oral drug used in Diabetes, appears to slow the rate of atherosclerosis in the carotid arteries, according to researchers at the Phoenix VA HealthCare System.
In their recent study, prediabetic patients taking pioglitazone preventively had a 38% lower rate of change in atherosclerotic progression in the carotid artery over three years compared to patients taking placebo.
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance made in the liver, but also is found in certain foods. Throughout life, beginning in childhood, there is a gradual build up of cholesterol and other substances on the inner lining of an artery referred to as atherosclerotic plaques. In Diabetes, the rate of atherosclerosis progression is even more accelerated.
Over time, these plaques can harden and narrow an artery enough to slow or even block blood flow. The illustration above shows the build up of an atherosclerotic plaque on an artery wall.
Atherosclerotic plaques are often unstable and can rupture into the vessel lumen causing a blood clot to form. This can result in a sudden blockage of an artery. This is often the process by which people experience heart attacks or strokes. In some people, the first sign of atherosclerosis might be a heart attack or even sudden death.
Diagram courtesy of the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI).
Reaven PD, et al “Pioglitazone reduces long-term progression of carotid atherosclerosis in IGT” ADA 2009; Abstract 15-LB.
June 5th, 2009 by Nina Thompson, ARNP
Women over age 30 who exercised for more than an hour each week had a lower risk of developing breast cancer than women who were less active, according to a recent study presented at the American College of Sports Medicine’s annual meeting in Seattle.
Several other previous studies have also found this same association between lack of exercise and the incidence of breast cancer. What’s more, being physically active appears to boost the odds that breast cancer patients will survive the disease, according to a 2005 study from Harvard.
Regular exercise also results in a tremendous number of other health benefits that will dramatically enhance any person’s quality of life. Regular physical activity has been found to improve depression, promote a sense of well being, increase self-image and self esteem, improve quality of sleep, diminish facial wrinkles, help ward off viruses and other illness, strengthen muscles, increase energy, improve endurance, promote weight loss and burn fat, lower cholesterol and triglyeride levels, strengthen the heart, improve hypertension, lower blood sugars, decrease pain from arthritis, and improve balance and help prevent falls.
Source: “WOMEN AGE 30+ MODIFY BREAST CANCER RISK WITH EXERCISE”, American College of Sports Medicine
Source: “Exercise and Stretching” from Bay Area Medical Information
June 2nd, 2009 by Nina Thompson, ARNP
Plaques and tangles on brain biopsy, post mortem, have been considered classic pathological features of Alzheimer’s disease. Some researchers are questioning the validity of this finding, however, and a recent study from the UK sheds more light on this theory.
In their recent study, British researchers found that many people in their 90’s had significant plaques and tangles in their brains but still managed to avoid dementia. Their findings were based on the brains of 456 people who had died and donated their bodies to science. The researchers found a strong link between plaques and tangles in the brain and Alzheimer’s in the 75-year-olds, but the significant association diminished by the time the people were 95.
These findings lend weight to the theory that plaques and tangles might not be a reliable sign of Alzheimer’s Disease. The study also points out that there is a lot that we don’t know about Alzheimer’s, and dementia in general.
Illustration courtesy of Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral Center (ADEAR), a service of the National Institute on Aging.
Source: “Plaques and Tangles May Not Doom the Very Old to Dementia”, MedPage Today, May 27, 2009
Source: Savva G, et al “Age, neuropathology, and dementia” N Engl J Med 2009; 360: 2302-09.
Source: Ewbank D, Arnold S “Cool with plaques and tangles” N Engl J Med 2009; 360: 2357-59.
Source: Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation
June 2nd, 2009 by Nina Thompson, ARNP
The swine flu has gained a foothold in Australia and the number of cases have been doubling about every two days. This may well prompt the World Health Organization to declare the first flu pandemic in more than four decades, according to an Australian public health expert yesterday.
Experts believe the virulence of the swine flu may well reveal itself during the Southern Hemisphere’s winter months. Australia’s winter is from June 1 to Aug. 31. Swine flu infections are expected to peak in Australia in July. This is because the flu virus thrives in colder, drier weather and is transmitted easily when people stay close together indoors.
Pandemic experts will be closely monitoring the upcoming behavior of this swine flu virus in Australia where it can spread easily, possibly gain strength by mutating, and then re-enter the Northern Hemisphere in the fall, as the devastating swine flu virus did in 1918.
Image courtesy of the CIA (www.cia.gov)
Source: “Swine Flu Cases in Australia May Prompt Pandemic Call”, Bloomberg.com, June 1, 2009
Source: World Health Organization, June 2, 2009
June 2nd, 2009 by Nina Thompson, ARNP
Environmental pollution may be contributing to the growing incidence of liver disease in the general U.S. population, according to researchers from the University of Louisville in Kentucky. Their analyses found that at least some of this hazardous exposure may be attributed to banned organochloride pesticides and heavy metals such as mercury and lead.
Source: “DDW: Pollution May Explain Some Liver Disease in the U.S.”, MedPage Today, May 29, 2009
Source: Patel M, et al “Pesticide and heavy metal exposures are associated with ALT elevation in American adults: NHANES 2003-2004″ DDW 2009; Abstract 289.