What Are the Signs of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders?

International Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) Awareness Day, recognized every year on Sept. 9th, is an important reminder prenatal alcohol exposure is the leading preventable cause of birth defects and developmental disorders in the United States. Almost 40 years have passed since it was recognized drinking during pregnancy can result in a wide range of disabilities for children, of which fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is the most severe. Still, 1 in 13 pregnant women report drinking in the past 30 days. Of those, about 1 in 6 report binge drinking during that time.

The disabilities associated with FASD can persist throughout life and place heavy emotional and financial burdens on individuals, their families, and society. Alcohol use during pregnancy can cause physical, behavioral, and intellectual disabilities. Often, a person with an FASD has a mix of these problems. It is recommended women who are pregnant or might be pregnant not drink alcohol. Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders are completely preventable if a developing baby is not exposed to alcohol before birth.

What We Know

  • Women who are pregnant or who might be pregnant should be aware that any level of alcohol use could harm their babies.
  • All types of alcohol can be harmful, including all wine and beer.
  • The baby’s brain, body, and organs are developing throughout pregnancy and can be affected by alcohol at any time.
  • Alcohol use during pregnancy can also increase the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, preterm (early) birth, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Cause and Prevention

FASDs are caused by a woman drinking alcohol during pregnancy. Alcohol in the mother’s blood passes to the baby through the umbilical cord. When a woman drinks alcohol, so does her baby.

There is no known safe amount of alcohol during pregnancy or when trying to get pregnant. There is also no safe time to drink during pregnancy. Alcohol can cause problems for a developing baby throughout pregnancy, including before a woman knows she’s pregnant. All types of alcohol are equally harmful, including all wines and beer.

To prevent FASDs, a woman should not drink alcohol while she is pregnant, or when she might get pregnant. This is because a woman could get pregnant and not know for up to 4 to 6 weeks. In the United States, nearly half of pregnancies are unplanned.

If a woman is drinking alcohol during pregnancy, it is never too late to stop drinking. Because brain growth takes place throughout pregnancy, the sooner a woman stops drinking the safer it will be for her and her baby. Resources are available here.

FASDs are completely preventable if a woman does not drink alcohol during pregnancy—so why take the risk?

Signs and Symptoms

FASDs refer to the whole range of effects that can happen to a person whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy. These conditions can affect each person in different ways and can range from mild to severe.

A person with an FASD might have:

  • Abnormal facial features, such as a smooth ridge between the nose and upper lip (this ridge is called the philtrum)
  • Small head size
  • Shorter-than-average height
  • Low body weight
  • Poor coordination
  • Hyperactive behavior
  • Difficulty with attention
  • Poor memory
  • Difficulty in school (especially with math)
  • Learning disabilities
  • Speech and language delays
  • Intellectual disability or low IQ
  • Poor reasoning and judgment skills
  • Sleep and sucking problems as a baby
  • Vision or hearing problems
  • Problems with the heart, kidneys, or bones

Types of FASDs

Different terms are used to describe FASDs, depending on the type of symptoms.

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS): FAS represents the most involved end of the FASD spectrum. Fetal death is the most extreme outcome from drinking alcohol during pregnancy. People with FAS might have abnormal facial features, growth problems, and central nervous system (CNS) problems. People with FAS can have problems with learning, memory, attention span, communication, vision, or hearing. They might have a mix of these problems. People with FAS often have a hard time in school and trouble getting along with others.

Alcohol-Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder (ARND): People with ARND might have intellectual disabilities and problems with behavior and learning. They might do poorly in school and have difficulties with math, memory, attention, judgment, and poor impulse control.
Alcohol-Related Birth Defects (ARBD): People with ARBD might have problems with the heart, kidneys, or bones or with hearing. They might have a mix of these.

Neurobehavioral Disorder Associated with Prenatal Alcohol Exposure (ND-PAE): ND-PAE was first included as a recognized condition in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual 5 (DSM 5) of the American Psychiatric Association (APA) in 2013. A child or youth with ND-PAE will have problems in three areas: (1) thinking and memory, where the child may have trouble planning or may forget material he or she has already learned, (2) behavior problems, such as severe tantrums, mood issues (for example, irritability), and difficulty shifting attention from one task to another, and (3) trouble with day-to-day living, which can include problems with bathing, dressing for the weather, and playing with other children. In addition, to be diagnosed with ND-PAE, the mother of the child must have consumed more than minimal levels of alcohol before the child’s birth, which APA defines as more than 13 alcoholic drinks per month of pregnancy (that is, any 30-day period of pregnancy) or more than 2 alcoholic drinks in one sitting.

Diagnosis

The term FASDs is not meant for use as a clinical diagnosis. CDC worked with a group of experts and organizations to review the research and develop guidelines for diagnosing FAS. The guidelines were developed for FAS only. CDC and its partners are working to put together diagnostic criteria for other FASDs, such as ARND. Clinical and scientific research on these conditions is going on now.

Diagnosing FAS can be hard because there is no medical test, like a blood test, for it. And other disorders, such as ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder) and Williams syndrome, have some symptoms like FAS.

To diagnose FAS, doctors look for:

  • Abnormal facial features (e.g., smooth ridge between nose and upper lip)
  • Lower-than-average height, weight, or both
  • Central nervous system problems (e.g., small head size, problems with attention and hyperactivity, poor coordination)
  • Prenatal alcohol exposure; although confirmation is not required to make a diagnosis

Treatment

FASDs last a lifetime. There is no cure for FASDs, but research shows early intervention treatment services can improve a child’s development.

There are many types of treatment options, including medication to help with some symptoms, behavior and education therapy, parent training, and other alternative approaches. No one treatment is right for every child. Good treatment plans will include close monitoring, follow-ups, and changes as needed along the way.

Also, “protective factors” can help reduce the effects of FASDs and help people with these conditions reach their full potential. These include:

  • Diagnosis before 6 years of age
  • Loving, nurturing, and stable home environment during the school years
  • Absence of violence
  • Involvement in special education and social services

What Can Be Done to Prevent Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders

Women Can

  • Talk with their healthcare providers about their plans for pregnancy, their alcohol use, and ways to prevent pregnancy if they are not planning to get pregnant.
  • Stop drinking alcohol if they are trying to get pregnant or could get pregnant.
  • Ask their respective partners, families, and friends to support their choice not to drink during pregnancy or while trying to get pregnant.
  • Ask their healthcare providers or other trusted people about resources for help if they cannot stop drinking on their own.

Healthcare providers can

  • Screen all adult patients for alcohol use at least yearly.
  • Advise women not to drink at all if there is any chance they could be pregnant.
  • Counsel, refer, and follow up with patients who need more help.
  • Use the correct billing codes so that alcohol screening and counseling is reimbursable.

Get Help!

If you or the doctor thinks there could be a problem, ask the doctor for a referral to a specialist (someone who knows about FASDs), such as a developmental pediatrician, child psychologist, or clinical geneticist. In some cities, there are clinics whose staffs have special training in diagnosing and treating children with FASDs. To find doctors and clinics in your area visit the National and State Resource Directory from the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (NOFAS).

At the same time as you ask the doctor for a referral to a specialist, call your state’s early intervention program to request a free evaluation to find out if your child can get services to help. This is sometimes called a Child Find evaluation. You do not need to wait for a doctor’s referral or a medical diagnosis to make this call.

Where to call for a free evaluation from the state depends on your child’s age:

If your child is younger than 3 years old, Call your state or territory’s early intervention program and say: “I have concerns about my child’s development and I would like to have my child evaluated to find out if he/she is eligible for early intervention services.”

If your child is 3 years old or older, contact your local public school system. Even if your child is not old enough for kindergarten or enrolled in a public school, call your local elementary school or board of education and ask to speak with someone who can help you have your child evaluated.

Conclusion

Research to understand how alcohol exposure during pregnancy interferes with fetal development and how FASD can be identified and prevented is ongoing. Scientists continue to make tremendous strides, providing important new insights into the nature of FASD and potential intervention and treatment strategies.

The message is simple, not just on Sept. 9, but every day. There is no known safe level of drinking while pregnant. Women who are, who may be, or who are trying to become pregnant, should not drink alcohol.

If you or pregnant, may become pregnant, or are a new parent wondering about the effects of alcohol on your child, find a caring physician who can advise you using the first of its kind social ecosystem for HealthCare.  At HealthLynked, your can connect with providers in new and unique ways to collaborate on your wellness and the health of your family.

Ready to get Lynked?  Got to HealthLynked.com to sign up for Free, and start taking control of your health today?

Sources:
CDC.gov

References

Streissguth, A.P., Bookstein, F.L., Barr, H.M., Sampson, P.D., O’Malley, K., & Young, J.K. (2004). Risk factors for adverse life outcomes in fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol effects. Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, 5(4), 228-238.

Streissguth, A.P., Barr, H.M., Kogan, J. & Bookstein, F. L., Understanding the occurrence of secondary disabilities in clients with fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) and fetal alcohol effects (FAE). Final report to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Seattle: University of Washington, Fetal Alcohol & Drug Unit; August 1996. Tech. Rep. No. 96-06.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer?

Each year, the first Friday in September is designated as Wear Teal Day.  On this day, organizations unite in an effort to encourage you to dress in teal and educate yourself and those around you about the symptoms and risk factors of Ovarian Cancer.

What is Ovarian Cancer?

Ovarian cancer is a disease in which, depending on the type and stage, malignant (cancerous) cells are found inside, near, or on the outer layer of the ovaries. An ovary is one of two small, almond-shaped organs located on each side of the uterus that store eggs, or germ cells, and produce female hormones estrogen and progesterone.

Cancer Basics

Cancer develops when abnormal cells in a part of the body (in this case, the ovary) begin to grow uncontrollably. This abnormal cell growth is common among all cancer types.

Normally, cells in your body divide and form new cells to replace worn out or dying cells, and to repair injuries. Because cancer cells continue to grow and divide, they are different from normal cells. Instead of dying, they outlive normal cells and continue to create new abnormal cells, forming a tumor. Tumors can put pressure on other organs near the ovaries.

Cancer cells can sometimes travel to other parts of the body, where they begin to grow and replace normal tissue. This process, called metastasis, occurs as the cancer cells move into the bloodstream or lymph system of the body. Cancer cells that spread from other organ sites (such as breast or colon) to the ovary are not considered ovarian cancer. Cancer type is determined by the original site of the malignancy.

What is the general outlook for women diagnosed with ovarian cancer?

In women ages 35-74, ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer-related deaths. An estimated one woman in 75 will develop ovarian cancer during her lifetime. The American Cancer Society estimates that there will be over 22,280 new cases of ovarian cancer diagnosed this year and that more than 14,240 women will die from ovarian cancer this year.

When one is diagnosed and treated in the earliest stages, the five-year survival rate is over 90 percent. Due to ovarian cancer’s non-specific symptoms and lack of early detection tests, about 20 percent of all cases are found early, meaning in stage I or II.

If caught in stage III or higher, the survival rate can be as low as 28 percent. Due to the nature of the disease, each woman diagnosed with ovarian cancer has a different profile and it is impossible to provide a general prognosis. With almost 80% of women diagnosed in advanced stages of ovarian cancer, when prognosis is poor, we know that more needs to be done to spread awareness of this horrible disease that will take the lives of more than 14,000 women this year.

What are the Signs & Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer?

Ovarian cancer is difficult to detect, especially in the early stages. This is partly due to the fact that the ovaries – two small, almond-shaped organs on either side of the uterus – are deep within the abdominal cavity. The following are often identified by women as some of the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer:

  • Bloating
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Trouble eating or feeling full quickly
  • Feeling the need to urinate urgently or often

Other symptoms of ovarian cancer can include:

  • Fatigue
  • Upset stomach or heartburn
  • Back pain
  • Pain during sex
  • Constipation or menstrual changes

If symptoms are new and persist for more than two weeks, it is recommended that a woman see her doctor, and a gynecologic oncologist before surgery if cancer is suspected.

Persistence of Symptoms

When the symptoms are persistent, when they do not resolve with normal interventions (like diet change, exercise, laxatives, rest) it is imperative for a woman to see her doctor. Persistence of symptoms is key. Because these signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer have been described as vague or silent, only approximately 19 percent of ovarian cancer is diagnosed in the early stages. Symptoms typically occur in advanced stages when tumor growth creates pressure on the bladder and rectum, and fluid begins to form.

Treatment Options

Surgery

Surgery to remove the cancerous growth is the most common method of diagnosis and therapy for ovarian cancer. It is best performed by a qualified gynecologic oncologist.

Most women with ovarian cancer will have surgery at some point during the course of their disease, and each surgery has different goals.

Chemotherapy

Before treatment begins, it is important to understand how chemotherapy works. Chemotherapy is the treatment of cancer using chemicals designed to destroy cancer cells or stop them from growing. The goal of chemotherapy is to cure cancer, shrink tumors prior to surgery or radiation therapy, destroy cells that might have spread, or control tumor growth.

Radiation

Radiation therapy uses high-­energy X­-rays to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Please note that this therapy is rarely used in the treatment of ovarian cancer in the United States. It is more often used in other parts of the body where cancer has spread.

Complementary Therapies

Some women with ovarian cancer turn toward the whole ­body approach of complementary therapy to enhance their fight against the disease, as well as to relieve stress and lessen side effects, such as fatigue, pain, and nausea.

Complementary therapies are diverse practices and products that are used along with conventional medicine. Many women have tried and benefited from the complementary therapies listed below. Speaking with other women, in addition to the healthcare team, can suggest the therapies that may be most helpful and appropriate for each woman’s lifestyle.

Clinical Trials

Clinical trials are research studies designed to find ways to improve health and cancer care. Each study tries to answer scientific questions and to find better ways to prevent, diagnose, or treat cancer. Many women undergoing treatment for ovarian cancer choose to participate in clinical trials. Through participation in these trials, patients may receive access to new therapy options that are not available to women outside the clinical trial setting.

How am I Diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer?

Most women with ovarian cancer are diagnosed with advanced-stage disease (Stage III or IV). This is because the symptoms of ovarian cancer, particularly in its early stages, often are not acute or intense, and present vaguely. In most cases, ovarian cancer is not detected during routine pelvic exams, unless the doctor notes that the ovary is enlarged. The sooner ovarian cancer is found and treated, the better a woman’s chance for survival. It is important to know that early stage symptoms can be difficult to detect, though are not always silent. As a result, it is important that women listen to their bodies and watch for early symptoms that may present.

Did You Know?

The Pap test does not detect ovarian cancer. It aids in evaluating cells for the detection of cervical cancer.

Screening Tests

Although there is no consistently-reliable screening test to detect ovarian cancer, the following tests are available and should be offered to women, especially those women at high risk for the disease:

  • Pelvic Exam: Women age 18 and older should have a mandatory annual vaginal exam. Women age 35 and older should receive an annual rectovaginal exam (physician inserts fingers in the rectum and vagina simultaneously to feel for abnormal swelling and to detect tenderness).
  • Transvaginal Sonography: This ultrasound, performed with a small instrument placed in the vagina, is appropriate, especially for women at high risk for ovarian cancer, or for those with an abnormal pelvic exam.
  • CA-125 Test: This blood test determines if the level of CA-125, a protein produced by ovarian cancer cells, has increased in the blood of a woman at high risk for ovarian cancer, or a woman with an abnormal pelvic examination.

While CA-125 is an important test, it is not always a key marker for the disease. Some non-cancerous diseases of the ovaries can also increase CA-125 levels, and some ovarian cancers may not produce enough CA-125 levels to cause a positive test. For these reasons the CA-125 test is not routinely used as a screening test for those at average risk for ovarian cancer.

Positive Tests

If any of these tests are positive, a woman should consult with a gynecologic oncologist, who may conduct a CT scan and evaluate the test results. However, the only way to more accurately confirm an ovarian cancer diagnosis is with a biopsy, a procedure in which the doctor takes a sample of the tumor and examines it under a microscope.

Research into new ovarian cancer screening tests is ongoing, and new diagnostic tests may be on the horizon. The National Ovarian Cancer Coalition monitors the latest scientific developments. Please visit their Research page for additional information.

Getting Help

To locate a physician in your area who can help with the symptoms you are suffering and aid in treatment, if necessary, please find one today using HealthLynked.com.  We are the first of its kind social ecosystem designed to connect physicians and patients for the efficient exchange of information in a secure platform designed for communication and collaboration.

Ready to get Lynked?  Go to HealthLynked.com, right now, to start getting the help you need, for free.

 

Source:

Ovarian.org

Top 10 Hidden Hazards to Baby’s Safety at Home

This year, we had the great privilege of being introduced to our first grandbaby.  She’s an incredibly beautiful bundle of energy who will soon be moving about to explore on her own.  Luckily, our home has always been “baby proofed”, but feeling this great responsibility for her wellbeing, and not having had a baby around in quite a while, it is time to seriously think about what else needs to be done.

September is Baby Safety Month, sponsored annually by the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA), so there is no better time than now to survey the safety of your abode.

The Basics

Ideally, the best time to babyproof is early in your pregnancy, before you register, so you can include needed safety items on your registry list.  The best way to babyproof? Get down on your hands and knees and think like a baby! This is a great activity for both mom and dad, as males and females may look for and inspect different aspects of the home and safety measures in general.

Take care of all the obvious hazards, such as exposed electrical sockets and blind cords, but be on the lookout for those not-so-obvious items – empty dishwashers, hanging tablecloths that can be easily pulled down, and poisonous plants.  Remember,  babies at any age are curious explorers and want to touch, feel, lick, smell, and listen to everything and anything they can get their little hands on. Your job is to make your home as safe as possible so they can roam without worry. After all, this new addition is not a temporary guest and should be able to safely investigate every space in your home.

Consider child-proofing an ongoing process.  Monitor your child’s growth and development and always try to stay one step ahead. For example, don’t wait until your baby starts crawling to put up stairway gates. Install them in advance so the entire family gets used to them and baby doesn’t associate his new-found milestone with barriers.

If you are preparing for baby #2 or #3, don’t underestimate your “seasoned” approach to babyproofing from the first time around. In fact, having an older sibling creates additional hazards – you should be aware of small parts from toys and your toddlers’ ability to open the doors, potty lids, and cabinets you have so ingeniously secured.

Top Hidden Hazards

  • Magnets — Small magnets can be easily swallowed by children. Once inside the body, they can attract to each other and cause significant internal damage. Keep magnets out of your child’s reach. If you fear your child has swallowed magnets, seek medical attention immediately.
  • Loose Change — Change floating around in pockets or purses may wind up on tables around the house, where curious children may be attracted to the shiny coins and ingest them. A wonderful way to ensure this doesn’t happen is to assign a tray or jar for loose change and keep it out of a child’s reach.
  • Tipovers — Tipovers are a leading cause of injury to children and the best way to avoid them is to make sure all furniture and televisions are secured to the wall.
  • Pot Handle Sticking Out from Stove — When cooking, it is best that pot handles turn inward instead of sticking out from the stove where little ones may reach up and grab the hot handle. In addition, if holding a child while cooking, remember to keep the handles out of the child’s reach.
  • Loose Rugs or Carpet — Area rugs or carpet that is not secured to the floor causes a tripping hazard for little ones who may already be unstable on their feet. Make sure that all corners are taped down and bumps are smoothed out.
  • Detergent Pods — It is estimated that thousands of children have been exposed to and injured by detergent pods. Easily mistaken by children as candy, these pods pose a risk to the eyes and, if ingested, to their lives. It is important to keep these items out of reach of children.
  • Hot Mugs — A relaxing cup of coffee or tea can quickly turn into an emergency if hot mugs are left unattended or are placed to near the edge of tables where little hands can grab them.
  • Cords — Cords can pose strangulation hazards to children, whether they are connected to blinds, home gym equipment or baby monitors. It’s important to keep cords tied up and out of reach of children. In addition, remember to keep cribs away from cords that the child may reach while inside the crib.
  • Button Batteries — Button batteries are flat, round batteries that resemble coins or buttons. They are found in common household items such as flashlights, remotes or flameless candles.
  • Recalled Products — Make sure you’re aware if a product you own has been recalled. In addition, check that any second-hand products you own have not been recalled. The best ways to ensure your products are safe is to fill out your product registration card as well as check for recalls at recalls.gov.

How to Choose and Use Products

Choose a baby carrier or sling made of a durable, washable fabric with sturdy, adjustable straps.  Use a carrier or sling only when walking with your baby, never running or bicycling.

Choose a carriage or stroller that has a base wide enough to prevent tipping, even when your baby leans over the side.  Use the basket underneath and don’t hang purses or shopping bags over the handles because it may cause the stroller to tip.

Choose a swing with strong posts, legs, and a wide stance to prevent tipping.  Never place your swing or bouncer on an elevated surface such as sofas, beds, tables or counter tops.

When choosing a changing table, before leaving home, measure the length and width of the changing area available on the dresser and compare to the requirements for the add-on unit before purchasing. Check for attachment requirements.  When changing baby, always keep one hand on baby and use restraints.

It is vital the car seat/booster is appropriate for a child’s age, weight, and height.  Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for both the vehicle and the seat.  As of this writing, the American Academy of Pediatrics used to recommend rear-facing seats for children until at least age 2. Now, the organization is updating its guidelines and wants parents to keep their children in rear-facing seats until they reach the seat’s maximum height and weight limit — even if they’re older than 2. Under the new guidelines, most kids would keep using rear-facing seats until they’re about 4 years old.

Choose a crib mattress that fits snugly with no more than two fingers width, one-inch, between the edge of the mattress and the crib side.  Never place the crib near windows, draperies, blinds, or wall-mounted decorative accessories with long cords.

Choose the right gate for your needs. Before leaving home, measure the opening size at the location the gate will be used.  Gates with expanding pressure bars should be installed with the adjustment bar or lock side away from the baby.

Use waist and crotch strap every time you place a child in the high chair to prevent falls from standing up or sliding out.

And, consider these things when introducing products to your inventory:

  • Safest Option – Keep in mind that new products meeting current safety standards are the safest option.
  • Second-Hand Products – It is recommended secondhand products should not be used for baby. However, if it is necessary to use older products, make sure all parts are available, the product is fully functional, not broken, and has not been recalled.
  • Register your products — Through product registration, parents can establish a direct line of communication with the manufacturer should a problem arise with a product purchased. This information is NOT used for marketing purposes.

Fun Tips and Tricks for New Parents

  • Trying to lose the baby weight? Cut down on late night snacks by brushing your teeth after you put the kids to bed so you won’t be likely to ruin clean teeth.
  • Keep allergens away from your toddler and older children simply by changing their pillow. Don’t know when the last time you changed it was? Buying a new one every year on their birthday is an easy way to remember!
  • While nursing or feeding baby #2, encourage your toddler or older children to read stories to the new baby. Even just telling a story through the pictures keeps your toddler in site and occupied during this already special time.
  • For toddlers working on mastering stairs, install a child safety gate two or three steps up from the bottom stair to give your child a small, safe space to practice.
  • If the sight of blood terrifies your child, use dark washcloths to clean up cuts and scrapes. Better yet, try storing the cloths in plastic bags in the freezer  the coldness will help with pain relief.
  • Keep baby happy and warm during baths. Drop the shampoo and soap in the warm water while you are filling the tub. When it’s time to lather baby, the soap won’t be so cold.
  • Cranky teething baby? Wet three corners of a washcloth and stick it in the freezer. The rough, icy fabric soothes sore gums and the dry corner gives them a “handle”.
  • Having a tough time getting baby to stay still while diaper changing? Wear a silly hat or bobble headband. As a reward for staying still, be sure to let your baby or toddler wear the hat when finished!
  • Before baby #2 arrives, put together a “fun box” for the older sibling that she is only allowed to play with when you nurse or feed baby #2. Inexpensive toys, coloring books, and snacks are all great ideas to include. Be sure to refresh the items once a week to keep an active toddler interested.
  • Put a plastic art mat underneath the high chair while they learn to eat to contain the mess.
  • Tape pics of family members or animals to the ceiling or wall near of your changing table so baby has something to look when diaper changing.
  • Baby or kid yogurt containers make great snack cups on the go. Some yogurt containers cannot be recycled, so why not wash and reuse? They are perfect snack size portions, easy for little hands to grab and even fit in the cup holders of stroller trays. They can also hold just the right amount of crayons for on the go coloring!
  • Can’t get little ones to sit still while you brush or style hair? Put a sticker on your shirt and tell them to look at the sticker. As they get older, make it a game and see if they can count to 50 before you can get those ponytails in!

It’s A Fact

Most injuries can be prevented! Parents and caregivers play a huge role in protecting children from injuries.  Choosing the right baby products for your family can be overwhelming, but safety should never be compromised.

What Can You Do?

  1. Choose and use age and developmentally appropriate products.
  2. Read and follow all manufacturer’s instructions, recommendations for use, and warning labels.
  3. Register your products and establish a direct line of communication with the manufacturer.
  4. Actively supervise — watch, listen and stay near your child.
  5. Frequently inspect products for missing hardware, loose threads and strings, holes, and tears.
  6. Monitor your child’s growth and development and discontinue use when needed.

Newborns in your home or on the way?  In addition to getting your home in order, you’ll want to find a great pediatrician you can really connect with….Find one in our first of its kind social ecosystem built for healthcare.  In HealthLynked, you can make appointments with your providers on the go and create your own personal, portable medical records.  You can also create and manage one for baby.

Ready to get Lynked?  Go to HealthLynked.com today, sign up for Free, and take control of your healthcare!

 

Source:  BabySafetyZone.com

 

The Benefits of Breastfeeding for Both Mother and Baby | WebMD


In honor of Breastfeeding Awareness Month, we will be sharing a series of articles promoting breastfeeding.  This next one is about the “ABC’s” of breastfeeding – a brief overview of the basics you should know, republished in full from WebMD.


Breastfeeding Overview

Making the decision to breastfeed is a personal matter. It’s also one that’s likely to draw strong opinions from friends and family.

Many medical experts, including the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, strongly recommend breastfeeding exclusively (no formula, juice, or water) for 6 months. And breastfeeding for a year at least with other foods which should be started at 6 months of age, such as vegetables, grains, fruits, proteins.

But you and your baby are unique, and the decision is up to you. This overview of breastfeeding can help you decide.

What Are the Benefits of Breastfeeding for Your Baby?

Breast milk provides the ideal nutrition for infants. It has a nearly perfect mix of vitamins, protein, and fat — everything your baby needs to grow. And it’s all provided in a form more easily digested than infant formula. Breast milk contains antibodies that help your baby fight off viruses and bacteria. Breastfeeding lowers your baby’s risk of having asthma or allergies. Plus, babies who are breastfed exclusively for the first 6 months, without any formula, have fewer ear infections, respiratory illnesses, and bouts of diarrhea. They also have fewer hospitalizations and trips to the doctor.

Breastfeeding has been linked to higher IQ scores in later childhood in some studies. What’s more, the physical closeness, skin-to-skin touching, and eye contact all help your baby bond with you and feel secure. Breastfed infants are more likely to gain the right amount of weight as they grow rather than become overweight children. The AAP says breastfeeding also plays a role in the prevention of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). It’s been thought to lower the risk of diabetes, obesity, and certain cancers as well, but more research is needed.

Are There Breastfeeding Benefits for the Mother?

Breastfeeding burns extra calories, so it can help you lose pregnancy weight faster. It releases the hormone oxytocin, which helps your uterus return to its pre-pregnancy size and may reduce uterine bleeding after birth. Breastfeeding also lowers your risk of breast and ovarian cancer. It may lower your risk of osteoporosis, too.

Since you don’t have to buy and measure formula, sterilize nipples, or warm bottles, it saves you time and money. It also gives you regular time to relax quietly with your newborn as you bond.

Will I Make Enough Milk to Breastfeed?

The first few days after birth, your breasts make an ideal “first milk.” It’s called colostrum. Colostrum is thick, yellowish, and scant, but there’s plenty to meet your baby’s nutritional needs. Colostrum helps a newborn’s digestive tract develop and prepare itself to digest breast milk.

Most babies lose a small amount of weight in the first 3 to 5 days after birth. This is unrelated to breastfeeding.

As your baby needs more milk and nurses more, your breasts respond by making more milk. Experts recommend breastfeeding exclusively (no formula, juice, or water) for 6 months. If you supplement with formula, your breasts might make less milk.

Even if you breastfeed less than the recommended 6 months, it’s better to breastfeed for a short time than no time at all. You can add solid food at 6 months but also continue to breastfeed if you want to keep producing milk.

What’s the Best Position for Breastfeeding?

The best position for you is the one where you and your baby are both comfortable and relaxed, and you don’t have to strain to hold the position or keep nursing. Here are some common positions for breastfeeding your baby:

  • Cradle position. Rest the side of your baby’s head in the crook of your elbow with his whole body facing you. Position your baby’s belly against your body so he feels fully supported. Your other, “free” arm can wrap around to support your baby’s head and neck — or reach through your baby’s legs to support the lower back.
  • Football position. Line your baby’s back along your forearm to hold your baby like a football, supporting his head and neck in your palm. This works best with newborns and small babies. It’s also a good position if you’re recovering from a cesarean birth and need to protect your belly from the pressure or weight of your baby.
  • Side-lying position. This position is great for night feedings in bed. Side-lying also works well if you’re recovering from an episiotomy, an incision to widen the vaginal opening during delivery. Use pillows under your head to get comfortable. Then snuggle close to your baby and use your free hand to lift your breast and nipple into your baby’s mouth. Once your baby is correctly “latched on,” support your baby’s head and neck with your free hand so there’s no twisting or straining to keep nursing.

How Do I Get My Baby to ‘Latch on’ During Breastfeeding?

Position your baby facing you, so your baby is comfortable and doesn’t have to twist his neck to feed. With one hand, cup your breast and gently stroke your baby’s lower lip with your nipple. Your baby’s instinctive reflex will be to open the mouth wide. With your hand supporting your baby’s neck, bring your baby’s mouth closer around your nipple, trying to center your nipple in the baby’s mouth above the tongue.

You’ll know your baby is “latched on” correctly when both lips are pursed outward around your nipple. Your infant should have all of your nipple and most of the areola, which is the darker skin around your nipple, in his mouth. While you may feel a slight tingling or tugging, breastfeeding should not be painful. If your baby isn’t latched on correctly and nursing with a smooth, comfortable rhythm, gently nudge your pinky between your baby’s gums to break the suction, remove your nipple, and try again. Good “latching on” helps prevent sore nipples.

What Are the ABCs of Breastfeeding?

  • A = Awareness. Watch for your baby’s signs of hunger, and breastfeed whenever your baby is hungry. This is called “on demand” feeding. The first few weeks, you may be nursing eight to 12 times every 24 hours. Hungry infants move their hands toward their mouths, make sucking noises or mouth movements, or move toward your breast. Don’t wait for your baby to cry. That’s a sign he’s too hungry.
  • B = Be patient. Breastfeed as long as your baby wants to nurse each time. Don’t hurry your infant through feedings. Infants typically breastfeed for 10 to 20 minutes on each breast.
  • C = Comfort. This is key. Relax while breastfeeding, and your milk is more likely to “let down” and flow. Get yourself comfortable with pillows as needed to support your arms, head, and neck, and a footrest to support your feet and legs before you begin to breastfeed.

Are There Medical Considerations With Breastfeeding?

In a few situations, breastfeeding could cause a baby harm. You should not breastfeed if:

  • You are HIV positive. You can pass the HIV virus to your infant through breast milk.
  • You have active, untreated tuberculosis.
  • You’re receiving chemotherapy for cancer.
  • You’re using an illegal drug, such as cocaine or marijuana.
  • Your baby has a rare condition called galactosemia and cannot tolerate the natural sugar, called galactose, in breast milk.
  • You’re taking certain prescription medications, such as some drugs for migraine headaches, Parkinson’s disease, or arthritis.

Talk with your doctor before starting to breastfeed if you’re taking prescription drugsof any kind. Your doctor can help you make an informed decision based on your particular medication.

Having a cold or flu should not prevent you from breastfeeding. Breast milk won’t give your baby the illness and may even give antibodies to your baby to help fight off the illness.

Also, the AAP suggests that — starting at 4 months of age — exclusively breastfed infants, and infants who are partially breastfed and receive more than one-half of their daily feedings as human milk, should be supplemented with oral iron. This should continue until foods with iron, such as iron-fortified cereals, are introduced in the diet. The AAP recommends checking iron levels in all children at age 1.

Discuss supplementation of both iron and vitamin D with your pediatrician Your doctor can guide you on recommendations about the proper amounts for both your baby and you, when to start, and how often the supplements should be taken.

Why Do Some Women Choose Not to Breastfeed?

  • Some women don’t want to breastfeed in public.
  • Some prefer the flexibility of knowing that a father or any caregiver can bottle-feed the baby any time.
  • Babies tend to digest formula more slowly than breast milk, so bottle feedings may not be as frequent as breastfeeding sessions.

The time commitment, and being “on-call” for feedings every few hours of a newborn’s life, isn’t feasible for every woman. Some women fear that breastfeeding will ruin the appearance of their breasts. But most breast surgeons would argue that age, gravity, genetics, and lifestyle factors like smoking all change the shape of a woman’s breasts more than breastfeeding does.

What Are Some Common Challenges With Breastfeeding?

  • Sore nipples. You can expect some soreness in the first weeks of breastfeeding. Make sure your baby latches on correctly, and use one finger to break the suction of your baby’s mouth after each feeding. That will help prevent sore nipples. If you still get sore, be sure you nurse with each breast fully enough to empty the milk ducts. If you don’t, your breasts can become engorged, swollen, and painful. Holding ice or a bag of frozen peas against sore nipples can temporarily ease discomfort. Keeping your nipples dry and letting them “air dry” between feedings helps, too. Your baby tends to suck more actively at the start. So begin feedings with the less-sore nipple.
  • Dry, cracked nipples. Avoid soaps, perfumed creams, or lotions with alcohol in them, which can make nipples even more dry and cracked. You can gently apply pure lanolin to your nipples after a feeding, but be sure you gently wash the lanolin off before breastfeeding again. Changing your bra pads often will help your nipples stay dry. And you should use only cotton bra pads.
  • Worries about producing enough milk.A general rule of thumb is that a baby who’s wetting six to eight diapers a day is most likely getting enough milk. Avoid supplementing your breast milk with formula, and never give your infant plain water. Your body needs the frequent, regular demand of your baby’s nursing to keep producing milk. Some women mistakenly think they can’t breastfeed if they have small breasts. But small-breasted women can make milk just as well as large-breasted women. Good nutrition, plenty of rest, and staying well hydrated all help, too.
  • Pumping and storing milk. You can get breast milk by hand or pump it with a breast pump. It may take a few days or weeks for your baby to get used to breast milk in a bottle. So begin practicing early if you’re going back to work. Breast milk can be safely used within 2 days if it’s stored in a refrigerator. You can freeze breast milk for up to 6 months. Don’t warm up or thaw frozen breast milk in a microwave. That will destroy some of its immune-boosting qualities, and

it can cause fatty portions of the breast milk to become super hot. Thaw breast milk in the refrigerator or in a bowl of warm water instead.

  • Inverted nipples. An inverted nipple doesn’t poke forward when you pinch the areola, the dark skin around the nipple. A lactation consultant — a specialist in breastfeeding education — can give simple tips that have allowed women with inverted nipples to breastfeed successfully.
  • Breast engorgement. Breast fullness is natural and healthy. It happens as your breasts become full of milk, staying soft and pliable. But breast engorgement means the blood vessels in your breast have become congested. This traps fluid in your breasts and makes them feel hard, painful, and swollen. Alternate heat and cold, for instance using ice packs and hot showers, to relieve mild symptoms. It can also help to release your milk by hand or use a breast pump.
  • Blocked ducts. A single sore spot on your breast, which may be red and hot, can signal a plugged milk duct. This can often be relieved by warm compresses and gentle massage over the area to release the blockage. More frequent nursing can also help.
  • Breast infection (mastitis). This occasionally results when bacteria enter the breast, often through a cracked nipple after breastfeeding. If you have a sore area on your breast along with flu-like symptoms, fever, and fatigue, call your doctor. Antibiotics are usually needed to clear up a breast infection, but you can most likely continue to breastfeed while you have the infection and take antibiotics. To relieve breast tenderness, apply moist heat to the sore area four times a day for 15 to 20 minutes each time.
  • Stress. Being overly anxious or stressed can interfere with your let-down reflex. That’s your body’s natural release of milk into the milk ducts. It’s triggered by hormones released when your baby nurses. It can also be triggered just by hearing your baby cry or thinking about your baby. Stay as relaxed and calm as possible before and during nursing — it can help your milk let down and flow more easily. That, in turn, can help calm and relax your infant.
  • Premature babies may not be able to breastfeed right away. In some cases, mothers can release breast milk and feed it through a bottle or feeding tube.
  • Warning signs. Breastfeeding is a natural, healthy process. But call your doctor if:
  • Your breasts become unusually red, swollen, hard, or sore.
  • You have unusual discharge or bleeding from your nipples.
  • You’re concerned your baby isn’t gaining weight or getting enough milk.

Where Can I Get Help With Breastfeeding?

Images of mothers breastfeeding their babies make it look simple — but most women need some help and coaching. It can come from a nurse, doctor, family member, or friend, and it helps mothers get over possible bumps in the road.

Reach out to friends, family, and your doctor with any questions you may have. Most likely, the women in your life have had those same questions.

SOURCE: WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on December 5, 2017

Sources

 

SOURCES:

News release, American Academy of Pediatrics.

Baker, R. Pediatrics, November 2010.

American Academy of Pediatrics: “Policy Statement: Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk.”

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: “Breastfeeding Your Baby.”

CDC: “Proper Handling and Storage of Human Milk.”

National Women’s Health Information Center: “Benefits of Breastfeeding.”

National Women’s Health Information Center: “Questions and Answers About Breastfeeding.”

National Women’s Health Information Center: “How Lifestyle Affects Breast Milk.”

La Leche League International: “How Do I Position My Baby to Breastfeed?”

American Academy of Family Physicians: “Breastfeeding: Hints To Help You Get Off to a Good Start.”

National Library of Medicine: “Overcoming Breastfeeding Problems.”

KidsHealth.org: “Feeding Your Newborn.”

American College of Nurse-Midwives, GotMom.org: “Breastfeeding with Confidence.”

© 2017 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

Breastfeeding saves lives, boosts economies in rich and poor countries


In honor of Breastfeeding Awareness Month, we will be sharing a series of articles promoting breastfeeding.  This one focuses on breastfeeding as the most exquisite form of personalized medicine.


SOURCE:  By Catharine Paddock PhD, Published

The decision not to breastfeed harms the long-term health, nutrition and development of children – and the health of women – around the world, conclude leading experts in a new series of papers on breastfeeding published in The Lancet. They also detail how this loss of opportunity damages the global economy.

The authors say countries should see promoting breastfeeding as an investment that benefits not only their public health, but also their economies. The two-part series is the most detailed analysis of levels, trends and benefits of breastfeeding around the world.

By not being exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months of their lives, and not continuing to receive their mother’s milk for another 6 months, millions of children are being denied the important health benefits of breastfeeding, note the authors.

Figures estimated for the series suggest if all countries were to increase breastfeeding for infants and young children to near-universal levels, over 800,000 child deaths (13% of all deaths in the under-2s), 20,000 breast cancer deaths and $302 billion in costs to the global economy could be prevented every year.

The authors say that by not doing enough to promote and encourage breastfeeding, the world’s nations – both rich and poor – are overlooking one of the most effective ways of improving health of children and mothers.

Cesar Victora, a professor from the Federal University of Pelotas in Brazil and a leading author in the series, says the need to tackle this global issue is greater than ever. She notes:

“There is a widespread misconception that the benefits of breastfeeding only relate to poor countries. Nothing could be further from the truth. Our work for this Series clearly shows that breastfeeding saves lives and money in all countries, rich and poor alike.”

Breast milk is a ‘very exquisite personalized medicine’

The experts say their analyses – comprising 28 systematic reviews of available evidence, 22 of which were prepared for the series – show, for example, that breastfeeding has a significant benefit to life expectancy.

In wealthy countries, breastfeeding reduces sudden infant deaths by over a third, and in low and middle-income countries, breastfeeding halves cases of diarrhea and reduces respiratory infections by a third.
In a podcast interview for the series, Prof. Victora says while we are only “beginning to scratch the surface,” a lot of evidence is emerging about the biology of breastfeeding and the components and properties of breast milk.

He quotes a colleague who likens breast milk to “very exquisite personalized medicine” because it reflects the biological interaction between the mother and her child, “something that formula will never be able to imitate,” he notes.

Prof. Victora cites as an example the effect that receiving breast milk has on the development of the microbiome – the trillions of friendly bacteria that live in and on our bodies and play a key role in our health.
He says we are also beginning to understand that breast milk has epigenetic effects – that is, it influences the expression of genes that control cell activity and development. And, another recent discovery is that breast milk contains stem cells.

There is evidence, the authors note, that breastfeeding increases intelligence and may protect against obesity and diabetesin later life. And for mothers, breastfeeding for longer reduces their risk of breast cancer and ovarian cancer.

Promoting breastfeeding makes economic sense

The authors say countries should see promoting breastfeeding as an investment that benefits not only their public health, but also their economies.  They estimate that loss to economies due to impact of not breastfeeding on intelligence amounted to $302 billion in 2012, or 0.49% of world gross national income.

Prof. Victora and colleagues also calculate that if rates of breastfeeding in babies under 6 months were to increase to 90% in the US, China and Brazil, and to 45% in the UK, they would save these countries $2.45 billion, $223.6 million, $6.0 million and $29.5 million, respectively, due to reductions in treating common childhood illnesses like pneumonia, diarrhea and asthma.

This loss of opportunity to boost public and economic health is further highlighted by the fact that worldwide rates of breastfeeding are low, particularly in wealthy countries – for example the UK, Ireland and Denmark have some of the lowest rates of breastfeeding at 12 months in the world (under 1%, 2% and 3%, respectively).

Prof. Victora remarks that breastfeeding is one of the few “positive health behaviors” that is more prevalent in poor countries than in wealthy countries. Also, in poor countries, it is the poorer mothers that practice it more. He notes:

“The stark reality is that in the absence of breastfeeding, the rich-poor gap in child survival would be even wider.”

He urges policymakers to take note of this and be reassured that promoting breastfeeding provides a rapid return on investment that takes less than a generation to come to fruition.

Aggressive formula marketing undermines breastfeeding promotion

One of the papers also touches on the effects that aggressive marketing of “formula” or breast milk substitutes is having, despite countries attending the World Health Assembly in 1981 adopting the World Health Organization (WHO) International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes, which the authors note has not been enforced effectively.

The multi-billion dollar breast milk substitute industry must be reined in, they urge, or it will continue to undermine breastfeeding as the best feeding practice in early life.

The WHO recommend babies start breastfeeding within 1 hour of life, are exclusively breastfed for 6 months. After this, there should be gradual introduction of adequate, safe and properly fed complementary foods with babies continuing to breastfeed for up to 2 years of age or more.

The authors note that global sales of breast milk substitutes are expected to reach $70.6 billion by 2019, as co-author Dr. Nigel Rollins, from the Department of Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health at the WHO in Geneva, explains:

Saturation of markets in high-income countries has caused the industries to rapidly penetrate emerging global markets. Almost all growth in the foreseeable future in sales of standard milk formula (infants <6 months) will be in low-income and middle-income countries, where consumption is currently low,…”

He cites the example of the Middle East and Africa, where estimates show per-child consumption of breast milk substitutes will likely grow by over 7% in the period 2014-2019.  And in wealthy nations, growth in breast milk substitutes will be largely driven by sales of follow-on and toddlers milk, which are set to increase by 15% by 2019, he notes.

Breastfeeding must become a key public health issue

The authors say governments and international organizations have to show powerful political commitment and provide the financial backing needed to protect, promote and support breastfeeding at all levels – national, community, family and workplace.

In an accompanying comment paper, leading experts in the field – including Frances Mason from Save the Children UK and Dr. Alison McFadden from the School of Nursing and Health Sciences at the University of Dundee, UK – say world leaders must not repeat the mistake of leaving out breastfeeding from the Millennium Development Goals when it sets the Sustainable Development Goals later this year.

They plead for breastfeeding not be tagged onto the child nutrition agenda but to be treated as a key public health priority that reduces disease, infant deaths and inequity, and also urge leaders at all levels to “end promotion of products that compete with breastfeeding.”

Prof. Victora concludes:  “There is a widespread misconception that breast milk can be replaced with artificial products without detrimental consequences.”
In October 2015, Medical News Todaylearned of a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that shows while breastfeeding support at US hospitals has improved since 2007, there are still many ways it could be better. Improved hospital care could increase breastfeeding rates nationwide, it concludes.


If you are looking for a physician to care for you along your birthing journey or to support you in your efforts to breastfeed, you might connect with them in HealthLynked.  WE are the first of its kind social ecosystem designed specifically for physicians and patients to collaborate in the efficient exchanges of health information.

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7 Ways to Beat the Heat and the Signs of Heat Distress

Extreme Heat often results in the highest number of annual deaths among all weather-related hazards in the US. On average, it has killed more people in the last 30 years than any other weather phenomena.  EXTREME HEAT is generally defined as an extended period (2 to 3 days) of high heat and humidity with temperatures above 90 degrees.  In such conditions, evaporation is slowed, and the body must work extra hard to maintain a normal temperature. This can lead to death by overworking the human body. Remember that:

  • Extreme heat can occur quickly and without warning.
  • Older adults, children, and sick or overweight individuals are at greater risk from extreme heat.
  • Humidity increases the feeling of heat as measured by a heat index.

While every year, thousands of people suffer from heat-related illnesses and even death, many of these tragedies can be prevented. Keep everyone safe this summer by following these seven simple tips:

  1. Ensure you get acclimated to the temperature and humidity! Especially children, the elderly, and athletes need time to adjust to activity and exercising in hot, humid weather. Planning early morning or late afternoon/evening activities and gradually increasing exercise and sports-related activities over the first two weeks of warmer weather will ensure they are adequately acclimatized to their environment.
  2. Properly dress before activity and exercise outdoors! Clothing should be light-colored, lightweight and limited to one layer of absorbent material to facilitate the evaporation of sweat. Sweat-saturated garments should be replaced by dry garments, and rubberized sweat suits should never be used for weight loss.
  3. Protect your largest organ from the sun! In addition to staying in the shade, limit skin’s exposure to the sun during the peak intensity hours and dress in lightweight clothing and hats. Everyone over 6 months should frequently apply (and reapply) sunscreen with at least 15 SPF to their skin. Little ones under six months should mostly avoid the sun. Sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours, or after swimming or sweating. Maximize the fun, not the sun.
  4. Be sure you are drinking plenty of fluids. Before and during any type of physical activity, everyone should be encouraged to drink plenty of fluids, such as cool water or flavored sports drinks. Due to their high-sugar and caffeine content, fruit juices, sodas and energy drinks (i.e., Red Bull) are not recommended. Alcohol “es no bueno”, as it dehydrates.
  5. Avoid equipment and surfaces directly exposed to the sun! In direct sunlight, playground equipment can heat up to temperatures well into the triple digits. Severe burns can result from young children unknowingly exposing their skin to extremely hot playground equipment. Same is true on pool deck equipment and surfaces. Avoid being outdoors midday and frequenting playgrounds that are not shaded by trees or canopies.   Cool surfaces with copious amounts of water.
  6. Never leave children, the elderly or even pets in a car or other closed motor vehicle! The inside of a car can quickly reach dangerous and life-threatening temperature levels! Since 1998, over 600 children in the U.S. have died of heat stroke when left unattended in a vehicle.  On average, 37 kids perish in hot vehicle each year.  The hottest months inevitably bring the highest numbers of hypothermia incidents, so summer, late spring and early fall are the most treacherous times.

As of July 20, 26 children have lost their lives this year in hot car death incidents. To prevent heat stress tragedies, parents and caregivers should never leave others alone in or around a vehicle, always lock the car and ensure children do not have access to keys or remote entry devices, create visual reminders to look in the back seat before you leave, and plan to have daycare providers or other family members call home if the child hasn’t arrived on schedule to verify there’s been a change from the daily routine.

Know the signs and symptoms of heat illness and watch for them among your family and friends! Heat-related illnesses, such as heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke, cause a wide-spectrum of signs and symptoms.

  • Muscle cramps usually occur in the larger muscle groups, such as the hamstrings and buttocks. If someone develops painful muscular cramping, they should stop exercising and start drinking fluids. Additionally, by encouraging the person to lie down in a cool area while massaging and stretching the affected muscles, their symptoms may improve at a quicker pace.
  • Heat exhaustion is the most common form of heat-related illness and will usually occur in those who participate in activities that lead to profuse sweat loss! Symptoms of heat exhaustion include temperature elevation, headache, dizziness, lightheadedness, nausea, vomiting and muscle weakness. If someone develops these symptoms, they should be moved away from direct sunlight and into a shaded or air-conditioned area. By fanning and rehydrating and placing ice bags around the neck, underarms and groin area, the core body temperature will start to lower. However, if the person is unable to keep fluids down (due to nausea/vomiting) and appears dehydrated, they should be seen by a physician.
  • Heat stroke is a medical emergency, with a mortality rate as high as 50 to 70 percent! With severe dehydration, the normal sweating response can become impaired! Symptoms of heat stroke are similar to those seen with heat exhaustion, but are typically accompanied by abnormal behavior or responsiveness, seizures, and core body temperatures greater than 104°F. In addition to moving and cooling the victim, 911 should be called immediately! Bystander CPR and the use of an AED (or automated external defibrillator) may be necessary if the person stops breathing and/or no longer has a pulse.

Remember, heat-induced illness and death are preventable! Be sure to take the necessary precautions to ensure everyone’s safety and a fun-filled summer, especially as we enter the hottest parts of our year in the northern hemisphere.

If you are experiencing any of the signs and symptoms of heat injury, seek medical attention Fast.  You might use HealthLynked.com to do so, and if you are already maintaining your medical information in our easy to use, secure portable, personal health record system, it will be so much easier to get the right care today.

Ready to get Lynked? Go to HealthLynked.comto learn more and sign up for free!

Sources:

Fema.gov

Ready.gov

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Awaken Your SuperHero Within | The Anti-Kryptonite Powers of Napping

At the Academy (Harvard on the Severn, Canoe U, Squid Tech), I was into napping.  Any time I could squeeze a few zzzzs into a day, especially after lunch, I would; and so would many others.  For me, I counted it as an essential escape from the rigors of military school, thinking if I slept half the day, I would be “away”from USNA half the time.

It wasn’t until much later I learned napping had other health benefits, too.

Sadly, napping is often frowned upon in our workaholic American culture. When we think of napping men, we think of Dagwood passed out on the couch after consuming a giant, delicious sandwich. Naps are thought to be habits of the lazy and unambitious, or the privilege of retirees with plenty of time on their hands. The person who falls asleep at his desk at work is laughed at and often fired.  And when we doze off, we feel guilty —  except in planes.  Always nap on planes!

In reality, the nap stigma is incredibly misplaced. Naps can be one of the most powerful tools for self-improvement; they can increase not only our health and well-being but our intelligence and productivity. This is something great achievers have known all along. History is full of famous nappers. Noted thinkers, creators and leaders, like Edison, JFK, Churchill, Aristotle, Margaret “Iron Lady” Thatcher, and Napoleon, all were ardent nappers.

Cats and Dogs Know Something You Don’t

Humans are among the few animals that take their sleep in one shot. The rest of the animal kingdom consists of polyphasic sleepers; they alternate sleep and wake cycles throughout a 24-hour period. Cavemen likely slept in multiple phases too, so someone was always up to keep an eye out for saber tooth tigers. While experimenting with a return to polyphasic sleep has become trendy in recent times, the ideal pattern for human sleep appears to be biphasic–a long stretch at night along with a shorter respite during the day.

The ancient Romans were biphasic sleepers; at sexta (the sixth hour or their noon) everyone would turn in for some midday shut eye. This is where we get the terms siesta and reposo — traditions once popular in Spain and Italy respectively but which have largely succumbed to the encroaching go-go-go Western business style.

While the pace of modern life may keep us from being the biphasic sleepers we were meant to be, the urge for a daytime snooze is still hardwired into our biology.  Many of us find it nearly impossible to get enough z’s at night, and sleep deprivation causes a host of bodily and mental ills, keeping us from performing at our best and enjoying life to the fullest.

I feel it every day, and stave it off with the obligatory midday caffeine injection.

Studies have shown when people are put into an environment that lacks any indication of time, they will fall into the long sleep at night/shorter nap during the day pattern. Thus, most of us are daily fighting tooth and nail against our body’s natural circadian rhythm.  Match this with the fact most Americans report being sleep deprived, and we are becoming a horde of drowsy zombies in mindless, relentless pursuit of espresso instead of brains.

While a good night’s sleep is essential, a daily nap can buoy us up when we’re not getting quite enough shut eye. And for those who already sleep well at night, a nap can take take the performance of your body and mind to the next level.

The Benefits of Napping

Increases alertness. When your eyelids are almost too heavy to keep open, you’re not doing your best work. Make time for a nap and then go back at it. A NASA study found a 40-minute nap increases alertness by 100%. Other studies have found that a 20-minute nap is more effective than either 200 mg of caffeine or a bout of exercise. Yet another study showed that pilots who were allowed to take a 25-minute nap (while the co-pilot manned the controls!) nodded off fives times less than their nap-deprived peers. They also made less errors during take-offs and landings.

Power naps are effective at making you more alert when you wake up because there’s very low risk of falling into a deep sleep or another sleep cycle that causes grogginess. Your brain shuts down just enough that when you wake up, you experience a jolt of alertness. Study after study has shown that people working night shifts or in high pressure jobs with long shifts are much more alert when given the opportunity to power nap, sometimes several times a day.

Beyond pilots and space jockeys, there are many jobs that require you to be alert and can be dangerous to yourself and others if you aren’t. Firefighters are a good example, though your job or situation doesn’t need to be that extreme to benefit from being alert as a result of a power nap. New parents learn to nap when their newborn does, even if it’s only for 10 minutes at a time, though other factors affect fatigue in that case. Regardless, research is solid in that power naps provide a higher level of alertness and even awareness than before catching those short z’s.

Studies have shown that if you break up your day with a nap, you will be as alert and energetic for the second part of your day as you were for the first. So, if you’ve got an event planned for after work, take a nap before going out on the town.

Improves learning and working memory. Naps improve your working memory. This type of memory is involved in working on complex tasks where you have to pay attention to one thing while holding a bunch of other things in your memory. Napping also improves your memory retention; during sleep, recent memories are transferred to the neocortex, where long-term memories are solidified and stored.

For many people, everything from power naps to 90-minute naps can be very restorative, resulting in improved memory and cognitive function. Some experts say that people who can nap properly—meaning being able to take a nap without falling into a deep sleep and waking feeling refreshed—benefit much more from these short naps than turning to energy drinks and caffeine. The nap allows them to reactivate their memory and organize information more easily.

Improved memory can be really helpful for people who have to absorb and remember a lot of information. Some require this for their jobs, but students are a prime example, and a lot of research has been done about the ways students can effectively absorb the mountain of information they’re required to learn during high school, university and college. Studies have shown that students who nap after a round of studying often wake up with a better memory of what they had been learning and reading before their nap. It’s almost like hitting reset on the brain, allowing you to remember things that you would have otherwise forgotten.

Prevents burnout and reverses information overload.  While we often refuse to take a nap because we feel like we have too much to do, studies have shown that putting in extra hours without rest dramatically reduces your productivity. It would be better to take a 30-minute nap and return to your work refreshed.

This was demonstrated in a study in which subjects performed a visual task over the course of four days. With each successive session, the subjects’ performance on the task deteriorated. But when the subjects were allowed to take a 30-minute nap after the second session, the decline in performance was halted. And after a one-hour nap, their performance actually improved in the third and fourth sessions.

Bigger companies have started to recognize the benefits of daytime napping and allow or even encourage employees to take a power nap. Some have even gone as far as to designate an area for napping. Not every company will jump on the bandwagon, but if you can go somewhere to grab a quick power nap during a lunch or early afternoon break, you could be more productive at work. But if you work the standard 9-5 shift, avoid taking naps mid to late afternoon because it could prevent you from falling asleep and sleeping well that night.

Heightens your senses and creativity. According to a foremost nap scientist (napologist? Napster? Napmeister?) Sara C. Mednick, napping can improve your sensory perception as effectively as a night of sleep. This means that steak tastes better, the sunset looks purtier, and Annie’s Song sounds even better after a good nap.

Napping also improves your creativity by both loosening up the web of ideas in your head and fusing disparate insights together.

Between your job, family responsibilities, personal relationships, social and volunteer commitments, and even just running errands, a lot of things drain you—both physically and mentally. This stress and exhaustion is a clear strain on your creativity, and it can seem almost hopeless to get back. But getting the creative juices flowing could come from taking a power nap. Stress takes it toll on the mind so shutting down with a nap could revive your mind and organize your thoughts, bringing your creativity back to you.

You don’t need to have what’s considered a creative job for waning creativity to negatively impact what you do at work. Power naps have been proven to help in this area, and a not-so-surprising amount of people struggle with it often. Every job requires some level creativity, from the obvious artistic requirements of graphic designers and architects to the deft creativity of administrative personnel organizing schedules or the insightfulness of an accountant balancing books. So, take a nap and see where your creativity goes — it could benefit you and your employer greatly.

Improves health. Sleep deprivation leads to an excess of the hormone cortisol in the body. Cortisol, known as the stress hormone, helps us deal with fight or flight responses. But excess cortisol increases glucose intolerance and abdominal fat, weakens the muscular and immune systems, stymies memory and learning, and decreases levels of growth hormone and testosterone in our bodies. These deleterious effects can lead to diabetes and heart disease.

When you sleep, you release growth hormone, the antidote to cortisol which which boosts your immune system, primes your sexual function, reduces stress and anxiety, and aids in muscle repair and weight loss. Napping gives your brain a chance to rest and your body a chance to heal.

The proof’s in the pudding. A study done with Greeks found those that took a 30-minute nap at least three times a week had a 37% lower risk of dying from a heart-related condition. Among working men their risk of death was reduced 64%! So, not only should you dance like Zorba the Greek, you should nap like him, too.

Improves mood. Odds are you know someone who is really cranky when they don’t get the sleep they need, or you might be that person. If so, you understand even more how important feeling rested is to your mood. Being tired can have a sort of snowball effect –  you are likely to feel grouchy, be short with those around you, or simply have a tough time focusing.  These and other physical and emotional reactions as a result of lack of sleep only continue to keep you in a bad mood or worsen it as the day or weeks go by.

The neurotransmitter serotonin regulates our mood, sleep, and appetites. It produces feeling of contentment and well-being. But when our bodies are stressed, higher levels of serotonin are used and the production of more is blocked. As a result, we can become anxious, irritable, depressed, overwhelmed, and easily distracted. According to Mednick, “napping bathes your brain in serotonin, reversing those effects and creating a more positive outlook.”

And the fact is, some days you just need that extra bit of shut eye. Whether you have a restless night or a stressful (and therefore tiring) week at work, a power nap can keep your spirits high. But if you have insomnia, sleep apnea, or other form of sleep condition, talk to your doctor before scheduling in any naps. People with these conditions aren’t usually encouraged to nap because of other health implications and risks, so speak to a professional first. Saves money. Instead spending $30 a week on Five Hour Energy or Starbucks, take a nap and boost your energy the natural and more effective way.

Lowers Stress.  Stress is inevitable at certain times of your life, but it doesn’t need to be constant. Research has shown that psychological pressure and stress can be reduced by taking a nap. Stress is hard on your body and getting rest from a nap after you experience an increase in stress has been linked to improved cardiovascular healing, lowering the possible effects of stress on your heart. In addition, the hormones released during a nap or night of sleep contribute to decreasing your level of stress.

A lot of people find it hard to fall asleep during the day, even when they need it or could really benefit from it. If you give napping a try and just can’t do it, don’t force it but consider still taking the time to lie down and relax. Similar to when you go to sleep, your mind has to reach a certain level of relaxation and your thoughts can’t be too loud. Achieving this during the day in place of a power nap has been shown to have similar benefits to that of actual napping, so keep that time set aside to reduce stress.

Reduced Risk of Depression.  Studies have linked people who get enough/the right amount of sleep to a lower chance of developing depression. And naps can help you get that perfect amount of rest if you don’t get it over night, so taking your power naps could be greatly beneficial to your mental and emotional health. Of course, everyone is different, and the amount of sleep needed will vary.  Get in tune with your body and figure out the length and amount of naps you need to help both your mind and body.

Similar to the reasoning for lower stress, naps give your body the rest it needs to function and perform at its best, and feeling your best all around plays a role in depression. Depression may also be reduced because stress can cause excess hormones linked to depression. Since naps can lower stress, it can then lower the risk of depression as well—napping can help balance hormones that cause mental health problems. Or even just considering the energy, alertness, reduced stress and increased productivity, the other benefits can contribute to improved mental health.

Reduced Risk of Cardiovascular Disease.  There’s still debate and differing opinions about whether or not naps can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, but as research continues to link the two more experts are beginning to see the potential of it. It’s believed that regular naps can lower blood pressure, but even more staggering are the results of studies that have shown a significant decrease in the risk of dying from a heart attack. People in high stress jobs greatly benefit from the cardiovascular healing properties of naps because stress can strain the heart and increase the risk of cardiovascular problems.

Studies in countries that typically have a lower mortality rate and lower risk of heart disease emphasize the importance of not only getting your rest but being healthy in other ways—exercise and healthy diets are main contributors to heart health. When mixed in with regular power naps, this type of lifestyle is bound to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. So, if you haven’t tried napping, it’s not too late to enjoy the many possible benefits of rejuvenating and healing your body in many ways, and you may even help your heart.

It’s awesome. Seriously, people. Napping is awesome.  Take it from my new grandbaby.

Understanding the Stages of Sleep

All napping is good, but you can also tailor your nap to your specific needs. But before we delve into that, we need to talk about what each stage of sleep does for your mind and body.

There are five various stages of sleep, 1,2,3,4, and REM (Rapid Eye Movement). You cycle through them repeatedly as you sleep or nap: 1,2,3,4, 2, REM, 2,3,4,2, REM and so on. Each cycle lasts 90-100 minutes.

Stage 1: Lasting 2-5 minutes, this stage transitions you into sleep. Your thoughts and mental associations loosen up. This state of sort of wakeful dreaming has been used by artists and thinkers to cultivate rich ideas. We’ll cover this in-depth in a future post.

Stage 2: Motor skills and complex tasks you’ve been working on are solidified. Your energy and stamina are strengthened and senses sharpened. You spend about 50% of your sleep time in Stage 2.

Stages 3 and 4: In these stages you slide into Slow Wave Sleep. Your body stops releasing cortisol altogether and extra growth hormone goes to work restoring your body, repairing tissues, lowering stress, metabolizing fats and moving carbs out of your body. And your mind is cleared; memories that aren’t being used are pruned away, strengthening what remains and making room for new information. Information that you’ve recently and consciously learned such as the dates for a history test are solidified. You spend about 30% of your sleep time in Stages 3 and 4.

REM: During REM your brain shuttles your recently-made memories from their short term holding tank in the hippocampus to long term storage. The information is thus made permanent; if you don’t sleep soon after a learning session, you’ll lose much of what you studied. Creativity is given a boost as spatial orientation and perceptual skills are sharpened and the different insights and complex ideas you have swirling around in your melon are fused together. You spend about 20% of your sleep time in REM.

Tailoring Your Nap to Your Needs

According to Dr. Mednick, the perfect nap for everyone is 90 minutes long and taken between 1 and 3 in the afternoon. At this time, and at this length, your nap will consist of the optimal balance of all the different sleep stages. The ratio of the sleep stages in this nap exactly mirror that of nocturnal sleep. But of course, not everyone has an hour and a half to saw off during the day. And sometimes you want to tailor your nap to your particular needs on a particular day.

Note: These recommendations are based on an average adult sleep schedule (11-12 am to 6-8 am). If you’re a night owl or have a different sort of schedule, check out Dr. Mednick’s book, Take a Nap! It has a “nap wheel” and formula for calculating your perfect nap based on when you wake up and your particular needs.

You need a boost of creativity. Don’t know how many happy little clouds to add to your painting, and Bob Ross won’t be on until 3? Does writing your essay for English class feel, as Ronald Reagan put it, like crapping a pineapple? Then you need a dose of REM sleep, which increases your creativity. You’ll need a longer nap to get to the REM stage; and since potential REM peaks early in the day and declines from there, aim for something like a 90-minute nap before 2 pm.

You need stamina. Running a race that evening? Going from one job to the next? You need Stage 2 sleep which you can get in a 20-minute power nap. Don’t go down for any longer than 20 minutes though. We’ve all experienced naps that leave us groggy when we wake up. This is sleep inertia and happens when you awaken during Slow Wave Sleep. So, you need to wake up before you slip into Stage 3.

Studies have found that a 20-minute nap 8 hour after you wake up will boost your stamina more than sleeping an extra 20 minutes in the morning. So instead of hitting the snooze button, save those minutes for an afternoon siesta.

You need to relax. While REM sleep declines during the day, SWS increases. So, if you’re feeling stressed, shoot for a longer nap after 2 pm and ideally in the early evening, so your body can get a cortisol break and repair itself. Naps will not affect your nighttime sleep as long as you wake from your nap three hours before bedtime. 

You need to pull an all-nighter. Instead of downing can after can of Red Bull, try what researchers call the “prophylactic nap.” Taking a preventive nap in anticipation of sleep deprivation is more effective in maintaining cognitive performance and alertness than taking no nap at all, taking a nap when your sleep debt has already made you tired, and even taking multiple doses of caffeine. Any length of nap will help, but according to Mednick an hour and a half is the preventive nap sweet spot because “it will take you through a full cycle of sleep and bring you out in REM or Stage 2 Sleep, allowing you to avoid sleep inertia.” Keep in mind that the effects of a prophylactic nap only last 8-10 hours; nothing can keep your brain from starting to unravel if you skip two nights of sleep.

You need to ace a test. After you study and before test time, take a 90-minute nap. Stage 2 will increase your alertness, stages 3 and 4 will clear your mind of unnecessary clutter, solidify the things you just studied, and lower your stress, and REM sleep will move the information into permanent storage and sort through the complex information you just learned.

You need immediate alertness. Try a “caffeine nap.” Researchers at Loughborough University tested several ways to improve the alertness of drivers and found the “caffeine nap” to be the most effective method. You down a cup of coffee or other caffeinated beverage and then immediately hunker down for a 15 to 20-minute nap. Again, don’t go any longer or you’ll awaken with sleep inertia. The caffeine clears your body of adenosine, a chemical which makes you sleepy. It takes awhile for the caffeine to circulate through your system, so it doesn’t affect the quality of the nap. Instead, it kicks in in tandem with the refreshment you would feel upon awakening from a normal power nap. I’ve personally found the caffeine nap to be effective, especially when you’re crunched for time; it’s easier to get up and keeps you from the temptation of turning a 20-minute nap into an hour and a half session.

Squeezing in Nap Time

It would be awesome if offices took a cue from kindergarten and broke out cookies, milk, and nap mats once a day.  Maybe a little finger painting, too.

In the real world, it can be hard to catch some z’s at work. Getting caught asleep at your desk is not a good way to earn respect at your job, but most people get an hour for lunch.  You can easily eat for half that time, skip the double latte, and go take a snooze in your car for the other half. Tell your boss all about the benefits of napping and see if you can get a couch in some rarely-used room.

If you’re a student, toss embarrassment to the wind and curl up somewhere. If you can’t nap during the day, take a short pre-or post-dinner nap.

Remember, all you need to do it carve out 20 minutes somewhere in your day. One study showed that even a 6-minute nap improves memory function. So, you can even sneak one in while the guy at the desk next to you runs to the snack machine.

At the very least, learn to embrace the nap and the napping of others. Napping is not a character defect! Many great people have taken advantage of the benefits of napping. It is a wonderful, wonderful way to improve your life.

Get help Resetting and Recharging

If you are slacking in your sleep game, it places a tremendous strain on your nervous system, body and overall health. Damage from sleep deficiency can occur in an instant (such as a car crash), or it can harm you over time. For example, ongoing sleep deficiency can raise your risk for some chronic health problems. It also can affect how well you think, react, work, learn, and get along with others.

So, if you’re not sleeping well or aren’t feeling rested when you wake up in the morning, it’s important to talk to your doctor and ask if a sleep study is right for you.  To find a healthcare provider who is practiced in helping you get a good night’s rest, go to HealthLynked.com.  In our first of its kind healthcare ecosystem, you will find physicians and advice to help you stop counting sheep and possibly sneak in a little sleep here and there….maybe even get a doctor’s note for required rest!

So, reignite the day with a nap, and reinvigorate your healthcare with HealthLynked.  Get Lynked now for Free!

 

 

Sources: 

Take a Nap! Change Your Life by Sarah C. Mednick, Ph.D

Unleash the power of the Nap, Brett & Kate McKay | February 7, 2011, Last updated: May 28, 2018

 

July is Sarcoma Awareness Month – Raise Awareness for this “Forgotten Cancer”

If you see yellow ribbons around your community during the month of July, it may mean something different than the usual “Support Our Troops” many think of when first sighted. Instead, they could be displayed in honor of Sarcoma Awareness Month, observed each July.

Sarcoma is a soft-tissue cancer that may occur in a variety of the body’s soft tissues, including the nerves, muscles, joints, blood vessels, fat and more. Sarcoma may also occur in the bones.  Although rare in adults, making up just ONE percent of adult cancers, sarcoma is relatively common in children, accounting for fifteen percent of childhood cancer cases.  Bone and joint cancer is most frequently diagnosed among teenagers, while soft tissue cancers typically affect those 55 years or older.

Sarcoma is most often found in the arms and legs, where the majority of connective tissues are located, but it can occur virtually anywhere. Because the disease often starts deep in the body, it may not be noticeable until a large lump or bump appears — and at this point the cancer may be difficult to treat.

The Sarcoma Foundation of America (SFA) estimates that about 20 percent of sarcoma cases are curable by surgery while another 30 percent may be effectively treated with surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiation. However, in about half of cases, the disease is resistant to all form of treatments, highlighting an urgent need for new therapies.

Soft tissue sarcomas form in cartilage, fat, muscle, blood vessels, tendons, nerves, and around joints. Osteosarcomas develop in bone; liposarcomas form in fat; rhabdomyosarcomas form in muscle; and Ewing sarcomas form in bone and soft tissue.

In 2018, over 13,000 cases of soft tissue sarcoma and 3,400 cases of bone sarcomas are expected to be diagnosed in the United States, according to data from the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program (SEER). Approximately 5,100 and 1,590 people are expected to die from soft tissue and bone sarcomas, respectively. The five-year survival rate for soft tissue sarcomas is 50 percent, while the survival rate is 66 percent for bone sarcomas.

Because sarcomas are difficult to distinguish from other cancers when they are found within organs, their incidence is probably underestimated, according to the National Cancer Institute.

 Fast facts on sarcoma

  • There are over 50 types of soft tissue sarcoma.
  • Symptoms may not be apparent; often, the only sign of sarcoma is a lump.
  • Pain may occur depending on where the tumor is located, or if it presses on nearby nerves.
  • Treatment, as for other forms of cancer, can include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.

Symptoms of soft tissue sarcoma

People with soft tissue sarcomas often have no symptoms. There may be no signs until the lump grows to a large size and can be felt; however, even this may go unnoticed. The main symptoms are:

  • Pain – the most obvious symptom. Once the tumor affects local tissues, nerves, or muscles, it can be felt as pain in the general area.
  • Inflammation – the tumor grows and eventually affects the area with inflammation and swelling.
  • Location specific symptoms – inability to move limbs properly (if the sarcoma is on the arms or legs for example) and other impairments depending on the location.

Specific symptoms may reflect the particular type of sarcoma. For instance, tumors in the gastrointestinal system may bleed, so these sarcomas might produce symptoms like blood in the stool, or a stool that has a black, tarry appearance.

Types of sarcoma

Types of soft tissue sarcoma are defined by the specific tissue or location affected; they include:

  • Undifferentiated pleomorphic sarcoma – previously known as malignant fibrous histiocytoma – this tumor is most often found in the arms or legs but sometimes at the back of the abdomen.
  • Gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST) – this affects specialized neuromuscular cells of the gut.
  • Liposarcoma – sarcoma of fat tissue.
  • Leiomyosarcoma – affects smooth muscle in organ walls.
  • Synovial sarcomas – these are usually found around a joint in the arms or legs.
  • Malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor – also known as neurofibrosarcoma, it affects the protective lining of the nerves.
  • Rhabdomyosarcoma – this forms in muscle and is a childhood cancer. While rare overall, it is a relatively common tumor in children.
  • Angiosarcomas – these develop in the cells of the blood or lymph vessels.
  • Fibrosarcomas – sarcomas that usually form in the limbs or on the trunk, forming from fibroblasts, the most common cell type in connective tissue.
  • Kaposi’s sarcoma – a sarcoma that affects the skin and is caused by a virus. The most common form of Kaposi’s sarcoma is related to AIDS.  Kaposi’s tumors often produce distinctive skin lesions but also affect other soft tissues.  Kaposi’s sarcoma is caused by the human herpesvirus 8.
  • Further examples – these include dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans, a skin lesion; epithelioid sarcoma, which often affects young adults’ hands or feet; myxoma, which affects older adults, usually in the arms and legs; mesenchymomas, which are rare and combine elements of other sarcomas and can be found in any part of the body; vascular sarcomas, containing many blood vessels; and malignant neurilemmoma (also known as schwannoma).  Sarcoma of the bone includes osteosarcoma, Ewing sarcoma, and chondrosarcoma.

Causes of sarcoma

The causes behind sarcoma are unknown, but there are some known risk factors. In adults, for instance, exposure to phenoxy acetic acid in herbicides or chlorophenols in wood preservatives may increase the risk. High doses of radiation are also known to cause sarcomas in some people, as are certain rare genetic alterations. The following inherited diseases are also associated with an increase sarcoma risk, according to SFA:

  • Li-Fraumeni syndrome, which is associated with alterations in the p53 gene
  • Von Recklinghausen’s disease (neurofibromatosis), which is associated with alterations in the NF1 gene

Having certain inherited disorders can increase the risk for other soft tissue sarcomas, including retinoblastoma, tuberous sclerosis, Werner syndrome, and nevoid basal cell carcinoma syndrome. Other risk factors for soft tissue sarcoma include past treatment with radiation therapy for certain cancers; exposure to certain chemicals, such as thorium dioxide, vinyl chloride, or arsenic; and long-term lymphedema in the arms or legs.

Past treatment with radiation can increase the risk of osteosarcoma and other types of bone cancers. Other risk factors for osteosarcoma include treatment with anticancer drugs called alkylating agents, having a certain change in the retinoblastoma gene, and having certain conditions including Paget disease, Diamond-Blackfan anemia, and Werner syndrome.

Tests and diagnosis of sarcoma

After understanding a patient’s medical history and completing a medical examination, medical imaging scans will help to inform a diagnosis, which will need to be confirmed through laboratory analysis of a tumor sample.

The following physical features should prompt a doctor to investigate:

  1. larger than 2 inches in diameter or growing in size
  2. fixed, immovable, or deep
  3. painful
  4. return of tumor previously removed

Medical imaging helps to locate, characterize, and give further information about a tumor to guide diagnosis. It may also be used to gauge the success of treatment or to look for spread of cancer.

Imaging techniques include X-rays, CT scan (computed tomography), MRI(magnetic resonance imaging), ultrasound, and PET (positron emission tomography).

Treatments for soft tissue sarcoma

The following treatment options can be used for sarcomas:

  • Surgery – the most common sarcoma treatment. It aims to remove the tumor and even some of the normal surrounding tissue. A biopsy sample is often taken at the same time to confirm the exact type of tumor.
  • Radiation therapy – this destroys cancer cells and may be done in addition to surgery, before or after the operation.
  • Chemotherapy – this could also be used in addition to surgery, though less often than radiation therapy.

Some soft tissue sarcomas have other available treatments, such as specific drug treatments, gene-targeted therapies, or biological therapies such as immunotherapy.

Treatment choice and intensity are also guided by the stage and grade of cancer, by the size of the tumor, and extent of any spread.

Prevention of sarcoma

Sarcoma is not typically preventable. Radiation therapy is a risk factor, so reducing exposure to it may be preventive, although a need for radiation therapy usually outweighs any subsequent sarcoma risk.

Observing Sarcoma Awareness Month

Sarcoma is still considered to be the “forgotten cancer.”  Efforts to encourage research and drug development are made more challenging due to a lack of awareness and understanding.  How as a community do we raise funds for vital research if people don’t know that this cancer exists?

Though the Sarcoma Foundation of America works tirelessly every day to raise awareness, during Sarcoma Awareness Month, they aim to further highlight the extraordinary challenges sarcoma patients face and the need for more sarcoma research and better sarcoma therapies.  Please join in efforts and pledge to bring awareness to your community.  Here are a few ways you can help highlight the need for ongoing research on sarcoma:

  • This July, take a moment to share a message via social media or speak with your friends and family about this relatively unknown condition.
  • Join sarcoma patients, survivors and their loved ones for the Steps to Cure Sarcoma.  Every dollar raised will be used to fund research, patient advocacy and education.
  • Take a moment to listen to a Sarcoma Awareness Month Public Service Announcement campaign. Share it online to raise awareness.
  • Get together with others in the sarcoma community and donate today!

Getting Help

Since sarcoma is a rare cancer, many people are unfamiliar with the disease and have not been affected personally. However, many children’s lives have been altered because of this disease, and advances in early detection and treatment could help save lives.

A number of clinical trails are underway for people with sarcoma. If you’ve been recently diagnosed, ask your doctor if a clinical trial, which could give you access to novel treatment options, is right for you.

Trying to find the right doctor to determine if that lump or new pain is something more than just a little annoying is made easy at HealthLynked.  We are the first ever social ecosystem designed to connect physicians and patients in a truly collaborative platform to Improve HealthCare.

Ready to get Lynked?  Sign up for free today and take control of your wellness!

 

Sources:

Han, MD, Seunggu.  “Sarcoma: Symptoms, types, treatments, and causes.” Medical News Today.  23 May 2017.

https://www.curesarcoma.org/sarcoma-awareness-month/

https://www.aacrfoundation.org/Pages/sarcoma_awareness_month.aspx

https://www.gatewaycr.org/gateway-blog/posts/2017/july/july-is-sarcoma-awareness-month-what-is-sarcoma/

 

 

 

Will We Soon Reverse Diabetes and Obesity with Gene Therapy?

New research shows that gene therapy can completely reverse markers of Type 2 diabetes and obesity in rodents.  If the theory holds, small alterations to our genes could soon repair metabolic disorders such as obesity and Type 2 diabetes in humans.

The prevalence of diabetes, or the total number of existing cases, is on the rise in the United States and globally.  According to recent estimates, over 30 million U.S. adults had diabetes in 2015.

Although the number has been relatively steady in the past few years, rates of newly diagnosed cases among children and teenagers have increased sharply.  And, worldwide, the situation is even more alarming; the number of people with diabetes almost quadrupled between 1980 and 2014, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Now, new research brings much-needed hope of curing this metabolic disorder.  Scientists led by Fatima Bosch, a professor at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB) in Catalunya, Spain, have successfully reversed the disorder in rodents.  Prof. Bosch and her colleagues achieved this using gene therapy, a technique that introduces new genetic material into cells to create beneficial proteins or to offset the effects of malfunctioning genes.  The findings were published in the journal EMBO Molecular Medicine.

Using the FGF21 gene to reverse diabetes

Prof. Bosch and team designed two mouse models of obesity and type 2 diabetes. One was diet-induced, and the other one was genetically modified.  Using an adeno-associated viral vector as “transport,” the team delivered the fibroblast growth factor 21 (FGF21) gene.

This gene is responsible for encoding the FGF21 protein, which is seen as a “major metabolic regulator” that stimulates the absorption of blood sugar in adipose tissue.  By delivering this gene, the researchers stimulated the production of the protein, which caused the rodents to lose weight and lowered their insulin resistance — a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes. Additionally, the mice lost weight and the treatment reduced the fat and inflammation in their adipose tissue.

The fat content, inflammation, and fibrosis of the rodents’ livers were completely reversed, with no side effects. In turn, these improvements increased insulin sensitivity.  These beneficial effects were noted in both murine models. Also, the team found that administering FGF21 to healthy mice prevented age-related weight gain and led to healthy aging.

Gene therapy was used to alter three tissue types: liver tissue, adipose tissue, and skeletal muscle.  “This gives a great flexibility to the therapy,” explains Prof. Bosch, “since it allows [us] to select each time the most appropriate tissue, and in case some complication prevents manipulating any of the tissues, it can be applied to any of the others.”

“When a tissue produces FGF21 protein and secretes it into the bloodstream, it will be distributed throughout the body,” adds Prof. Bosch.

First reversion of obesity, insulin resistance

Study co-author and UAB researcher Claudia Jambrina explains that their findings are particularly significant given that “the prevalence of type 2 diabetes and obesity is growing at alarming rates around the world.”

The team also says that delivering FGF21 as a conventional drug would not yield the same benefits as gene therapy; firstly, the drug would have to be administered periodically for long-term benefits, and secondly, its toxicity would be high.  Using gene therapy, however, is free of side effects, and a single administration is enough to make the mice produce the protein naturally for several years.

“This is the first time that long-term reversion of obesity and insulin resistance have been achieved upon a one-time administration of a gene therapy, in an animal model that resembles obesity and type 2 diabetes in humans.”

First study author Veronica Jimenez, a UAB researcher

“The results demonstrate that it is a safe and effective therapy,” she adds. The next steps will be to “test this therapy in larger animals before moving to clinical trials with patients,” notes Prof. Bosch.  “[The] therapy described in this study,” she concludes, “constitutes the basis for the future clinical translation of FGF21 gene transfer to treat type 2 diabetes, obesity, and related comorbidities.”

Statistics and facts about type 2 diabetes

Diabetes mellitus, or diabetes, is a disease that causes high blood sugar. It occurs when there is a problem with insulin.

Insulin is a hormone that takes sugar from foods and moves it to the body’s cells. If the body does not make enough insulin or does not use insulin well, the sugar from food stays in the blood, resulting in high blood sugar.

Diabetes is a key health concern worldwide. In the United States, the rate of new cases rose sharply from the 1990s, but it fell between 2008 and 2015, and it continues to fall, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Diabetes Report, 2017. Meanwhile, the number of adults living with diabetes continues to rise.

The most common of diabetes is type 2. According to the CDC, 90 to 95 percent of people with diabetes in the United States have type 2. Just 5 percent of people have type 1.

Key facts

Diabetes is at an all-time high in the U.S. The CDC’s Division of Diabetes Translation states that 1 percent of the population, which is about a half of a million people, had diagnosed diabetes in 1958.

In 2015, around 9.4 percent of the population in the U.S. had diabetes, including 30.2 million adults aged 18 years and over. Nearly a quarter of those with the condition do not know they have it.

Between 1990 and 2010, the number of people living with diabetes more than tripled, and the number of new cases doubled every year.

Figures suggest that the incidence is levelling off and may even be falling, but it remains unclear whether this will continue as other factors come into play, such as the aging population.

The risk of developing diabetes increases with age.

The CDC report that 4.0 percent of people aged 18 to 44 years are living with diabetes, 17 percent of those aged 45 to 64 years, and 25.2 percent of those aged over 65 years.

Causes

Type 2 diabetes is thought to result from a combination of genetic and lifestyle factors.

The exact cause is unknown, but risk factors appear to include:

  • excess body fat
  • high blood pressure or cholesterol
  • having a close family member with the condition
  • a history of gestational diabetes
  • higher age

As obesity has become more prevalent over the past few decades, so too has the rate of type 2 diabetes. In 2013, more than 1 in 3 people in the U.S. were considered to have obesity, and over 2 in 3 were either overweight or had obesity.

In 1995, obesity affected 15.3 percent of Americans, and in 2008, the figure was 25.6 percent. From 1998 to 2008, the incidence of diabetes increased by 90 percent.

Although the link between obesity and diabetes is well known, the reasons they are connected remain unclear. A report in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism asks why obesity does not always lead to diabetes, given the established link between the two conditions.

The same report notes that the location of body fat appears to play a role. People with more fat in the upper body area and around the waist are more likely to get diabetes than those who carry their body fat around the hips and lower body.

Diabetes and ethnicity

Rates of diabetes vary between ethnic groups.

There may be a combination of factors, including:

  • genetics
  • health conditions
  • lifestyle
  • finances
  • environment
  • access to healthcare

The CDC’s National Diabetes Statistics Report, 2017, found that, among people aged 20 years and over, diabetes affects:

  • 7.4 percent of Non-Hispanic whites
  • 8.0 percent of Asian Americans
  • 12.1 percent of Hispanics
  • 12.7 percent of Non-Hispanic Blacks
  • 15.1 percent of American Indians and Alaska Natives

Why diabetes is serious

Diabetes can have serious health consequences.

The ADA report that more Americans die from diabetes every year than from AIDS and breast cancer combined.

According to the CDC, 79,535 deaths occur each year due to diabetes. The number of fatalities related to diabetes may be underreported.

Why and how does diabetes damage the body and cause complications?

The ADA says:

  • Adults with diabetes are significantly more likely to die from a heart attack or stroke.
  • More than a quarter of all Americans with diabetes have diabetic retinopathy, which can cause vision loss and blindness.
  • Each year, nearly 50,000 Americans begin treatment for kidney failure due to diabetes. Diabetes accounts for 44 percent of all new cases of kidney failure.
  • Each year, diabetes causes about 73,000 lower limb amputations, which accounts for 60 percent of all lower limb amputations (not including amputations due to trauma).

Costs

Because of its high prevalence and link to numerous health problems, diabetes has a significant impact on healthcare costs.

The productivity loss for reduced performance at work due to diabetes in 2012 was 113 million days, or $20.8 billion, according to the ADA.

Diabetes cost the U.S. $327 billion in 2017, including $237 billion in medical costs and $90 billion in reduced productivity.

However, this number does not include:

  • the millions of people who have diabetes but are undiagnosed
  • the cost of prevention programs for people with diabetes, which are not counted under standard medical costs
  • over-the-counter medications for eye and dental problems, which are more common in people with diabetes.
  • administrative costs for insurance claims
  • the cost of reduced quality of life, lost productivity of family members, and other factors that cannot be measured directly

Because diabetes affects various parts of the body, the medical costs span different areas of specialty. The ADA report that:

  • 30 percent of medical costs associated with diabetes are for circulation problems that reduce blood flow to the limbs
  • 29 percent of medical costs associated with diabetes are for kidney conditions
  • 28 percent of medical costs associated with diabetes are for nervous system conditions

Despite its complications, people can manage their diabetes with a comprehensive plan that includes lifestyle changes and proper medical care. If they control their blood sugar levels well, many people with diabetes can lead full, active lives.

Difference between types 1 and 2

In type 1 diabetes, the immune system attacks the cells in the pancreas that make insulin. As a result, the body does not produce insulin, and people with this condition must take insulin by injection or pump every day.

Type 1 diabetes usually develops in children or young adults, but it can occur at any age. There is no known way to prevent type 1 diabetes, and there is no cure.

In 2011-2012, around 17,900 children under the age of 18 years received a diagnosis of type 1 diabetes in the U.S., or around 49 children each day. Type 1 diabetes affects around 1.25 million American adults and children.

People with type 2 diabetes may still have insulin in their bodies, but not enough for proper blood sugar control. Or, the body may not be able to use the insulin it has properly. As a result, blood sugar levels can become too high.

Typically, adults are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, but children can get it too. Certain factors increase a person’s risk of getting type 2 diabetes, including:

  • obesity
  • older age
  • a family history of diabetes
  • lack of exercise
  • problems with glucose metabolism

The annual relative increase for type 1 diabetes in 2002-2012 in the U.S. was 1.8 percent, but the annual increase for type 2 diabetes was 4.8 percent.

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Adapted from:

[1]  Murrell MD, Daniel.  “Statistics and facts about type 2 diabetes.” Medical News Today. 12 June 2018

[2]  Sandoiu, Ana. “Type 2 diabetes, obesity may soon be reversed with gene therapy.”  Medical News Today, 12 July 2018

Loneliness – A Gene Deep Epidemic that Raises Health Risks and Can Be Spread

A 2016 survey of more than 2,000 American adults found 72 percent report having felt a sense of loneliness, with nearly a third (31 percent) experiencing loneliness at least once a week. The survey was conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of the American Osteopathic Association in September.

Isolation is often an underlying factor in many of the most common health conditions, including chronic pain, substance abuse and depression, according to osteopathic physicians.

Long working hours, increased use of social media—in many cases surpassing in-person interaction—and a mobile workforce traveling or living far from family contribute to the high rates of loneliness, noted Jennifer Caudle, DO, assistant professor of family medicine at Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine.

“Loneliness is an invisible epidemic masked by our online personas, which are rarely representative of our real emotions,” said Dr. Caudle. “It’s important for patients to understand how their mental and emotional well-being directly affects the body. By taking a whole-person approach to care, osteopathic physicians are trained to address these underlying issues that can quietly erode patients’ health.”

Damage to the Immune Response

Research links loneliness to a number of dysfunctional immune responses, suggesting that being lonely has the potential to harm overall health.

In one study, researchers found that people who were more lonely showed signs of elevated latent herpes virus reactivation and produced more inflammation-related proteins in response to acute stress than did people who felt more socially connected.

These proteins signal the presence of inflammation, and chronic inflammation is linked to numerous conditions, including coronary heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, arthritis and Alzheimer’s disease, as well as the frailty and functional decline that can accompany aging.

Reactivation of a latent herpes virus is known to be associated with stress, suggesting that loneliness functions as a chronic stressor that triggers a poorly controlled immune response.

“It is clear from previous research that poor-quality relationships are linked to a number of health problems, including premature mortality and all sorts of other very serious health conditions. And people who are lonely clearly feel like they are in poor-quality relationships,” said Lisa Jaremka, a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research at Ohio State University and lead author of the research.

“One reason this type of research is important is to understand how loneliness and relationships broadly affect health. The more we understand about the process, the more potential there is to counter those negative effects – to perhaps intervene. If we don’t know the physiological processes, what are we going to do to change them?”

The results are based on a series of studies conducted with two populations: a healthy group of overweight middle-aged adults and a group of breast cancer survivors. The researchers measured loneliness in all studies using the UCLA Loneliness Scale, a questionnaire that assesses perceptions of social isolation and loneliness.

Jaremka presented the research at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology annual meeting in New Orleans.

The researchers first sought to obtain a snapshot of immune system behavior related to loneliness by gauging levels of antibodies in the blood that are produced when herpes viruses are reactivated.

Participants were 200 breast cancer survivors who were between two months and three years past completion of cancer treatment with an average age of 51 years. Their blood was analyzed for the presence of antibodies against Epstein-Barr virus and cytomegalovirus.

Both are herpes viruses that infect a majority of Americans. About half of infections do not produce illness, but once a person is infected, the viruses remain dormant in the body and can be reactivated, resulting in elevated antibody levels, or titers – again, often producing no symptoms but hinting at regulatory problems in the cellular immune system.

Lonelier participants had higher levels of antibodies against cytomegalovirus than did less lonely participants, and those higher antibody levels were related to more pain, depression and fatigue symptoms. No difference was seen in Epstein-Barr virus antibody levels, possibly because this reactivation is linked to age and many of these participants were somewhat older, meaning reactivation related to loneliness would be difficult to detect, Jaremka said.

Previous research has suggested that stress can promote reactivation of these viruses, also resulting in elevated antibody titers.

“The same processes involved in stress and reactivation of these viruses is probably also relevant to the loneliness findings,” Jaremka said. “Loneliness has been thought of in many ways as a chronic stressor – a socially painful situation that can last for quite a long time.”

In an additional set of studies, the scientists sought to determine how loneliness affected the production of proinflammatory proteins, or cytokines, in response to stress. These studies were conducted with 144 women from the same group of breast cancer survivors and a group of 134 overweight middle-aged and older adults with no major health problems.

Baseline blood samples were taken from all participants, who were then subjected to stress – they were asked to deliver an impromptu five-minute speech and perform a mental arithmetic task in front of a video camera and three panelists. Researchers followed by stimulating the participants’ immune systems with lipopolysaccharide, a compound found on bacterial cell walls that is known to trigger an immune response.

In both populations, those who were lonelier produced significantly higher levels of a cytokine called interleukin-6, or IL-6, in response to acute stress than did participants who were more socially connected. Levels of another cytokine, tumor necrosis factor-alpha, also rose more dramatically in lonelier participants than in less lonely participants, but the findings were significant by statistical standards in only one study group, the healthy adults.

In the study with breast cancer survivors, researchers also tested for levels of the cytokine interleukin 1-beta, which was produced at higher levels in lonelier participants.

When the scientists controlled for a number of factors, including sleep quality, age and general health measures, the results were the same.  “We saw consistency in the sense that more lonely people in both studies had more inflammation than less lonely people,” Jaremka said.

“It’s also important to remember the flip side, which is that people who feel very socially connected are experiencing more positive outcomes,” she said.

Loneliness Can Add 30 Points To Your Blood Pressure

In another study conducted at the Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience at the University of Chicago, researchers found that if you are over 50 and lonely, you could be adding 30 points to your blood pressure and raising significantly your chances of suffering from hypertension.   The increase in blood pressure due to loneliness was present after taking into account a person’s emotional state (how sad or stressed the person was).

The older the lonely person gets, the higher his/her blood pressure seems to get, said the researchers.   Lead researcher, Louise Hawkley, said “The take-home message is that feelings of loneliness are a health risk, in that the lonelier you are, the higher your blood pressure. And we know that high blood pressure has all kinds of negative consequences.”

229 people were monitored in this study, aged 50-68. The participants had to answer a questionnaire which determined each person’s level of loneliness.

Hawkley said it is not as simple as that. She said “Remember, people can feel lonely even if they are with a lot of people. You can think of Marilyn Monroe or Princess Diana – there was certainly nothing lacking in their social lives, yet they claimed to have felt intensely lonely. They may want to go out and make friends, and yet they have a nagging lack of trust with whomever they want to interact with, or they may feel hostile. So, they end up behaving in ways that force potential partners away.”

Loneliness Is Gene Deep

Loneliness has a molecular signature is reflected in the lonely person’s DNA. This was the conclusion of a new US study by scientists at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) and other US academic centers.

The study is published in an issue of the journal, Genome Biology.  The researchers discovered a distinct pattern of gene expression in immune cells of people who are chronically extremely lonely.

Study author Steve Cole, associate professor of medicine at the Division of Hematology and Oncology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, member of the Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology, and member of UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center said in a press release that:

“What this study shows is that the biological impact of social isolation reaches down into some of our most basic internal processes: the activity of our genes.”  Cole and colleagues suggest that feelings of isolation are linked to changes in gene expression that drive inflammation, one of the first responses of the immune system.  They hope the study gives a framework for understanding how social factors and increased risk of heart disease, viral infections and cancer are linked.

Scientists already know that social environments affect health. People who are lonely and socially isolated die earlier.  What they don’t know is if the higher rate of death among lonely people is because of reduced social resources or because of the effect of isolation on their bodily functions, or perhaps both.

However, Cole and the other researchers found that changes in the way immune cells express their genes were directly linked to the “subjective experience of social distance”.  The differences were independent of other known risk factors like health status, weight, age and use of medication, they said.  “The changes were even independent of the objective size of a person’s social network,” said Cole.

Cole and colleagues enrolled 14 participants from the Chicago Health, Aging, and Social Relations Study and scanned their DNA using a chip technology called DNA microarrays that allowed them to survey all known human genes in the samples.  6 of the participants scored in the top 15 per cent of a well known psychological test for loneliness that was developed in the 70s called the UCLA Loneliness Scale.  The remaining 8 participants scored in the bottom 15 per cent of the Loneliness Scale.

The DNA survey showed that 209 gene transcripts (where the gene gets its code ready to start making proteins) were expressed differently between the two groups. All the genes coded for leucocytes, agents of the immune system.  78 of the gene transcripts were “over expressed” (resulting in too much protein) and 131 were “under expressed” (not enough protein) in the lonely individuals compared to the others.

The over expressed genes included many that control immune system functions like inflammation.  However, it was also interesting that the under expressed genes were those involved in antiviral responses and production of antibodies.

“These data provide the first indication that human genome-wide transcriptional activity is altered in association with a social epidemiological risk factor. Impaired transcription of glucocorticoid response genes and increased activity of pro-inflammatory transcription control pathways provide a functional genomic explanation for elevated risk of inflammatory disease in individuals who experience chronically high levels of subjective social isolation.”

Distinguishing between the various aspects of loneliness that are closely linked to these changes in gene expression, the scientists discovered:  “What counts at the level of gene expression is not how many people you know, it’s how many you feel really close to over time,” said Cole.  He added that the findings could identify molecular targets for blocking the negative health impact of social isolation.

Loneliness Can Spread Through Social Networks

A US study of social networks found that a person’s loneliness can spread to others, in that when they become lonely they move to the edge of the network and transmit feelings of loneliness to their few remaining friends who also become lonely, leading to an effect that the researchers described as an unravelling at the edges of our social fabric.

The study, which was sponsored by the National Institute on Aging, is the work of John T Cacciopo of the University of Chicago, James H Fowler of the University of California, San Diego, and Nicholas A Christakis of Harvard University and is about to be published in the December issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Cacciopo, a social neuroscientist and lead investigator on the study, is Tiffany and Margaret Blake Distinguished Service Professor in Psychology at Chicago. He told the press that:

“We detected an extraordinary pattern of contagion that leads people to be moved to the edge of the social network when they become lonely.”

“On the periphery people have fewer friends, yet their loneliness leads them to losing the few ties they have left,” he added.

Loneliness is often associated with mental and physical diseases that can shorten life, said Cacioppo, so it is important for us to recognize it and help people reconnect with their social group before they move to the edges.

He and his co-authors wrote that while previous studies have already shown that a person’s loneliness and the number of people they are connected to in a network are linked, we don’t know much about “the placement of loneliness within, or the spread of loneliness through, social networks”.

Using longitudinal data from a large-scale study, they found that loneliness, like a bad cold, spreads in groups: people share their loneliness with others.

Cacioppo and colleagues used data on 5,124 people in the second generation of participants from the Framingham Heart Study, which has been tracking the health of individuals and their descendants for more than 60 years. The data set included information taken every two to four years on participants’ friends and social contacts.

For the study, Cacioppo and colleagues charted the friendship histories of participants and linked them to their reports of loneliness. This showed a pattern of loneliness that spread as people reported fewer close friends, and that lonely people appeared to transmit loneliness to others, and then moved to the edges of their social networks.

“Loneliness is disproportionately represented at the periphery of social networks and spreads through a contagious process,” wrote the researchers.

For example, one pattern might start when a participant reports one extra day a week of loneliness. This is followed by similar reports among his or her next-door neighbors who are also close friends. The pattern of loneliness then spreads as the neighbors spend less time together.

“These reinforcing effects mean that our social fabric can fray at the edges, like a yarn that comes loose at the end of a crocheted sweater,” explained Cacioppo.

The researchers also found that:

  • Women were more likely to report “catching loneliness from others” than men (perhaps reinforcing findings from studies that suggest women rely more on emotional support than men).
  • Loneliness occurred in clusters and extended up to three degrees of separation.
  • A person’s chances of reporting increased loneliness were more likely to be linked to changes in friendship networks than changes in family networks.

The authors concluded that the study helps us better understand the social forces that drive loneliness.

Society may benefit by “aggressively targeting the people in the periphery to help repair their social networks and to create a protective barrier against loneliness that can keep the whole network from unraveling,” they added.

Other studies suggest that as people become lonely they trust other people less and less, and this leads to a cycle of less trusting and more loneliness, which leads to less trusting, and so on, and as time goes by it becomes harder and harder to make friends.

Cacioppo said researchers have seen this social tendency reflected in monkey colonies that drive out members who have been removed and then reintroduced.  He said such a pattern makes it all the more important for us to recognize and offset loneliness before it spreads.

Overcoming Loneliness

The first step in addressing loneliness is to determine whether those feelings are caused by depression. A physician can diagnose any existing mental health conditions and suggest treatment options. To limit loneliness, physicians recommend some simple steps to help increase real social engagement:

  1. Consider a digital cleanse. Social networks can offer real connections, but the curated platforms may over-emphasize the success of others, which can lead to feelings of inadequacy. For more empowering activities, consider enrolling in a continuing education course or spending time enjoying nature.
  2. Exercise with others. Participating in a running club, group fitness course or team sport can have dual benefits, creating opportunities to meet new people while also improving physical health. Many sports stores, churches and community groups offer free weekly activities including fun runs and yoga.
  3. Buy local. Developing a routine that includes visiting a local shopkeeper, coffee shop, farmers’ market or gym builds roots in the community. Creating relationships with local vendors can lead to a sense of shared history and camaraderie.
  4. Step out of your comfort zone. Introducing yourself to nearby neighbors or engaging with people in the building elevator—while initially uncomfortable—can begin the process of developing community and has the added bonus of alleviating loneliness for others.
  5. Change jobs, schools or cities. This drastic option is not always possible, and certainly not easy, but it may have the most significant impact. Start by identifying the culture that would best fit your personality and work toward a transition.

“Face-to-face communication is critical for emotional and mental health,” Dr. Caudle added. “Seeking out meaningful human interactions makes patients happier and, ultimately, healthier overall.”

Conclusion

Loneliness has negative effects on your immune system, creates a genetic signature and can spread through social networks.  Our digital addictions seem to be contributing to our disconnectedness.  Additional studies indicate loneliness significantly shortens lives and can lead to or magnify dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Today is National Cheer up the Lonely Day.  Visit with the lonely and bring happy things to talk about. Keep the conversation upbeat, and lively. When you leave, give a big hug and let them know you enjoyed the stay. Sending cards or making a phone call is okay if they live too far away to visit, but what a lonely person really needs is face to face time with other people.

If you are feeling lonely, other studies indicate you are more likely to see a physician with increased frequency.  At HealthLynked, we can connect you to those physicians who really care and want to spend time with you.

To find a physician you really, well, click with, click on this link and get Lynked today!  It is free, and a great way for you to begin taking control of your health!

 

Adapted from:

[1] Caldwell, Emily. The Immune System Taxed By Loneliness, Similar To The Effect Of Chronic Stress.  Medical News Today, Tuesday 22 January 2013

This work was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health, the American Cancer Society Postdoctoral Fellowship and a Pelotonia Postdoctoral Fellowship from Ohio State’s Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Co-authors include Christopher Fagundes of the Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research (IBMR); Juan Peng of the College of Public Health; Jeanette Bennett of the Division of Oral Biology; Ronald Glaser of the Department of Molecular Virology, Immunology and Medical Genetics; William Malarkey of the Department of Internal Medicine; and Janice Kiecolt-Glaser of the Department of Psychiatry, all at Ohio State. Bennett, Glaser, Malarkey and Kiecolt-Glaser are also IBMR investigators.

[2] Lombardi, Yvonne. Loneliness Can Add 30 Points To Your Blood Pressure If You Are Over 50.  Medical News Today. Wednesday, 29 March 2006.

[3] Paddock, Catharine PhD.  Loneliness Is Gene Deep. Medical News Today. Friday, 14 September 2007

“Effects of loneliness on gene expression.”
Cole SW, Hawkley LC, Arevalo JM, Sung CY, Rose RM, Cacioppo JT.
Genome Biology 2007, 8:R189.
doi:10.1186/gb-2007-8-9-r189
Published online 13 September 2007 (provisional version).

[4]  Paddock, Catharine PhD.  Loneliness Can Spread Through Social Networks.  Medical News Today. Wednesday, 2 December 2009

“Alone in the Crowd: The Structure and Spread of Loneliness in a Large Social Network.”
John T Cacciopo, James H Fowler, Nicholas A Christakis.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, December 2009 (pre-publication proof).
DOI:10.1037/a0016076

[5] American Osteopathic Association.  Survey Finds Nearly Three-Quarters (72%) of Americans Feel Lonely: Osteopathic Physicians Say Silent ‘Loneliness Epidemic’ Contributes to Nation’s Health Woes. PRN. Oct 11, 2016.