Why is it Important to Know My Family Health History?

Family Health History: Why It’s Important and What You Should Know
Why is it important to know my family history?

by Kimberly Holland

Family members share more than similar appearance. You may recognize that you have your father’s curly hair or your mother’s button nose. Thank goodness my kids got my wife’s food looks. What is not so easy to see is that your great-grandmother passed along an increased risk for both breast and ovarian cancer.

That’s why discovering and knowing your family health history is vitally important. Your medical history includes all the traits your family shares you can’t see. These traits may increase your risk for many hereditary conditions and diseases, including:

• cancer
• diabetes
• asthma
• heart disease and blood clots
• Alzheimer’s disease and dementia
• arthritis
• depression
• high blood pressure and high cholesterol

Whose history do I need?

The general rule for family health history is that more is better. First, you’ll want to focus on immediate family members who are related to you through blood. Start with your parents, siblings, and children. If they’re still alive, grandparents are another great place to start. They may know partial histories of many members of your family.

You can also gather information from your aunts and uncles, and other blood relatives. Once you move beyond this core circle of family, genetic makeups change so greatly that you may not be able to learn much about your own risk. Still, keep information handy for any family members you learn about during your search for medical history. It may be helpful down the road.

How can I gather this information?

Talking about health may not come naturally to you or your family. You can start the conversation by letting your family members know why you want to gather health information. Also, let them know that you’re willing to share information with them, so that you can all have more complete health histories. It may be easier to start out by having one-on-one conversations.

Get the right information

When you’re ready to gather family health history information, keep these things in mind:

Major medical issues: Ask about every major medical issue anyone in close relation to you has been diagnosed with. In this fact-finding stage, nothing is too small, though issues are only significant if the cause was genetic. Lyme disease, injuries, and other things caused by external factors can’t be inherited.
Causes of death: Find out the cause of death for any family members who’ve passed away. That might provide a clue to your family medical history, too.
Age of onset: Ask when each family member was diagnosed with each condition. This may help your doctor recognize the early onset of certain diseases.
Ethnic background: Different ethnicities have varying levels of risk for certain conditions. As best you can, identify your ethnic background to help spot potential health risks.
Environment: Families share common genes, but they also share common environments, habits, and behaviors. A complete family history also includes understanding what factors in your environment could impact your health.

5 questions to ask

Here are some questions you can ask to start the conversation:

  1. How old was my relative when they died, and what was the cause of death?
  2. Are there health problems that run in the family?
  3. Is there a history of pregnancy loss or birth defects in my family?
  4. What allergies do people in my family have?
  5. What is my ethnicity? (Some conditions are common among certain ethnicities.)

What should I do with this information?

Knowing your own health history is important, and sharing it with your doctor may be more important. That’s because your doctor can help you interpret what it means for your current lifestyle, suggest prevention tips, and decide on screening or testing options for conditions you may be more at risk for developing.

The genes you’re born with can’t be changed or altered. If you know your family history, you’re one step ahead of the game. You can take the initiative to adopt healthier lifestyle habits. For example, you could decide to stop smoking or drinking alcohol, or to start exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy weight. These lifestyle changes may reduce your chances for developing hereditary conditions.

Is incomplete information still useful?

Even a family health history that’s incomplete is still useful to your doctor. Share any information you have with them.

For example, if you know that your sibling was diagnosed with colon cancer at age 35, your doctor may suspect a possible genetic issue. They may then decide it’s important that you have regular colon cancer screenings before the recommended age of 50. Your doctor may also suggest you undergo genetic counseling or testing to identify any genetic risks.

What if I was adopted

Environment plays an important part in your health history, and you can get the details for this from your adoptive family. Learning more about your birth family’s health history may require a large investment of time and energy.

Ask your adoptive parents if they have any information about your birth parents. It’s possible family health history information was shared during the adoption process. If not, ask the agency that arranged the adoption if they retained any personal health history information for your birth parents. Understand your state’s statutes before you begin requesting adoption history information.

If all of these avenues come up short, you may need to make a choice about seeking out your birth parents. You may not wish to pursue that route, or you may be unable to connect with them. In that case, alert your doctor to your personal history. The two of you can then work to identify ways to screen for and detect your risk of certain conditions.

What if I’m estranged from my family?

If you’re estranged from only part of your family, you can try a few things to collect your family health history:

Talk to the family members you’re connected with. You may not need to reconnect with your whole family to collect your family health history.
Reach out via your doctor. Some medical offices may be able to send out questionnaires to family members asking for information in an official capacity. This may prompt people to respond.

Do some research. You may be able to discover the cause of death of your relatives from death certificates. Search online to find state-specific death records or check ancestry sites for this information. Obituaries, often available online or archived by public libraries, might also provide health information.

What about genetic testing and genetic predisposition?

Certain ethnic backgrounds and races may be predisposed to conditions for which a genetic test is useful. For example, women of Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry have an increased risk for breast cancer. A specific gene mutation is more common in these women than in other women. Genetic screening may help your doctor detect this gene mutation and prepare you for treatment options early.

Although genetic tests can help identify potential risks you may have inherited for a specific disease, they don’t guarantee you’ll develop that disease. Results may show you have a predisposition to several conditions. While you may never actually develop any of these, you might feel the added anxiety isn’t worth the knowledge. Seriously consider the benefits and concerns you may have with knowing your genetic risk factors before you do any testing.

How do I record the details?

Make sure you write down or electronically document the health information your relatives provide. You can use HealthLynked for this. Just complete one profile per family member whose medical records you are responsible for and have other family members complete and share their own with you.

Outlook

Knowing your health history helps you to be more proactive about your health. Share this information with your doctor so they can screen early for conditions you’re predisposed to and suggest lifestyle choices that can help reduce your risk.



Also talk to your doctor if you need more help figuring out how to uncover your health history or what questions you should ask. If you don’t have one you depend on today, you might find a great physician using the first of its kind social ecosystem designed specifically for everything described in the article.

Ready to get Lynked? Go to HealthLynked.com now to start compiling your medical history and sharing with those you choose, for Free, today!

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Millennials aren’t getting the message about sun safety and the dangers of tanning

Many millennials lack knowledge about the importance of sunscreen and continue to tan outdoors in part because of low self-esteem and high rates of narcissism that fuel addictive tanning behavior, a new study from Oregon State University-Cascades has found.

Lead author Amy Watson and her colleagues found that those with higher levels of self-esteem were less likely to tan, while those with lower self-esteem and higher levels of narcissism were more likely to present addictive tanning behavior. The motivation for the addictive tanning behavior was the perception of improved appearance.

“This study gives us a clearer understanding of actual consumer behavior,” said Watson, an assistant professor of marketing at OSU-Cascades. “The number of people still deliberately exposing their skin to the sun for tanning purposes is alarming. We need to find new ways to entice people to protect their skin, including challenging the ideal of tan skin as a standard of beauty.”

The findings were published recently in the Journal of Consumer Affairs. Co-authors are Gail Zank and Anna M. Turri of Texas State University.

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer worldwide, with more than 3.5 million cases diagnosed annually. Melanoma cases among women rose sharply between 1970 and 2009, with an 800 percent increase among women 18 to 39.

In an effort to improve consumer education about the role of sunscreen in the prevention of skin cancer, the Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration developed a new “Drug Facts” panel of information now required on all sunscreen bottles. The panel includes directions for sunscreen use and advice on other sun protection measures, among other information.

The researchers’ goal with the study was to gauge whether the information on this new label is effective at curbing tanning behavior and if new information is helping to increase consumer knowledge about how and when to use sunscreen and how much to use.

The study of 250 college students, most between 18 and 23 years old, measured their sun safety knowledge and included: questions about their beliefs regarding sunscreen effectiveness and ultraviolet light exposure danger; questions about tanning motivation and behavior; an assessment of tanning addiction; and personality questions relating to self-esteem, narcissism, appearance and addictive behavior.

The study participants, 47 percent male and 53 percent female, scored an average of 54 percent on an 11-question sun safety knowledge test, which included true/false statements such as: “On a daily basis I should use at least one ounce of sunscreen on exposed skin” (true); and “When applied correctly, SPF 100 is twice as effective as SPF 50” (false).

About 70 percent of the study participants reported purposefully exposing their skin to the sun to achieve a tan. About a third of the participants reported that having a tan is important to them, while about 37 percent said they feel better with a tan, and 41 percent indicated that having a tan makes them more confident in their appearance

The participants’ levels of tanning addiction were measured through questions such as “I get annoyed when people tell me not to tan,” and “I continue to tan knowing that it is bad for me,” and “I feel unattractive or anxious to tan if I do not maintain my tan.”

The researchers found that those with lower self-esteem and higher narcissism rates were also more likely to exhibit addictive tanning behavior. They found no evidence that increased knowledge about sun safety leads to lower levels of addictive tanning.

“What we found is that this knowledge doesn’t matter to the consumers,” Watson said. “That tactic to require sunscreen manufacturers to include this information is not effective.”

Sun safety and sunscreen messaging from the CDC is all statistics-based, emphasizing the likelihood of a skin cancer occurrence or diagnosis, Watson said. But that type of message isn’t resonating with millennials. The next step for Watson and her colleagues is to begin testing other types of messages to identify ways millennials would respond more positively to sun safety measures.

“People are starting to get the message about the dangers of using tanning beds, but a large number of people are still tanning outdoors, deliberately exposing their skin to the sun, because they think it’s attractive,” she said.

“We need to move away from the narrative where tan skin is associated with health and youth. That’s the opposite of reality. Because reality is tan skin is damaged skin.”

More information: Amy Watson et al, I Know, but I Would Rather Be Beautiful: The Impact of Self-Esteem, Narcissism, and Knowledge on Addictive Tanning Behavior in Millennials, Journal of Consumer Affairs (2018). DOI: 10.1111/joca.12179
Provided by: Oregon State University

Insight into Vitiligo: The Truth and Treatment of Leucoderma | Medical News

Today, June 25th, marks World Vitiligo Day, aimed at raising awareness about the disease.  Vitiligo affects roughly 100 million people worldwide and almost 2 million in the US. It’s not contagious or fatal, but scientists are unsure of what causes it.

What is Vitiligo

Vitiligo is a patchy loss of skin coloring (pigmentation). The average age of onset of vitiligo is in the mid-twenties, but it can appear at any age.  95 percent of people with vitiligo have been diagnosed before reaching age forty. It tends to progress over time, with larger areas of the skin losing pigment. Some people with vitiligo also have patches of pigment loss affecting the hair on their scalp or body.

Myths VS Facts

Myth 1: Vitiligo is an outcome of the wrong combination of foods, for instance, milk consumption shortly after eating fish can bring on the disorder.

Fact: Vitiligo has no apparent link with the diet. It is irrational to deprive patients of healthy foods they enjoy in the hope of declining the possibility of the disease.

Myth 2: Vitiligo is a kind of leprosy and is communicable.

Fact: Though often referred to those who do not understand the disease as “white leprosy”, vitiligo is in no way linked to leprosy. It is not infectious or contagious and, hence, cannot pass on from one person to another.

Myth 3: Vitiligo is connected to serious skin diseases, such as skin cancer and albinism.

Fact: There are clear dissimilarities among each of these syndromes, and not of them are linked to Vitiligo.

Myth 4:  There are no effective treatments for vitiligo.

Fact: Medications like steroids, Ultraviolet A, immunomodulator drugs and the newer narrowband Ultraviolet B are accessible, along with several surgical options.

Types of Vitiligo

Generalized vitiligo, also called non-segmental vitiligo, is the most common form.  It involves loss of pigment (depigmentation) in patches of skin all over the body. Depigmentation typically occurs on the face, neck, and scalp, and around body openings such as the mouth and genitals. Sometimes pigment is lost in mucous membranes, such as the lips. Loss of pigmentation is also frequently seen in areas that tend to experience rubbing, impact, or other trauma, such as the hands, arms, and places where bones are close to the skin surface (bony prominences).

Segmental vitiligo is associated with smaller patches of depigmented skin that appear on one side of the body in a limited area; this occurs in about 10 percent of affected individuals.

What causes Vitiligo?

Vitiligo is generally considered to be an autoimmune disorder. Autoimmune disorders occur when the immune system attacks the body’s own tissues and organs. In people with vitiligo the immune system appears to attack the pigment cells (melanocytes) in the skin. About 15 to 25 percent of people with vitiligo are also affected by at least one other autoimmune disorder, particularly autoimmune thyroid disease, rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, psoriasis, pernicious anemia, Addison disease, or systemic lupus erythematosus.

In the absence of other autoimmune conditions, vitiligo does not affect general health or physical functioning. However, concerns about appearance and ethnic identity are significant issues for many affected individuals.

Some researchers think that the melanocytes destroy themselves. Others think that a single event such as sunburn or emotional distress can trigger vitiligo. But these events have not been proven to cause vitiligo.

Role of Genetic Changes

Variations in over 30 genes, occurring in different combinations, have been associated with an increased risk of developing vitiligo. Two of these genes are NLRP1 and PTPN22.

The NLRP1 gene provides instructions for making a protein that is involved in the immune system, helping to regulate the process of inflammation. Inflammation occurs when the immune system sends signaling molecules and white blood cells to a site of injury or disease to fight microbial invaders and facilitate tissue repair. The body then stops (inhibits) the inflammatory response to prevent damage to its own cells and tissues.

The PTPN22 gene provides instructions for making a protein involved in signaling that helps control the activity of immune system cells called T cells. T cells identify foreign substances and defend the body against infection.

The variations in the NLRP1 and PTPN22 genes that are associated with an increased risk of developing vitiligo likely affect the activity of the NLRP1 and PTPN22 proteins, making it more difficult for the body to control inflammation and prevent the immune system from attacking its own tissues.

Studies indicate that variations in a number of other genes also affect the risk of vitiligo. Many of these genes are also involved in immune system function or melanocyte biology, and variations in each likely make only a small contribution to vitiligo risk. Some of the gene changes associated with an increased risk of vitiligo have also been associated with an increased risk of other autoimmune conditions.

It is unclear what specific circumstances trigger the immune system to attack melanocytes in the skin. Research suggests that the immune system of affected individuals may react abnormally to melanocytes that are stressed by factors such as chemicals or ultraviolet radiation. In addition, the melanocytes of people with vitiligo may be more susceptible to stress than those of the general population and therefore may be more likely to be attacked by the immune system. The condition probably results from a combination of genetic and environmental factors, most of which have not been identified.

What are the symptoms of Vitiligo?

White patches on the skin are the main sign of vitiligo. These patches are more common in areas where the skin is exposed to the sun. The patches may be on the hands, feet, arms, face, and lips. Other common areas for white patches are:

  • The armpits and groin (where the leg meets the body)
  • Around the mouth
  • Eyes
  • Nostrils
  • Navel
  • Genitals
  • Rectal areas.

People with vitiligo often have hair that turns gray early. Those with dark skin may notice a loss of color inside their mouths.

Will the white patches spread?

There is no way to tell if vitiligo will spread. For some people, the white patches do not spread. But often the white patches will spread to other areas of the body. For some people, vitiligo spreads slowly, over many years. For other people, spreading occurs quickly. Some people have reported more white patches after physical or emotional stress.

How is vitiligo diagnosed?

A doctor will use family and medical history, physical exam, and tests to diagnose vitiligo. The doctor may ask questions such as:

  • Do you have family members with vitiligo?
  • Do you or family members have any autoimmune diseases?
  • Did you have a rash, sunburn, or other skin problem before the white patches appeared?
  • Did you have some type of stress or physical illness?
  • Did your hair turn gray before age 35?
  • Are you sensitive to the sun?

A physical exam will be completed to rule out other medical problems.

Tests might include:

  • Taking a small sample (biopsy) of the affected skin to be examined
  • Blood tests
  • An eye exam.

How is vitiligo treated?

Treatment may help make the skin look more even. The choice of treatment depends on:

  • The number of white patches
  • How widespread the patches are
  • The treatment the person prefers to use.

Some treatments are not right for everyone. Many treatments can have unwanted side effects. Treatments can take a long time, and sometimes they don’t work.

Current treatment options for vitiligo include medical, surgical, and other treatments. Most are aimed at restoring color to the white patches of skin.

Medical treatments include:
  • Medicines (such as creams) that you put on the skin
  • Medicines that you take by mouth
  • A treatment that uses medicine plus ultraviolet A (UVA) light (PUVA)
  • Removing the color from other areas so they match the white patches.
Surgical treatments include:
  • Skin grafts from a person’s own tissues. The doctor takes skin from one area of a patient’s body and attaches it to another area. This is sometimes used for people with small patches of vitiligo.
  • Tattooing small areas of skin.
Other treatments include:
  • Sunscreens
  • Cosmetics, such as makeup or dye, to cover the white patches
  • Counseling and support.

Complications

Vitiligo does not develop into other diseases, but people with the condition are more likely to experience:

  • painful sunburn
  • hearing loss
  • changes to vision and tear production

Overcoming social challenges

If the skin patches are visible, the social stigma of vitiligo can be difficult to cope with. Embarrassment can lead to problems with self-esteem, and in some cases, anxiety and depression can result.  75% of those with vitiligo report having social anxiety in some from as a result of the changes to their skin.

People with darker skin are more likely to experience difficulties, because the contrast is greater. In some countries, vitiligo is known as “white leprosy.”

Increasing awareness about vitiligo, for example, by talking to friends about it, can help people with the condition to overcome these difficulties. Connecting with others who have vitiligo may also help.

Anyone with this condition who experiences symptoms of anxiety and depression should ask their dermatologist to recommend someone who can help.

To build the right team of professionals who know what you are going through and will truly help you in every way possible, you might use HealthLynked.com to find specialists with the skills and the will to help and heal in every way they can.

Ready to get Lynked?  Go to HealthLynked.com right now to register for Free and start taking control of your medical care.

 

Sources:

NIH.org

Medical News Today.com

 

 

 

 

14 Injections of Fact and Folklore Surrounding the first “Killed” Vaccine

Just 60 years ago, polio was one of the most feared killers in the U.S.

Every year, as the warmer months approached, panic over polio intensified. Late summer was dubbed “polio season.” Public swimming pools were shut down. Movie theaters urged patrons not to sit too close together to avoid spreading the disease. Insurance companies started selling polio insurance for newborns.

The fear was well grounded. By the 1950s, polio had become one of the most serious communicable diseases among children in the United States. In 1952 alone, nearly 60,000 children were infected with the virus; thousands were paralyzed, and more than 3,000 died. Hospitals set up special units with iron lung machines to keep polio victims alive.

Then in 1955, the U.S. began widespread vaccinations. By 1979, the virus had been completely eliminated across the country. Now polio is on the verge of being eliminated from the world. The virus remains endemic in only two parts of the globe: northern Nigeria and the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

On this day, June 23rd, 1995, the creator of the first ever “killed” vaccine, which started the US down the path of eliminating the disease, died. Dr. Jonas Salk was 80 years old. Here are a few facts about the medical genius and the disease he and his colleagues worked to eradicate.

Although polio was the most feared disease of the 20th century, it was hardly the top killer.
The first major polio epidemic in the United States hit Vermont in 1894 with 132 cases. A larger outbreak struck New York City in 1916, with more than 27,000 cases and 6,000 deaths. As the number of polio cases grew, the paralytic disease changed the way Americans looked at public health and disability.

Polio, while definitely on a meteoric rise in the 1950’s, was not the rampant killer it has been portrayed to be. During the 50s and 60s, 10 times as many children died in accidents and three times as many succumbed to cancer. Polio inspired such fear because it struck without warning, and researchers were unsure of how it spread from person to person. In the years following World War II, polls found the only thing Americans feared more than polio was nuclear war.

Salk was rejected by multiple laboratories after medical school.
After graduating from medical school at New York University and completing his residency training, Salk applied to laboratories to work in medical research. Rather than treat patients as a practicing physician, Salk hoped to work on the influenza vaccine, a research area he began studying in medical school.

Although he was rejected from multiple labs, perhaps due to quotas that discriminated against Jewish people, he didn’t get discouraged. “My attitude was always to keep open, to keep scanning. I think that’s how things work in nature. Many people are close-minded, rigid, and that’s not my inclination,” he revealed in his Academy of Achievement interview.

Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry Truman proved instrumental in the vaccine’s development.
A year after his nomination as a Democratic vice presidential candidate, rising political star Franklin D. Roosevelt contracted polio while vacationing at his summer home on Campobello Island in 1921. The disease left the legs of the 39-year-old future president permanently paralyzed. In 1938, five years after entering the White House, Roosevelt helped to create the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, later renamed the March of Dimes Foundation, which became the primary funding source for Salk’s vaccine trials. Employing “poster children” and enlisting the star power of celebrities from Mickey Rooney to Mickey Mouse, the grassroots organization run by Roosevelt’s former Wall Street law partner Basil O’Connor was raising more than $20 million per year by the late 1940s.

In 1946, President Harry Truman declared polio a threat to the United States and called on Americans to do everything possible to combat it. “The fight against infantile paralysis cannot be a local war,” Truman declared in a speech broadcast from the White House. “It must be nationwide. It must be total war in every city, town and village throughout the land. For only with a united front can we ever hope to win any war.”

Science initially failed
Early attempts to develop a vaccine ran into numerous hurdles. A vaccine tested on 10,000 children by two researchers at New York University provided no immunity and left nine children dead. Other vaccine trials used “volunteers” at mental institutions.

Salk challenged prevailing scientific orthodoxy in his vaccine development.
While most scientists believed that effective vaccines could only be developed with live viruses, Salk developed a “killed-virus” vaccine by growing samples of the virus and then deactivating them by adding formaldehyde so that they could no longer reproduce. By injecting the benign strains into the bloodstream, the vaccine tricked the immune system into manufacturing protective antibodies without the need to introduce a weakened form of the virus into healthy patients.

Many researchers, such as Polish-born virologist Albert Sabin, who was developing an oral “live-virus” polio vaccine, called Salk’s approach dangerous. Sabin even belittled Salk as “a mere kitchen chemist.” The hard-charging O’Connor, however, had grown impatient at the time-consuming process of developing a live-virus vaccine and put the resources of the March of Dimes behind Salk.

Since Sabin and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital couldn’t gain political support in the U.S. for what he viewed as his superior vaccine, he moved testing to the Soviet Union instead.

Salk tested the vaccine on himself and his family.
After successfully inoculating thousands of monkeys, Salk began the risky step of testing the vaccine on humans in 1952. In addition to administering the vaccine to children at two Pittsburgh-area institutions, Salk injected himself, his wife and his three sons in his kitchen after boiling the needles and syringes on his stovetop. Salk announced the success of the initial human tests to a national radio audience on March 26, 1953.

The clinical trial was the biggest public health experiment in American history.
On April 26, 1954, six-year-old Randy Kerr was injected with the Salk vaccine at the Franklin Sherman Elementary School in McLean, Virginia. By the end of June, an unprecedented 1.8 million people, including hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren, joined him in becoming “polio pioneers.” For the first time, researchers used the double-blind method, now standard, in which neither the patient nor person administering the inoculation knew if it was a vaccine or placebo. Although no one was certain that the vaccine was perfectly safe—in fact, Sabin argued it would cause more cases of polio than it would prevent—there was no shortage of volunteers.

Salk did not patent his vaccine.
On April 12, 1955, the day the Salk vaccine was declared “safe, effective and potent,” legendary CBS newsman Edward R. Morrow interviewed its creator and asked who owned the patent. “Well, the people, I would say,” said Salk in light of the millions of charitable donations raised by the March of Dimes that funded the vaccine’s research and field testing. “There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?” Lawyers for the foundation had investigated the possibility of patenting the vaccine but did not pursue it, in part because of Salk’s reluctance.

Although a tainted batch of the Salk vaccine killed 11 people, Americans continued vaccinating their children.
Just weeks after the Salk vaccine had been declared safe, more than 200 polio cases were traced to lots contaminated with virulent live polio strains manufactured by the Cutter Laboratories in Berkeley, California. Most taken ill became severely paralyzed. Eleven died. In the haste to rush the vaccine to the public, the federal government had not provided proper supervision of the major drug companies contracted by the March of Dimes to produce 9 million doses of vaccine for 1955. Although the United States surgeon general ordered all inoculations temporarily halted, Americans continued to vaccinate themselves and their children. Outside of the “Cutter Incident,” not a single case of polio attributed to the Salk vaccine was ever contracted in the United States.

A rival vaccine supplanted Salk’s in the 1960s.
Once Sabin’s oral vaccine finally became available in 1962, it quickly supplanted Salk’s injected vaccine because it was cheaper to produce and easier to administer. Ultimately, both vaccines produced by the bitter rivals nearly eradicated the disease from the planet. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there were only 416 reported cases of polio worldwide in 2013, mostly confined to a handful of Asian and African countries. Since Sabin’s live-virus vaccine, which is responsible for about a dozen cases of polio each year, is seen as the final obstacle to eliminating the disease in most of the world, the WHO has urged polio-free countries to return to Salk’s killed-virus vaccine.

Salk was the stepfather of Pablo Picasso’s Children
In 1970, Salk married Françoise Gilot, a French artist who had two children, Claude and Paloma, with Pablo Picasso. In an interview in 1980, Paloma remembered the fear people had of polio, and that as a child, she didn’t visit her father’s house in the South of France due to a polio outbreak. She also revealed that she got along well with her stepfather: “He’s very cute. He’s a wonderful person,” she said. After his death in 1995, Gilot continued her late husband’s legacy by working at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies.

Salk worked on cures for cancer and AIDS
After Salk developed the polio vaccine, he tried to develop vaccines for cancer, AIDS, and multiple sclerosis. Although he wasn’t ultimately successful, he did patent Remune, a vaccine for AIDS to delay the progression of HIV into AIDS. In 2001, six years after Salk died, Pfizer stopped funding clinical trials for Remune due to a lack of evidence that it worked.

Salk was much maligned by the medical community
At the University of Pittsburgh, Salk launched what was then the largest human trial in history and introduced new scientific rigor now used as the gold standard in development of new treatments and tests for pathology. When it was announced that his vaccine worked, Salk was hailed as a humanitarian hero. By 1957, new polio cases had fallen below 6,000.

While heads of state around the globe rushed to celebrate him, many in the medical community derided his efforts. According to Dr. Charlene Jacobs in a interview with the Oxford Press, this was for many reasons:

  1. He preferred the “killed” vaccine, which most in medicine feared would be too weak.
  2. He worked in secret and with a small team.
  3. They claimed he grabbed the limelight and failed to share credit with others.
  4. It appeared he pandered to the press, crossing an imaginary line medicine had set up between science and the media.

Salk won few awards for what is still considered one of the greatest medical breakthroughs
While nominated several times, he did not win the Nobel Peace prize, and he was blackballed from the Academy of Sciences. He won a great deal of social celebrity, for sure, but his insistence on using intuition as much as rigor left many wondering what he really was doing. His dismissal in actual scientific communities is attributed to envy by many who review the history of the time.

Over the years, polio was found to be a highly contagious disease that spread, not in movie theaters or swimming pools, but from contact with water or food contaminated from the stool of an infected person. Along with the vaccine, much was done to improve hygiene in the Americas, The U.S. recorded its last case of polio in 1979, among isolated Amish communities in several states. Then the effort to eradicate polio globally began in earnest. The Western Hemisphere reported its last case, in Peru, in 1991.

Both Salk’s and Sabin’s vaccines are still used today. Although Jonas Salk is credited with ending the scourge of polio because his killed-virus vaccine was first to market, Albert Sabin’s sweet-tasting and inexpensive oral vaccine continues to prevent the spread of poliomyelitis in remote corners of the world. While the later version, which requires just two drops in a child’s mouth, proved much easier to use in mass immunization campaigns, today, it is being marked as the final barrier to truly eliminating polio – it does occasionally infect patients. The complete return to Salk’s vaccine has been promoted by the World Health Organization (WHO) since 2000.

Advances in medicine sometimes come from great intuition complimented with heavy doses of experience and meaningful development. These three make a powerful elixir. HealthLynked could be that kind of breakthrough – a good mix of real world wisdom, a touch of intuition and a love of professional rigor.

At HealthLynked, we are all working to clean up the errors created by missing information and put the patient back at the center of the medical relationship. Ready to get Lynked with medical professionals advancing wellness in New and exciting ways?

Go to HealthLynked.com to get started unlocking better health today!

 

sources:

npr.org

pbs.org

Nytimes.com

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The Biggest Lie Ever Told? Futurism and Medicine

Just  four centuries ago, most still believed the earth was the the center of the universe. At least, the major governing bodies did…or wanted the populace to…. And, on this day, 385 years ago, the Inquisition forced Galileo Galilei to say he was wrong — that the Earth did not revolve around the sun.

Galileo had made the proclamation in his book Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, and whether he really believed his words that summer day is debatable. Legend has it, after he recanted his views, Galileo muttered, “And yet it moves.”

Many people believe Galileo was hounded by the church for almost two decades, that he openly maintained a belief in heliocentrism, and that he was only spared torture and death because his powerful friends intervened on his behalf. An examination of the fine details of Galileo’s conflict with church leaders does not necessarily bear that out, according to UCLA English department’s distinguished research professor, Henry Kelly.

“We can only guess at what he really believed,” said Kelly in an article published in 2016. His research undertook a thorough examination of the judicial procedure used by the church in its investigation of Galileo. “Galileo was clearly stretching the truth when he maintained at his trial in 1633 that after 1616 he had never considered heliocentrism to be possible. Admitting otherwise would have increased the penance he was given, but would not have endangered his life, since he agreed to renounce the heresy — and in fact it would have spared him even the threat of torture.”

When first summoned by the Roman Inquisition years before, in 1616, Galileo was not questioned but merely warned not to espouse heliocentrism. In the same year, the church banned Nicholas Copernicus’ book “On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres,” published in 1543.  This was one of the first major scientific works detailing a theory the Earth revolved around the sun. After a few minor edits, making sure that the sun theory was presented as purely hypothetical, it was allowed again in 1620 with the blessing of the church.

Sixteen years after his first encounter with the church, Galileo published his Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems in 1632, and the pope, Urban VIII, ordered another investigation against him. This time, he was prosecuted, following the usual methods of the Roman Inquisition.

The atmosphere in Italy at the time Galileo was writing his book was tense. The Inquisition was at peak intensity, and even more significantly, the bubonic plague was sweeping the country. Travel and communication were extremely difficult, creating an infectious sense of fear in the population.

Before Dialogue was published, Galileo was favored by the Church, even earning a pension from the pope; but officials were angered by the book’s content. The plot featured three characters – a simpleton, a student and a sage – who debated the structure of the solar system. The simpleton supported an Earth-centered view of the solar system, was subsequently proven wrong and ridiculed by the other characters. This was considered to be heresy as it ran contrary to the modern views of the Church. For Rome, the earth, and Rome itself, was at the center of everything. The book undermined contemporary ideas about the structure of the universe and the placement of heaven and hell.

“It made the universe physical,” says David DeVorkin, curator at the Air and Space Museum. “Then, people had to ask, ‘where in the world is heaven?’” In addition, Dialogue was a public offense to a number of officials who believed the character of the simpleton was, in part, a representation of themselves.“The real issue was the nature…that seemed to lampoon some sensitive personalities who were either on the Inquisition or were advisors or patrons or something,” DeVorkin said. “They did not want to be made out as fools.”

First, on April 12, 1633, before any charges were laid against him, Galileo was forced to testify about his beliefs under oath in hopes of obtaining a confession. This had long been a standard practice in heresy proceedings, even though it was a violation of the canonical law of inquisitorial due process. However, the interrogation was not successful – Galileo admitted no wrongdoing.

The cardinal inquisitors realized the case against Galileo would be very weak without an admission of guilt, so a plea bargain was arranged. He was told, if he admitted to having gone too far in his treatment of heliocentrism, he would be let off with a light punishment. Galileo agreed and confessed he had given stronger arguments to the heliocentric proponent in his dialogue than to the geocentric champion. He insisted he did not do so because he believed in heliocentrism. Rather, he claimed he was simply showing off his debating skills.

After his formal trial, which concluded on June 22nd of that year, Galileo was convicted of a “strong suspicion of heresy,” a lesser charge than actual heresy. “In sum, the 1616 event was not the beginning of a 17-year-long trial, as is often said, but a non-trial,” Kelly said. “Galileo’s actual trial time lasted for only a fraction of a single day, with no fanfare at all.”

Kelly also noted the Inquisition practice of the time, in light of Galileo’s guilty plea, which denied actual belief in the heresy, triggered another automatic examination of his private beliefs under torture. This was a new procedure adopted by the church around the turn of the 17th century. However, the pope decreed the interrogation should stop short at the mere threat. This was a routine kind of limitation for people of advanced age and ill health, like Galileo, and some say it should not be attributed to the influence of the scientist’s supporters.

Ultimately, Galieo’s book was banned, and he was sentenced to a light regimen of penance and imprisonment at the discretion of church inquisitors. After one day in prison, his punishment was commuted to “villa arrest” for the rest of his life. He died in 1642. In his final years, while most say Galileo insisted on the truth of the heliocentric solar system, Kelly estimates, “He would have been liable to receive an automatic death sentence.”

For its part, the church maintained efforts to ensure their version of scientific beliefs prevailed. “The most unusual aspect of the proceedings was that the sentence was ordered to be widely publicized in scientific circles,” Kelly said. “The cardinals asserted Galileo had always been orthodox in his belief concerning the cosmos and had never believed in or affirmed the heliocentric heresy.”

Today, he is celebrated as one of the world’s most disruptive scientists. Galileo’s assertion that the planets revolved around the sun, in addition to his myriad other contributions to physics and astronomy, became integral, pivotal portions of the evolution of how we view the universe. Using his own telescope design, he collected and cobbled together mountains of evidence supporting the Copernicun Revolution. “He really was one of the first modern scientists,” DeVorkin said. “He added rigorous observation to the scientific toolkit. He also added the earliest concepts of relativity and theories of infinity.”

If you have read this far, you are likely wondering why on earth this article is even on a healthcare website blog. Two reasons, really. It points to how not too distant resistance to change in strongly held beliefs, even in light of ever increasing evidence, can hold back progress; and to the importance of innovating passionately. Both of these are critical to making breakthroughs in medicine.

We can’t claim to be putting our lives on the line for constant improvement and welcome Inquisition into what we are doing. Still, every day, we at HealthLynked place getting better, each day, for you, at the center of how we operate.

And we believe you, the patient and your care team, are the center of healthcare. Many are starting to agree. We certainly aren’t Galileo and Copernicus, here, but we are working really hard to make it possible for patients to take control of their medical information in ways never before possible so they may truly collaborate to Improve HealthCare.

Patient-centric medicine is at the center of want we do. We and all the physicians in the HealthLynked network want to revolve around you.

Ready to get Lynked? Go to HealthLynked.com to learn more.

 

Sources:

http://newsroom.ucla.edu/releases/the-truth-about-galileo-and-his-conflict-with-the-catholic-church

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smithsonian-institution/378-years-ago-today-galileo-forced-to-recant-18323485/

 

World Sickle Cell Day | Symptoms and Emerging New Treatments

Approximately 70,000 to 100,000 Americans have sickle cell disease.  Though rare, it is the the most common form of inherited blood disorders. In Africa, the burden is much higher – Sub-Saharan Africa has an estimated 64% of the 300, 000 people born annually with sickle cell disease in the world,  Sickle Cell Day each June 19th provides an opportunity to examine progress and persistent challenges in managing the disease.

Sickle Cell, present in affected individuals at birth, causes the production of abnormal hemoglobin. Normal hemoglobin protein, which resides inside red blood cells, attaches to oxygen in the lungs and carries it to all parts of the body. Healthy red blood cells are flexible enough to move through the smallest blood vessels.

In sickle cell disease, the hemoglobin is abnormal, causing red blood cells to be rigid and shaped like a sickle – the shape from which the disease takes its name.  In order for a child to inherit sickle cell disease, both parents must have either sickle cell disease (two sickle cell genes) or sickle cell trait (one sickle cell gene). There are variations of sickle cell disease called sickle C or sickle thalassemia, which are serious conditions but sometimes less severe. If you have sickle cell disease, you will pass one sickle cell gene to your children.

Signs and symptoms of sickle cell disease usually begin in early childhood. Characteristic features of this disorder include a low number of red blood cells (anemia), repeated infections, and periodic episodes of pain. The severity of symptoms varies from person to person. Some people have mild symptoms, while others are frequently hospitalized for more serious complications.

Sickle cells can get stuck and block blood flow, causing pain and infections. Complications of sickle cell disease occur because the sickled cells block blood flow to specific organs. The worst complications include stroke, acute chest syndrome (a condition that lowers the level of oxygen in the blood), organ damage, other disabilities, and even premature death.

These signs and symptoms of sickle cell disease are caused by the “sickling” of red blood cells. When red blood cells sickle, they also break down prematurely, which can lead to anemia. Anemia can cause shortness of breath, fatigue, and delayed growth and development in children. The rapid breakdown of red blood cells may also cause yellowing of the eyes and skin, which are signs of jaundice.

Painful episodes can occur when sickled red blood cells- stiff and inflexible – get stuck in small blood vessels. These episodes deprive tissues and organs of oxygen-rich blood and can lead to organ damage, especially in the lungs, kidneys, spleen, and brain.

A particularly serious complication of sickle cell disease is high blood pressure in the blood vessels that supply the lungs (pulmonary hypertension). Pulmonary hypertension occurs in about one-third of adults with sickle cell disease and can lead to heart failure.

Mutations in the HBB gene cause sickle cell disease.

Hemoglobin consists of four protein subunits; typically, two alpha-globin subunits and two beta-globin subunits. The HBB gene provides instructions for making beta-globin. Variations of beta-globin result from different mutations in the HBB gene. One particular HBB gene mutation produces an abnormal version of beta-globin known as hemoglobin S (HbS). Other mutations in the HBB gene lead to additional abnormal versions of beta-globin, such as hemoglobin C (HbC) and hemoglobin E (HbE). HBB gene mutations can also result in an unusually low level of beta-globin; this abnormality is called beta thalassemia.

In people with sickle cell disease, at least one beta-globin subunit in hemoglobin is replaced with hemoglobin S. In sickle cell anemia, hemoglobin S replaces both beta-globin subunits in hemoglobin.

In other types of sickle cell disease, just one beta-globin subunit in hemoglobin is replaced with hemoglobin S.  The other beta-globin subunit is replaced with a different abnormal variant, such as hemoglobin C.  For example, people with sickle-hemoglobin C (HbSC) disease have hemoglobin molecules with hemoglobin S and hemoglobin C instead of beta-globin.  If mutations that produce hemoglobin S and beta thalassemia occur together, individuals have hemoglobin S-beta thalassemia (HbSBetaThal) disease.

Sickle Cell Trait

Sickle cell trait is an inherited blood disorder that affects approximately 8 percent of African-Americans. Unlike sickle cell disease, in which patients have two genes that cause the production of abnormal hemoglobin, individuals with sickle cell trait carry only one defective gene and typically live normal lives without health problems related to sickle cell. Rarely, extreme conditions such as severe dehydration and high-intensity physical activity can lead to serious health issues, including sudden death, in individuals with sickle cell trait.

Risk Factors

Sickle cell disease is more common in certain ethnic groups, including:

  • People of African descent, including African-Americans (among whom 1 in 12 carries a sickle cell gene)
  • Hispanic-Americans from Central and South America
  • People of Middle Eastern, Asian, Indian, and Mediterranean descent

Because sickle cell disease symptoms can begin by four months of age, early diagnosis is critical. All newborns in the United States are now tested for the disease. Sickle cell disease can also be identified before birth by testing a sample of amniotic fluid or tissue from the placenta. People who carry the sickle cell gene can seek genetic counseling before pregnancy to discuss options.

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of sickle cell disease can be mild or severe enough to require frequent hospitalizations. They may include:

  • Anemia (looking pale)
  • Dark urine
  • Yellow eyes
  • Painful swelling of hands and feet
  • Frequent pain episodes
  • Stunted growth
  • Stroke

Treatment

There are no standard treatments that cure sickle cell disease. However, there are regiments that help people manage and live with the disease. Treatment relieves pain, prevents infections, minimizes organ damage, and controls complications. At times, blood transfusions and other advanced options are needed.

Clinical trials provide access to experimental therapies for treating sickle cell disease. The American Society of Hematology (ASH) provides information on clinical trials for which you may be eligible. Researchers are looking at new drugs and also exploring the use of bone marrow transplants to treat sickle cell disease. Stem cell transplants, associated with significant risks, are appropriate only for some patients with severe forms of sickle cell disease and closely matched donors –  typically family member.

Beyond this, the completion of the Human Genome Project and the use of CRISPR/Cas9 for gene editing have begun to transform the diagnosis and management of disease. Sickle cell disease has been considered a perfect model for genomic research because: 1) it is a monogenic disease and 2.) it has no cure despite the significant incidence of morbidity and mortality. Recent use of gene editing to minimize disease severity, and a single report of a patient who received successful treatment with gene therapy, highlight the potential for translating genome-based knowledge into health benefits for sickle cell patients.

It is important for you to talk with your doctor if you believe you may have sickle cell disease. If you carry the sickle cell trait, make sure you tell your doctor before getting pregnant as well. Depending on your condition, your doctor may refer you to a hematologist, a doctor who specializes in blood conditions.

Finding the right physician or medical care team just got that much easier.  Using HealthLynked, you can locate physicians in your area who know how to help and are focused on giving you the best possible care.  They will collaborate with you to make sure all your relevant and real time health information is available to enhance your wellness.

Ready to get Lynked?  Got to HealthLynked.com to get started for free today.

 

 

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6.5 Ways to Refocus on Health this Father’s Day

At HealthLynked, we believe every day is a great day to focus on wellness and remind those around you health is true wealth.  Today, Father’s Day, is another great opportunity to heighten the awareness of preventable health disorders and disease and encourage the men in your life to be more active and health conscious.

For Father’s Day, we serve up these gentle reminders of 6 ways you can refocus on your health, courtesy of the CDC:

  1. Get Enough Sleep

Aim for seven to nine hours per night.  Your mind and muscles need the recovery.

  1. Stop Smoking

If you quit now, you’ll lower your risk for cancer, COPD, and other smoking-related illnesses.

  1. Exercise More

Enjoy at least 2 ½ hours of aerobic activity, plus muscle-strengthening exercises, each week.

  1. Eat Healthy

Your diet should include a variety of well proportioned proteins and fruits and vegetables daily.

  1. Reduce Stress

You’ll feel much more relaxed if you avoid drugs and alcohol, connect socially, and find support.

  1. Get Regular Checkups

You need to know your blood pressure and cholesterol numbers; if they’re elevated, your risk for heart disease and stroke goes up…. High blood pressure may even increase your risk for erectile dysfunction!  You also need screening for colorectal and prostate cancer.  Across every spectrum of disease, positive outcomes are more likely with early detection.

The Truth

Men simply do not visit caregivers as often as they should. According to a CDC report, women are 100% more likely to visit a physician for preventive services and routine checkups.  The same report remarks men are 33% less likely to see their doctor for any reason, even when symptomatic.

The American Heart Association outlines the following 10 common excuses men give for not seeing a doctor:

“I don’t have a doctor.”

Step one toward staying healthy is finding a doctor you trust, and you’ll never know if you trust one unless you try. Check your insurance company and our healthcare ecosystem for one in your area. Call their offices and ask questions.

“I don’t have insurance.”

Everybody should still have insurance under the Affordable Care Act. If you don’t, there are plenty of resources available from state, local and charitable organizations to pay for your care.  Seek them out….

“There’s probably nothing wrong.”

You may be right, but Some serious diseases don’t have symptoms. High blood pressure is one, and it can cause heart attack and stroke. (That’s why they call it “the silent killer.”)  High cholesterol is another often-symptomless condition. Ditto diabetes. Finding a health problem early can make an enormous difference in the quality and length of your life.

“I don’t want to hear what I might be told.”

Maybe you smoke, drink too much, or have put on weight. Even so, your doctor’s there to help you. You can deny your reality, but you can’t deny the consequences. So be smart: Listen to someone who’ll tell you truths you need to hear. Be coachable.

“I don’t have time.”

There are about 8,766 hours in a year, and you want to save … two? When those two hours could save your life if you really DO need a doctor? If you want to spend more time with your family, these two hours aren’t the ones to lose.

“I don’t want to spend the money.”

It makes more sense to spend a little and save a lot than to save a little and spend a lot. If you think spending time with a doctor is expensive, try spending time in a hospital.

“Doctors don’t DO anything.”

When you see a barber, you get a haircut. When you see the dentist, your teeth get cleaned. But when you get a checkup, the doctor just gives you tests. It may seem like you don’t get anything, but you do. You get news and knowledge that can bring better health, if you act on it.

“I’ve got probe-a-phobia.”

You don’t need a prostate cancer exam until you’re 50. Even then, remember that your chances of survival are much better if it’s caught early. So, it’s worth the exam, and it’s only one small portion of a physical. Don’t let one test stop you from getting all the benefits of an annual physical.

“I’d rather tough it out.”

If pro athletes can play hurt and sacrifice themselves for the team, you ought to be able to suck it up, right? Wrong! The Game of Life is about staying healthy for a long time – a lifetime.

“My significant other has been nagging me to get a checkup. I’m a Rebel!”

OK, so you don’t want to give in, but isn’t it POSSIBLE you could be wrong? Give in on this one. See the doctor.

The risks of avoiding preventive care are real and can be devastating. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the 10 leading killers of American men (regardless of age or ethnicity and in order) are:

Heart disease

Cancer

Unintentional injuries

Chronic lower respiratory diseases (such as COPD)

Stroke

Diabetes

Suicide

Alzheimer’s disease

Influenza and pneumonia

Chronic liver disease

Unlike the majority of women, who tend to seek medical care when even when they do not have symptoms, men often believe if you “feel fine,” there’s no reason to go to the doctor. It is important to note many can feel normal with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or abnormal blood sugar levels. Even when men don’t feel so great, they tend to wait for symptoms to go away on their own — like when they drive around aimlessly because asking for directions admits weakness!

Be aware, you do not need a “one-size-fits-all” physical.  Collaborate with your healthcare provider, and depending on your profile and lifestyle, decide which screenings, diagnostic tests, and immunizations are right for you. The timing and frequency should be based on your risk factors for developing a condition or disease, including family or personal history, age, ethnicity, and environmental exposure.

In honor of Father’s Day, dads and those who care for them, go to the HealthLynked.com to find a physician you really connect with….Spend a few moments building a healthier life by collaborating with physicians who care, and begin building a health record for yourself that will help you set records for living a full life.

From all of us here at HealthLynked, consider our Free profiles a great gift for becoming the best version of you!  We all wish you the very best today and every day!