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Good News Monday: 11 Medical Breakthroughs

Look for these promising new initiatives to become more widely used in the next couple of years.

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1. Tecnic Symfony, a newly approved, first-in-class lens replacement for cataracts, can now provide an extended depth of focus.  We’ll no longer have to choose between optimal close-up or distance vision, and a tiny stent is now available to treat people with glaucoma.

 2. Drones are distributing medicine to isolated areas. In 2016, a start-up company used drones to deliver medicine to Rwanda. This practice has since become routine and it’s estimated that even more areas will benefit.

3. Gene editing is helping prevent disease. A new technique to “edit” embryos (CRISPR Technology) may help future generations avoid retinal degenerative disease and inherited  diseases such as cystic fibrosis and hemophilia.

4. ALS patients will soon be able to communicate with their thoughts. New technology may help decode the thoughts of people with functional brain activity who have a completely paralyzed body resulting from a stroke, traumatic injury or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

5. Diabetics can be helped by an artificial pancreas. Diabetes is caused when the pancreas produces insufficient insulin. In May 2017, it was reported that the first artificial pancreas systems (the Hybrid Close-Loop Insulin Delivery System) were beginning to be distributed, helping diabetics regulate their insulin levels.

6. Reduction of LDL cholesterol. When powerful cholesterol drugs — known as PCSK9 inhibitors — were approved by the FDA in 2015, experts hailed it as a huge breakthrough, but more studies were needed to see whether this would result in medications with fewer side effects than statins.

Since then, new studies have reported good news – earlier in 2017, a 20% reduction in LDL was reported in a study group of 25,982 patients. These new cholesterol meds should become increasingly available.

7. Enhanced post-surgery recovery. Traditional surgery protocol involves no eating or drinking beforehand, feeling nauseous or groggy afterwards, and being prescribed pain medication to help with recovery, which can lead to opioid dependence.

New research has been evaluating the Enhanced Recovery After Surgery (ERAS) protocol, which recommends various methods including post-operative nutrition plans and alternatives to pain medication, to speed up the recovery process.

8. More targeted and precise breast cancer therapies. Treatments such as chemotherapy fight cancer cells but don’t always have the desired outcome. In the near future, according to Breastcancer.org, expect to see treatments for breast cancer that are designed to target specific cancer cell characteristics, such as the protein that allows cells to grow in a malignant way, .

9. Improved treatments for sleep apnea. Treatment for moderate to severe sleep apnea is often invasive and uncomfortable, involving the Continuous Positive Airway Pressure machine (CPAP). This machine blows air into your nose via a nose mask, keeping the airway open and unobstructed.

But a less invasive method was approved by the FDA in October, 2017. The Remede sleep system is an implanted device that treats central sleep apnea by activating a nerve that sends signals to the diaphragm to stimulate breathing.

Following successful trial studies, this may become the treatment of choice.

10. Next-generation vaccines. New techniques include freeze-drying, which allows vaccinations to be transported to remote areas. Companies are also investigating faster ways to manufacture vaccinations to make them more readily available.

11. The first human head transplant! Italian scientist Sergio Canavero and Chinese surgeon Xiaoping Ren are developing a plan to transplant a human head — and yes, it involves neck bolts and electricity! The goal is to help patients with spinal cord injuries and paralysis.

The surgeons have already performed the procedure on mice, rats and a dog, all of which survived surgery and even regained some motor function. Is that cool or what?!

Have a GOOD week! xx

Fall Lineup

Every year, the new TV season looks more and more like the previous year. Meanwhile, the networks order fewer and fewer episodes. Because, guess what – there’s much better programming on Netflix, Amazon Prime, BritBox, etc.

The problem is that network execs keep mining the same territory. Currently there are countless shows set in Chicago (Why not Dubuque or Roslyn, folks?) Dozens of shows about firemen, lawyers, and doctors. No wonder TV big shots keep rebooting classics like Murphy Brown and Magnum PI, and moaning that they’re losing share to reality shows.

There are tons of underrepresented professions that are full of drama and excitement. Here is my (Free! Unsolicited!) advice to the networks. If you guys start now, you can have your pilots all wrapped up in plenty of time to make it big next September.

Plumber’s Crack: Wise and witty plumber fixes sinks, toilets, broken hearts and dysfunctional families – one visit at a time. (You know this is fantasy because when is any household repair fixed in one trip?)

Lab Rat: Drama about the trials, toils and tribulations of a young assistant in the local college’s biology department. Academia is a fertile area for romance, backstabbing bosses and obsequious colleagues trying to get promoted even though the raise will be miniscule. Come on, people – it’s not just about law and med school!

Garbage Day: A mystery. In the search for the truth, intrepid garbage collector plows through all kinds of disgusting junk to find exculpatory evidence.

Techies: What better source for a new nerdy dramedy than a 60’s high school audio-visual club. Imagine the tension between the prom/football cliques and the guys without whom nobody can watch health ed instructional documentaries.

The Brazilian: Warm, caring aesthetician waxes philosophical as she hears all the intimate issues facing her clients. Every episode has a neat ending. Potential spinoff: “Eyebrow Guru”.

Play It As It Valets: Mix a swank resort, snooty guests, fancy cars and underpaid valets and you have a recipe for trouble!

Oh, the possibilities are endless.

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Images from Pixabay.com

 

 

 

 

Good News Monday: People Still Read Books

It’s not just about digital devices, TV and movies.  A recent survey of reader habits revealed some interesting stats:

  • Women are major mystery fans (37% citing as their preferred genre)
  • 2% of men admit that romance is a preferred genre
  • 70% of respondents prefer print over e-books
  • Women prefer reading in bed, and 13% of people read while they commute (hopefully not while driving)
  • Men and women were equally likely to read in the tub

beach-1866992_640Another cool thing: international literacy is on the rise. And although books are in short supply in developing nations, most people have access to cellphones, which broadens opportunities to read. In a UNESCO survey of more than 4,000 in Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, India, Pakistan, Ghana and Zimbabwe, 62% of respondents reported that they were reading more — by using their phone.

 

Good News Monday: Oryx and Eagles and Bears, Oh My!

Happy Labor Day, US friends!

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Today’s heartening item is that several animal populations are finally on the upswing, including

  • Bald Eagle
  • Arabian Oryx
  • Gray Wolf
  • Northern Elephant Seal
  • Brown Bear
  • Giant Panda
  • Humpback Whale

Unfortunately, no politicians have been added to the endangered species list.

 

A Love Letter to a Younger Me

Recently, my friend N sent me a collection of letters I’d written to her the summer we were 14. Talk about cringe-worthy!

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Note: Bob the postman played along; our correspondence continued all summer!

One thing I learned was that my writing style hasn’t evolved much since my teens. That was a bit scary. Also, that I was completely boy-crazy, which did not come as a shock.

These were my major interests:

  • Trying to sort out what appealed to boys and which girls they liked.
  • The Mets baseball team (I had no memory of being such a fan) and the Beatles, especially George. (I was obsessed.)
  • Sailing and tennis lessons. I never got very good at either, but apparently had fun: “Sailing is terrific, but I almost capsized last lesson! It was a panic – I turned too far & we almost turned over. Boy! Was my sailing instructor MAD!”
  • Trying to ascertain whether a 16 year old could possibly be interested in a 14 year old. (Spoiler: We did get together the next summer.)
  • Bad boys in general: “Last year, K got stoned once on the golf course with O, & also got picked up (with O) for trying to steal a car!!!!” I had a major crush on K, who was gorgeous. (I’ve always been a sucker for a pretty face. But a guy who got stoned at 13? That was a surprise.)
  • Obsessing over whether I should say Happy Birthday to K: “Will he think I went to a lot of trouble to find out when it is? Or should I forget it? (We’ve known each other for 13 years.) I really don’t know. He might think I’m chasing him. And I’m not positive that’s his birthday. If it isn’t, he’ll think I like him (which I do, but he shouldn’t know, exactly.) If I don’t, he may think I’m stuck-up, or a snob. If I do, he might think I’m chasing him. What to do?????”
  • I wasn’t a complete airhead. I read a lot (in one letter, I recommend Huxley’s Brave New World) and played chamber music (cello) and chess. And I loved my summer science classes, especially when K and I were paired for dissection and swapped different fish parts on purpose to create two new species. OK, maybe that was less about science and more about the cute boy, but still….
  • Money went a lot further in the 60’s. I was paid $2.50 for 4 hours of babysitting three little kids.
  • I was a staunch Democrat: “J is such a jerk. He swears like anything. p.s. He’s for Goldwater!!!” (I was outraged.)
  • Boy-girl parties were a washout. Most of the boys wouldn’t dance.

As I was laughing, I developed a deep affection for this young teenager:

  • I was enthusiastic.
  • I was a good sport.
  • I was a loyal friend.
  • I had a sense of humor.
  • I loved to write.

So,

Dear 14-year-old Me:

You are a great kid. Some boys will like you. Some won’t. It will all work out; you have nothing to worry about. Develop your talents, try lots of new things, keep making friends, and enjoy the next few decades.

Oh, and you will always be obsessive; try to channel it constructively!

Love,

Older, Wiser, Adult Me

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Good News Monday: Climate Change

We’ve still got a long way to go, but trees are adapting to offset carbon emissions.  They’ve begun to use water more efficiently, which allows them to grow in size and thereby remove more CO2 from the air.

Keep reducing your own carbon footprint, though.  Trees can’t do it all by themselves!

 

Dementia or Alzheimer’s?

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A few days ago DH and I watched the lovely and touching movie, The Leisure Seeker, which reminded me to share an interesting article.

My parents’ generation used to refer to this health issue as “losing your marbles”, which sounds more charmingly benign than the sad reality of cognitive decline. Whether you’re concerned for yourself, an aging relative, or a friend, I hope you’ll find it informative.

(SHARED FROM AARP)

Dementia vs. Alzheimer’s: Which Is It? How to understand the difference — and why it matters

by Kathleen Fifield, AARP, June 25, 2018 

The terms “dementia” and “Alzheimer’s” have been around for more than a century, which means people have likely been mixing them up for that long, too. But knowing the difference is important. While Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia (accounting for an estimated 60 to 80 percent of cases), there are several other types. The second most common form, vascular dementia, has a very different cause — namely, high blood pressure. Other types of dementia include alcohol-related dementia, Parkinson’s dementia and frontotemporal dementia; each has different causes as well. In addition, certain medical conditions can cause serious memory problems that resemble dementia.

A correct diagnosis means the right medicines, remedies and support. For example, knowing that you have Alzheimer’s instead of another type of dementia might lead to a prescription for a cognition-enhancing drug instead of an antidepressant. Finally, you may be eligible to participate in a clinical trial for Alzheimer’s if you’ve been specifically diagnosed with the disease.

What It Is

Dementia 

In the simplest terms, dementia is a nonreversible decline in mental function.

It is a catchall phrase that encompasses several disorders that cause chronic memory loss, personality changes or impaired reasoning, Alzheimer’s disease being just one of them, says Dan G. Blazer, M.D., a professor of psychiatry at Duke University Medical Center.

To be called dementia, the disorder must be severe enough to interfere with your daily life, says Constantine George Lyketsos, M.D., director of the Johns Hopkins Memory and Alzheimer’s Treatment Center in Baltimore.

Alzheimer’s

It is a specific disease that slowly and irreversibly destroys memory and thinking skills.

Eventually, Alzheimer’s disease takes away the ability to carry out even the simplest tasks.

A cure for Alzheimer’s remains elusive, although researchers have identified biological evidence of the disease: amyloid plaques and tangles in the brain. You can see them microscopically, or more recently, using a PET scan that employs a newly discovered tracer that binds to the proteins. You can also detect the presence of these proteins in cerebral spinal fluid, but that method isn’t used often in the U.S.

How It’s Diagnosed

Dementia

A doctor must find that you have two or three cognitive areas in decline.

These areas include disorientation, disorganization, language impairment and memory loss. To make that diagnosis, a doctor or neurologist typically administers several mental-skill challenges.

In the Hopkins verbal learning test, for example, you try to memorize then recall a list of 12 words — and a few similar words may be thrown in to challenge you. Another test — also used to evaluate driving skills — has you draw lines to connect a series of numbers and letters in a complicated sequence.

Alzheimer’s 

There’s no definitive test; doctors mostly rely on observation and ruling out other possibilities.

For decades, diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease has been a guessing game based on looking at a person’s symptoms. A firm diagnosis was not possible until an autopsy was performed.

But that so-called guessing game, which is still used today in diagnosing the disease, is accurate between 85 and 90 percent of the time, Lyketsos says. The new PET scan can get you to 95 percent accuracy, but it’s usually recommended only as a way to identify Alzheimer’s in patients who have atypical symptoms.

(Images from Pixabay.com)