Reducing your stroke risk…because I care

stroke-1-in-6-graphics_170x304With all the upcoming excitement about Halloween, you may have overlooked the fact that yesterday was World Stroke Day.

This year, the global campaign to tackle stroke was highlighted with the slogan “Because I care…”.

The phrase showcases the role of caregivers in supporting people who have suffered a stroke and aims to correct misinformation about the disease, such as the misconception that stroke only happens later in life.

Every other second, stroke attacks a person, regardless of age or gender. Of the 15 million people who experience a stroke each year, six million do not survive. Worldwide about 30 million people have had a stroke and most have residual disabilities.

Overall approximately 55 000 more women have strokes than men each year, mainly because stroke occurs more frequently at older ages and women generally live longer than men. Of note, women are twice as likely to die from a stroke than breast cancer each year.

And recent data published in the Lancet, shows a striking 25% worldwide increase in the number of stroke cases in people aged between 20 and 64. This younger age group now accounts for a shocking 31% of strokes.

But, with greater awareness, these figures don’t have to continue their alarming trend.  Stroke can be prevented, treated and managed in the long term. The campaign theme “Because I care” emphasizes these areas.

The slogan was chosen as it can easily be adapted to all cultures and in any setting. It attempts to address prevailing misinformation about the disease, e.g., stroke only happens later in life. The campaign also celebrates the important contributions of caregivers and the role they play as conduits between the stroke community and the general public in correcting misinformation.

Because I care…

    • Stroke 02.11.13I want you to know the facts about stroke
    • I will work to break down the myths surrounding stroke
    • I want you to learn how to minimize your risk of stroke
    • I want you to have access to the best possible treatment
    • I will ensure that you receive quality treatment, care and support
    • I will be with you every step of the way towards your full recovery

Research presented at the recent European Society of Cardiology [ESC] Congress  showed that there are plenty of steps young obese women can take to reduce their risk of stroke. In young women without metabolic disorders such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and high blood sugar  or abnormal glucose metabolism being overweight did not increase the chance of having a stroke compared to normal weight women without metabolic disorders. However, the risk of stroke increased by 3.5 times in women who were overweight and had metabolic disorders.

Study author, Dr Michelle Schmiegelow said: “Obesity puts young women at a major risk of developing high blood pressure, diabetes or high cholesterol, which dramatically increases their likelihood of having a stroke. Young women who are overweight or obese probably have a window of opportunity to lose weight and keep a healthy lifestyle so that they reduce their risk of getting high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol. In this way they can protect themselves from having a stroke or heart attack.”

Awareness of important risk factors, such as atrial fibrillation  and hypertension, is crucial.

OBESE-BLACK-WOMENProfessor Joep Perk, MD, a Swedish Cardiologist and spokesperson for the ESC says: “Women are at the same risk of stroke as men, and the level of risk is completely steered by the underlying risk factor pattern they have. The majority of people who have a stroke are disabled for the rest of their lives and may be paralyzed or lose their ability to speak. The devastating consequences of this disease for patients and their loved ones make prevention even more important.”

He adds: “Prevention for all cardiovascular disease follows the same pattern, be it stroke, heart attack, or peripheral arterial disease. Step one for women is absolutely to stop smoking – that beats everything. The second most important thing is to know your blood pressure to see if you are at risk. And finally, adopt healthy behaviors like eating heart healthy food and keeping the amount of salt you eat under control.”

stroke FASTThe global campaign against stroke asks people to commit to six stroke challenges:
•    Know your personal risk factors: high blood pressure, diabetes, and high blood cholesterol
•    Be physically active and exercise regularly
•    Maintain a healthy diet high in fruit and vegetable and low in salt and keep blood pressure low
•    Limit alcohol consumption
•    Avoid cigarette smoke. If you smoke, seek help to stop now
•    Learn to recognize the warning signs of a stroke and how to take action.

Check, check, check, check, check and check!  I’m feeling up to the stroke challenge.  Are you?

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Damping Down Diabetes

PrevalenceSRxA’s Word on Health was very excited to learn of some amazing new research coming out of UC San Francisco.  Scientists there have identified a new way to manipulate the immune system and keep it from attacking the body’s own molecules in autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis.

More than 100 different autoimmune diseases have been discovered and they disproportionately affect women.  Of the 50 million Americans living and coping with autoimmune disease  more than 75% are women.  Autoimmune diseases are one of the top 10 leading causes of death of women under the age of 65 and are responsible for more than $100 billion in direct health care costs annually.   Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis and scleroderma by themselves account for > $50 billion.

eTACBut now, researchers, led by immunologist Mark Anderson, MD, PhD, a professor with the UCSF Diabetes Center, have discovered a type of immune cell called an extrathymic Aire-expressing cell (eTAC), which puts a damper on immune responses.  eTAC’s are a type of  dendritic cell – which make up less than 3% of the cells in the immune system. And, eTAC cells themselves account for a small fraction of all dendritic cells. eTACs reside in lymph nodes and spleen in both humans and mice.

In this study, Anderson’s team determined that eTAC’s can counteract the overactive immune response in autoimmune diseases and, in a mouse model of diabetes, can be manipulated to stop the destruction of the pancreas.

By displaying “self” molecules to T cells that target them, and permanently turning off these T cells, eTACs help the immune system tolerate the molecules naturally present within us.  “The mouse model we are working with involves using T cells that normally attack the islet cells of the pancreas, specifically by recognizing a molecule called chromagranin A that is present on islet cells,” Anderson said. “But if the eTACs can get to the T cells first and display chromagranin A, they can prevent T cells from attacking the islets.”

mouse diabetesAnderson aims to exploit eTACs therapeutically by finding out how to grow them in large numbers outside the body. “We need to figure out how to grow a lot of these cells, to load them up with whatever molecule it is that we want to induce tolerance to, and then to load them back into a patient,” he said. “Such a strategy could help selectively shut down an unwanted immune response, such as the anti-islet immune response in type 1 diabetes.”

Dendritic cells work with T cells a bit like a sheriff working with a bloodhound.  But instead of presenting an article of clothing, dendritic cells present a specific molecule. If the molecule displayed by the dendritic cell matches the one the T cell was born to target, then that T cell would be activated to expand its numbers and to attack cells or tissues where the molecule is present.

When the interaction is between eTACs and T cells, however, the targeted T cell instead is turned off forever, and never seeks its molecular prey.

Diabetes wordcloudGiven that the prevalence and incidence of and type 1 diabetes and other autoimmune diseases, such as Crohn’s, lupus and celiac disease are on the rise, this new research is extremely important, both from a public health and economic perspective.  With as many as three million Americans having type one diabetes and the incidence growing by more than 3% per year a cure is desperately needed.

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Bypassing Genetic Obesity Genes?

obesityFact. Obese mothers tend to have kids who themselves will become obese.

Fact. In 2012, 35.7% of US adults and 16.9% of US children age 2 to 19 were obese, according to the CDC

Fact. Half of all U.S. adults will be obese by 2030 unless they change their ways, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Fact. Obesity raises the risk of numerous diseases, from type 2 diabetes to endometrial cancer, chronic heart disease and stroke.

So we were extremely interested to learn of new research that suggests the unhealthy cycle could be broken by weight-loss surgery.  In a first-of-a-kind study, Canadian researchers tested children born to obese women prior to weight loss surgery and their siblings conceived afterward.

thin_fatThe surprising results?  Kids born after mom lost lots of weight were slimmer than their siblings. They also had fewer risk factors for developing diabetes or heart disease.

Even more intriguing, the researchers discovered that numerous genes linked to obesity-related health problems worked differently in the younger siblings than in their older brothers and sisters.

Although diet and exercise will play a huge role in how fit the younger siblings will continue to be, the findings suggest the children born to mothers who have undergone weight loss surgery might have an advantage.

The impact on the genes, you will see the impact for the rest of your life,” predicts lead researcher Dr. Marie-Claude Vohl of Laval University in Quebec City.

gastric bypassSo why would there be a difference? Clearly weight loss surgery doesn’t change a womans’ genes.  However, it seems as if either the surgery or more likely the subsequent weight loss can change how certain genes operate in her child’s body. The researchers suggest that factors inside the womb seem to affect the chemical  ‘dimmer switches’ that make the fetus’ genes speed up or slow down or switch on and off.

Dr. Susan Murphy of Duke University wasn’t involved in the research says it makes biological sense that the earliest nutritional environment could affect a developing metabolism, although she cautions that healthier family habits after mom’s surgery may play a role, too.

The research has implications far beyond the relatively few women who undergo gastric bypass surgery before having a baby. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, more than half of pregnant women are overweight or obese. Tackling obesity before or during pregnancy can provide a lasting benefit for both mother and baby.

It’s not just a matter of how much moms weigh when they conceive, gaining too much weight during pregnancy increases the child’s risk of eventually developing obesity and diabetes. Overweight mothers have higher levels of sugar and fat in the bloodstream, which in turn makes it to the womb.

How much weight loss is needed to have a healthy baby?

pregnant and obeseIn the study, researchers took blood samples from children born to 20 women before and after the complex gastric bypass surgery, who, on average, lost about 100 pounds. They compared differences in more than 5,600 genes between the younger and older siblings and found significant differences in the activity of certain genes clustered in pathways known to affect blood sugar metabolism and heart disease risk.

Only time will tell if the children born after mom’s surgery really get lasting benefits. Meanwhile, specialists urge women planning a pregnancy to talk with their doctors about their weight ahead of time. Besides having potential long-term consequences, extra pounds can lead to a variety of immediate complications such as an increased risk of premature birth and cesarean sections.

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Lift Weights to Lower Blood Sugar?

Red-White_muscleSRxA’s Word on Health was interested to read that researchers in the Life Sciences Institute at the University of Michigan have overturned a long-held belief that whitening of skeletal muscle in diabetes is harmful.  Instead, they found that the white muscle that increases with resistance training, age and diabetes actually helps to keep blood sugar in check.

The insights identified in the study may point the way to potential drug targets for obesity and metabolic disease.

We wanted to figure out the relationship between muscle types and body metabolism, how the muscles were made, and also what kind of influence they have on diseases like type 2 diabetes,” said Jiandie Lin, Life Sciences Institute faculty member.

Much like poultry has light and dark meat, mammals have a range of muscles: red, white and those in between. Red muscle, which gets its color in part from mitochondria, prevails in people who engage in endurance training, such as marathon runners. White muscle dominates in the bodies of weightlifters and sprinters – people who require short, intense bursts of energy.

lifting-weightsWhen you exercise, nerves signal your muscles to contract, and the muscle needs energy. In response to a signal to lift a heavy weight, white muscles use glycogen to generate adenosine triphosphate (ATP) – energy the cells can use to complete the task. While this process can produce a lot of power for a short time, the glycogen fuel soon depletes.

However, if the brain tells the muscle to run a slow and steady long-distance race, the mitochondria in red muscles primarily use fat oxidation instead of glycogen breakdown to generate ATP. The supply of energy lasts much longer but doesn’t provide the burst of strength that comes from Paula_Radciffe_NYC_Marathon_2008_croppedglycolysis.

People with diabetes see whitening of the mix of muscle.

For a long time, the red-to-white shift was thought to make muscle less responsive to insulin, a hormone that lowers blood sugar,” Lin said. “But this idea is far from proven. You lose red muscle when you age or develop diabetes, but is that really the culprit?”

To find out, the team set out to find a protein that drives the formation of white muscle. They identified a list of candidate proteins that were prevalent in white muscle but not in red.

mouse weight liftingFurther studies led the team to focus on a protein called BAF60c, a sort of “zip code” mechanism that tells the cells when and how to express certain genes. The Lin team made a transgenic mouse model to increase BAF60c only in the skeletal muscle. One of the first things they noticed was that mice with more BAF60c had muscles that looked paler.

“That was a good hint that we were going in the white-muscle direction,” said lead author Zhuo-xian Meng, a research fellow in Lin’s lab.

They used electron microscopy to see the abundance of mitochondria within the muscle, and confirmed that muscle from BAF60c transgenic mice had less mitochondria than the normal controls.

We saw predicted changes in molecular markers, but the ultimate test would be seeing how the mouse could run,” Lin said.

treadmill mouseIf the BAF60c mice could run powerfully for short distances but tired quickly, the scientists would be able to confirm that the BAF60c pathway was a key part of the creation of white muscle.

Using mouse treadmills, they compared the endurance of BAF60c mice to a control group of normal mice, and found that the BAF60c transgenic mice could only run about 60% of the time that the control group could before tiring.

“White muscle uses glycogen, and the transgenic mice depleted their muscles’ supplies of glycogen very quickly,” Lin said.

After some follow-up experiments to figure out exactly which molecules were controlled by BAF60c, Lin and his team were confident that they had identified major players responsible for promoting white muscle formation.

Now that they knew how to make more white muscle in animals, they wanted to determine whether white muscle was a deleterious or an adaptive characteristic of diabetes.

obese mouseThe team induced obesity in mice by feeding them a “Super Size Me” mouse diet. On a high-fat diet, a mouse will double its body weight in two to three months. They found that obese mice with BAF60c transgene were much better at controlling blood glucose.

The results are a bit of a surprise to many people,” Lin said. “It really points to the complexity in thinking about muscle metabolism and diabetes.”

In humans, resistance training promotes the growth of white muscle and helps in lowering blood glucose. If future studies in humans determine that the BAF60c pathway is indeed the way in which cells form white muscle and in turn optimize metabolic function, the finding could lead to researching the pathway as a drug target.

We know that this molecular pathway also works in human cells. The real challenge is to find a way to target these factors,” Lin said.

Until we know for sure SRxA’s Word on Health recommends a healthy mix of running and weight training.

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Tee-Total but Drinking Yourself to Death?

Bloomberg Moves To Ban Sugary Drinks In NYC Restaurants And Movie TheatersAccording to research presented at the American Heart Association’s Epidemiology and Prevention/Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism meeting last week, sugar-sweetened sodas, sports drinks and fruit drinks may be associated with a staggering 180,000 deaths around the world each year,

Researchers calculated the quantities of sugar-sweetened beverage intake around the world by age and sex.  They also looked at the effects of this on obesity and diabetes. Using data from the 2010 Global Burden of Diseases Study, they linked intake of sweetened beverages to 133,000 diabetes deaths, 44,000 cardiovascular disease deaths and 6,000 cancer deaths.

78% of these deaths were in low and middle-income countries.  But that doesn’t mean America is off the hook.

In the U.S., our research shows that about 25,000 deaths in 2010 were linked to drinking sugar-sweetened beverages,” said Gitanjali M. Singh, PhD, co-author of the study.

Of nine world regions in 2010:

  • Latin America/Caribbean had the most diabetes deaths (38,000) related to sugar-sweetened beverages
  • East/Central Eurasia had the largest numbers of cardiovascular deaths (11,000) related to sugary beverage consumption

Cola can and measuring tapeAmong the world’s 15 most populous countries, Mexico had the highest death rate due to these beverages, with 318 deaths per million adults.

Japan, one of the countries with lowest per-capita consumption of sugary beverages in the world, had the lowest death rate associated with the consumption of sugary beverages, at about 10 deaths per million adults.

Because we were focused on deaths due to chronic diseases, our study focused on adults. Future research should assess the amount of sugary beverage consumption in children across the world and how this affects their current and future health,” Singh said.

In the meantime, the American Heart Association recommends adults consume no more than 450 calories per week, from sugar-sweetened beverages.

diet soda 2And don’t assume you’re OK just because you drink diet, rather than regular soda. According to research presented at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference in  2011, drinking diet soda daily is linked to a higher risk of stroke, heart attack and vascular-related deaths, compared to those who don’t drink soda.  Even though you are avoiding the sugar calories, the high salt content may double the risk of ischemic stroke, independent of sodium’s role in hypertension.

Here at SRxA’s Word on Health we’re canning the cans and from now on it will be water all the way!

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The Skinny on Childhood MS

Childhood Obesity imageAs we’ve previously reported, childhood obesity is on the increase. Cases have more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents in the past 30 years. The percentage of children and adolescents aged 6–18 years in the United States who are obese is now estimated to be >18%.

Childhood obesity can cause a number of health complications including diabeteshypertension, high cholesterolasthma  and emotional problems.  This is deeply troubling in and of itself, but now there’s a new cause for concern.

A new study has found that obese children and teenage girls may be more at risk for developing the chronic, debilitating central nervous system disorder – multiple sclerosis (MS).

Kaiser Permanente researchers studied 75 children aged 2 to 18 with pediatric MS, and compared them to more than 900,000 kids without the disease. Fifty percent of the kids with MS were overweight or obese, compared to 36% of the children who didn’t have the disease.

The study also found that the risk of developing multiple sclerosis was one-and-a-half times higher for overweight girls, almost two times higher for moderately obese girls and four times higher for extremely obese girls.

Mary Rensel, MD, who treats pediatric MS patients at Cleveland Clinic offers an explanation for the increased risk. “Fat increases the inflammation in the body. Multiple sclerosis is an auto-immune condition where the immune system is set too high. If there’s too much inflammation, it can increase the risk of having a disorder associated with inflammation – like MS.”

Childhood-Obesity-Linked-to-Multiple-SclerosisLead author, Annette Langer-Gould, MD, PhD, with the Kaiser Permanente Southern California Department of Research & Evaluation in Pasadena  “Even though pediatric MS remains rare, our study suggests that parents or caregivers of obese teenagers should pay attention to symptoms such as tingling and numbness or limb weakness, and bring them to a doctor’s attention,”

The researchers also stress that parents of overweight or obese children should play an active role in controlling their kids’ weight by getting them into the habits of eating healthy and getting enough exercise.

Dr. Rensel agrees, saying, “The good news is now we know. We can educate parents and patients of the importance of maintaining a healthy weight to decrease the chance of having consequences of being overweight.”

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When’s Your Time to Die?

risk of dyingWhat are your chances of dying in the next 10 years?

Obviously there are some activities that may increase your risk  such as driving drunk and active military duty in a war zone, but how about getting winded after walking several blocks or having trouble pushing a chair across the room

Turns out the latter might be just as dangerous as the former.

Researchers at the University of San Francisco VA Medical Center have recently come up with a “mortality index” to predict when a person may die.  Marisa Cruz and her colleagues have developed a list of 12 questions that can help predict chances of dying within 10 years for patients aged 50 and older.  The researchers created the index by analyzing data on almost 20,000 Americans over 50 who took part in a national health survey in 1998. They tracked the participants for 10 years. Nearly 6,000 participants died during that time.

risk of dying 2While the test scores may satisfy people’s morbid curiosity, the researchers say their index wasn’t meant as guidance about how to alter your lifestyle.  Instead, it is mostly for use by doctors, to help them discuss the pros and cons of costly health screenings or medical procedures in patients who are unlikely to live 10 more years.

That said, we know that many of our readers are “simply dying” to take the test themselves – right now.

So without further ado…here’s how it works.

The 12 items on the mortality index are assigned points.  The fewer your total points the better odds of living.

  • Men automatically get 2 points. In addition, men and women ages 60 to 64 get 1 point; ages 70 to 74 get 3 points; and 85 or over get 7 points.
  • Two points each for: a current or previous cancer diagnosis, excluding minor skin cancers; lung disease limiting activity or requiring oxygen; congestive cardiac failure; smoking within the past 2 weeks; difficulty bathing; difficulty managing money because of health or memory problem; difficulty walking several blocks.
  • One point each for: diabetes or high blood sugar; difficulty pushing large objects, such as a heavy chair; being thin or normal weight.


The highest, or worst, score is  26, which equates to  a 95% chance of dying within 10 years. To get that, you’d have to be a man at least 85 years old with all the above conditions.
healthy young womanFor a score of zero, which correlates to a 3% chance of dying within 10 years, you’d have to be a woman of “normal weight” younger than 60 without any of those infirmities.

While it’s hardly surprising that a sick, older person would have a much higher chance of dying than someone younger why would being overweight be less risky than being of normal weight or slim?  One possible reason is that thinness in older age could be a sign of illness.

Dr. Stephan Fihn, a health quality measurement specialist with Veterans Affairs health services in Seattle, said the index seems valid and “methodologically sound.”
However, he adds that it is probably most accurate for the oldest patients, who don’t need a scientific crystal ball to figure out their days are numbered.

For fans of SRxA’s Word on Health, I’m pleased to report that my 10-year mortality index is zero. Let the blogging continue!

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Teaching your child the ABC’s of Heart Health

blood pressure heartHeart disease is not a major cause of death among children and teenagers, but according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention it is the largest cause of death among adults in the United States. In fact, someone in America dies every 37 seconds from some form of cardiovascular disease.

Certain factors that play an important role in a person’s chances of developing heart disease. Some of these life-style risk factors can be changed, treated, or modified, and some, such as congenital heart disease cannot.

Zachary Stone M.D, a primary care physician at the University of Alabama, agrees that it’s possible to build a future free from cardiovascular disease by starting heart-healthy habits at a young age. Most of the risk factors that affect children can be controlled early in life.

The process of atherosclerosis, which is the hardening of the arteries and is known to cause heart attacks, strokes and sudden death, has been shown to begin in early childhood,” says Stone. “It’s important to concentrate on healthy lifestyles in children to prevent adult cardiovascular disease.”

kids-heart-healthThe three main areas to watch are diet, activity levels and smoke exposure.

Diet: Good nutrition can help to decrease cardiovascular disease. It can help prevent hypertension, high cholesterol and obesity. Obesity is a major risk factor for heart disease. 1 out of every 3 American adults is obese and obesity is linked to more than 110,000 deaths in the United States each year. Childhood obesity in the United States is also on the rise. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, between 16% and 33% of children and teenagers are obese. Because obese children are more likely to be obese adults, preventing or treating obesity in childhood may reduce the risk of adult obesity.  A young person’s diet should be low in saturated fats and primarily consist of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

Healthy HeartActivity: One easy way to increase physical activity in children is to limit their sedentary activities.  Parents should limit television and multimedia to 1-2 hours per day and ensure that their kids participate in at least one hour of moderate activity daily.

Smoke exposure:  Exposure to smoke is dangerous to the health of a child for many reasons, including that it can increase the risk of developing heart disease as an adult. According to the CDC, more than 3.6 million middle and high school students smoke cigarettes, and nearly 4,000 kids under age 18 try their first cigarette every day.  More than 90,000 people die each year from heart diseases caused by smoking. Among young people who would otherwise have a very low risk of heart disease, cigarette smoking may cause as many as 75% of the cases of heart disease. And, the longer a person smokes, the higher the risk of heart disease. Parents should talk openly to their kids about both the dangers and bad effects of smoking, such as yellow teeth, bad breath, smelly clothes, shortness of breath and lung damage.  Parents also need to act as a role model for their children, by not smoking or allowing others around them to smoke, thereby reducing their exposure to second-hand smoke.

Baby_with_HeartKeeping kids heart healthy is an investment in their future and yours, and may be the best gift you can ever give.

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Tick-Tock, Tick-Tock. Understanding your food clock!

food-clock 2If the excesses of holiday eating have sent your system into butter-slathered, alcohol-soaked overload, you are not alone. People with jet-lag, those who work graveyard and 24 hour shifts and even late-night snackers know just how you feel.

Turns out that all these activities upset the body’s “food clock”  – a collection of interacting genes and molecules which keep the human body on a metabolically even keel. Look behind the face of a mechanical clock and you will see a dizzying array of cogs, flywheels, counterbalances and other moving parts.

Biological clocks are equally complex, composed of multiple interacting genes that turn on or off in an orchestrated way to keep time during the day. In most organisms, biological clockworks are governed by a master clock, referred to as the ‘circadian oscillator,’ which keeps track of time and coordinates our biological processes with the rhythm of a 24-hour cycle of day and night.

Scientists also know that in addition to the master clock, our bodies have other clocks operating in parallel throughout the day. food clock 1One of these is the food clock, which is not tied to one specific spot in the brain but rather multiple sites throughout the body. The food clock is there to help our bodies make the most of our nutritional intake. It controls genes that help in everything from the absorption of nutrients to their dispersal through the bloodstream. It’s also designed to anticipate our eating patterns. Even before a meal, our bodies begin to turn on some of these genes and turn off others, preparing for the burst of sustenance – which is why we feel the pangs of hunger just before our lunch hour.

And while scientists have known that the food clock can be reset over time if a person changes their eating patterns, very little was known about how the food clock works on a genetic level.

Until now!  A new study by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is helping to reveal how this clock works on a molecular level. The study showed that normal laboratory mice given food only during their regular sleeping hours will adjust their food clock over time and begin to wake up from their slumber, and run around in anticipation of their new mealtime. But mice lacking a certain gene (PKCγ) are not able to respond to changes in their meal time and instead sleep right through it.

The work has implications for understanding diabetes, obesity and other metabolic syndromes because a desynchronized food clock may serve as part of the pathology underlying these disorders.

food_clock_3It may also help explain why night owls are more likely to be obese than morning larks,” says Louis Ptacek, MD, Distinguished Professor of Neurology at UCSF. “Understanding the molecular mechanism of how eating at the “wrong” time of the day desynchronizes the clocks in our body can facilitate the development of better treatments for disorders associated with night-eating syndrome, shift work and jet lag.”

All of which is potentially good news for this sleep-deprived, word-traveler, up-all-night-on-the-ambulance, always-on-a-diet blogger! SRxA-logo for web

Ho Ho Ho: health hazards for Santa

santa_claus obesityAfter weeks of harried holiday shopping, when the stores finally close on the evening of December 24, it will be a welcome reprieve from the madness. Families and friends gather together and enjoy a relaxing day or two of rest.

But for one man, the real work is just beginning. That’s right – Santa Claus is coming to town!

And while he spends most of the year enjoying a flexible work schedule, monitoring naughty-and-nice behaviors around the world and occasionally checking in on his elves and reindeer, things are about to get frantic for Old Nick.

And to be honest, this year we’re a little concerned about his health.  That belly fat!  The all-nighter he’s about to pull!  All those cookies!

He may know when you are sleeping, but the only way for Santa to get the job done is to stay up all night on December – and that can lead to some serious health concerns.
Studies have suggested that drowsy driving is as dangerous as drunk driving.  Even if he manages to get Rudolf and his friends safely parked on the rooftops, sleep deprivation could cause his judgment to become fuzzier, leading to the wrong presents traveling down the wrong chimneys.
What’s worse is that sleep loss has a cumulative effect. So while people in the Southern hemisphere might do OK, those of us in Northern climes, and especially those on the West Coast aren’t so lucky. Chronic sleep deprivation could mean he could fly over some houses altogether.

santa + sackBut even if we manage to keep him awake with coffee and Red Bull rather than the usual glass of milk, we’ve got to change Santa’s sack. By carrying something that weighs more than 10% of his body weight, one shoulder is going to end up taking on most of the burden, which could lead to back strains, sprains and spasms.
If you’re thinking of getting Santa a gift this season maybe you could consider a backpack, or better still, a rolling suitcase.

That’s not to say Santa doesn’t need the exercise of his Christmas Eve jaunt. Like 70% of adult men in the US, he is severely overweight. The health risks linked to obesity include Type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension, certain types of cancer and osteoarthritis.

With his giant waist comes the risk of belly fat associated problems such as insulin resistance, high triglycerides, heart disease and metabolic syndrome.

Santa beardThen there’s that beard to worry about. After a month or so of letting thousands upon thousands of kids sit on your lap at the mall, we wouldn’t be surprised if he’s harboring some germs in his whiskers.  So if Santa touches his beard followed by his eyes, ears or mouth, he’s pretty much bound to catch something, especially in the midst of this cold and flu season.

We suggest leaving some hand sanitizer next to the milk and cookies this year to give him a fighting chance.

And finally we’re worried about that thin Red Suit. While we’ll give Santa props for covering his head with a hat, traveling outside all night in December in a red velvet suit and a touch of faux fur seems ill advised. In addition to the hat, he should probably throw on a scarf or knit mask, mittens, thermals and a water-resistant coat to ward off hypothermia.

So whether you’ve been naughty or nice, there’s still time to give some thought to Santa’s Health, as well as your own this Christmas season.

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