Posts tagged with "Healthline"

Bitter pills: High dementia risk linked to category of prescription drugs called anticholinergics

June 27, 2019

Prescription pills that many people take for what ails them actually may be putting them at risk for dementia, results of a study conducted by the UK’s University of Nottingham, Aldermoor Health Centre, and University of Oxford have demonstrated.

The drugs—anticholinergics—are widely prescribed for such conditions as  urinary incontinence, overactive bladder, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, depression and psychosis, gastrointestinal conditions, and the involuntary muscle movements associated with Parkinson’s disease. Examples include atropine, bentropine mesylate, clidinium, dicylomine, oxybutynin, scopolamine, solifenacin, and tiotroplum—but there are many more.

Anticholinergic drugs are used to block the action of acetylcholine—a neurotransmitter, or chemical messenger, that transfers signals between certain cells to affect your body functions, according to Healthline.

The investigation—published on June 24 in the Journal of the American Medical Association–Internal Medicinefound that patients over the age of 55 who took anticholinergic medication each day for more than three years had a 50% greater risk of developing dementia.

“This study provides further evidence that doctors should be careful when prescribing certain drugs that have anticholinergic properties,” Tom Dening, one of the authors and head of the Center for Dementia at the University of Nottingham, said in a press release. “However, it’s important that patients taking medications of this kind don’t just stop them abruptly, as this may be much more harmful. If patients have concerns, then they should discuss them with their doctor to consider the pros and cons of the treatment they are receiving.”

According to a report by Newsweek, the researchers analyzed medical data on nearly 59,000 people with dementia, which they collected between January 2004 and January 2016. Of the records they analyzed, the average age of patients was 82 and about 63% of them were women.

Approximately 57% of the patients in the study received a prescription for at least one strong anticholinergic drug, one to 11 years before being diagnosed with dementia. Although the link found between the drugs and development of dementia appears strong, the researchers noted that their findings are associations and do not show that the drugs cause dementia.

“Further research is needed to confirm whether or not the association between these drugs and risk of dementia is causal. These drugs are prescribed for a number of health conditions and any concerns patients might have about them should be discussed with their doctors,” Professor Martin Rossor, NIHR National Director of Dementia Research, based in London, told Newsweek.

Research contact: @Newsweek

MasterCard announces True Name card to address realities of the LGBTQ community

June 21, 2019

Imagine if Caitlyn Jenner were still using a credit or debit card with the imprinted name, Bruce Jenner. Every time she used her payments card, her transition would be exposed—and she could legitimately be asked to prove her identity.

That’s a reality for many transgender and nonbinary people—and one that MasterCard aims to address with its new True Name program.

Cardholders soon will be able to swap out MasterCard-branded credit, debit, or prepaid cards imprinted with their “dead name” with new ones featuring the names they actually use. Experts say it’s a first for the financial services industry.

According to Healthline, deadnaming occurs when someone, intentionally or not, refers to a person who’s transgender by the name they used before they transitioned. You may also hear it described as referring to someone by their “birth name” or their “given name.”

On June 17, MasterCard announced that it was making a commitment to address that challenge. In a press release, the Purchase, New York-based payments company said, “ We are working with partners to create a product, as well as a sensitive and private process free of personal questions, that will allow for true names, not deadnames, to appear on cards without the requirement of a legal name change. This will ease a major pain point for the transgender and non-binary community.”

MasterCard calls on the industry to apply these standards for everyone, ensuring a way for people’s financial products to reflect their true identity.

Overall, nearly one-third (32%) of individuals who have shown IDs with a name or gender that did not match their presentation reported negative experiences, such as being harassed, denied services, and/or attacked, according to the National Center for Transgender Equality. As such, many transgender individuals choose to forego the cost, complexity, and anxiety associated with official name and gender changes. Until now, this discrimination has carried through to their cards and payment mechanisms.

In a panel discussion on Monday with the New York City Commission on Human Rights, MasterCard unveiled this initiative and is working to bring the True Name card to market.

“We are allies of the LGBTQ community, which means if we see a need or if this community is not being served in the most inclusive way, we want to be a force for change to help address and alleviate unnecessary pain points,” said Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer for MasterCard Randall Tucker. “This translates not only for our MasterCard employee community but for our cardholders and the communities in which we operate more broadly. Our vision is that every card should be for everyone.”

Research contact: @MasterCardNews

Caution: You can overdose on this diarrhea med

May 2, 2019

If you’ve got the “runs,” be careful how often you run to the medicine cabinet. Overdoses of loperamide, commonly sold as the over-the-counter diarrhea treatment, Imodium, have been steadily increasing in number and severity nationwide over the past five years, researchers at Morristown Medical Center and Rutgers New Jersey Medical School report.

Many people don’t realize that the drug is an opioid—and those who are aware of its properties may be misusing it, says a recent report by Futurity.

Loperamide treats diarrhea by slowing down the rhythm of digestion, so that the small intestines have more time to absorb fluid and nutrients from the foods we eat. It works by affecting proteins called opioid receptors found in cells in the gastrointestinal tract. It signals these opioid receptors to keep working. Unlike other opiates, however, loperamide doesn’t cross the blood-brain barrier into your brain or spinal column. Therefore, it doesn’t cause a high or relieve pain like other opiates can. However, stopping the drug abruptly or taking it in extremely high dosages can be life-threatening, according to Healthline.

Indeed, the study, published by the journal, Clinical Toxicology, found increasing instances in which patients with opioid-use disorder misused loperamide to prevent or self-treat withdrawal symptoms. To a lesser extent, some took massive doses to get a high similar to heroin, fentanyl, or oxycodone.

Misuse of the drug is particularly alarming because non-prescription drugs like loperamide are inexpensive, readily available online and in retail stores, undetectable on routine drug tests, and buyable in bulk.

“When used appropriately, loperamide is a safe and effective treatment for diarrhea—but when misused in large doses, it is more toxic to the heart than other opioids which are classified under federal policy as controlled dangerous substances,” says senior author Diane Calello, executive and medical director of the New Jersey Poison Control Center at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School.

“Overdose deaths occur not because patients stop breathing, as with other opioids, but due to irregular heartbeat and cardiac arrest.”

The researchers reviewed cases of patients with loperamide exposure reported by medical toxicologists to a national registry, the Toxicology Investigators’ Consortium (ToxIC), from January 2010 to December 2016, reporting a growing number of cases over that time frame. The Poison Control Center database (National Poison Data System) also reported a 91% increase during that time period—which in 2015 included 916 exposures and two deaths.

The patients reporting misuse in the Rutgers study were predominantly young white men and women. The majority used extremely high doses of loperamide, the equivalent of 50 to 100 two-milligram pills per day.

“Possible ways of restricting loperamide misuse include limiting the daily or monthly amount an individual could purchase, requiring retailers to keep personal information about customers, requiring photo identification for purchase, and placing medication behind the counter,” Calello says.

“Most importantly, consumers need to understand the very real danger of taking this medication in excessive doses.”

Research contact: @Rutgers_NJMS

Alive and kicking: When fetuses feel like kicking up their heels, it may be a sign of brain development

January 9, 2019

Nothing attracts a crowd like a baby kicking in utero. When a pregnant woman’s ever-expanding bump suddenly starts perambulating, it’s hard to avoid an all-hands-on experience with anyone nearby. But why is that infant thrashing around in there?

A recent study  conducted by the Department of Neuroscience, Physiology, and Pharmacology at the UK’s University College London—and published in  Scientific Reports—has found that kicking can help the fetus to “map” his or her body and explore the surrounding womb.

Author Kimberley Whitehead, along with co-authors Judith Meek and Lorenzo Fabrizi, examined the sleep patterns of 19 newborns between the ages of 31 weeks and 42 weeks. Some of the infants studied had been born prematurely—the accurate age of a baby from conception, regardless of when he or she actually is born. For instance, an infant who was one week old but born at 35 weeks would be 36 weeks old. Infants are considered full term anywhere from 37 to 42 weeks.

According to a report by Healthline, the three researchers looked at the brainwaves that fetuses produce when they kick during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. When the fetus moves its right hand, for example, it produces brainwaves immediately afterwards in the part of the left-brain hemisphere that processes touch for the right hand.

The brainwaves are extremely fast in premature babies. (In the case of premature babies, they would still be in the womb when these fast brainwaves occur.) By the time the babies are a few weeks old, the fast brainwaves naturally disappear.

Fetal kicks in the third trimester help the infant develop brain areas linked to sensory input. They also help the baby to form a sense of his or her own body, the scientists say.

“Spontaneous movement and consequent feedback from the environment during the early developmental period are known to be necessary for proper brain mapping in animals, such as rats. Here we showed that this may be true in humans too,” Lorenzo Fabrizi said in a statement.

“For example, it is already routine for infants to be ‘nested’ in their cots. This allows them to ‘feel’ a surface when their limbs kick, as if they were still inside the womb,” she said. The study supports the notion that sleep should be protected and interruptions minimized, as the findings show how important movement is during fetal and premature newborn sleep.

For her part, Whitehead believes that the findings could help hospitals to provide an optimal environment for infants born prematurely. “We were surprised that although the movement-evoked fast brainwaves disappear a few weeks after the average time of birth, movement continues to trigger slow brainwaves,” she said.

This draws on her team’s previous earlier research, which showed that different types of brainwaves can perform different functions in unborn children. That research showed that a big change happens at full-term age because different types of sleep start to be associated with particular brainwave patterns.

Whitehead said they plan to continue studying movement in babies, but they are also focused on how aspects of brain development are processed, such as touch and painful stimuli (as with a blood test, for example).

The medical community already knows a good deal about the quality, frequency, and perceptibility of fetal movements, Dr. Amber Samuel, medical director, Maternal-Fetal Medicine at the Obstetrix Medical Group of Houston, told Heathline. Sporadic movements at about nine or ten weeks become more organized in the second trimester. Mothers can feel a fetus kick as early as 15 weeks.

As the brain develops, the fetus kicks and responds to his or her own brain activity, as well as to changes in maternal movement, sound, temperature, and other stimuli.

“The perception of fetal movement changes in the third trimester to body rolling more often than distinctive kicks but all fetal movement is reassuring even if the quality evolves,” Samuel said.

Fetal kicking serves several purposes, added Sullivan. The first is that it gives muscles and limbs exercise. It also shows response to stimuli and, as the current study suggests, helps the brain make connections for spatial sense.

And for the pregnant mother the kicking is also a learning experience. She gets chance to see how big and active her baby has become—and maybe even to hold a hand or a foot.

Research contact: @uclnpp