Sudden Death Warning Over Faulty Heart Gene

An estimated 620,000 people in the UK have a faulty gene that puts them at risk of developing coronary heart disease or sudden death, and most are unaware, a charity has warned.

The British Heart Foundation said the figure was 100,000 more than had been thought and could be even higher.

It said there was now a better grasp of the prevalence of inherited conditions.

A child of someone with an inherited heart condition can have a 50% chance of inheriting it themselves.

The charity warned that the overall figure for those with the faulty gene could be much higher because of as yet undiscovered faulty genes and under-diagnoses.

Each week in the UK, around 12 seemingly healthy people aged 35 or under are victims of sudden cardiac death with no explanation, largely due to undiagnosed heart conditions.

Former England and Nottinghamshire cricketer James Taylor had to retire last year, at the age of 26, after he was diagnosed with the serious heart condition arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy.

Radio Four’s Today programme that he had been warming up for the first game of the season in Cambridge when his heart started “going mental in my chest”.

He said: “You could see my shirt moving, that’s how hard my heart was beating inside my chest…

“I went off, I had some oxygen, then I went to hospital some hours later.

“When I walked in to hospital they said it was a miracle I was able to walk in.

“My heart rate was going at 265 beats per minute.”

A normal resting heart rate is 60 to 100 beats a minute, but Taylor’s remained at 265 for six to seven hours – “the equivalent of doing five, six marathons.”

He now treats the condition with medication and said he was fortunate to survive.

“I’m still alive. I should have died – that’s the scary thing about these inherited heart conditions.

“A lot of people don’t get the opportunities I had and it’s often too late.”

Research has helped to discover many of the faulty genes that cause inherited heart conditions.

This has led to the development of structured genetic testing services for those at highest risk for some of these conditions.

However, the British Heart Foundation says more research is urgently needed.

Inherited heart conditions: What you need to know

  • Many people with an inherited heart condition have no symptoms, but some can develop some warning signs including dizzy spells, palpitations and blackouts
  • Screening and genetic testing can help identify problems
  • Doctors will suggest you be tested if a family member has been diagnosed with an inherited heart condition, there is a family history of premature deaths or you have been diagnosed with angina or had a heart attack at a young age
  • If you are diagnosed with an inherited heart condition, monitoring and treatment can reduce the risk of a sudden heart attack or cardiac arrest
  • Speak to your GP if you are concerned

Prof Sir Nilesh Samani, BHF medical director, said: “The reality is that there are hundreds of thousands of people across the UK who are unaware that they could be at risk of sudden death.

“If undetected and untreated, inherited heart conditions can be deadly and they continue to devastate families, often by taking away loved ones without warning.

“We urgently need to fund more research to better understand these heart conditions, make more discoveries, develop new treatments and save more lives.”

Stem Cells Could Restore Vision After Eye Disease

A new technique using stem cells can restore vision in mice that have end-stage eye disease, a condition that is thought to bring irreversible vision loss.

Researchers used stem cells to grow new retina tissue in a lab, and then transplanted that tissue into mice that had end-stage retinal degeneration. More than 40 percent of the mice gained the ability to see light as the result of the procedure, the researchers said.

This is the first time researchers have successfully transplanted the cells that sense light, the retina’s light receptors, so that these cells connect to the host’s nervous system and send signals to the host’s brain, the researchers said.

“We were at first very excited to see that the transplants do robustly respond to light,” Dr. Michiko Mandai, the first author of the paper and a deputy project leader at the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology in Japan, told Live Science.

The researchers hope to eventually increase the number of connections between the cells in the host’s degenerated retina and the stem cell transplants, Mandai said. This could allow the mice to see not only light, but also a large figure or movement, Mandai said.

The retina is the layer of tissue at the back of the eye that actually senses light and passes signals on to the brain, where the information is processed and an image is perceived . In individuals with retinal degeneration, the light-sensing cells are gradually lost, eventually leading to total blindness, Mandai said. Age-related macular degeneration , the most prevalent type of retinal degeneration, affects approximately 15 million people in the U.S. and 170 million people worldwide.

In the study, researchers converted skin cells from an adult mouse into mouse induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). The scientists then converted these stem cells into retinal tissue and transplanted the tissue into mice that had end-stage retinal degeneration.

The researchers used what is called a shuttle avoidance test to determine whether the mice could see light. The test involves a sound- and light-insulated box with two chambers, separated by a wall with a small opening that allows mice to move between the two compartments.

A mouse is placed in the box and trained to recognize that a simultaneous beep and light signal is a warning of an electric shock. The mouse can avoid the shock by moving to the other chamber. In the study, once the mice were trained to avoid the shock, only the light (and not the beep) was used as a warning, to test whether the mouse could see the light.

In the experiment, after retinal transplantation , four of 10 mice with transplants in both eyes, and five of 11 mice with a transplant in only one eye, could respond to the light signal, according to the findings, published Jan. 10 in the journal Stem Cell Reports.

It is unclear whether the new technique could be applied in humans, and testing it is likely a long way off, the researchers said. One aspect of human health to consider is that, whereas the mice in this experiment were able to respond to light one month after the retina transplantation, the human retina takes a longer time to mature, the researchers said in a statement . Thus, it may take up to five or six months for a transplanted retina in humans to start responding to light, they said.

Furthermore, researchers still need to test whether the same procedure would work in humans, the scientists said.

“From a clinical point of view, although we think that these results are very promising, human eyes may have a different environment from mice, and [the questions of] whether they accept retinal transplants and make connections with transplants are yet to be tested,” Mandai told Live Science. “We would get the answers only in [a] human study.”

Ending The Worry Of Cancer

Cancer is a disease that many people will worry about at some time. If there is a history of cancer in your family, then it is easy to worry about possibly being diagnosed with the disease in the future. There are ways of overcoming fear of cancer, most that involve talking to others who can provide the emotional support that you need. You can also talk to your doctor about the likelihood of cancer developing and if there is anything that you can do to prevent the disease from occurring in the body, such as biopsies of any abnormal areas or the surgical removal of suspicious masses.

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One of the things that you can do is to make a list of the things that worry you about cancer. It might be the treatments that are involved or the way that the cancer would take over the body systems. Once you know what you’re worried about, then you can find ways to cope with those issues. Think about what you can do something about and what you have no control over. If there are foods that you can eat to boost your immune system or tests that you can have done to see if there is cancer present or a chance that cancer could develop, then do those things to put your mind at ease. If there is something that you don’t have control over, then it’s best to try to accept that it’s a part of life and that there is a solution once that event happens.

You can bore yourself to calmness. Think of the same thought over and over, and you’ll soon repeat it so much to yourself that it becomes boring. This can occur with any kind of thought, even if it’s not related to cancer itself. When your mind is taken off of cancer, then you can focus on other things in life, such as your family, a job and ways to make your life better. Stop thinking that you need to get an answer right away. Think about the advantages that you have if you wait on an answer and some of the disadvantages that go along with learning of an outcome immediately.

New Research Changes What We Know About Alzheimer’s Disease

New research suggests that what we thought we knew about the development of plaques and tangles, the hallmark of Alzheimer’s Disease, may be completely wrong.

Every 66 seconds, someone in the U.S develops Alzheimer’s Disease (AD), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that each year about 93,000 people die from the condition. Despite these startling statistics, we still know very little about the disease. However, a new study from Australia has “completely changed our understanding” of how AD affects the brain, shedding light onto the nerve cell processes that lead to the condition, and perhaps even opening the door for new treatment options.

The formation of protein plaques and tangles on the brain is the hallmark of AD. Researchers have long believed that the plaque-forming protein, amyloid-beta, caused a modification called phosphorylation to the tau protein. The phosphorylation of tau protein was thought to result in cell death which ultimately led to Alzheimer’s disease. However, the new study suggests that phosphorylation of tau protein has a protective, not destructive, effect on the brain cells. Eventually this defense is worn down, ultimately leading to AD.

“Amyloid-beta induces toxicity in the neurons but the first step in tau phosphorylation is actually to decrease this toxicity,” explained lead study Professor Lars Ittner in a recent statement. “This is a completely new mindset; that the reason tau becomes modified is actually to protect from damage.”

The team was able to find this potentially groundbreaking discovery on AD’s pathology by studying the disease’s progression in mice and human brain tissue.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, and is characterized by memory loss and thinking and behavioral problems. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, scientists can see abnormal buildups of protein fragments between nerve cells called plaques. When these nerve cells die they cause “tangles.” While researchers can see the result of AD, they are not completely sure of what causes these deformations. The new theory on the roots cause of AD could have far-reaching uses.

The research is still in its early years, but the team eventually plans to work on treatments based on their research.

“If we can stimulate that activity, we may be able to delay or even halt the progression of Alzheimer’s disease,” added Ittner.

Inability To Store Fat Safely Increases Diabetes Risk

Being unable to store excess fat safely in the body increases the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart attacks and strokes, Cambridge University research suggests.

A study of 200,000 people showed that those with a variation in their genetic make-up were less likely to deposit fat under the skin in the lower body.

This can lead the body to become resistant to the hormone insulin.

The scientists said their findings explain why even slim people who eat too much and are inactive are at risk.

And they added that a healthy diet and physical exercise is important, regardless of body weight.

Genetic link

Insulin is a hormone that controls levels of blood sugar.

When the body becomes resistant to it, levels of blood sugars and lipids rise, increasing the risk of diabetes and heart disease – but no-one is sure why insulin resistance happens and why some people become resistant when overweight, and others do not.

International figures show that 43% of people who develop type 2 diabetes are obese, 43% are overweight and 14% have a healthy weight.

The Cambridge study, published in Nature Genetics, found that a large proportion of the population has inherited some of 53 separate genetic variants that inhibit the storage of fat safely under the skin, particularly in the lower half of the body.

Their fat is more likely to end up in the bloodstream or stored in and around the body’s central organs.

The study said people who have more of this genetic material are at much greater risk of type 2 diabetes – no matter what their BMI (body mass index) is.

Fat location

In the 20% of the population with the highest number of these genetic variants, their risk of diabetes rose by 39% compared to the 20% of the population with the lowest genetic risk.

People with fat storage problems can end up with fat accumulating in and around the liver, pancreas and muscles – where it causes insulin resistance and eventually type 2 diabetes.

Dr Luca Lotta, from the Medical Research Council epidemiology unit at the University of Cambridge, said that fat stored in the arms, legs and under the skin played an important role.

“Our results highlight the important biological role of peripheral fat tissue as a deposit of the surplus of energy due to overeating and lack of physical exercise.”

Tooth Whitening At Home

If you yearn for a brighter smile, you might be considering one of the many tooth whitening kits available over the counter at drugstores and chain stores.

These products come in a variety of forms, including stick-on strips, dissolving strips and gels, and tooth-shaped trays that you fill with gel before placing on your teeth for a recommended period of time.

But will these tooth whitening products turn yellowing teeth whiter? And are they safe?

When They Work

Home tooth whitening treatments usually rely on the chemicals hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide—which releases hydrogen peroxide—to bleach some of the discolorations that can build up over time in the outer layer of tooth enamel.

Lightening strips, gels, and gel-filled trays with one of those ingredients are typically used once or twice a day for up to 14 days.

These tooth whitening products can effectively lighten tooth stains caused by smoking and highly pigmented foods and drinks such as coffee, tea, cola, and red wine, according to Jay W. Friedman, D.D.S., M.P.H., a consumer healthcare advocate and dental adviser to Consumer Reports.

Most home tooth whitening products will leave teeth one to two shades whiter based on a 16-shade tooth bleaching scale when used as directed, according to a 2014 review published in the Journal of Evidence-Based Dental Practice.

“You will see a noticeable difference, but final results can vary depending on individual teeth and the depth of staining or discoloration,” says Edmond Hewlett , D.D.S., a professor of dentistry at the University of California Los Angeles and spokesperson for the American Dental Association.

The bonus for your wallet: Home tooth whitening kits cost a fraction of the hundreds of dollars you’d pay for whitening in a dentist’s office and may work just as well for some of the stains mentioned above.

When They Don’t

As good as home tooth whitening kits can be at tackling stains on the enamel that covers teeth, they are less effective against some other kinds of discoloration.

For example, tooth enamel normally thins with age, so dentin—the hard tissue under the enamel, which can be gray, brown, or blue in tone—may begin to show through.

A previous tooth injury or having taken the antibiotic tetracyline as a youngster can also lead to darkened dentin.

Both give teeth a darker look, which home tooth whitening kits can’t lighten, says Hewlett.

Stronger dentist-office tooth whitening procedures can sometimes lighten up dentin. “In-office whitening uses higher concentrations of the ingredients used in home kits,” he explains.

Keep in mind that both home tooth whitening and dentist-office whitening only work on natural teeth. So if you have caps, crowns, veneers, dentures, or white fillings, you’ll see no difference in those parts of your smile.

Safety and Side Effects

When used as directed, our experts say, home tooth whitening kits are safe.

But it’s worth checking in with your dentist first to rule out oral health issues that should be addressed. “Whitening with an unfilled cavity could be painful,” Hewlett notes.

In addition, be aware that home whitening can cause uncomfortable—but temporary—side effects.

“Some users develop gum irritation, especially if whitening strips or other products are in too much contact with gums,” says Hewlett. “And most people experience a little tooth sensitivity.”

For 10 to 15 percent of users, that sensitivity can be significant enough to cause them to discontinue whitening.

If you have sensitive teeth, before whitening, try brushing with a toothpaste for sensitive teeth starting a week or so beforehand. Continue to use that toothpaste throughout the home treatment.

If sensitivity occurs, consider skipping a day in between use of your home kit.

Avoiding extremely cold and hot foods and drinks during whitening can also keep you more comfortable.

And don’t use at-home kits more often than recommended. Doing otherwise can increase the likelihood of irritation and sensitivity.

Getting the Most From Home Tooth Whitening

Which type of home whitening product is most effective? It’s unclear.

A review of studies, published in the journal Clinical Oral Investigations, found products containing carbamide peroxide worked only slightly better at whitening than products containing hydrogen peroxide. (And see what our experts say about whitening toothpastes.)

When it comes to highly pigmented foods and drinks, be aware that in one study at least, cola caused even more staining in freshly whitened teeth than coffee.

“Cola should be avoided because it is an unhealthy drink—too much sugar,” Friedman says. “It stains the teeth and also causes erosion of the enamel due to its acidic content.”

Sipping iced tea and cold coffee drinks through a straw can help curb their discoloring effects.

So can swishing water around your mouth after a meal that contains foods and drinks that can affect tooth color.

And, of course, good dental hygiene is key. “Keep your teeth clean with regular brushing and flossing,” says Hewlett.

Helping Children Use Arms And Legs

When learning about a prosthetic, you need to first understand what it is as there are different sizes for adults and children. They are of the same concept, but the function is a little different due to the size, and most of the time, the child needs to have the prosthetic adjusted at a later time in order to grow with the body. There are various reasons as to why child prosthetics are used, and not all children wear them. The prosthetic is an artificial body part. It is made to replace an arm, hand, leg or foot depending on what part of the body has been removed. Most of the time, these limbs are removed because of an illness that has meant that a doctor has needed to surgically remove the limb. However, some children could lose a limb because of an accident which has resulted in an amputation.

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Sometimes, children will wear a prosthetic only while they are young so that they can gain the strength in the muscles of the upper areas of the limb so that the part of the body can be used as an adult, allowing for the removal of the prosthetic. There are others who will wear the device while at school or playing sports, removing it while at home so that they can feel as normal as possible. Children will often receive a prosthesis based on the severity of the condition and how the doctor feels about whether the device will do more in helping than it would in interfering with daily activities.

At the assessment appointment, measurements will be taken to determine the size that the device needs to be for the child. A cast might be made to make it easier to fit the device on the arm or leg. Once the device is made, the child will go back to the office for a fitting to see how it will adjust to the body. If any adjustments need to be made, then they can be done at the office. If major adjustments need to be made, then the device might need to be sent off to another office before it is ready to use. There will likely be review appointments so that the doctor can look at how the device is sitting with the child and if there needs to be a new device made as the child grows.

Here’s Why You Crave Food After Mentally Taxing Tasks

Could the solution to post-study session cravings be a 15-minute jaunt on the treadmill? According to new research in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, short but strenuous workouts may curb the hunger pangs that tend to follow challenging cognitive tasks.

For anyone who’s ever ordered Domino’s after pouring over a spreadsheet, or wrapping up a complex report, the brain-fried binge is all too familiar. “Mental work utilizes the brain’s energy resources, and the brain then signals that it needs additional energy,” researcher William Neumeier, PhD, a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), explained in an email to Health. “If food is available, the brain will use it to replenish energy. This could lead to overeating.”

Neumeier and his colleagues suspected that physical activity might counteract that urge to eat: “Exercise, especially high-intensity exercise, can increase available energy in the body’s bloodstream, and promote satiety in the short term,” says Dr. Neumeier. The researchers hypothesized that the brain could replenish its energy deficit from a mentally-taxing chore by utilizing byproducts of exercise—primarily glucose and lactate—and halt cravings for more food.

To test their theory, they offered 38 healthy college students pizza (to see how much they ate under normal circumstances). On another day, they had the participants do 20 minutes of math and reading comprehension problems to tire out their brains. Afterwards, one group rested for 15 minutes while another group did interval training on a treadmill. Then the researchers served a pizza lunch, and tracked how many calories the volunteers consumed.

The results lined up with what the researchers expected: “Mental work increased food intake by 100 calories, unless there was an intense bout of exercise in between,” study co-author Emily Dhurandar, PhD, an assistant professor in UAB’s Department of Health Behavior, said in an email. “Among those who exercised, there was no increase in food intake resulting from mental work.”

More research is needed to investigate the effects of workouts of varying types, lengths, and intensities. But the current findings might be helpful for workhorses looking to lose a few pounds. “People who find themselves hungry after completing mentally-demanding tasks should consider adding a bout of exercise to their schedule to help curb their appetite,” says Dhurandar.

So next time you finish a big item on your to-do list, try reaching for your running shoes before a bag of chips, and you may leave your cravings in the dust.