Archive for the ‘Are You at Risk?’ Category
November 29, 2013
New advances in medical treatments and better understanding of preventative care through screening have increased Americans’ lifespans, but every year additional year merely brings us closer to possible dementia. This was the thinking until recent studies confirmed a simple, foolproof way to cut your risk for developing dementia by 50 percent. Is it an expensive new drug or a doctor-developed brain training Nintendo game? Actually, it’s something much more attainable and significantly cheaper: exercise.
The Costs of Dementia
According to projections by the Alzheimer’s Association, the number of Americans with the degenerative condition will increase by 40 percent in the next 12 years. In 2010 alone, dementias (including Alzheimer’s) cost the nation’s families, insurers, and government $172 billion. As the population ages, those costs will only go up, with the figure ballooning to $1 trillion by 2050. Even worse than the financial expense is the impact on what should be one’s golden years; most baby boomers in America will spend their retirement struggling with Alzheimer’s or caring for a loved one who has it.
More Exercise = Bigger Brain
Fortunately, everyone can reduce their risk of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia with simple physical activity. Complex stretching routines or strenuous weightlifting regimens are not required to gain the brain-protecting benefit, either. According to the study published earlier this year, the best results were obtained among subjects who did little more than brisk walking.
How exactly does physical exertion guard against dementia? The most important parts of the brain for complex thinking and forming memories are the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex. While their deterioration is a predictor for Alzheimer’s disease, they are also linked to physical exercise. Greater fitness levels correlate with an increase in size among both areas. We often think of growing brains as limited to children and teenagers, but even previously sedentary subjects in their 60s and 70s saw an increase in brain volume when they began exercising for the study.
While the study clearly proved the benefits of walking, some questions remain unanswered. Do the gains in cognition and mood persist if the subject stops exercising? What is the minimum of activity needed and is there an upper limit of intensity and frequency after which there is no additional benefit for the brain? Subjects in the study walked 3 to 45 minutes each day, so that’s the best starting point for anyone interested in dementia prevention.
Find more resources on Alzheimer’s and dementia prevention from Life Line Screening now:
- 4 Benefits of Early Detection of Alzheimer’s Disease
- Study: Atrial Fibrillation Could Show Signs of Early Dementia
- Top 10 Lifestyle Changes to Lower Alzheimer’s Disease Risk
November 20, 2013
As you’ve probably figured out by now, November is Movember – the massive campaign to raise funds and awareness for men’s health, specifically prostate and testicular cancer.
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among American men, and the American Cancer Society estimates that about 1 in 6 men will be diagnosed with the disease during their lifetime. About 6 out of 10 cases are diagnosed among men over age 65.
If you’re a man and you’re worried about prostate cancer, there are mistakes you could be making that aren’t helping to lower your risk. Learn what they are and why you should fix them now.
Eating too much red meat
Studies have linked eating large amounts of red meat and high-fat dairy products to an increase in a man’s risk of developing prostate cancer. One reason could be that many men who eat diets high in red meat and dairy tend to eat fewer healthy fruits and vegetables. To ensure you’re not raising your risk for prostate cancer through your diet, stick to more produce and less red meat.
Packing on the pounds
Research has shown that being obese or overweight can also raise risk of prostate cancer in men. The exact reason for this link is not yet known, but many studies have found that obese men have a higher chance of getting a more aggressive form of prostate cancer. Make some type of physical activity, such as walking or lifting weights, a regular part of your routine to keep the unwanted pounds off.
While studies have not proven smoking is a risk factor for prostate cancer, it is well known that smoking raises disease risk overall. Cigarettes contain carcinogens that have been directly linked to the development of cancer. For optimal healthy aging, avoid smoking cigarettes altogether.
Not knowing family history
Having a family history of prostate or breast cancer increases risk of one day developing prostate cancer. Specifically, if you have a family history of the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation, a very strong family history of women with breast cancer, or a very strong family history of men with prostate cancer, you may be at increased risk. Make sure you’re aware of your family history so you can be proactive with screenings and prostate exams.
Are you taking part in Movember this month? Is raising awareness for prostate and testicular cancer important to you? We’d love to hear. Share your story with us in the comments.
October 23, 2013
Many of us know someone who had or has breast cancer. This disease is both fairly common and well-publicized, especially during Breast Cancer Awareness month in October. As such, research and information on the condition are widely accessible. The risk factors are well-known and testing is readily available.
Regardless of all of this, many women with multiple risk factors end of ignoring or not believing the results of their testing. Some think that their risk is too low, while others ignore the more obvious signs of trouble ahead. Why?
According to the American Cancer Society, the risk factors of breast cancer include:
- Gender (women have a higher risk)
- 55 years or older
- Family history of breast cancer
- Personal history of breast cancer
- Race and ethnicity
- History of other breast conditions
In August 2013, the journal Patient Education and Counseling published the results of a study describing differences in the way women perceive their risk of developing breast cancer. In this study, 690 women used an online program to learn about medications that may help reduce their risk of contracting breast cancer. As part of the program, each woman received a tailored assessment identifying her personal breast cancer risk.
Researchers told half of the women how this risk was tallied. At the conclusion of the study, all participants were asked what they thought of the results. Nearly 20 percent said that they did not believe the assessment of their risk. They felt the test did not take all concerns, such as personal and family history, into account.
While the study’s authors believe that some patients may reject the results of testing as part of a natural skepticism, they still argue that screening is important. Assessing risk of breast cancer or the likelihood of developing other diseases, such as the preventive health screenings offered by Life Line Screening, can still be useful. This study shows that many patients may be more likely to accept a company’s assessment if they feel that their specific history has been taken into consideration.
Many women want to know the chances they will develop breast cancer, since it is such a serious condition. But when women are assessing their risk of contracting the disease, testing should be as complete as possible to ensure that they take the results seriously. Furthermore, preventive medicine only works if we take into consideration our risk factors for certain diseases. Being proactive with health is crucial to obtaining peace of mind or the knowledge needed to stop a catastrophic health problem before it gets worse.
October 18, 2013
Not all bones are created equal. Or at least that’s what the findings from a recent study conducted by the University of Eastern Finland in Kuopio revealed.
The study, which looked at abnormal bone property in children who suffered from vertebral fractures, or had been the subject of a solid organ transplant, is the first to document bone compositional changes in children. Using histomorphometry and infrared spectroscopy, the study suggests that the understanding the rate of bone deterioration may be more important indicator of future problems than bone density itself.
Simply stated, bone histomorphometry is a way to measure the shape and form of bone tissue to arrive at a fuller understanding of the bone’s architecture, while spectroscopic technology provides a way to accomplish that goal by studying the interaction between matter and radiated energy.
One of the leading causes for increased risk factors of bone fractures is the disease known as osteoporosis. Characterized by abnormal bone formations, osteoporosis has no symptoms but generally results in what’s known as fragility fractures that typically target the hips, ribs, wrists, and vertebral column of the sufferer. Whereas earlier studies focused on measuring bone density, this latest study suggests that the quality of the bone, rather than bone density, may be the better indicator of bone fragility problems in children.
The new study confirms that to study remodeling balance in younger patients, bone histomorphometry is needed in clinical studies to better understand the effects on children. Study researchers emphasized how bone histomorphometry provides valuable information that can aid in an accurate diagnosis and treatment regime, which is especially important when treating pediatric patients.
“Especially in clinically challenging scenarios where different treatment options are being considered, bone histomorphometry provides valuable information. An accurate diagnosis and choice of medication are especially important when treating pediatric patients.” Said study author Dr. Inari Tamminen in a recent Science Daily article.
Osteoporosis screening is an easy way to determine the health of a patient’s bones and annual screenings are highly recommended for anyone who at risk for bone density loss. Life Line Screening provides painless osteoporosis screenings for those interested. Learn more about it today.
October 11, 2013
If breast cancer runs in your family or you are in a high-risk ethnic group, you may be considering genetic testing. While experts generally recommend early diagnosis and testing, there’s more to genetic testing than simply receiving results. These considerations include the importance of heredity, understanding test results, and—believe it or not—the problem of knowing too much.
Heredity and Risk Factors
While family history is often a major factor when people decide if they should get genetic testing, the surprising fact is that heredity accounts for just 10% of breast cancers. In these cases, abnormalities in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes are to blame. When functioning properly, these genes regulate normal breast cell growth. Abnormal function caused by inheriting a mutated gene can cause ovarian cancer in women or breast cancer in men as well as women. The mere presence of a mutated gene, however, does not guarantee you will develop any form of cancer in your lifetime.
Genetic testing is recommended if:
- You have blood relatives on either side of your family who had breast cancer diagnosed before age 50.
- Both breast and ovarian cancer are present in your family, particularly in a one person.
- Other gland-related cancers run in your family such as thyroid, colon, and pancreatic cancers.
- A first-degree relative has had cancer in both breasts.
- You are of Ashkenazi (Eastern European) Jewish heritage, or Norwegian, Icelandic, or Dutch ancestry.
- A man in your family has had breast cancer.
Everyone agrees that early diagnosis is a good thing, but there may still be downsides to genetic testing. Before testing, you may want to discuss how a positive result will affect you with your doctor or a genetic counselor. Testing positive may cause anxiety, depression, or family tension for some patients, while others may be empowered to make better use of other tests like mammograms and MRIs or have fruitful discussions with family members who may also be at risk.
Angelina Jolie made headlines when she had a double mastectomy as a preventative measure after testing positive for a BRCA1 abnormality. Since her revelation, doctors have been beset by requests from women who would not benefit from the surgery at all. Women who test positive for faulty genes may choose less invasive risk-reducing solutions such as enhanced screening or chemopreventative drugs (tamoxifen and raloxifene).
Peace of mind is something many of us desire when it comes to our health. It helps set our minds at ease and allows us to stress and worry less. Genetic testing does have the power to provide peace of mind, but it may reveal the need for other preventive measures. This is similar to health screenings for other conditions like heart disease and stroke. However, genetic testing may not be right for everyone. Talk to your doctor to see if it’s right for you.