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Ouch! Obesity and Pain Sensitivity

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Many of us have been asked the question, “on a scale of 1 to 10, how much does it hurt?” It is an industry standard that helps medical professionals to evaluate and gauge the severity of a patient’s condition. While pain tolerance varies from individual to individual, a study suggests that those with an unhealthy diet may have an increased sensitivity to pain.

The study analyzed the relationship between diet, body fat, and pain. Professor Charles Emery, the study’s author, says, “The Body Mass Index, dietary habits, and pain sensitivity are evidently interrelated. In particular, persons with a higher BMI who mainly consume low-fiber foods appear to be at risk of suffering from pain more frequently.”

The BMI of approximately 100 adult participants was calculated. On average, the BMI exceeded 30 which registers within the obese range on the current scale. Next, researchers examined the diets of the participants. Those who ate anti-inflammatory and therefore healthier foods scored a high number of points in the “health-eating index.” A healthier, anti-inflammatory diet includes foods that contain more antioxidants and fewer saturated fatty acids. Lastly, participants were asked to answer questions that rated their pain sensitivity.

Researchers found that pain sensitivity increased as a participant’s body mass index increased. It became clearer that dietary habits helped to explain the relationship between a person’s BMI and pain. The researchers suspect this is because the blood parameters of inflammation trigger cytokines protein, which depend on diet. Additionally, being overweight or obese can trigger chronic inflammatory reactions in the body, which increase a person’s sensitivity to pain.

Participants were screened for arthritis to rule that out as an explanation for their pain sensitivity as well. Professor Emery states, “Choosing healthy or unhealthy foods could be a relevant factor in the relationship between understanding body fat and pain.”

If you are experiencing pain on a regular basis, or you’re worried about a recent incident where you were in pain, it is important to let your doctor know. While diet or weight could be an explanation, it is important to rule out any severe conditions too. Contact your doctor at the Medical Alliance of Southern New Jersey to discuss your symptoms and get started on feeling your best.






Blood and Treasure: Cheap Drug Saves Both

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A hospital in Canada has been using a cheap drug to reduce the number of red blood cell transfusions its surgery patients need, and research shows it has been a big success. Orthopedic surgery patients are often at risk for high blood loss during procedures, and oftentimes need transfusions to make up the loss. The excellent results at the Canadian Hospital, St. Michael’s, means more hospitals will likely adopt the practice soon.

The cheap drug in question is called tranexamic acid, known as TXA, and prevents excessive blood loss during surgeries. It has a track record of effectively treating orthopedic, trauma, and cardiac patients. There was a shortage of the cheap drug for a time in 2013, but after it became widely available again, anesthesiologists started giving TXA to every eligible patient undergoing hip or knee replacement surgery. In total, 402 patients received the drug. Dr. Greg Hare is an anesthesiologist at St. Michaels and he explained, “We wanted to optimize TXA’s use in patients undergoing hip or knee replacements because these procedures often result in high blood loss and frequently require transfusions. The drug costs about $10 per patient, while the average cost of transfusing one unit of blood is $1,200.”

The mandatory use of TXA for eligible patients undergoing hip or knee replacement surgery at the hospital reduced its transfusion rate from 8.8 percent to 5.2 percent—a more than 40 percent reduction. Even more important, patients who received TXA did not have increased adverse effects, like heart attack, stroke, or blood clots. The hospital reports no different in mortality rates or increased length of hospital stays. Dr. Hare says, “Other hospitals and surgical centers should consider making TXA mandatory for similar surgeries because it can improve quality of care, decrease the need for blood transfusions and even save money. Making TXA mandatory for eligible patients has made care more efficient, ensuring the best possible care for our patients.”

Our team at the Medical Alliance of Southern New Jersey is also committed to ensuring the best possible care for our patients. If you’re considering any sort of orthopedic surgery—or you’ve already undergone the procedure and are in the process of recovering—call your doctor at the Medical Alliance of Southern New Jersey to discuss any concerns or questions you have on your road to recovery. We can find you the answers, and help, you need for your healthiest and happiest life.




Vitamin C Supplementation Improves Lifestyle for Overweight, Obese

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Obesity is an epidemic in the United States and with it comes a range of troubling health conditions and diseases. The causes and treatment of obesity vary from person to person, but the quality of life for those who are obese is often diminished. While doctors and researchers continue to develop methods for treating obese adults and get them on a path to health and wellness, a new study offers a simple option: vitamin C supplements.

Authors of a small study recently concluded that, “Vitamin C supplementation represents an effective lifestyle strategy for reducing the blood vessel constriction that is increased in overweight and obese adults.” The study focused on a protein called endothelin-1, which constricts small blood vessels. The protein becomes more active in overweight and obese people and because of high endothelin-1 activity, small vessels are more prone to constricting and become less responsive to the blood flow demand. This effectively increases a person’s risk of vascular disease.

Research has already shown that exercise reduces endothelin-1 activity, but researchers were looking for ways to supplement exercise for improved blood vessel function. Vitamin C has previously been reported to improve blood vessel function and lower endothelin-1 activity. Caitlin Dow led the study to determine the effectiveness of Vitamin-C. The study focused on 35 sedentary, overweight/obese adults over a three-month period. The participants either completed 3 months of supplementation or aerobic exercise training. Researchers measured forearm blood flow and responses to intra-arterial infusion of endothelin-1 before and after each intervention. The results showed that “daily supplementation of Vitamin C at a time-release dose of 500mg daily reduced endothelin-1-mediated vessel constriction as much as walking did.”

Vitamin C has also been shown to help people who are extremely fit and under heavy physical stress—like marathon runners—reduce their chances of getting a cold. Getting the proper balance of vitamins at any fitness level is important, but patients who are overweight or obese should not depend solely on vitamins. Finding healthy habits to adopt is an important part of the path to a healthier, happier quality of life. If you are looking for ways to improve your health, or have questions about your routine, call your doctor at the Medical Alliance of Southern New Jersey today to find the healthy habits that fit your needs today!








Acupuncture: Reducing Hot Flashes for Breast Cancer Survivors

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For many patients who have survived breast cancer, the road to recovery means combining a variety of practices to get back to better health. The combination of nutrition, fitness, medical expertise, and holistic options can help survivors regain their strength and feel their best. Acupuncture is not for everyone, but studies have shown that it may help breast cancer survivors deal with the side effects of treatment.

Many women experience hot flashes after undergoing breast cancer treatment from the estrogen-targeting therapies used to treat breast cancer. Hot flashes can be particularly severe and frequent in breast cancer survivors, but the current remedies for hot flashes—such as hormone replacement—are off limits to breast cancer survivors because they include estrogen. However, a new study from researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania found an innovative way to manage hot flashes for cancer survivors.

The report’s lead author, Jun J. Mao said, “Though most people associate hot flashes with menopause, the episodes also affect many breast cancer survivors who have low estrogen levels and often undergoing premature menopause, following treatment with chemotherapy or surgery. These latest results clearly show promise for managing hot flashes experienced by breast cancer survivors through the use of acupuncture, which in previous studies has also been proven to be an effective treatment for joint pain in this patient population.”

For those who are unfamiliar, hot flashes are episodes of flushing, sweating, racing heartbeat and sensations of heat. Precisely how hot flashes happen isn’t known, but they are closely associated with decreased estrogen levels.

The study contained 120 breast cancer survivors who all reported experiencing multiple hot flashes a day. Patients were then randomly grouped into four different groups that would analyze the effectiveness of an acupuncture technique known as electroacupuncture—where the needles deliver weak electrical currents. The acupuncture’s effectiveness was compared to the other main treatment method, an epilepsy drug called gabapentin. Over the course of eight weeks, participants either received gabapentin, gabapentin placebo, electroacupuncture, or sham electroacupuncture, which involves no needle or current.

After eight weeks, participants who received the electroacupuncture showed the greatest improvement in a standard measure of their hot flash frequency and severity, followed by the sham acupuncture group, the gabapentin pill, and the gabapentin placebo. The acupuncture groups also reported the fewest side effects.

Some may question whether or not acupuncture has actual biological effects apart from the power of suggestion. Previous studies have shown that the practice can boost bloodstream levels of endorphins—painkilling, mood-elevating molecules. Studies have also shown that traditional acupuncture works differently than sham acupuncture on the brain. Acupuncture is just one option of many. If you’re a breast cancer survivor trying to find ways to manage your side effects, call your doctor at the Medical Alliance of Southern New Jersey today to find a solution that works best for you.



Alzheimer’s Disease Breakthrough: Rats Respond to Drug

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Alzheimer’s disease is a slowly progressing and difficult condition for millions of Americans across the country. It is the most common cause of progressive dementia and an estimated 5.3 million Americans have Alzheimer’s. The disease is one of the leading causes of death in the United States, with the Alzheimer’s association estimating that 700,000 people will die with the disease over the course of 2015. Currently, the Food and Drug Administration has approved five medications to treat the disease. While these medications are vital for patients with Alzheimer’s, none of them treat the disease—they simply mask the symptoms. However, a new study conducted by researchers found a chemical called IRL-1620 that successfully treated rats for similar symptoms as Alzheimer’s.

The new drug helped improve the rat’s memory, prevented oxidative stress, and enhanced neurovascular modeling in rats that demonstrated impaired learning abilities and increased oxidative stress caused by the disease. One of the study’s authors, Seema Briyal, said, “We used the novel approach of stimulating the endothelin B receptors by intravenous injection of IRL-1620 to prevent and repair the damage to the brain caused by Alzheimer’s disease.” Researchers have already discovered how important Endothelin B (ETB) receptors are for brain development, and stimulating these receptors has provided protection to the nervous system.

For this new study, scientists injected rats that had Alzheimer’s disease with IRL-1620, a drug that binds ETB receptors and watched its effects on spatial memory, oxidative stress and the expression of certain proteins in the brain. Researchers found that the drug improved memory deficit in the rats by 50 to 60 percent, and reduced oxidative stress by as much as 50 percent.

Briyal noted that researchers, “also found that treatment with IRL-1620 enhanced certain recovery processes within the Alzheimer’s disease-damaged brain, resulting in more new blood vessels and neuronal cells. This indicates reparative processes occurring in the damaged brain.”

This study is the first to demonstrate how the injection of IRL-1620 can reverse the neurological effects of Alzheimer’s disease in an animal model. Further study will be needed to see if these results translate to humans with the debilitating condition. In the meantime, if someone in your family is suffering from Alzheimer’s, contact your doctor at the Medical Alliance of Southern New Jersey today to discuss ways to manage symptoms and ensure quality of life.



Eat This: Tahini Health Benefits

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Many of us continue to look for ways to improve our diet for our health. Inevitably, this means finding recipes that are good for us, and sticking to them. However, this can get boring for even the simplest palate. If you’re looking to mix up your diet, but keep eating healthy, then consider adding tahini to your cooking routine.

Tahini is made from sesame seeds that are hulled, toasted, and ground into butter. You can find it in North African, Greek, Iranian, Turkish, and Middle Eastern cuisines. While not all fad diets are created equal, the Mediterranean diet is rich in nutritious and delicious meals that are good for your health and body. Tahini is a major ingredient in dishes like hummus and baba ghanoush—a dip made from eggplants.

A serving of tahini is just two tablespoons. While small, those spoonfulls contain 178 calories, 16 grams of fat, 6 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 5 grams of protein, and 0 grams of sugar. While 16 grams of fat may seem offputting, 14 of those grams are mono- and poly-unsaturated fats which are excellent for hearth and overall health.That petite serving also provides 30% of your daily thiamin needs, 24% of your magnesium, 22% of your phosphorus, 14% of your iron, and 12% of your daily-recommended calcium intake.

Sesame seeds also contain lignans sesamin and sesamol, which have shown to help lower cholesterol levels. In a study published in Nutrition Research, participants consumed 1.5 ounces of tahini a day and saw a 6.4 to 9.5 percent drop in their LDL cholesterol in only four weeks. The high magnesium content in tahini is also beneficial for healthy bones. Adequate magnesium intakes are associated with better bone density and help decrease a person’s risk for osteoporosis in postmenopausal women.

The best ways to eat tahini are indulging in hummus or baba ghanoush. Eat both with cut up veggies for a delicious and satisfying snack. Hummus and baba ghanoush are also excellent on sandwiches instead of traditional condiments like mayonnaise or mustard. You can also sneak tahini into salad dressings, soups, smoothies, or quinoa bowls for a seriously nutritious meal. If you’re looking for more ways to boost your diet, or have specific health concerns you’d like to address, contact your doctor at the Medical Alliance of Southern New Jersey today to find options that work for you.






Runner’s High : Still Legal in All 50 States

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Avid runners often report a euphoric “boost” during their workout that gives them the motivation to keep on running. Where the actual ‘runner’s high’ comes from though, may be surprising for those on the go. A study reports in Cell Metabolism that the emotional pick-me-up is modulated in part by the satiety hormone leptin.

In the study, mice with reduced leptin signaling in the brain ran twice as many miles on a running wheel compared to normal mice. The research suggests that declining leptin levels send a “hunger signal” to the brain’s pleasure center to generate the rewarding effects of running via the runner’s high. The study’s author, Stephanie Fulton explains, “based on these findings, we think that a fall in leptin levels increases motivation for physical activity as a means to enhance exploration and the pursuit of food. Our study also suggests that people with lower fat-adjusted leptin levels, such as high-performance marathon runners, could potentially be more susceptible to the rewarding effects of running and thus possibly more inclined to exercise.”

What is leptin you ask? It’s a fat cell-derived hormones that tells the brain when the body has enough fuel and energy. Low leptin levels have been associated with exercise addiction, fast marathon times, and training status in humans and greater running speed and duration in mice. To test the impact of leptin, Fulton and her team used genetically engineered mice that lacked a leptin-sensitive protein called STAT3, which monitors the leptin signal specifically in neurons that release the reward chemical dopamine. Normal mice ran 6 kilometers a day on a running wheel but the STAT3-deficient mice ran an impressive 11 kilometers per day. The STAT3-deficient mice also spent more time in the running-side of the chamber than the normal mice.

In addition to explaining a “runner’s high” the research has clinical implications for anorexia. Previous research showed that leptin signaling in the brain’s reward center inhibits wheel running in a rat model of anorexia-induced hyperactivity. Individuals with anorexia have low fat-adjusted leptin levels, associated with increased restlessness and hyperactivity.

Fulton and her team plan to test running rewards associated with food seeking behavior and also which neural pathways downstream of dopamine neurons contribute to the runner’s high. This could develop new ways to enhance stamina and increase the probability of success while foraging and hunting. While leptin is not the only metabolic signal controlling the rewarding effects of running, the research allows scientists to determine the precise role of dopamine, opioid, and endogenous cannabinoid signals to impact physical activity and its rewards.

In the meantime, physical fitness can provide tangible results to your health. From weight management to improved cardiovascular health, a little run can do a lot more than give you a “buzz.” If running isn’t for you though, and you’re worried about physical fitness, contact your doctor at the Medical Alliance of Southern New Jersey to discuss potential ways for you to feel and look your best.



Stinging for a Cure? Wasp Venom’s Anticancer Properties

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Anyone who has tried to enjoy the summer weather knows that wasps can be a menace to fun. If you’ve ever been stung, you know just how unpleasant these small winged creatures can be, especially if you are allergic. However, sometimes help comes from the most unexpected places and wasp venom might be the next great frontier in cancer research.

Researchers have shown how wasp venom from the Brazilian social wasp Polybia paulista contains the antimicrobial peptide Polybia-MP1, which has been shown to inhibit multiple forms of cancerous cells like prostate cancer, bladder cancer, and multidrug-resistant leukemic cells. While researchers discovered the use of MP1, they had yet to discover how it kills cancer cells until now.

The new study from Biophysical Journal reveals how MP1 is able to kill cancer cells while leaving normal cells unscathed. MP1 attacks lipids on the surface of cancer cells and creates holes that allow important cell molecules to leak out. One of the study’s authors, Paul Beales, explained how, “Cancer therapies that attack the lipid composition of the cell membrane would be an entirely new class of anticancer drugs. This could be useful in developing new combination therapies where multiple drugs are used simultaneously to treat a cancer by attacking different parts of the cancer cells at the same time.”

The reason behind MP1’s special effectiveness could be how cancer cell membranes differ from normal, healthy cell membranes. MP1 creates pores large enough for critical molecules to easily escape cancer cells. Going forward, the researchers plan to experiment with a different MP1 amino acid sequences to investigate how MP1’s structure relates to its function and potentially boost its anticancer properties for therapeutic purposes.

While exciting and promising advances are in progress for Cancer treatment, there are still options available now for patients struggling with a cure. If you or someone you love is battling cancer, and you’re looking for information or help, contact your doctor at the Medical Alliance of Southern New Jersey today to discuss finding the best options available today.






The Value of Sleep: Deprivation and the Common Cold

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Sleep is important for everyone—it helps us function properly throughout the day and keeps us healthy. A new study published in the journal Sleep reinforces the important of getting enough sleep. Researchers demonstrated that not getting enough sleep could increase a person’s risk of catching a cold.

In their report, researchers state that, “people who only get 6 hours of sleep a night or less are four times more likely to catch a cold after exposure to the virus than people that get 7 or more hours of sleep a night.” The study’s leader author, Aric Prather is a professor of Psychiatry at the University of California-San Francisco. Prather states that, “Short sleep was more important than any other factor in predicting subjects’ likelihood of catching cold. It didn’t matter how old people were, their stress levels, their race, education, or income. It didn’t matter if the were a smoker. With all those things taken into account, statistically sleep still carried the day.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has previously stated that insufficient sleep constitutes a public health epidemic, linking exhaustion with motor vehicle accidents, industrial disasters, and occupational errors. Other studies have reported that poor sleep may also be linked to poor metabolic health and raising a person’s risk of heart attack and stroke. Insufficient sleep is all too common in the United States. The National Sleep Foundation says that, “1 in 5 Americans obtain less than 6 hours sleep on an average work night.”

In Prather’s study, 164 participants were given the common cold virus via nasal drops. Researchers then analyzed the factors that affected the body’s capacity to fight the virus off. Participants were monitored for a week and had mucus samples taken every day to assess the virus’s progress. Participants also underwent a two-month pre-trial screening to observe their normal sleep habits. Dr. Prather explained that, “one of the strengths of the study is that it is based on the participant’s usual sleep cycles rather than artificially depriving the volunteers of sleep. This could be a typical week for someone during cold season.” Those who normally got less than 6 hours were 4.2 times more likely to catch a cold than participants who got 7 hours or more of shuteye. Participants who slept less than 5 hours were 4.5 times more likely to get sick.

While culture is still busy—valuing work over relaxation—more studies like this one could reinforce the importance of getting enough sleep. If you’re worried about sleep habits and are looking for ways to improve your overall health, contact your doctor at the Medical Alliance of Southern New Jersey today.






Can Beta Blockers do Double Duty?

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Beta-blockers are a type of medication typically used to reduce high blood pressure. However, a new study published in Cancer suggests that there may be a new way to use beta-blockers to treat patients. Drugs oftentimes have multiple treatment options and this discovery could be a coup for ovarian cancer research. The study discovered that beta-blockers may help women with ovarian cancer survive longer.

The study’s lead author, Dr. Anil Sood from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center said, “we found that patients taking a broad, or nonselective beta blocker were the ones who derived the most benefit compared with those who were not taking a beta blocker or those who were taking a beta-1 selective medication.” Previous research suggested that stress hormones could play a big role in the cancer’s development. While beta-blockers are typically prescribed to treat heart-related conditions, they can also impact the body’s response to stress.

In another study, “the effect of epinephrine in increasing the invasive potential of ovarian cancer cells was negated by a nonselective beta-blocker called propranolol.” While some studies investigating the use of beta-blockers have conflicting conclusions, many researchers attribute this fact to small patient numbers.

The new study under Dr. Snood analyzed 1,425 women from 2000-2010 who received treatment for ovarian cancer. Of those patients, 193 women were taking beta-1 adrenergic receptor (ADRB1) selective agents beta-blockers and 76 were receiving nonselective beta antagonists beta blockers. The median survival time for patients who did not receive beta-blockers was 42 months. Patients who received any form of beta-blocker survived 47.8 months. Among patients who received nonselective beta-blockers though, the median survival time was 94.9 months—significantly higher than the median survival time for patients receiving ADRB1 at 38 months.

Researchers also found that patients with hypertension typically survived for less time than patients without hypertension. However, even patients with hypertension had a longer median survival time among nonselective beta-blocker users compared to the nonusers. Dr. Sood explained that, “To our knowledge, the current study is the first to examine the relationships with patient outcomes based on specific types of beta-blockers.” There are currently two clinical trials underway to investigate the combination of chemotherapy and variable doses of propranolol on cancer biology alongside the impact that nonselective beta-blockers have on stress modulators in patients with diagnosed ovarian cancer.

While researchers continue to test the potential success of beta-blockers for ovarian cancer patients, your team at the Medical Alliance of Southern New Jersey is committed to helping you now. If you, or someone you love, is battling ovarian cancer, call your doctor at the Medical Alliance of Southern New Jersey today to discuss their treatment plan and ways to manage some symptoms.