Understanding zoonotic diseases
As the world grapples with the spread of COVID-19, a zoonotic virus, it’s worth taking a look at how interactions between humans and animals can affect public health.
What are zoonotic diseases?
Zoonotic diseases, also known as zoonoses, are illnesses caused by viruses, bacteria, parasites, or fungi that can be transmitted between animals and humans. In addition to coronaviruses, the most well-known zoonotic diseases include:
• Lyme disease
• West Nile virus
• Escherichia coli (E. coli)
How are they transmitted?
Humans interact with animals every day, and the spread of harmful germs between them can occur in a variety of ways. These include:
• Coming in direct contact with an infected animal’s saliva, blood, feces, or urine
• Being stung, scratched, or bitten by an infected animal or insect
• Coming in contact with a contaminated surface and then touching your mouth
• Consuming food or water contaminated with an infected animal’s feces
If you have a pet, make sure your animal is dewormed and up to date on their vaccinations. Additionally, you should regularly check your pet for ticks and wash your hands after handling their feces or cleaning their litter box.
For more information about how to protect yourself and your pet from zoonotic diseases, speak with your veterinarian.
Cancer vaccines may save lives
Could vaccines turn life-threatening cancers into a thing of the past? Early research suggests that mRNA cancer vaccines, often customized specifically for individual patients, have the potential to significantly improve survival rates for certain cancers. So how do these potentially life-saving cancer vaccines work?
Vaccines work by teaching the body how to identify and fight microbes, according to cancer.gov. Traditionally, vaccines have targeted viruses, tiny and not-quite-living microbes that don’t respond to antibiotics. Viral vaccines don’t target the virus itself directly and instead teach the immune system how to identify and attack specific viruses.
For some time now, researchers at various universities, companies, and other organizations have been searching for a mechanism to teach the body how to more effectively find and destroy cancer cells. Because cancer is an internal process, the immune system struggles to fully differentiate between healthy cells and cancer cells, which allows the cells to spread unchecked. While some cells in the immune system can identify the mutated cells, they are usually overwhelmed.
mRNA cancer vaccines may turn the tide, according to AJMC.com. While traditional vaccines typically use a whole virus or similar microbe, mRNA vaccines use smaller proteins to teach immune cells how to spot proteins present in cancer cells or on a virus’s outer coating. When the immune system can quickly identify rogue cells and viruses, it’s much easier to destroy them.
Meanwhile, traditional cancer treatments often target fast-growing cells. Chemotherapy, for example, kills cells as they split into two. Since cancer cells multiply more rapidly than healthy cells, chemotherapy tends to kill off cancer cells more quickly than healthy cells. Still, chemo will kill many healthy cells and damage the body. Cancer vaccines, however, may ultimately prove both effective and much easier on patients.
Staying well: Meditation can improve memory, concentration and more
Everyone knows that meditation can reduce stress. But researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital say it directly affects the function and structure of the brain. It increases attention span, sharpens focus, and improves memory.
With the aid of advanced brain scanning technology, one study showed that daily meditation thickens the parts of the brain’s cerebral cortex responsible for decision-making, attention, and memory.
The test subjects were Boston-area workers practicing Western-style meditation, called mindfulness or insight meditation. For 40 minutes a day, they focused on an image, a sound, or on their own breathing.
The Insight Meditation Society recommends just sitting in a chair. Close your eyes and follow your breath. Feel the rise and fall of your chest or abdomen. If your mind wanders, that’s all right.
Watch what happens when your mind wanders. Notice it, observe it, then let it go and return to breathing. Be aware of what you’re thinking, but don’t get caught up in it.
With practice, you can develop a state called mindfulness, which is being aware of what’s going on as it arises without jumping to conclusions, judgments, hopes, fears, or plans.
Meditation also improves productivity and reduces absenteeism at work, probably because it helps prevent stress-related illness.
Meditation seems to aid with emotional regulation, which helps people get along better. It acts on emotional intelligence, which neuroscientists say is more important for life success than cognitive intelligence.
Collagen and greens: The truth about the hottest supplements
Ads for collagen supplements imply big benefits — youthful skin, stronger bones, and reduced joint pain.
Simply add a scoop to your morning smoothie or mix it with water to turn back the clock. While you’re at it, add a scoop of powdered greens. It’s easier than eating kale but gives you all the nutritional benefits. For just $99 (per month), you can combine the two supplements into a single, convenient product. It’s easy, and it works, right?
Maybe, researchers say. But then again, maybe not. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, more research is needed to determine whether collagen supplements can help humans grow new collagen, which diminishes as we age. And as the New York Times reports, while some studies have indicated that taking collagen for several months may improve skin elasticity, those studies were small and received their funding from collagen supplement manufacturers.
Greens powders — which usually contain some combination of dried and ground leafy greens and seaweed, grasses, probiotics, and herbs — fare somewhat better under scrutiny, but experts still encourage skepticism. According to WebMD, greens powders can be useful to supplement a healthy diet with additional vitamins and antioxidants. One study linked greens powders with improvements in blood pressure. But greens powder is not equivalent to whole foods — some nutritional content, like fiber, is lost in processing, and over-consumption of some vitamins can be harmful.
Another thing for consumers to consider is: The supplement market is largely unregulated, and poor-quality products with inaccurate labels are common. In an interview with The Cut, Evan Reister, a doctor of nutrition science at American University, advises consumers to look for brands that are USP or NSF-certified. These certifications require that manufacturers label their products accurately and submit to third-party lab testing for certain contaminants.
What is frontotemporal dementia?
You may have seen or heard the words “frontotemporal dementia” more often than usual lately, or maybe for the first time ever, thanks to the family of Bruce Willis, which recently announced the legendary actor’s diagnosis. According to his family’s statement, that was the goal: “…that any media attention can be focused on shining a light on this disease that needs far more awareness and research.”
Here are five key things to know about frontotemporal dementia, also called frontotemporal disorder or FTD:
1. Frontotemporal dementia is a catch-all term for a group of disorders that affect the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain, which are associated with personality, behavior, and language, according to the Mayo Clinic.
2. FTD is one of the most common types of dementia among younger patients and affects men and women equally. Symptoms usually start between the ages of 40 and 65 but can also appear in younger or older adults, according to Johns Hopkins.
3. The two most common types of FTD are the frontal variant, which affects behavior and personality, and primary progressive aphasia, which has two subtypes. The first subtype, progressive nonfluent aphasia, affects the ability to speak, while the other type, semantic dementia, affects the ability to use or understand language.
4. The first symptoms are usually unusual behavior and difficulty with speech and language, according to UCSF Health. Later, many patients develop movement disorders or ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
5. The cause of FTD is unknown, but researchers believe a genetic component may exist. There are no treatments available that can slow or reverse the progression of FTD, but medications and therapies may relieve symptoms and help preserve function.
May is National Arthritis Month: How to reduce arthritis symptoms
The most common form of arthritis, osteoarthritis, is a degenerative joint disease wear the protective tissue on bones wears down over time. It causes pain and inflammation.
If you are beginning to have pain in joints, like knees, one of the best things you can do is lose weight. Weight loss reduces joint stress. With weight loss, some joint pain may disappear completely.
In other cases, weight loss may have a moderate impact on pain.
If you already have osteoarthritis pain, increasing water intake often improves the condition after about four weeks, the time needed to rehydrate the joints. Drink half your body weight in ounces each day. If you weigh 160 pounds, drink 80 ounces or ten eight-ounce glasses per day.
Eat foods that fight inflammation, such as fish and nuts. Limit animal fats, which can trigger inflammation. Take a multivitamin.
Researchers have found that walking, riding a bike, tai chi, or swimming can help with pain and preserve some flexibility.
One of the keys is to do as much as you can. No one with arthritis likes getting started, but remember that walking can help reduce pain and inflammation. See arthritis.org for stretching exercises and advice on walking programs.
Glucosamine and chondroitin supplements are often taken for arthritis, but there have been mixed results in clinical studies. Some studies say the supplements seem to have little effect on mild to moderate arthritis. In cases of moderate to severe arthritis, however, some users report reduced pain.
How to remove a tattoo
You’re on a motorcycle. Shades. Sleeve rolled up over your bicep. That screamin’ eagle tattoo says you are ready to rumble.
Of course, 15 years later, maybe you don’t want to rumble anymore.
With tattoos making a big impression these days, doctors who offer laser removal are making big bucks taking the impressions off. By one estimate, there are 23 million Americans with tattoo regret. Young women, in particular, often come to regret the permanent reflection of their adolescence marked in living color on their shoulders and hands.
Laser treatments can permanently remove up to 95 percent of a tattoo, but they are very expensive and take several treatments. The laser works by shooting short bursts of light into the tattoo pigment. The laser breaks up the pigment, and the body removes the leftover tiny pigment particles.
With laser treatments, tattoo ink color matters. Black is the easiest to remove since it readily absorbs light from the laser. Green is harder to remove. There are lasers specifically designed to remove various tattoo colors, but the more obscure the colors in your tattoo, the harder it will be to remove.
While a medium-sized tattoo can cost $200, removing it could cost $1200. Laser removal costs $200 per treatment and can require from six to eight treatments, although results vary.
If laser treatment doesn’t work, there are other, more invasive permanent options. The tattoo can be sanded off (dermabrasion), cut off (surgery) with or without skin grafting, or burned off (chemical peels).
Wind: 1mph NNW
UV index: 7