Aug 01

Alzheimer’s (part 2)


Risk factors

Some things are more commonly associated with Alzheimer’s disease – not seen so often in people without the disorder. These factors may therefore have some direct connection. Some are preventable or modifiable factors (for example, reducing the risk of diabetes or heart disease may in turn cut the risk of dementia).
If researchers gain more understanding of the risk factors, or scientifically prove any “cause” relationships for Alzheimer’s, this could help to find ways to prevent it or develop treatments.
Risk factors associated with Alzheimer’s disease include:

Unavoidable risk factors

  •  Age – the disorder is more likely in older people, and a greater proportion of over-85-year-olds have it than of over-65s.
  •  Family history (inheritance of genes) – having Alzheimer’s in the family is associated with higher risk. This is the second biggest risk factor after age.
  •  Having a certain gene (the apolipoprotein E or APOE gene) puts a person, depending on their specific genetics, at three to eight times more risk than a person without the gene.6 Numerous other genes have been found to be associated with Alzheimer’s disease, even recently (see developments below).
  •  Being female (more women than men are affected).

Potentially avoidable or modifiable factors

  • Factors that increase blood vessel (vascular) risk – including diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. (These also increase the risk of stroke, which itself can lead to another type of dementia.)
  •  Low educational and occupational attainment.
  •  Prior head injury. (While a traumatic brain injury does not necessarily lead to Alzheimer’s, some research links have been drawn, with increasing risk tied to the severity of trauma history.)
  •  Sleep disorders (the breathing problem sleep apnea, for example).
  •  Estrogen hormone replacement therapy.

Early-onset Alzheimer’s disease

Genetics are behind early-onset familial Alzheimer’s disease, which presents typically between the ages of 30 and 60 years and affects people who have a family history of it.
Due to one of three inherited genes, it is also known as young-onset, and it is uncommon – accounting for under 5% of all Alzheimer’s cases.6,9
The Alzheimer’s Association says in its early-onset information that it can sometimes be “a long and frustrating process” to get this diagnosis confirmed since doctors do not expect to find Alzheimer’s in younger people. For the younger age groups, doctors will look for other dementia causes first.
Healthcare professionals, the nonprofit says, may also “incorrectly attribute” symptoms to stress and so on, or may not agree on the diagnosis.

Recent developments in understanding causes and risk factors from MNT news
Eleven new Alzheimer’s risk genes have been identified. The findings, published in Nature Genetics in October 2013, mean the total number of genes found to be associated with Alzheimer’s disease was 21. Large research collaborations resulted in the breakthrough to help understand genetic factors behind the dementia. Just over 70,000 individuals were analyzed, comparing the genes of 25,580 people who had Alzheimer’s against 48,466 healthy controls, enabling the scientists to pinpoint genes that may put people at higher risk.
Alzheimer’s onset could be triggered by sleep disturbances – Chronic sleep problems can inflame a number of health problems, from widespread pain to speeding up cancer. Though sleep disturbances have been observed in people with Alzheimer’s disease, whether this is a cause or effect has been unknown. Now, researchers say individuals with chronic sleep disruptions could face earlier onset of Alzheimer’s. Their pre-clinical study was published in the journal Neurobiology of Aging.

Signs and symptoms

The information in this section connects closely to some of that about tests and diagnosis below because symptoms noticed by patients, or people close to them, are exactly the same signs that healthcare professionals look for during testing.
Symptoms can be diagnosed at any stage of Alzheimer’s dementia and the progression through the stages of the disease is monitored after an initial diagnosis, too, when the developing symptoms dictate how care is managed.
Of course, the very nature of the symptoms can be confusing for both a patient and the people around them, with different levels of severity. For this reason, and because symptoms could signal any of a number of diagnoses, it is always worthwhile seeing a doctor.
For doctors to make an initial diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, they must first be satisfied that there isdementia – guidelines spell out what dementia consists of. It involves cognitive or behavioral symptoms that show a decline from previous levels of “functioning and performing” and interfere with ability “to function at work or at usual activities.”
The cognitive decline is in at least TWO of the five symptom areas listed below (from guidelines jointly produced by the National Institute on Aging and the Alzheimer’s Association):

1. Worsened ability to take in and remember new information, for example:

  •  “Repetitive questions or conversations
  •  Misplacing personal belongings
  •  Forgetting events or appointments
  •  Getting lost on a familiar route.”

2. Impairments to reasoning, complex tasking, exercising judgment:

  •  “Poor understanding of safety risks
  •  Inability to manage finances
  •  Poor decision-making ability
  •  Inability to plan complex or sequential activities.”

3. Impaired visuospatial abilities (but not, for example, due to eye sight problems):

  •  “Inability to recognize faces or common objects or to find objects in direct view
  •  Inability to operate simple implements, or orient clothing to the body.”

4. Impaired speaking, reading and writing:

  •  “Difficulty thinking of common words while speaking, hesitations
  •  Speech, spelling, and writing errors.”

5. Changes in personality and behavior, for example:

  •  Out-of-character mood changes, including agitation; less interest, motivation or initiative; apathy; social withdrawal
  •  Loss of empathy
  •  Compulsive, obsessive or socially unacceptable behavior.

Once the number and severity of these example symptoms confirm dementia, the best certainty that they are because of Alzheimer’s disease is given by:

  •  A gradual onset “over months to years” rather than hours or days (the case with some other problems)
  •  A marked worsening of the individual person’s normal level of cognition in particular areas.

The most common presentation marking Alzheimer’s dementia is where symptoms of memory loss are the most prominent, especially in the area of learning and recalling new information. But the initial presentation can also be one of mainly language problems, in which case the greatest symptom is struggling to find the right words.
If visuospatial deficits are most prominent, meanwhile, these would include inability to recognize objects and faces, to comprehend separate parts of a scene at once (simultanagnosia), and a type of difficulty with reading text (alexia). Finally, the most prominent deficits in “executive dysfunction” would be to do with reasoning, judgment and problem-solving.

Stages of Alzheimer’s disease

The progression of Alzheimer’s can be broken down into three basic stages:

  •  Preclinical (no signs or symptoms yet)
  •  Mild cognitive impairment
  •  Dementia.

The Alzheimer’s Association has broken this down further, describing seven stages along a continuum of cognitive decline based on symptom severity – from a state of no impairment, through mild and moderate decline, and eventually reaching “very severe decline.”
The association has published the seven stages online.13 It is not usually until stage four that a diagnosis is clear – here it is called mild or early-stage Alzheimer’s disease, and “a careful medical interview should be able to detect clear-cut symptoms in several areas.”

MNT Medical News Today

Jul 29



What is Alzheimer’s disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is a neurological disorder in which the death of brain cells causes memory loss and cognitive decline. A neurodegenerative type of dementia, the disease starts mild and gets progressively worse.
Learn here about the brain changes thought to causeAlzheimer’s disease and the signs and symptoms that result in mental confusion. A number of tests are used to diagnose the disorder and treatments are available to help improve symptoms and quality of life.
Some of the information about Alzheimer’s disease also applies to other types of cognitive decline. See our broader page about dementia – you will also find links to useful parts of that page in some of the sections about Alzheimer’s below.

How common is Alzheimer’s disease?

In the US, the most recent census has enabled researchers to give estimates of how many people have Alzheimer’s disease. In 2010, some 4.7 million people of 65 years of age and older were living with Alzheimer’s disease in the US.1
The 2013 statistical report from the Alzheimer’s Association gives a proportion of the population affected – just over a tenth of people in the over-65 age group have the disease in the US. In the over-85s, the proportion goes up to about a third.2
As our dementia page outlines, there is a handful of different types, but Alzheimer’s disease is the problem behind most cases of memory loss and cognitive decline:2
 The Alzheimer’s Association says it accounts for between 60% and 80% of all cases of dementia.
Vascular dementia, which is caused by stroke not Alzheimer’s, is the second most common type of dementia.

What causes Alzheimer’s disease?

Like all types of dementia, Alzheimer’s is caused by brain cell death.3 It is a neurodegenerative disease, which means there is progressive brain cell death that happens over a course of time.
The total brain size shrinks with Alzheimer’s – the tissue has progressively fewer nerve cells and connections.3,4

Nerve cells (neurons) in the brain. In Alzheimer’s, there are microscopic ‘plaques’ and ‘tangles’ between and within brain cells.
While they cannot be seen or tested in the living brain affected by Alzheimer’s disease, postmortem/autopsy will always show tiny inclusions in the nerve tissue, called plaques and tangles:3,4
 Plaques are found between the dying cells in the brain – from the build-up of a protein called beta-amyloid (you may hear the term “amyloid plaques”).
 The tangles are within the brain neurons – from a disintegration of another protein, called tau.
For a detailed visualization of what goes on in the Alzheimer’s disease process, progressing from the normal brain to increasing dementia changes, the Alzheimer’s Association has produced a journey of 16 slides. See the illustrations: Inside the brain: an interactive tour.
This sort of change in brain nerves is also witnessed in other disorders,3 and researchers want to find out more than just that there are protein abnormalities – they also want to know how these develop so that a cure or prevention might be discovered.

MNT Medical News Today

Jul 25

Alcohol Abuse (part 2)

Alcohol Abuse


Why should I quit?

Quitting is the only way to stop the problems alcohol is causing in your life. It may not be easy to quit. But your efforts will be rewarded by better health, better relationships and a sense of accomplishment. As you think about quitting, you may want to make a list of your reasons to quit.

What do I need to know about alcohol abuse treatment and recovery?

The decision to stop using alcohol or other drugs is very important to your health. Talk with your doctor if you’ve decided to quit. He or she can guide your treatment, help you find support and monitor your condition as you recover.

How do I stop?

The first step is realizing that you control your own behavior. It’s the only real control you have in your life. So use it. Here are the next steps:
1. Commit to quitting. Once you decide to quit, you can make plans to be sure you succeed.
2. Get help from your doctor. He or she can be your biggest ally. Alcoholism is a kind of disease, and it can be treated. Talking with your doctor or a counselor about your problems can be helpful too.
3. Get support. Contact Alcoholics Anonymous, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence or the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. Call for information about local treatment programs and to speak to someone about your alcohol problem. They will give you the tools and support you need to quit. Ask your family and friends for support too.

What does it feel like to quit drinking?

As you drink, your body tries to make up for the depressant effects of alcohol. This built-up tolerance to alcohol can lead to severe withdrawal symptoms when people who drink a lot quit.

Serious withdrawal symptoms include seeing things, seizures and delirium tremens (confusion, seeing vivid images, severe shakes, being very suspicious), and can even include death. This is why you need your doctor’s care if you’ve been drinking heavily and are trying to quit.
How does alcohol affect my health?
Alcohol has many effects on your health. It can cause cirrhosis, a disease of the liver. It’s a major cause of deaths and injuries because of accidents. It can have severe effects on a baby during pregnancy. It can also cause stomach pain due to a bleeding ulcer or irritated stomach lining.

What other things can alcohol do to my body?

Alcohol can:
• Make you gain weight
• Make you feel sick or dizzy
• Give you bad breath
• Make you clumsy
• Slur your speech
• Make your skin break out
• Make you feel out of control

Jul 22

Alcohol Abuse (part 1)

Alcohol Abuse

How can I tell if alcohol is a problem for me?

Alcohol is a problem if it affects any part of your life, including your health, your work and your life at home. You may have a problem with alcohol if you think about drinking all the time, if you keep trying to quit on your own but can’t, or if you often drink more than you plan to or more than is safe for what you are doing (such as driving a car).
What are some of the signs that alcohol is a problem?
Not all signs are obvious. Many people find it hard to admit when alcohol is a problem. Often, people around you may see your problem before you do. Think about what your friends and family say to you about drinking. Then talk with your family doctor about your concerns.

Am I drinking too much?

You are drinking too much if one of the following statements is true. You are:
• A woman who has more than 7 drinks* per week or more than 3 drinks per occasion
• A man who has more than 14 drinks* per week or more than 4 drinks per occasion
• Older than 65 years of age and have more than 7 drinks* per week or more than 3 drinks per occasion
*One drink = one 12-oz bottle of beer (4.5 percent alcohol), one 5-oz glass of wine (12.9 percent alcohol) or 1.5 oz of 80-proof distilled spirits.

Am I drinking heavily?

You are drinking heavily if one of the following statements is true. You are:
• A woman who has more than 3 drinks every day or 21 drinks per week
• A man who has more than 5 drinks every day or 35 drinks per week

Am I taking risks with alcohol?

You are taking risks with alcohol if one or more of the following statements are true. You:
• Drink and drive, operate machinery or mix alcohol with over-the-counter or prescription medicine
• Don’t tell your doctor or pharmacist that you are a regular drinker
• Are pregnant or are trying to become pregnant and drink at all (even small amounts of alcohol may hurt an unborn child)
• Drink alcohol while you are looking after children
• Drink alcohol even though you have a medical condition that can be made worse by drinking

Has my drinking become a habit?

Your drinking has become a habit if you drink regularly to:
• Relax, relieve anxiety or go to sleep
• Be more comfortable in social situations
• Avoid thinking about sad or unpleasant things
• Socialize with other regular drinkers

Has drinking alcohol become a problem for me?

Alcohol has become a problem for you if one or more of the following statements are true. You:
• Can’t stop drinking once you start
• Felt the need to cut down on your drinking
• Have tried to stop drinking for a week or so but only quit for a few days
• Fail to do what you should at work or at home because of drinking
• Feel guilty after drinking
• Find other people make comments to you about your drinking
• Felt annoyed by criticism of your drinking
• Have a drink in the morning to get yourself going after drinking heavily the night before
• Can’t remember what happened while you were drinking
• Have hurt someone else as a result of your drinking

Is alcohol taking over my life?

Yes, if you:
• Ever worry about having enough alcohol for an evening or weekend
• Hide alcohol or buy it at different stores so people will not know how much you are drinking
• Switch from one kind of drink to another hoping that this will keep you from drinking too much or getting drunk
• Try to get “extra” drinks at a social event or sneak drinks when others aren’t looking

Other Signs That Alcohol Is a Problem
• Accidents
• Anxiety
• Being unusually suspicious
• Blackouts/memory loss
• Breakdown of relationships
• Depression
• Getting driving tickets while under the influence of alcohol
• Insomnia
• Loss of self-esteem
• Not taking care of yourself
• Poor work performance
• Taking sick days for hangovers
• Trembling hands
• Trouble having erections (men)
• Vomiting

What causes alcoholism?

The causes of alcoholism are not fully known. A history of alcoholism in your family makes it more likely. Men seem to be more at risk than women. Some drinkers use alcohol to try to relieve anxiety, depression, tension, loneliness, self-doubt or unhappiness.

Jul 18

Fibromyalgia (part 2)


What Tests Are Used to Diagnose Fibromyalgia?

Other laboratory tests used to rule out serious illnesses may include Lyme titers, antinuclear antibodies (ANA), rheumatoid factor (RF), erythrocyte (red blood cell) sedimentation rate (ESR), prolactin level, calcium level, and vitamin D level.
Your doctor may see if your symptoms satisfy the diagnostic criteria for fibromyalgia syndrome outlined by the American College of Rheumatology. These criteria include widespread pain that persists for at least three months. Widespread pain refers to pain that occurs in both the right and left sides of the body, both above and below the waist, and in the chest, neck, and mid or lower back. The criteria also include the presence of tender points at various spots on the body.
The doctor will evaluate the severity of related symptoms such as fatigue, sleep disturbances, and mood disorders. This will help measure the impact FMS has on your physical and emotional function as well as on your overall health-related quality of life.


What Is the Standard Treatment for Fibromyalgia?

There is no fibromyalgia cure. And there is no treatment that will address all of the fibromyalgia symptoms. Instead, a wide array of traditional and alternative treatments has been shown to be effective in treating this difficult syndrome. A treatment program may include a combination of medications, exercises — both strengthening and aerobic conditioning — and behavioral techniques.

What Drugs Are Used to Treat Fibromyalgia?

According to the American College of Rheumatology, drug therapy for fibromyalgia primarily treats the symptoms. The FDA has approved three drugs to treat fibromyalgia: Lyrica, Cymbalta, and Savella. The FDA says Lyrica — which is also used to treat nerve pain caused by shingles, diabetes, and spinal cord injuries — can ease fibromyalgia pain for some patients. Cymbalta and Savella are in a class of drugs known as serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs).
Low doses of tricyclic drugs such as Flexeril and amitriptyline have been found effective in treating the pain of FMS. In addition, positive results have been shown with the antidepressants known as dual reuptake inhibitors (Effexor).Ultram is a pain-relieving medicine that can be helpful.
Your doctor may prescribe an antidepressant such as Prozac, Paxil, or Zoloft. These drugs may help relieve feelings of depression, sleep disorders, and pain. Recently, researchers have found that the antiepileptic Neurontin is promising for fibromyalgia treatment.
The nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), including Cox-2 inhibitors, have not been found to be effective for treating FMS pain. It’s usually best to avoid opioid pain medications because they tend not to work well in the long-run and can lead to problems with dependency.

Are There Alternative Treatments for Fibromyalgia?

Alternative therapies, although they are not well-tested, can help manage the symptoms of fibromyalgia. For instance, therapeutic massage manipulates the muscles and soft tissues of the body and helps ease deep muscle pain. It also helps relieve pain of tender points, muscles spasms, and tense muscles. Similarly, myofascial release therapy, which works on a broader range of muscles, can gently stretch, soften, lengthen, and realign the connective tissue to ease discomfort.
The American Pain Society recommends moderately intense aerobic exerciseat least two or three times a week. They also endorse clinician-assisted treatments, such as hypnosis, acupuncture, therapeutic massage, and chiropractic manipulation for pain relief.
Along with alternative therapies, it’s important to allow time each day to rest and relax. Relaxation therapies — such as deep muscle relaxation or deep breathing exercises — may help reduce the added stress that can trigger fibromyalgia symptoms. Having a regularly scheduled bedtime is also important. Sleep is essential to let the body repair itself.

Jul 15

Fibromyalgia (part 1)


What Is Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is the most common musculoskeletal condition afterosteoarthritis. Still, it is often misdiagnosed and misunderstood. Its characteristics include widespread muscle and joint pain and fatigue, as well as other symptoms. Fibromyalgia can lead to depression and social isolation.
This overview of fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) covers symptoms, diagnosis, and both standard and alternative treatments.
What Is Fibromyalgia Syndrome?
A syndrome is a set of symptoms. When they exist together, they imply the presence of a specific disease or a greater chance of developing the disease. With fibromyalgia syndrome, the following symptoms commonly occur together:
• Anxiety or depression
• Decreased pain threshold or tender points
• Incapacitating fatigue
• Widespread pain

Are Women More Likely to Get Fibromyalgia Than Men?

More than 12 million Americans have fibromyalgia. Most of them are women ranging in age from 25 to 60. Women are 10 times more likely to get this disease than men.

What Are Fibromyalgia Symptoms?

Fibromyalgia causes you to ache all over. You may have symptoms of crippling fatigue — even on arising. Specific tender points on the body may be painful to touch. You may experience swelling, disturbances in deep-level or restful sleep, and mood disturbances or depression.
Your muscles may feel like they have been overworked or pulled. They’ll feel that way even without exercise or another cause. Sometimes, your muscles twitch, burn, or have deep stabbing pain.

Some patients with fibromyalgia have pain and achiness around the joints in the neck, shoulder, back, and hips. This makes it difficult for them to sleep or exercise. Other fibromyalgia symptoms include:
• Abdominal pain
• Chronic headaches
• Dryness in mouth, nose, and eyes
• Hypersensitivity to cold and/or heat
• Inability to concentrate (called “fibro fog”)
• Incontinence
• Irritable bowel syndrome
• Numbness or tingling in the fingers and feet
• Stiffness

Fibromyalgia can cause signs and feelings similar to osteoarthritis, bursitis, and tendinitis. Some experts include it in this group of arthritis and related disorders. However, while the pain of bursitis or tendinitis is localized to a specific area, pain and stiffness with fibromyalgia are widespread.

What Tests Are Used to Diagnose Fibromyalgia?

To make an accurate diagnosis, your doctor will rely on a comprehensive physical exam and your medical history. There is a blood test to help diagnose fibromyalgia. The test — called FM/a — identifies markers produced by immune system blood cells in people with fibromyalgia. Ask your doctor if the FM/a test is right for you.
To rule out more serious illnesses, your doctor may run some specific blood tests. For example, your doctor may ask for a complete blood count (CBC). The doctor may also ask for tests for chemicals, such as glucose, that can create problems similar to problems caused by fibromyalgia. A thyroid test may also be done. An underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) can cause problems similar to fibromyalgia. That includes fatigue, muscle aches, weakness, and depression.

Jul 12


Learn the signs of heatstroke

As the mercury soars and cool water and shade becomes more precious than gold, the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association asks consumers to learn the signs of heatstroke, which differ from the signs of stroke.
“While heatstroke contains the word stroke and both are potentially life-threatening medical emergencies, stroke and heatstroke are not the same condition,” said, Rani Whitfield, M.D., family practitioner and American Stroke Association spokesperson.
Heatstroke, sometimes called sunstroke, occurs when core body temperature rises to more than 104 degrees Fahrenheit and organs can’t function properly.
A stroke, however, occurs when a blood vessel to the brain is either blocked by a clot or bursts. The disruption of blood and oxygen to the brain causes brain cells to die.
“Heatstroke is brought on by external environmental factors, usually being outside or exercising outside on very hot days,” Whitfield said. “Some people may be more susceptible to heatstroke due to age, weight, medical history, or medications they are taking. It’s important to know your individual risk for heatstroke just as you do for stroke.”
Certain heart medications like beta blockers, ace receptor blockers, ace inhibitors, calcium channel blockers and diuretics, which deplete the body of sodium, can exaggerate the body’s response to heat.
“Heatstroke is life-threatening. If you suspect someone is suffering from heatstroke, you should immediately try to cool them down and call 9-1-1,” Whitfield said. “Take them out of the sun, have them drink a cool, nonalcoholic beverage without caffeine, preferably water, and fan them with cool air.”
If someone is exhibiting stroke warning signs, bystanders should call 9-1-1 immediately and let the operator know it may be a stroke.
“Stroke patients who arrive at the hospital by ambulance not only have a greater chance of living through the stroke, but also have a greater chance of preserving independence and having a full recovery,” Whitfield said.

Symptoms of stroke:

• Facial Drooping
• Arm Weakness
• Speech difficulty
• Additional signs of stroke include sudden trouble seeing, dizziness, confusion, severe headache, or weakness on one side of the body.

If any of these signs are present, you should call 9-1-1 immediately. The American Stroke Association teaches the acronym F.A.S.T. for stroke: Face drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulty, Time to call 9-1-1.

Symptoms of heatstroke:

• Body temperature of 104 F or greater
• Lack of sweating. Skin will feel hot and dry, unless heatstroke is cause by exercise.
• Nausea, vomiting or both
• Flushed/red skin
• Rapid, shallow breathing
• Headache
• Confusion and/or unconsciousness
• Muscle cramps or weakness
• Strong and rapid pulse
Take steps to cool down and get medical attention immediately if someone is experiencing any signs of heatstroke.

American Heart Association

Jul 09

Allergic Conjunctivitis

Allergic Conjunctivitis

What is conjunctivitis?

A clear, thin membrane called the conjunctiva covers your eyeball and the inside of your eyelids. If something irritates this covering, your eyes may become red and swollen. Your eyes also may itch, hurt or water. This is called conjunctivitis, also known as “pink eye.”

What causes allergic conjunctivitis?

Many things can cause conjunctivitis, including bacteria, viruses or allergens. When an allergen causes the irritation, the condition is called allergic conjunctivitis. This type of conjunctivitis is not contagious. Some common allergens include:
• Pollen from trees, grass and ragweed
• Animal skin and secretions such as saliva
• Perfumes
• Cosmetics
• Skin medicines
• Air pollution
• Smoke

How is allergic conjunctivitis treated?

It may help to put a cold washcloth over your eyes for relief. Lubricating eye drops (sometimes called artificial tears) may also make your eyes feel better. Antihistamine pills (which many people take for their allergies) may also help relieve your symptoms. You can buy lubricating eye drops and many antihistamine pills without a prescription.

Several other types of eye drops are available to treat allergic conjunctivitis. They can help relieve itchy, watery eyes and may keep symptoms from returning. Eye drops may contain an antihistamine, a decongestant, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) or a mast-cell stabilizer. Some drops contain a combination of these. Some eye drops require a prescription. Talk to your doctor about which treatment is right for you.

Do these treatments have side effects?

Many eye drops can cause burning and stinging when you first put them in, but this usually goes away in a few minutes. It is important to remember that all medicines may potentially cause side effects, so talk with your doctor before using any medicine, including eye drops.

Can I wear my contact lenses?

It’s not a good idea to wear contacts while you have allergic conjunctivitis because the contacts may cause the conjunctivitis to get worse. Instead, wear your glasses until your eyes feel better.

What can I do to avoid getting conjunctivitis?

Try to identify and avoid the allergens that cause your symptoms. For example, if you are allergic to pollen or mold, stay indoors when pollen and mold levels are high. You can usually find out when allergen levels are high from the weather report. Keep your doors and windows closed, and use an air conditioner during the summer months.

Jul 01

Poor cardiovascular health linked to memory

Poor cardiovascular health linked to memory, learning deficits

American Heart Association Rapid Access Journal Report

Study Highlights:
• People with poor cardiovascular health have a substantially higher incidence of cognitive impairment.
• Better cardiovascular health was more common in men and among people with higher education and higher income.
• The incidence of mental impairment was found more commonly in those with a lower income, who lived in the “stroke belt” or had cardiovascular disease.

DALLAS, June 11, 2014—The risk of developing cognitive impairment, especially learning and memory problems, is significantly greater for people with poor cardiovascular health than people with intermediate or ideal cardiovascular health, according to a study in theJournal of the American Heart Association.
Cardiovascular health plays a critical role in brain health, with several cardiovascular risk factors also playing a role in higher risk for cognitive decline.
Researchers found that people with the lowest cardiovascular health scores were more likely have impairment on learning, memory and verbal fluency tests than their counterparts with intermediate or better risk profiles.
The study involved 17,761 people aged 45 and older at the outset who had normal cognitive function and no history of stroke. Mental function was evaluated four years later.
Researchers used data from the Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS) Study to determine cardiovascular health status based on The American Heart Association Life’s Simple 7™ score. The REGARDS study population is 55 percent women, 42 percent blacks, 58 percent whites and 56 percent are residents of the “stroke belt” states of Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.
The Life’s Simple 7™ initiative is a new system to measure the benefits of modifiable health behaviors and risk factors in cardiovascular health, such as smoking, diet, physical activity, body mass index, blood pressure, total cholesterol, and fasting glucose. It classifies each of the seven factors of heart health as either poor, intermediate or ideal.
After accounting for differences in age, sex, race and education, researchers identified cognitive impairment in:
• 4.6 percent of people with the worst cardiovascular health scores;
• 2.7 percent of those with intermediate health profiles; and
• 2.6 percent of those in the best cardiovascular health category.
“Even when ideal cardiovascular health is not achieved intermediate levels of cardiovascular health are preferable to low levels for better cognitive function,” said lead investigator Evan L. Thacker, Ph.D., an assistant professor and chronic disease epidemiologist at Brigham Young University Department of Health Science, in Provo, Utah.
“This is an encouraging message because intermediate cardiovascular health is a more realistic target for many individuals than ideal cardiovascular health.”
The differences were seen regardless of race, gender, pre-existing cardiovascular conditions, or geographic region, although higher cardiovascular health scores were more common in men, people with higher education, higher income, and among people without any cardiovascular disease.
Cognitive function assessments involved tests to measure verbal learning, memory and fluency. Verbal learning was determined using a three-trial, ten-item word list, while verbal memory was assessed by free recall of the ten-item list after a brief delay filled with non-cognitive questions. Verbal fluency was determined by asking each participant to name as many animals as possible in 60 seconds.
Although mechanisms that might explain the findings remain unclear, Thacker said that undetected subclinical strokes could not be ruled out.
Co-authors are Sarah R. Gillett, Ph.D.; Virginia G. Wadley, Ph.D.; Frederick W. Unverzagt, Ph.D.; Suzanne E. Judd, Ph.D.; Leslie A. McClure, Ph.D.; Virginia J. Howard, Ph.D.; and Mary Cushman, M.D., MSc
Author disclosures are on the manuscript.
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke helped support the study.

American Heart Association

Jun 27

Exercise Motivation

Exercise Motivation: 6 Tips You’ve Never Heard Of

The most popular day to exercise is “tomorrow.”
To pump up your motivation, we know the classic tips: find a workout partner so you’re accountable, make your intentions known so you feel social pressure, set a deadline like running a 5K or your 20th reunion. Now, it’s not to say that these tips don’t work. They do. It’s just that we’ve heard them before.
So how about six tips you’ve never heard of? For all of us whose favorite curls are the cheese kind, here are six ways to get a running start.
Tip #1: Remember a good exercise experience.
A brand-new, 2014 study found that you can use memory to enhance motivation. Study participants who described a positive exercise memory were not only more motivated to exercise, they actually exercised more over the next week than those who weren’t prompted to remember. So stash your medal from the 5K when you ran your personal record with your exercise clothes, pack your power walking playlist with songs from the wedding where you danced all night, or tape a picture of the view from the summit of your favorite hike next to your boots. The good memories may pave the way to a good sweat.
Tip #2: Don’t aim to “exercise;” instead, play a sport.
A 2005 study found that when participants were asked about reasons for playing a sport, they thought of intrinsic reasons, like enjoyment and challenge. Reasons to “exercise,” however, were extrinsic and focused on things like appearance, weight, and stress management.
Psychology 101 will tell you that intrinsic motivation makes you more likely to start and stick with a new habit. So sign up for softball, join the masters’ swim team, play ultimate Frisbee, or simply tweak your mindset: your Saturday afternoon bike ride suddenly becomes the sport of cycling.
Tip #3: Don’t work out next to the fittest person at the gym.
A creative 2007 study examined how your fellow gym-goers affect your workout. Researchers hung out around the lateral pull-down machine at a college gym. When a woman started using it, a super-fit female confederate started using the next machine over. Half the time, she wore a tank top and shorts. The other half of the time, she wore pants with extra thigh padding and a baggy sweatshirt. In a third control condition, the confederate didn’t work out at all.
What happened? Women working out next to the tank top used their machine for a shorter amount of time than the other two conditions. And, when researchers later approached and asked women to take a short survey, they reported lower body satisfaction. By contrast, women working out next to the baggy sweatshirt exercised longer and didn’t suffer the same hit to body image.
What does this mean for women? Run on a treadmill behind a 19-year-old in size 0 booty shorts and you’ll probably leave sooner and feel bad about yourself. Run on a treadmill behind a average-looking person and you’ll likely leave after a good workout with your body image intact.
Tip #4: Don’t motivate yourself by thinking about your muffin top or flabby abs.
Yes, you heard that right. Both men and women often motivate themselves to exercise by thinking about their appearance. But it turns out this approach backfires.
A 2014 study found that frequent exercise goes along with a positive body image, which was defined as appreciating one’s body, focusing on how it feels, and being satisfied with what it can do. Makes sense so far. But, for gym bunnies whose main goal was just to look hot, all three components of positive body image weakened no matter how much they exercised. The take home? Consider changing your focus to something other than your thighs or tummy.
Tip #5: Customize your workout in little ways.
The power of small choices was demonstrated in a brand new 2014 study where participants who chose the sequence of their exercises did more sets and reps than those who were given a predetermined sequence. So don’t just slavishly follow the order on your lifting log or go down the line of weight machines. Think about what you want to do and you just may find yourself doing more.
Tip #6: Stop thinking of yourself as lazy.
Think of yourself as someone who exercises, or someone who is healthy, or whatever exercise-friendly identity you’d like to adopt. The human psyche goes to great lengths, sometimes unconsciously, to be consistent with one’s identity. So thinking of yourself as a harried, stressed-out person creates a self-fulfilling prophecy with little room for exercise. But thinking of yourself as a really busy healthy person might create just the tweak your mindset needs.
So even if you’re someone who thinks running late counts as exercise, try out your favorite of these six tips. We’ll be on our way to being healthier before we can lift another cheese curl.

Dr. Ellen Hendriksen hosts the weekly Savvy Psychologist podcast on iTunes.

Huffpost Healthy Living