Monthly Archives: January 2017

Physical Activity & Psychological Health

While research has long confirmed the strong correlation between exercise and psychological health, a new study utilizing cellphone data to track activities and moods has confirmed that people who move are overall more content than people who sit.

While previous epidemiological studies have found that people who are active are less prone to depression and anxiety than sedentary people, the majority of these studies solely focused on negative moods. They generally relied on people recalling how they had felt, in addition to how much they had moved or sat in the previous weeks—with little concrete, tangible data to support their recollections.

The new study used a different approach, focusing on correlations between movement and the most positive emotion: happiness. The researchers also looked at what people reported about their respective activities, comparing it with objective measures of movement.

In doing this, the team first developed a special app for Android phones: advertised as helping people understand the ways in which lifestyles choices—like physical activity—might affect moods. As the app sent random requests throughout the day, during which people were asked to enter estimations of their current moods in addition to an assessment regarding their satisfaction with life in general, they also answered additional questions about whether they had been sitting, standing, walking, running, lying down, etc.

The app also asked about the users’ moods at that moment, simultaneously gathering data from the activity monitor built into almost every smartphone available today. Essentially, it checked whether someone’s recall of his/her movement tallied with the numbers from the activity monitor. Overall, the information provided by users and the activity monitors’ data was almost exactly the same.

People using the app also reported greater levels of happiness when they had been moving in the past quarter-hour, rather than when they had been sedentary—although often, they were not engaging in rigorous, strenuous activity. Researchers also found that people who moved more frequently tended to convey greater life satisfaction than those who spent most time in a chair.

The results suggest that people who are generally more active are generally happier, and in the moments during which they are active, they are also happier. While the study does not establish causation, the findings incontrovertibly indicate that if you get up and move often, you are more likely to feel cheerful than if you do not.

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Kidney Disease: Reducing Risk

Kidney disease, which occurs when the organs are unable to filter blood properly, causes approximately 48,000 annual deaths: the ninth leading cause of mortality in the U.S. Because kidney disease is difficult to detect until it is too severe to treat, prevention is critical. Moreover, kidney disease exacerbates heart disease—serving as a major risk factor for development of cardiovascular difficulties.

Preventing the development of kidney disease can be achieved through a variety of interventions, including knowledge of family genetics. Family history can play an integral role in risk, coupled with race and ethnicity. While factors like genetic risk cannot be changed or altered, other contributors can be addressed. Diabetes has been confirmed as the primary cause of kidney disease, accounting for 44% of new cases. Even pre-diabetes can elevate one’s risk of developing kidney disease, making it imperative to keep blood sugar under control and manage the chronic condition if already diagnosed.

In addition to high blood sugar, hypertension and cholesterol are the other two primary risk factors that contribute to the development of kidney disease. The same maladaptive factors that negatively impact the cardiovascular system also tax the kidneys. To help ensure that kidneys function properly, a heart-healthy diet, low blood pressure, and cholesterol reduction are all acutely critical.

Other medical conditions can spur the risk of kidney disease, including chronic viral infections like HIV and Hepatitis C. Routine medical exams to ensure prostate health for men and gynecologic health for women are necessary, as issues ranging from prostate enlargement to tumors in the uterus or cervix can affect kidney function. Moreover, several medications, including over-the-counter painkillers like Advil and Motrin, can also raise the risk of developing kidney disease. It is essential to always ask physicians about medical side effects, and the properties of pharmaceuticals.

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Modern Medicine: Gene Therapy Revolutions

The technology of gene therapy has long been viewed as a pragmatic way in which to erase disease, by revising people’s DNA.

Gene therapy, as defined by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, is a treatment in which a kind of replacement gene is added and integrated into a person’s body—or a disease-causing gene is inactivated. The process involves the addition of new instructions to cells, via billions of viruses with correct DNA strands.

The procedure is complex, first tested in 1990 with an abundance of negative side effects. While the past two decades have seen immense progress, gene treatments run at exorbitantly expensive prices.

Yet scientists and biotechnology entrepreneurs have continued to work and funnel money and resources into gene therapy, and 2016 has seen further growth and development. Italian scientists at Milan’s San Raffaele Telethon Institute for Gene Therapy reported that they had cured 18 children of a rare, extremely debilitating immune deficiency disease—ADA-SCID—by removing the children’s bone marrow and adding a gene to make the ADA enzyme that their bodies lacked.

Moreover, although the revolutionary cancer treatment that uses gene engineering to reprogram immune cells is not always considered a form of gene therapy, this type of immunotherapy has been proven to destroy certain types of cancer.

There is an abundance of promising results through human tests and studies, and 2017 will likely be the year in which the FDA evaluates and assesses several gene therapies. These include a treatment for hereditary blindness; approval would be an enormous breakthrough moment for the biotech industry—and one of the most inventive and pioneering ways to fully eradicate disease.

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