Wood Street Clinic Blog

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Can a vitamin combo prolong your life?

Vitamins are nutrients that when synthesized or assimilated in the right quantities support our health and well-being. A new review suggests that a set of known and newly categorized vitamins can help prolong a person's lifespan, and promote health well into old age.
wooden spoon with supplements
A series of crucial nutrients may be 'longevity vitamins' that help fend off disease and prolong our lives.

The review, recently published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was conducted by Dr. Bruce Ames, Senior scientist at Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI) in Oakland, CA.

This work analyzes the results of numerous studies conducted in Dr. Ames's CHORI laboratory, as well as those carried out by researchers from other institutions.

In the published paper, Dr. Ames identifies a set of vitamins, which he calls "longevity vitamins." He contextualizes the importance of these nutrients by suggesting that people can classify the proteins (or enzymes) that they need to stay healthy as either "survival proteins" or "longevity proteins."

While all these nutrients are essential for well-being, they play different roles. The scientist explains that "survival proteins" support our basic processes for survival and reproduction, whereas "longevity proteins" play an additional role in protecting against further damage to the human body.

When nutrients are deficient, Dr. Ames says, the body tends to favor the production of "survival proteins," which can lead to a decrease in "longevity proteins," and thus to a heightened risk of disease.

"Longevity vitamins," according to the researchers, are the nutrients which support the function of "longevity proteins," and allow the human body to remain healthy, and live for an extended period.

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Over 30 vitamins sustain longevity

Dr. Ames explains that these key nutrients — which include vitamin K, vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, and selenium — contribute to the processes that keep the cells in our bodies healthy.

These nutrients play many roles in the body, including repairing DNA, maintaining cardiovascular health, and preventing cellular damage due to oxidative stress, the scientist argues.

"The prevention of the degenerative diseases of aging is a different science than curing disease: it will involve expertise in metabolism, nutrition, biochemistry, and genetic regulatory elements and polymorphisms," he writes.

"This approach is critical for lowering medical costs. It has been estimated that the [European Union] would save 4 billion euros [$4.6 billion] from osteoporosis alone by utilizing vitamin D and calcium supplementation," the researcher further notes.

In the current review, Dr. Ames argues that 30 known vitamins and essential minerals, taken at adequate doses, can help extend a person's lifespan and ensure healthy aging.

To these, he adds 11 compounds, which, although not currently categorized as "vitamins," Dr. Ames thinks fit in with the concept of "longevity vitamins" as described in his review.

These substances include taurine, ergothioneine, pyrroloquinoline quinone, queuine, lutein, zeaxanthin, lycopene, alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, and astaxanthin.

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'Diet is very important'

Previous studies conducted by Dr. Ames and his team found that individuals with chronic, low-level deficiencies of vitamin K, which is a constituent of 16 different enzymes, and the mineral selenium, which is a key component of 25 enzymes, have a higher risk of experiencing health problems, particularly cardiovascular issues.

Vitamin K is crucial to blood coagulation. When levels of this vitamin are low, the body is unable to produce enough of the enzymes that help keep the arteries clear, allowing blood to flow smoothly.

Considering these observations and the findings of the review, Dr. Ames urges people to be more mindful about following a balanced, healthful diet.

"Diet is very important for our long-term health, and this theoretical framework just reinforces that you should try to do what your mother told you: eat your veggies, eat your fruit, give up sugary soft drinks and empty carbohydrates."

Dr. Bruce Ames

In the future, the researchers believe that specialists might identify even more "longevity vitamins." However, discovering these nutrients requires long periods of observation because their absence from the system does not necessarily cause immediate, visible effects.

Instead, the impact of "longevity vitamin" deficiencies causes disruptions in a person's system over time.

For now, as Dr. Ames notes: "[The current review] may be a theoretical paper, but I hope it can add a few years to everyone's lives."

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Heart surgery: Does it impact cognitive ability?

A recent systematic review and meta-analysis concluded that, following open heart surgery, a person's cognitive ability might be reduced — at least in the short-term.
Surgical tools
A new analysis investigates the impact of heart surgery on cognitive performance.

Almost 8 million people in the United States undergo cardiovascular surgery or other related procedures each year.

Thanks to the steady improvements made by medical science, the procedures are becoming ever safer and can give people a new lease of life.

Aware of improvements in physical health due to cardiovascular surgery, scientists know less about the cognitive impact of open heart surgery.

A recent study set out to understand precisely how heart surgery might influence the mind. In particular, the researchers were interested in heart valve surgery.

Previous studies have looked at cognitive decline following some types of heart operation, but scientists know little about the impact on this particular group of surgical patients.

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Valve surgery and the mind

Each year in the U.S., around 150,000 heart valve surgeries take place. In most cases, surgeons operate to treat aortic stenosis. This is a condition where the aortic valve becomes narrowed, partially blocking blood flow from the heart to the rest of the body.

Generally, aortic stenosis occurs in people aged 65 or older. Because of the aging population, the number of cases of aortic stenosis is predicted to increase significantly over the coming decades.

As people age, their cognitive ability tends to decline, so understanding how heart surgery might further impact cognitive ability is crucial.

To investigate, the researchers pooled data from 12 existing studies. They assessed the cognitive performance of all the participants before and after surgery. In this analysis, the scientists also compared the effects of two types of valve surgery — aortic and mitral. Their findings were published recently in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

The authors found that in the first month after surgery, there was a decline in cognitive ability. However, they also showed that by 6 months post-surgery, a person's thinking abilities had almost returned to normal.

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In fact, some of the studies analyzed for the review suggested that cognitive ability was slightly improved 6 months after surgery, compared with before surgery.

The analysis also showed that the patients' cognitive performance responded differently depending on the type of surgery they had. Those who had surgery on the aortic valve saw more significant cognitive deficits in the first month following surgery, while those who had mitral valve surgery experienced a less significant cognitive decline.

Over the following 6 months, however, the difference in deficits steadily disappeared as the cognitive abilities of those who underwent aortic valve procedures caught up.

However, this difference might not have been due to the procedures themselves. It is possible that the differences were due to age — individuals who underwent aortic valve procedures were, on average, 9 years older than those who had mitral valve procedures.

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More questions than answers

Overall, the researchers conclude that individuals who undergo heart valve surgery are likely to have reduced cognitive ability for the first few months after the procedure.

Although mental ability is likely to return to normal within 6 months, this is a matter for further research. The authors of the study note this as one of the study's shortfalls — they did not investigate cognitive performance past the 6-month point.

The authors also note that, for some of the studies they analyzed, it was not clear whether the participants had undergone previous surgery, or whether this was the first event.

Also, the researchers did not know about some other factors that might have influenced cognitive changes, such as level of education, social support, depression, blood pressure, and the severity of cardiovascular disease a person had.

The authors hope that their findings "encourage routine preoperative cognitive assessment to establish cognitive baseline and postoperative assessment to monitor trajectory."

According to the authors, it would be useful if future studies focused on the specific factors that made valve surgery patients more susceptible to cognitive decline. This could guide clinicians as they help patients and their families through the recovery process.

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Can you take too much magnesium?

Magnesium is an essential mineral. However, having too much magnesium in the blood can be dangerous. The medical term for this is hypermagnesemia, and a magnesium overdose is one possible cause.

The body needs magnesium for more than 300 biochemical processes.

Magnesium blood levels of 1.7–2.3 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl) are within the normal range, while levels above 2.6 mg/dl can indicate hypermagnesemia.

Having too much magnesium in the blood is uncommon. It is more likely to occur in people with existing health conditions, such as kidney failure.

Excessive dosage of supplements or medications can also cause hypermagnesemia.

In this article, we discuss the risk factors and symptoms of a magnesium overdose. We also describe why it is important to get enough magnesium from the diet and supplements.

Symptoms of a magnesium overdose magnesium overdose supplements
Excessive dosage of magnesium supplements can cause hypermagnesemia.

If the body has absorbed too much magnesium, a person may notice any of the following symptoms, which can range from mild to very severe:

lethargy facial flushing diarrhea nausea stomach cramps vomiting depression muscle weakness an irregular heartbeat low blood pressure urine retention breathing difficulties cardiac arrest How likely is a magnesium overdose? Severe overdoses of magnesium are rare in otherwise healthy people. Getting too much magnesium from the diet is not typically a cause for concern. Occasionally, a high dosage of magnesium from supplements or medications can cause mild symptoms of an overdose, including diarrhea, nausea, and stomach cramps. The following forms of magnesium are most likely to cause these symptoms: magnesium carbonate magnesium chloride magnesium gluconate magnesium oxide Rarely, a very high dosage of a supplement or medication provides more than 5,000 mg of magnesium per day. This can cause magnesium toxicity. The medicines involved are typically laxatives or antacids. The kidneys clear excess magnesium from the body, and people with renal problems or kidney failure are more likely to absorb too much magnesium. Doctors usually advise people with this risk to avoid supplements and medications that contain magnesium. Thank you for supporting Medical News Today Risk factors magnesium overdose kidney disease
Kidney disease can increase the risk of a magnesium overdose. The risk factors for a magnesium overdose include: having kidney disease having other medical conditions, such as hypothyroidism, Addison's disease, or gastrointestinal disorders taking too many supplements or medications that contain magnesium The first treatment for hypermagnesemia is to stop consuming magnesium in supplements or medications. Other treatments include: intravenous fluids diuretics dialysis If hypermagnesemia is severe, treatment may also involve intravenous calcium. Medications that contain magnesium Laxatives, in particular, often contain high levels of magnesium, due to its natural laxative effects. Although these medications provide more than the recommended amount of magnesium, the body usually does not absorb it all. For example, 1 tablespoon of Milk of Magnesia contains 500 mg of elemental magnesium. A daily dose for adults is up to 4 tablespoons per day, but the body excretes much of the magnesium because of the medication's laxative effects. Some migraine medications also contain magnesium, as do some drugs for indigestion and heartburn. Only take a medication that contains magnesium with medical supervision. Why we need magnesium The body requires magnesium to stay healthy. It is essential for over 300 processes, including: muscle function nerve function protein synthesis bone formation DNA synthesis energy production heart health maintaining blood sugar levels maintaining blood pressure Some studies suggest that magnesium may help treat or prevent: However, confirming the effects of magnesium on these conditions will require more research. Magnesium deficiency, or hypomagnesemia, is much more common than hypermagnesemia, especially in otherwise healthy individuals. Some research indicates that 10–30 percent of people have low levels of magnesium. The Office of Dietary Supplements at the American National Institutes of Health recommend the following daily allowances of magnesium: 400–420 mg for adult males 310–320 mg for adult females 350–360 mg during pregnancy Risk factors for magnesium deficiency include: Crohn's disease, celiac disease, and other gastrointestinal diseases type 2 diabetes alcohol use disorder advanced age certain medications, such as proton pump inhibitors and diuretics being an adolescent female — on average, this group may receive less magnesium from the diet Thank you for supporting Medical News Today Sources of magnesium People can meet their magnesium needs through the diet and dietary supplements: Foods black beans magnesium overdose
Black beans are a source of magnesium. Magnesium is present in many foods, including: legumes, such as black beans and kidney beans nuts, including almonds, cashews, peanuts, and peanut butter whole grains, such as brown rice and oats potatoes, when a person eats the skin leafy green vegetables, such as spinach fortified breakfast cereals soy products, including soymilk and edamame dairy products, such as milk and yogurt There is no need to limit the amount of magnesium in the diet if the body can excrete it through the kidneys. Supplements People can take supplements to meet their magnesium requirements. According to the Office of Dietary Supplements, most people in the United States do not get enough magnesium from their diets alone. However, by taking supplements, most people get more magnesium than necessary. To avoid an overdose, do not take more than 350 mg of magnesium a day. Topical magnesium sources Some believe that the body can absorb magnesium particularly well through the skin, in a process called transdermal absorption. For this reason, a person may try meeting their requirements by using Epsom salts or topical magnesium oils. However, little if any scientific research currently supports the idea. Takeaway Magnesium is essential for well-being, but too much can cause problems, including digestive issues, lethargy, and an irregular heartbeat. In rare cases, a magnesium overdose can be fatal. Magnesium toxicity is rare in otherwise healthy people, and levels are more likely to be low than high. People with conditions affecting the kidneys are among those at risk of absorbing too much magnesium. The risk of death is highest in older adults with renal failure. A person is unlikely to overdose from magnesium in the diet, but supplements and medications can provide too much magnesium. Early diagnosis of a magnesium overdose is important. Treatment is usually effective if a doctor detects the overdose in an early stage.
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What tests are used to diagnose COPD?

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD is the medical name for a group of long-term lung conditions. Doctors use a number of tests to diagnose people with COPD.

Symptoms of COPD, such as wheezing, shortness of breath, and fatigue, can be similar to the signs of other lung conditions.

COPD often gets progressively worse over time. Getting an accurate and early diagnosis allows doctors to develop an effective treatment plan that can help slow the progression of a person's disease.

Doctors begin diagnosing COPD by carrying out a physical exam and reviewing a person's medical history. They will usually then order one or more tests to help them confirm a diagnosis.

Common tests doctors use to diagnose people with COPD include:

Pulmonary function tests copd tests spirometry
Spirometry is a type of pulmonary function test and helps determine how well a person's lungs are functioning.

Doctors consider pulmonary function tests to be one of the best diagnostic tools for diagnosing COPD. Spirometry is one of the main pulmonary function tests.

Spirometry helps determine how well a person's lungs are functioning. The test measures the amount of air they can breathe in, and how much and how fast they can expel the air back out of their lungs.

Spirometry can also help a doctor determine if a person has a restrictive or obstructive lung disease.

People with restrictive lung disease have difficulty completely expanding their lungs when they inhale.

Individuals with obstructive lung disease, such as COPD, have trouble getting air completely out of their lungs when they exhale.

For the spirometry test:

The person wears a clip on their nose to prevent breathing in or out through this. The individual puts their lips around a tube-like device that is attached to the spirometry machine. When ready, the technician will instruct the person to take a deep breath and then exhale, as quickly and forcefully as possible, until their lungs are empty. Usually, a person repeats this process three times, and the technician records the highest value of the test for the final results.

Sometimes, the doctor or technician will ask the person to inhale a bronchodilator before doing the test again.

A bronchodilator is a medication that relaxes the muscles of the airways and opens them up. This allows the doctor to determine if the bronchodilator affects how much air a person can get in and out of their lungs.

Although spirometry is the most common pulmonary function test, a doctor may recommend other types, such as lung diffusion capacity or body plethysmography.

What do the results mean?

The amount of air a person exhales is called the forced vital capacity (FVC). The percentage of air they exhale during the first second is called the forced expiratory volume (FEV1).

Doctors base the diagnosis of COPD on the ratio between FEV1 and FVC. They compare FEV1 and FVC measurements with a predicted value that they base on a person's age, height, and weight.

An FEV1 and FVC ratio of less than 70 percent of the predicted value indicates that a person may have COPD.

Doctors can also use the FEV1 measurement to help determine the severity of COPD. According to a 2017 report from the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease, classification of COPD based on FEV1 is as follows:

FEV1 above 80 percent is mild FEV1 of 50 to 79 percent is moderate FEV1 of 30 to 49 percent is severe FEV1 of 29 percent or less is very severe Thank you for supporting Medical News Today Arterial blood gas copd tests blood
An arterial blood gas test allows doctors to measure oxygen levels in the blood. An arterial blood gas test is a blood test that doctors use to measure: oxygen levels in the blood carbon dioxide levels in the blood pH, or the acidity, of the blood bicarbonate levels in the blood During this test, a healthcare professional will draw a small sample of blood from the person's artery. Typically, this will be the radial artery, which is on the inside of the wrist. The doctor or nurse will then use a machine to analyze the blood sample. What do the results mean? The results of a blood gas test let the doctor know how efficiently a person is getting oxygen into their lungs and carbon dioxide out. People with COPD often have problems getting all the air out of their lungs due to damage to the air sacs. When air becomes trapped, carbon dioxide levels can rise. Lung damage can also impact oxygen levels, which may be lower than normal in someone with COPD. Different levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood can also affect pH and bicarbonate levels. A doctor will not make a diagnosis of COPD based on arterial blood gas alone, but the results can be helpful in reaching a diagnosis. Alpha-1 antitrypsin (ATT) deficiency screening The most common cause of COPD is cigarette smoking. Rarely, COPD can develop as a result of AAT deficiency, which is due to a faulty gene that can run in families. The liver makes AAT, which is a protein that helps protect the lungs and other organs from damage. People with AAT deficiency lack this protein, which increases their risk of developing COPD and liver disease. AAT deficiency can also cause COPD to develop at an earlier age than usual. Doctors can determine if a person has AAT deficiency by taking a blood sample to measure the amount AAT in the blood. What do the results mean? Low levels of AAT in the blood indicate that an individual may have AAT deficiency. Usually, the lower the AAT levels in the blood, the higher the risk of developing COPD. Doctors can use AAT deficiency screening to help them confirm a diagnosis of COPD when there is no obvious cause. Thank you for supporting Medical News Today Imaging tests Doctors sometimes also use imaging tests, such as a CT scan or chest X-ray, to help diagnose COPD. These tests create an image of the inside of the lungs and chest. Often, a CT scan can provide a greater level of detail than an X-ray. What do the results mean? Imaging tests cannot aid a doctor in determining the severity of a person's COPD. However, they can help confirm a diagnosis or rule out whether another condition is causing the symptoms. As an example of this, these imaging tests allow a doctor to see if the lungs appear hyperinflated or if the diaphragm is flat, both of which are signs of COPD. Differential diagnosis copd tests struggle breathing
Coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath are common symptoms of COPD. A differential diagnosis is important when confirming COPD. Symptoms of COPD can be variable but typically include: wheezing shortness of breath coughing increased mucus fatigue chest pain Many of the symptoms are also present in other lung and heart diseases, including: Making a diagnosis of COPD is sometimes a process of elimination. Doctors need to consider other conditions with similar symptoms and rule them out. To complicate matters further, a person can have COPD along with another condition, making diagnosis more difficult. Identifying other conditions is also essential for developing the best treatment plan. Takeaway Along with carrying out a physical examination and checking a person's medical history, doctors use several tests to diagnose people with COPD. These tests may include pulmonary functions tests, blood tests, and imaging tests. A doctor will typically order more than one test to help them reach a correct diagnosis. Because COPD is a progressive condition with symptoms that can be similar to other illnesses, getting an accurate diagnosis is vital. Early detection and treatment can help slow the progression of COPD and significantly improve a person's quality of life.
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Can COPD cause anxiety?

Many people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) also experience anxiety. The symptoms of COPD may indicate danger to the brain, which can react by causing anxiety or possibly triggering a panic attack.

A 2016 study concluded that people with COPD have a significantly higher likelihood of anxiety. However, it can be difficult for doctors to accurately diagnose anxiety in a person with COPD, as the symptoms of the two conditions can overlap.

In this article, we look at the link between COPD and anxiety in more detail. We also cover some treatments that may help manage the symptoms of both conditions.

The link between COPD and anxiety Copd and anxiety
People with COPD may struggle for breath, which can lead to a panic attack.

People with COPD often struggle for breath.

The brain reacts to this by sending signals of distress.

These distress signals may trigger anxiety, which can lead to a panic attack in some people.

Panic attacks and anxiety can also cause a person to have difficulty breathing or to change their normal breathing patterns.

Due to this overlap of symptoms, a person with COPD often becomes trapped in a cycle in which the breathing difficulties of COPD trigger anxiety, which makes it even more difficult to breathe.

Thank you for supporting Medical News Today How to tell if COPD is causing panic attacks People with COPD are often aware of the symptoms of a panic attack, as it is normal for the brain to send stress signals out during an episode of breathlessness. Panic attacks can be dangerous for people with COPD because they can exacerbate breathing difficulties and make it even more challenging to get air from each breath, leading to worsening symptoms. There are many ways to identify a panic attack. A panic attack may: be sudden and intense come on without warning cause an irrational level of fear Specific events, such as breathlessness, may trigger panic attacks, but an attack may sometimes come on with no apparent trigger. Panic attacks cause symptoms that include: difficulty breathing rapid heartbeat tightness in the chest shaking cold sweats sudden changes in body temperature, such as hot flashes or chills dizziness feelings of dread or a sense of impending doom Panic attacks generally only last for a few minutes, but they can affect some people for longer. In some people, they may occur regularly. COPD and depression COPD may link to depression and anxiety in a similar way. A 2014 study noted that the relationship between COPD and depression seems to flow both ways. COPD may cause depression, and depression may worsen COPD by increasing a person's anxiety, which can adversely affect their breathing ability. The study notes that psychotherapy techniques, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), may work for both COPD and depression, but the extent of treatment necessary to see results is unclear. Thank you for supporting Medical News Today Coping strategies for anxiety and COPD A comprehensive COPD treatment strategy will ensure that people know how to deal with symptoms of anxiety and panic attacks. Treatment strategies often involve therapies or techniques to help relax the body and calm the mind, including: Breathing exercises Copd and anxiety breathing issues
Practicing diaphragm breathing while lying down can improve breathing efficiency. A person may feel as though they are suffocating during a panic attack. Practicing diaphragm breathing can encourage people to breathe more efficiently and help them regain control of their breath. People can practice diaphragm breathing by: Sitting with the shoulders relaxed or lying down on the back, making sure not to hunch over or block the chest or abdomen. Inhaling slowly through the nose and paying attention to the abdomen as it expands outward with a full, deep breath. Exhaling slowly while pursing the lips. The breath should not cause the chest to expand too much. It is important to focus on breathing using the diaphragm and feeling the abdomen rise and fall with each breath. Placing one hand on the abdomen can help a person physically feel this motion as it happens. CBT CBT may help train the brain to respond to panic triggers more positively. CBT is the process of talking through these triggers with a therapist and learning how to respond to them differently to change the brain's focus from panic to relaxation. Doing this can help people change how they think or feel about a situation that is out of their control, hopefully reducing the number of panic attacks that occur. Pulmonary rehabilitation Pulmonary rehabilitation (PR) techniques, such as exercises, educational information, and energy-saving advice, can help people maintain a higher quality of life and keep their lungs functioning as well as possible. PR is useful for people with COPD and anxiety because it helps the body deal with the physical symptoms of COPD. This may make psychological triggers less likely to occur or more straightforward to manage. Meditation Meditation may be beneficial for people who have COPD and anxiety. Adopting the practices below may help people feel less stressed or anxious in their daily life: guided meditation yoga chanting, often using a calming word or phrase Meditation may not be enough to treat the underlying issue, but it can supplement other treatment options. Medication Standard medications for anxiety include alprazolam (Xanax) and diazepam (Valium). These drugs often help people manage anxiety symptoms in the short-term, but they may not be suitable for people with COPD. Some anxiety medications may interact with COPD medications, and the possible side effects may interfere with how a person breathes. However, medication may help people control their panic attacks safely. People should talk to their doctor to determine whether or not medication is suitable for them. Takeaway COPD commonly causes stress and anxiety. Other issues, such as panic attacks or depression, can make the symptoms of both conditions worse, but people can use a range of methods to help manage them. It is important to note that certain techniques, such as meditation and breathing, require regular practice. Using these techniques consistently may help people prepare for and deal with a panic attack or other anxiety symptoms. Anyone having trouble managing their symptoms should speak to a doctor about possible treatments.
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