Wood Street Clinic Blog

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Intense light may boost heart health

A novel use of intense light therapy may help decrease the tissue damage experienced during heart attacks, reveals new research in mice.
woman holding her chest
New research introduces a potential novel therapy for heart attacks.

The study, out of the University of Colorado and appearing in the journal Cell Reports, shows that exposing lab mice to intense light for a week improved their outcomes after heart attacks.

The research also suggests that this procedure could benefit humans, and the researchers outline the reason why.

"We already knew that intense light can protect against heart attacks, but now we have found the mechanism behind it," says the study's senior author Dr. Tobias Eckle, professor of anesthesiology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Aurora.

Boosting specific gene protects heart

In the study, the researchers discovered that intense light influences the functions of the PER2 gene, which is expressed by a part of the brain that controls circadian rhythms.

By boosting this gene through intense light therapy, the researchers discovered that the mice's heart tissue received extra protection when it experienced issues with oxygen, such as during a heart attack.

Additionally, this intense light also heightened cardiac adenosine, which is a specialized chemical that helps with blood flow regulation. In concert, both benefits helped protect heart health.

Also, when they studied the mice, the researchers found that being able to physically perceive light was vital, as blind mice experienced no benefits from the intense light.

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Humans had similar benefits

The next step was to see if humans could benefit from light therapy. The researchers worked with healthy human volunteers and exposed them to 30 minutes of intense light.

On five consecutive mornings, the researchers exposed the participants to 10,000 lumens of light and drew blood several times.

The researchers found that PER2 levels increased in response to light therapy in the human participants as it did in the mice. They also reported that the human volunteers saw a decreased level of plasma triglycerides and improved metabolism.

Dr. Eckle explained that light plays an essential part in human health, not only in regulating the circadian rhythm but in cardiovascular health as well.

He adds that according to prior studies, more people throughout the U.S. experience heart attacks during the darker months of winter, even in states that traditionally get more sunshine, such as Hawaii and Arizona.

Heart disease and its impact on U.S. adults

Heart disease is widespread throughout the United States. Around 610,000 people die from heart disease every year, which accounts for 1 out of every 4 deaths.

Coronary heart disease is the most common form of heart disease, and around 735,000 people in the U.S. experience a heart attack annually.

While most people know that chest pain is a sign of a heart attack, other less obvious signs include shortness of breath, upper body pain, nausea, cold sweats, lightheadedness, and discomfort in the arms, back, neck, jaw, or upper stomach.

There are many ways that people can reduce their risk of developing heart disease, such as eating better and exercising more. However, it is vital that research to discover new ways to protect the cardiovascular system continues.

This study using intense light highlights how something seemingly unrelated to heart health can have such protective benefits.

This study could have a significant impact on the treatment of heart patients in the future. Eckle says that "if the therapy is given before high risk cardiac and non-cardiac surgery, it could offer protection against injury to the heart muscle which can be fatal."

Eckle believes there are other possibilities, too, adding that "drugs could also be developed that offer similar protections based on these findings."

"However, future studies in humans will be necessary to understand the impact of intense light therapy and its potential for cardio protection."

Dr. Tobias Eckle

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Simple dietary changes may reduce cancer risk, increase lifespan

A new study that involved more than 50,000 participants over a period of 2 decades concludes that eating flavonoid rich foods could stave off disease and extend life.
Woman shopping for vegetables
A study probes the link between polyphenol consumption and mortality.

A considerable amount of research has focused on the role of nutrition in disease risk and mortality.

Despite growing interest, it is a notoriously difficult topic to study for a range of reasons, and drawing reliable conclusions about how food impacts specific health outcomes is challenging.

Although it is obvious that food is vital to our survival, delving deeper into the details of how single compounds impact disease and mortality in humans is difficult.

With that said, researchers have now firmly and scientifically established that eating more fruit and vegetables is associated with reduced cardiovascular and overall mortality risk.

However, exactly how fruits and vegetables protect health is less well known; although a wide array of nutrients are likely involved, many researchers believe that flavonoids play a significant part.

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The flavonoid family

Flavonoids are a class of chemicals called polyphenols. They are present in a range of natural foods, including fruits, vegetables, dark chocolate, red wine, and tea.

These compounds have six subclasses:

flavonols flavan-3-ols flavanones flavones anthocyanins isoflavones

Each of these has the potential to impact the body in different ways and to different degrees.

Recently, a group of scientists from Edith Cowan University in Australia set out to investigate if these compounds actually can extend life and protect health.

The paper, which now appears in the journal Nature Communications, outlines their findings.

The authors write that their primary aim was to "investigate the association of total flavonoid and flavonoid subclass intakes with all cause, [cardiovascular disease]-related, and cancer-related mortality."

The researchers also wanted to see how lifestyle factors such as drinking alcohol and smoking tobacco affected the benefits derived from flavonoids.

Flavonoid research

Earlier studies investigating flavonoids produced interesting results. In short-term studies, they appear to boost certain markers of cardiovascular health. Other papers have described a potential anticancer role for flavonoids.

Although earlier research has hinted at benefits, there are significant gaps. As the authors of the new study explain:

"Evidence from observational studies is incomplete; studies on cancer mortality are scarce, and additional research is necessary to establish the specific role of flavonoid subclasses and to determine the dose of total and specific flavonoids required to achieve maximum benefit."

To investigate, the scientists took data from the Danish Diet, Cancer, and Health cohort. In total, 56,048 adults took part. During the 23-year followup, 14,083 of the participants died.

After controlling for a range of factors, the authors conclude:

"[W]e provide evidence that an achievable dietary intake of total and individual flavonoid subclasses is associated with a lower risk of all cause, [cardiovascular disease]-related, and cancer-related mortality."

Specifically, they found that those who consumed around 500 milligrams (mg) of flavonoids every day had the lowest risk of cancer- or cardiovascular disease-related deaths. Above the 500 mg threshold, there was no additional benefit.

The scientists also analyzed the impact of each of the six types of flavonoid. They found the same effect across the board.

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500 mg each day

To put the 500 mg threshold into perspective, lead researcher Dr. Nicola Bondonno provides an actionable example:

"It's important to consume a variety of different flavonoid compounds found in different plant based food and drink. This is easily achievable through the diet: one cup of tea, one apple, one orange, 100 grams of blueberries, and 100 grams of broccoli would provide a wide range of flavonoid compounds and over 500 mg of total flavonoids."

The researchers found that the benefits of flavonoids were particularly pronounced in participants who currently smoked and who consumed more than two alcoholic beverages each day. These participants saw the greatest benefits.

However, Dr. Bondonno makes an important point, explaining that "flavonoid consumption does not counteract all of the increased risk of death caused by smoking and high alcohol consumption. By far the best thing to do for your health is to quit smoking and cut down on alcohol."

Exactly how flavonoids might reduce the risk of disease is unclear. However, some scientists believe that their anti-inflammatory qualities might be important.

Alcohol and tobacco both increase levels of inflammation and damage blood vessels. However, as Dr. Bondonno explains, "Flavonoids have been shown to be anti-inflammatory and improve blood vessel function, which may explain why they are associated with a lower risk of death from heart disease and cancer."

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Strengths and limitations

This study has significant strengths — not least the large number of participants and the long follow-up duration. The scientists also captured a wide range of characteristics, lifestyle factors, and other relevant information to help refine their analysis and reduce statistical noise.

However, there are always limitations. For instance, the study was observational, which means that it is not possible to prove conclusively that flavonoids cause the decrease in mortality and disease risk.

For instance, as the authors explain, there is a possibility that flavonoids are "a marker of other unobserved and potentially protective dietary factors."

Importantly, the study only captured dietary information at the start of the study; there is every chance that the participants' diets changed significantly over the following 2 decades.

The authors also note that their sample group was predominantly white, so the relationship between flavonoids and health outcomes may be different in other populations.

In conclusion, this study adds weight to the idea that flavonoids might protect health. However, as ever, scientists will need to carry out more research.

In the meantime, consuming increased quantities of fruits and vegetables will do no harm.

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What to know about forehead veins

Bulging veins can appear anywhere on the body, including the forehead. Veins can expand due to pressure or stress. Skin changes associated with aging may make veins in the forehead appear larger than they are.

Genetic factors or age can influence whether someone gets large veins on their forehead. The skin becomes thinner as the body ages, which can make veins appear more pronounced or larger than they are.

Enlarged veins can appear in the center of the forehead or the sides of the face, near the temples. Bulging forehead veins rarely indicate a medical emergency.

Read on to learn more about bulging forehead veins, including causes and treatments. Possible causes of bulging forehead veins include:

Pressure Inflated Forehead veins
Laughing, sneezing, and screaming may all increase pressure in the head.

An increase in pressure can cause the veins to protrude through the skin. Factors that increase pressure in the neck and head include:

A bulging forehead vein may develop from a tension headache. Tension headaches are the most common type of headache, which occur because of tightness in the muscles of the shoulders, scalp, or jaw.

Thank you for supporting Medical News Today Pregnancy Hormone changes during pregnancy can lead to higher blood volume, which may result in enlarged veins. Progesterone levels increase during pregnancy. Progesterone thickens the uterine lining, preparing the uterus to receive a fertilized egg. Progestin also dilates or expands the blood vessels, which may make them appear larger under the skin. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), progesterone levels are ten times higher in females who are pregnant than those who are not. Temporal arteritis Temporal arteritis, or giant cell arteritis, is a type of vasculitis affecting the veins near the temples. Vasculitis refers to inflammation of the blood vessels. Temporal arteritis causes inflammation in the temporal arteries and the surrounding blood vessels. This can lead to bulging veins that extend from the temples to the middle of the forehead. Other symptoms of temporal arteritis include: Sun exposure A Cheerful woman enjoying a sunny day on a balcony
Prolonged sun exposure may cause veins near the skin's surface to dilate. Spending too much time in the sun can damage skin tissue and veins. The heat from the sun causes veins to dilate so that they can regulate the body's internal temperature. However, dilated veins near the surface of the skin have the potential to pop or break, resulting in spider veins. Spider veins refer to small red, blue, or purple lines that appear right below the surface of the skin. These lines indicate broken veins, and they can develop anywhere on the body, including the face. Why might a new vein appear or become visible? A bulging vein might appear suddenly if someone loses a significant amount of weight. People with less body fat may have more prominent veins. Thinning skin due to gaining weight could also explain new bulging veins. Hormonal changes and high blood pressure could also result in the sudden appearance of forehead veins. According to the American Institute of Stress, both physical and mental stress can significantly raise blood pressure. Thank you for supporting Medical News Today Is treatment necessary? In most cases, forehead veins do not require treatment. People who do not like the way their forehead veins look can choose to undergo procedures that reduce their visibility. Treatments for forehead veins include: Electrosurgery: This procedure uses high frequency electrical currents to cut or destroy blood vessels. Sclerotherapy: Doctors use this standard medical procedure to treat varicose and spider veins. It does not require surgery. During sclerotherapy, a doctor will inject a salt solution directly into a vein, causing it to collapse. Endovenous laser surgery: This procedure uses a laser to close or shrink veins. The heat from the laser destroys the tissue lining the walls of blood vessels. The body will naturally absorb the dead tissue. When to see a doctor male patient speaking to doctor
If headaches and dizziness accompany large forehead veins, a person should speak to their doctor. Although large forehead veins do not indicate a medical emergency, people may want to speak with a doctor if they experience: headaches dizziness blurred or double vision pain or tenderness near the temples, mouth, or jaw Even if someone does not experience symptoms, they can still consult a doctor about possible treatment options for large forehead veins. People should carefully consider all the benefits and risks associated with surgical and nonsurgical treatments before making a decision. Thank you for supporting Medical News Today Summary Several factors can contribute to the appearance of bulging forehead veins. These can include natural reasons, such as genetics, aging, and sun exposure. An underlying medical condition that affects the cardiovascular system, such as vasculitis, may also cause large forehead veins. Large forehead veins do not require treatment unless someone does not like the way they look. People can choose from a variety of surgical and nonsurgical procedures to reduce the appearance of forehead veins. People should ask a trained medical professional to review the potential risks and benefits associated with any treatment.
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What to know about brain aneurysms

A brain aneurysm, sometimes called a cerebral aneurysm, is a weak spot in a brain artery. The weak spot creates a balloon that fills with blood.

The walls of the artery are weaker near an aneurysm, which means that the aneurysm can break open, or rupture. A ruptured aneurysm is a life threatening condition that can cause serious brain injuries or stroke. However, not all aneurysms rupture.

People with an aneurysm may need ongoing monitoring to ensure that it is not growing. A doctor may need to remove a larger aneurysm.

In this article, we provide an overview of brain aneurysms, including the types, symptoms, causes, complications, and treatments.

Brain aneurysm statistics A Female doctor analyzing MRI scan of a Brain aneurysm
Around 3–5% of people in the United States experience a brain aneurysm during their lifetime.

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, brain aneurysms affect an estimated 3–5% of people in the United States during their lifetime. They are more common in females than in males and tend to affect adults between the ages of 30 and 60 years.

The Brain Aneurysm Foundation state that ruptured brain aneurysms account for just 3–5% of all new stroke cases. If an aneurysm does rupture, it is fatal in about 40% of cases, with 15% of people dying before they reach the hospital.

Types of aneurysm Doctors classify aneurysms according to the shape of the weak spot in the artery. There are three main types of aneurysm: Saccular aneurysms form a pocket on the outside of an artery. They are the most common type of cerebral aneurysm. Some people refer to them as berry aneurysms due to their appearance. Fusiform aneurysms occur when the blood vessel expands on all sides. This type of aneurysm is more common after an injury to a blood vessel. Mycotic aneurysms are those that form a sac around an artery. They happen when an infection from another area of the body gets into the bloodstream and spreads to the brain. Myocarditis, a type of heart infection, is a common culprit, but mycotic aneurysms are very rare. The size of an aneurysm is a significant predictor of whether or not it will rupture: Small aneurysms are less than 11 millimeters (mm) across — about the size of a large pencil eraser. Large aneurysms are 11–25 mm in diameter — roughly the size of a dime. Giant aneurysms are 25 mm or larger — more than the diameter of a quarter. Some aneurysms grow over time, and a small number grow rapidly. Growth, especially rapid growth, increases the risk that the aneurysm will rupture. Thank you for supporting Medical News Today Symptoms and early warning signs Larger aneurysms are more likely than smaller ones to cause symptoms before they rupture, but most aneurysms do not cause any symptoms during this stage. When people with an unruptured aneurysm do experience symptoms, they may include: pain above or behind the eye that gets worse or does not go away with time numbness weakness paralysis or twitching on one side of the face vision changes, such as blurred or double vision a dilated pupil in only one eye Sometimes an aneurysm leaks before it ruptures. Doctors call this a sentinel rupture or sentinel bleed. Sentinel ruptures sometimes cause sentinel headaches. A sudden, severe headache — especially one that does not fit a person's usual headache pattern or that is worse than any other headache they have ever had — could be a sentinel headache. Other symptoms of a sentinel rupture include: nausea or vomiting vision changes confusion or changes in consciousness a stiff neck light sensitivity fainting or seizures cardiac arrest Anyone who has symptoms of an aneurysm should seek immediate medical care. If a person has previously received a diagnosis of an unruptured aneurysm, it is essential that they make the emergency care team aware of this. Causes and risk factors a father and son hug.
A person may be at risk of a brain aneurysm if they have a family member who has experienced one. Brain aneurysms are more common in females than in males and more likely to affect adults between 30 and 60 years old. In addition, genetic and lifestyle factors that weaken the walls of blood vessels greatly increase the risk of aneurysm. Risk factors for brain aneurysms include: genetic conditions that weaken blood vessels, including polycystic kidney disease, some connective tissue disorders, and arteriovenous malformations (AVM) a close family member, such as a parent, child, or sibling, having an aneurysm uncontrolled high blood pressure drug use disorder, particularly that involving drugs that raise blood pressure, such as amphetamines and cocaine using illicit drugs intravenously smoking a brain tumor head injuries infections in the arteries Diagnosis While brain imaging techniques, such as CT scans and MRI scans, can help doctors diagnose some aneurysms, an angiogram allows them to make a definitive diagnosis. To perform a cerebral angiogram, a doctor will insert a small, thin tube called a catheter into a blood vessel in the groin and direct it into the blood vessels of the brain under X-ray guidance. There, they will inject a dye that makes it easier to see the blood vessels and any unusual structures. An angiogram can help the doctor assess the size and severity of the aneurysm, as well as its type. This information helps them make appropriate treatment recommendations. Treatment Not all brain aneurysms require immediate treatment. If the aneurysm is small, a doctor may recommend monitoring it over time. The best treatment option will depend on the following factors: the person's age any neurological or medical conditions whether the aneurysm has ruptured the risk of the aneurysm rupturing any family history of subarachnoid hemorrhage A person with a family or personal history of aneurysm rupture may need treatment even if the aneurysm is small. A doctor may recommend an endovascular procedure or surgery to treat the aneurysm. Endovascular procedure During an endovascular procedure, a surgeon inserts a catheter through the groin, then navigates to the aneurysm. Next, they pack the aneurysm with metal coils or a stent to redirect the blood flow. Doing this stops blood from flowing into the aneurysm, which prevents rupture. Surgery Surgery for an aneurysm requires an operation on the brain, which will take place under general anesthesia. This procedure usually requires a person to spend several days in the hospital, and it may be necessary to shave the person's head. During the operation, a surgeon clips the aneurysm to prevent blood from flowing into it. Following this treatment, most aneurysms do not reoccur. Risks of treatment Both endovascular treatment and brain surgery come with risks, including: heart or lung damage stroke surgical complications, such as infection death surgery failure that makes further treatment necessary Complications An unruptured aneurysm typically does not cause any complications. However, a ruptured aneurysm can cause serious, lasting health conditions, and it can be fatal. Possible complications of a ruptured brain aneurysm include: hemorrhagic stroke, a type of stroke that occurs as a result of bleeding in the brain rebleeding, which happens when an aneurysm ruptures again changes in the sodium level in the brain, which may cause permanent brain damage vasospasm, a spasm that causes arteries to narrow, limiting blood flow to the brain and potentially causing serious brain damage or a stroke seizures hydrocephalus, which happens when cerebrospinal fluid accumulates in the brain, causing dangerous pressure that may damage this organ Prevention woman running to try and help herself sleep better
A healthful lifestyle may help reduce the risk of a brain aneurysm. Some aneurysms are not preventable. However, a healthful lifestyle can support blood vessel health and reduce the risk of an aneurysm. People can reduce their risk using the following strategies: quitting smoking, if applicable abstaining from using drugs that elevate blood pressure avoiding or limiting medications that increase blood pressure, under the guidance of a doctor adopting a healthful lifestyle that includes a balanced diet and regular exercise talking to a healthcare professional about strategies to control blood pressure seeking advice on further strategies to reduce aneurysm risk if a first degree relative (a parent, child, or sibling) has had an aneurysm People who have unruptured aneurysms should talk to a doctor about how to minimize the risk of rupture. Ongoing monitoring can reduce this risk and guide a doctor's treatment decisions. Thank you for supporting Medical News Today Differences between an aneurysm and stroke An aneurysm is not a stroke, but it can cause one. When an aneurysm bursts, this deprives the brain of blood, potentially leading to a stroke. The symptoms of a ruptured aneurysm and stroke are similar but not identical. While both cause neurological symptoms, such as dizziness or blurred vision, aneurysms also typically cause headaches. Both conditions are serious medical emergencies that demand immediate treatment. Therefore, a person should see a doctor whether they have symptoms of an aneurysm, stroke, or both. Learn more about the differences between aneurysms and stroke here. Outlook Among people who survive an aneurysm rupture, about 25% die from complications within 6 months, and 66% have lasting neurological damage. For this reason, it is important to identify and treat aneurysms as early as possible. Prompt medical care increases a person's chances of survival.
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'Intensive blood pressure management' may preserve brain health

New research compares intensive blood pressure control with standard blood pressure management and finds that the former correlates with a lower chance of developing white matter lesions later in life.
man taking his blood pressure
Managing your blood pressure 'intensively' may prevent brain damage later in life, new research suggests.

Numerous large, cohort studies have linked midlife hypertension to mild cognitive impairment and dementia later on.

Some of these studies found a higher risk of lesions in the brain's white matter in older age among people with high blood pressure in their 50s.

The white matter of the brain consists of bundles of axons, which are the thin elongations of neurons. White matter is "white" due to myelin — the protective substance that covers the axons. Unlike gray matter, white matter continues to evolve in our adulthood and midlife.

Previous studies have tied abnormalities in the brain's myelin, such as the thinning of this layer, with a range of neurological conditions, including Alzheimer's and other dementias.

White matter lesions, which appear on an MRI scanner, reflect such myelin disruptions. White matter lesions can also indicate high water content, higher glial cell sensitivity to injury, porous brain blood vessels, or ministrokes.

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New research explores the connection between midlife hypertension and white matter lesions, which may lead to cognitive impairment later in life.

Specifically, a team of researchers asked themselves if intensive blood pressure treatment correlates with a limited "progression of small vessel ischemic disease, as reflected by cerebral white matter lesion volume."

Dr. Nick Bryan, Ph.D., from the Department of Diagnostic Medicine at the University of Texas at Austin, is the corresponding author of the new paper.

Dr. Bryan and team examined the brain scans of 449 participants and found that intensive control of blood pressure in their 50s did, indeed, corresponded with a lower likelihood of white matter lesions later on.

The findings of the research now appear in JAMA.

The researchers examined the brain scans of the participants who had enrolled in the National Institutes of Health's (NIH) Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial (SPRINT).

As part of SPRINT, the participants — who were 50 years old on average at baseline and at high cardiovascular risk — undertook brain scans at the beginning of the study and 4 years later.

During this time, the participants received either standard treatment, which reduced systolic blood pressure to less than 140 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) or intensive treatment to lower systolic blood pressure below 120 mm Hg.

Over the 4 years, the total volume of white matter lesions rose by 0.92 cm3, on average, in the intensive treatment group. By contrast, white matter lesion volume rose by 1.45 cm3, on average, among the participants who received standard treatment.

"Intensive treatment significantly reduced white matter lesion accumulation in people who had a higher chance of experiencing this kind of damage because they had high blood pressure," reports study co-author Dr. Clinton B. Wright, the director of the Division of Clinical Research at NIH's National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS).

Another co-author of the study, Lenore J. Launer, Ph.D., who is a senior investigator at NIH's National Institute on Aging (NIA) Laboratory of Epidemiology and Population Sciences, also comments on the findings.

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She says: "SPRINT MIND has produced promising initial results in the battle against the nation's growing problem with aging brain disorders. Both the brain scans and cognitive tests reinforce the potential benefits that intensive blood pressure management may have on the brain."

"We hope that these findings will become the foundation for future studies on how to protect the brain throughout a person's life," adds Launer.

The findings strengthen the results of a previous study that found intensive blood pressure control reduces mild cognitive impairment occurrence.

"These findings on white matter lesions — primarily in the aggressive control of blood pressure — are encouraging as we continue to advance the science of understanding and addressing the complexities of brain diseases, such as Alzheimer's and related dementias," adds Dr. Richard J. Hodes, the director of the NIA.

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