May is Huntington’s Disease Awareness Month

May 22nd, 2019

Outline of person brain is showingHuntington’s disease is an inherited disease that causes the progressive breakdown of nerve cells in the brain. In honor of Huntington’s Disease Awareness Month, educated yourself on this condition!

How Does Huntington’s Disease Occur?

Huntington’s disease is caused by an inherited defect in a single gene. Huntington’s disease is an autosomal dominant disorder, which means that a person needs only one copy of the defective gene to develop the disorder.

In 1993, researchers found the gene that causes Huntington’s disease. Everyone has the gene, but in some families an abnormal copy of the gene gets passed from parent to child.

Over 10 to 25 years, the disease gradually kills the nerve cells in the brain.  

Signs and Symptoms

Huntington’s disease usually causes movement, cognitive and psychiatric disorders with a wide spectrum of signs and symptoms:

  1. Movement disorders: The movement disorders associated with Huntington’s disease can include both involuntary movement problems and impairments involuntary movements such as:
  • Difficulty with the physical production of speech or swallowing
  • Impaired gait, posture and balance
  • Involuntary jerking
  • Muscle problems, such as rigidity or muscle contracture
  • Slow or abnormal eye movements

       2.Cognitive disorders: Cognitive impairment often associated with Huntington’s disease includes:

  • Difficulty in learning new information
  • Difficulty organizing, prioritizing or focusing on tasks
  • Lack of awareness of one’s own behaviors and abilities 
  • Lack of flexibility or the tendency to get stuck on a thought, behavior or action
  • Lack of impulse control that can result in outbursts
  • Slowness in processing thoughts or “finding” words 

      3.Psychiatric disorders: The most common psychiatric disorder associated with Huntington’s disease is depression. Depression appears to occur because of injury to the brain and subsequent changes in brain function. 

Most people with Huntington’s disease develop signs and symptoms in their 30s or 40s.

Stages of Huntington’s Disease

Symptoms of Huntington’s disease tend to develop in stages:

  1. Early stage: Changes may be quite subtle in early stages. You may just require a little extra help.
  2. Middle stage: With time, symptoms begin to interfere with your day-to-day life.
  3. Late stage: In this stage, people with Huntington’s disease must depend on others for their care. Walking and speaking or not possible.

Symptoms can vary greatly from person to person and stress or excitement can worsen symptoms.

What IAA has to Say

Insurance Administrator of America wants you to help spread awareness about Huntington’s disease. Take the time to help make others aware by sharing this blog post with friends, family and colleagues.IAA knows that a little support can go a long way!

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New Weight Loss Product Cleared by the FDA

May 15th, 2019

Apple sitting next to small weightsA new capsule was recently cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to help adults who are overweight or obese shed some pounds, when used along with diet and exercise.

New Weight Loss Product

Biotechnology company Gelesis developed the product, called Plenity.  Plenity looks like a pill, but is considered a medical device. Plenity consists of cellulose (found in plants) and citric acid that form a three-dimensional hydrogel matrix.

The hydrogel capsule can be taken with water before lunch and dinner. In the stomach, the capsule releases thousands of particles that absorb water and swell to create small individual gel pieces. Those gel pieces increase the volume and elasticity of the stomach and small intestine, helping to make you feel full, which could then lead to weight loss.

Once in the large intestine, the hydrogel is partially broken down by enzymes, loses its three-dimensional structure, releases the water that was absorbed and gets expelled in the stool.

The study followed participants for 24 weeks.

Data from a study on Plenity published in the journal “Obesity” in February, found that the treatment resulted in 6.4 percent weight loss in a group of 223 patients using the product compared with 4.4 percent in 213 patients using a placebo.

Plenity will be broadly available by prescription in the United States in 2020. No cost for the product has been announced.

Lose Weight the Healthy Way

Nearly 40 percent of people 20 years of age and older in the U.S. are living with obesity.Some ways to help you lose weight are:

  1. Make a plan
  2. Get accountability and support: Have people on your side to help you stay motivated and help cheer you on.
  3. Find what drives you to eat: The first step is figuring out what your triggers are. Is it stress, anger, anxiety, or depression in a certain part of your life? Or is food your main reward when something good happens?

If you shed pounds too fast, you’ll lose muscle, bone and water instead of fat, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. They advise to lose one to two pounds per week and avoid fad diets. 

Healthy weight loss isn’t just about a “diet” or a “program.” It is about an ongoing lifestyle that includes long-term changes in daily eating and exercise habits.

What IAA has to Say

Insurance Administrator of America wants you to know what is going on in the world of health. Keep up to date with IAA! Remember, with IAA one call does it all.

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Dental Health May be More About Nurture Than Nature

May 8th, 2019

Environmental factors are more important than genetics in determining who gets cavities, a new study reports.

New Study on Dental Health

Australian researchers recruited 250 twin pairs when their mothers were still pregnant. They collected health and demographic data on them at 24 weeks gestation and at age 18 months. When they were six years old, the 172 twin pairs that were still in the study underwent dental examinations.

To see how much genetics might shape the risk of cavities, researchers looked at how often both kids got cavities in pairs of identical twins—who have identical genetic variations—and fraternal twins—who typically share half of their variations. 

In the study, both twins had cavities in 29 pairs; in another 33 pairs of twins, just one child was affected.  The risk of developing tooth decay or cavities were similar for identical and fraternal pairs, suggesting that genetics do not play an important role in tooth decay.

Three environmental factors in particular appeared to impact the risk of cavities: maternal obesity, defects in tooth enamel mineralization and lack of community water fluoridation.

Keep Your Family’s Teeth Healthy

There are some simple ways to keep teeth strong and healthy:

  1. Start children early: Dental care should begin as soon as a child’s first tooth appears.
  2. Use enough, but not too much fluoride: Fluoride should be used sparingly in young children, no more than a pea-sized dab on the toothbrush.
  3. Brush twice a day and floss daily: Gum disease and tooth decay remain big problems.
  4. Rinse or chew gum after meals: In addition to brushing and flossing, rinsing your mouth with an antibacterial rinse can help prevent decay and can also protect by increasing saliva flow, which naturally washes away bacteria and neutralizes acid.
  5. Don’t smoke: Tobacco stains teeth and significantly increases the risk of gum diseases and oral cancer.
  6. Eat smart: At every age, a healthy diet is essential to healthy teeth and gums.
  7. Avoid sugary foods: When bacteria in the mouth break down simple sugars, they produce acids that can erode tooth enamel, opening the door to decay.
  8. Make an appointment:  Most experts recommend a dental checkup every six months.

Worldwide, an estimated 60 to 90 percent of school age children have tooth decay.

What IAA has to Say

As much as you want to blame genetics for poor dental health that may no longer be the case. Insurance Administrator of America hopes that your smile is nice and healthy! Remember, with IAA one call does it all. 

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Researchers Might Have Found a Cure for “Bubble Boy Disease”

May 1st, 2019

DNAResearchers believe they may have found a cure for x-linked severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID-X1), more commonly known as “Bubble Boy Disease.”

A Cure for SCID-X1

Researchers developed an experimental gene therapy that involves harvesting bone marrow stem cells from a child with SCID-X1, inserting the normal gene that is missing in these patients into those cells, and then infusing them back into the child so the cells repopulate and restore the immune system.

The scientists used an engineered copy of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). The virus was engineered so that its active parts were removed, making it safe to use.

The virus that was inserted included “insulations” to block activations of certain genes. They hoped this would stop the treatment from inadvertently causing leukemia by stumbling across a cancer causing gene and activating it.

The newly developed gene therapy was performed in combination with chemotherapy.

The treatment restored healthy functioning in diverse groups of immune cells, including T-cells, B-cells and NK-cells.

All patients were treated between the ages of two months and 14 months, and all lacked a genetically matched sibling donor.

The process takes approximately 10 days. Ten infants have successfully received the experimental therapy.  All the patients survived the treatment and were doing well, by an average of 16.4 months after treatment, according to the study. More research is needed, however, to determine whether the effects will continue as the patients grow older.

A bone marrow transplant is typically used to treat SCID early in life, before an infection can happen. Transplants in the first three months of life have the highest success rate. Although transplants are life-saving, they often only partially restore a patient’s immunity.

The study was published in the “New England Journal of Medicine” on April 17.

What is SCID-X1?

SCID refers to a group of rare disorders caused by mutations in genes that influence the development and function of important immune cells.

Infants born with SCID may appear healthy, but are highly susceptible to severe infections—so much so that a common cold could kill them.

There are several types of SCID, based on which gene defect is involved; mutations in the IL2RG gene on the x-chromosome cause x-linked SCID or SCID-X1, which primarily affects infant boys.

The condition probably affects one in 50,000 to 100,000 newborns according to the U.S. Library of Medicine.

If left untreated, a child with SCID-X1 rarely would live beyond their second birthday.

Insurance Administrator of America

New discoveries are being made every day and Insurance Administrator of America thinks you should stay up to date! Remember, with IAA one call does it all.

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Could an Experimental Brain Scan be the Future Diagnostic Tool for CTE?

April 24th, 2019

BrainAn experimental brain scan can now detect abnormal proteins in the brain of living former NFL players affected by chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

Potential New Scan to Diagnose CTE

A study used PET scans in a small group of former NFL players with consistent cognitive, mood and behavioral symptoms such as depression, rage and memory loss.  The study found that tau-the abnormal protein that forms after the destruction of normal brain matter—was at significantly higher levels on the PET scans of the 26 players, compared to those who had not participated in contact sports or experienced symptoms. The tau-deposits were also seen in the same specific areas and in the same general pattern of previously studied brains diagnosed with CTE by an autopsy. 

In one scan, subjects received a flortaucipir marker, a substance that when injected, bonds to tau proteins to make them visible under PET cameras.  In another scan, they received an amyloid marker, which makes visible plaque buildup associated with Alzheimer’s disease. By using both markers, researchers were able to suggest the patients’ symptoms likely were not due to Alzheimer’s. 

Scientists found no relationship between the amount of tau seen on the PET scans and the severity of behavior and mood symptoms or performance on cognitive tests.

Though the research is not a diagnostic tool, it represents advancement in the road toward individual assessments.

The results of the study were published on April 10 in the “New England Journal of Medicine.”

Currently, there is no way to predict if or when someone will develop CTE and a diagnosis can only be made after death.

Signs and Symptoms of CTE

CTE is thought to cause areas of the brain to waste away. Some of the signs and symptoms of CTE may include:

  • Depression or apathy
  • Difficulty planning and carrying out tasks
  • Difficulty thinking (cognitive impairment)
  • Emotional instability
  • Impulsive behavior
  • Short term memory loss
  • Substance abuse
  • Suicidal thoughts or behavior

Other suspected symptoms include:

  • Aggression
  • Dementia
  • Irritability
  • Motor impairment such as difficulty walking, tremor, loss of muscle movement, weakness, or rigidity 
  • Speech and language difficulties
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Trouble with sense of smell
  • Vision and focusing problems 

CTE has been seen in people as young as 17, but symptoms do not generally begin until years after the onset of head impact. Early symptoms of CTE usually appear in a patient’s late 20s or 30s.

What IAA has to Say

New discoveries are being made every day and Insurance Administrator of America thinks you should stay up to date! Remember, with IAA one call does it all.

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