iStock_000053775120_MediumIncreasing rates of Alzheimer disease (AD) threaten to overwhelm our health care system domestically and worldwide, but exactly what causes the condition remains controversial, as does diagnosis and monitoring.  Now a study in JAMA Neurology Rick and I discuss on PodMed this week adds more to our understanding of the pathology of AD in perhaps pointing the way toward monitoring more effectively.  Researchers recruited more than 500 'cognitively normal' people enrolled in the Mayo Clinic Study of Aging, median age 78 years.  Each of them had undergone a number of imaging studies, including MRI and two types of PET scanning as well as cognitive assessment. The data analyzed in this study were collected between January 2006 to January 2014.

A positive relationship between increasing amyloid levels and cognitive decline emerged, with those individuals having evidence of more amyloid accumulation more cognitively impaired.  In these same folks reduced hippocampal volume, slower metabolism of FDG-PET, and enlargement of the ventricles of the brain were also observed. These associations were independent of APOE4 carrier status.

The results clearly suggests means of monitoring those at risk for AD, although many of these studies are expensive and seem unlikely to provide a practical means of screening.  Rick points out that we still don't know whether amyloid causes AD or is simply a bystander, but we're both hopeful that studies underway attempting to reduce amyloid and examine impact on the development of AD will shed some light. Other topics this week include ACP recommendations on generic prescription in Annals of Internal Medicine, increasing colorectal cancer screening rates in Cancer, and folic acid supplementation and neural tube defects in the BMJ.  Until next week, y'all live well.

 

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iStock_000042347626_MediumCoffee lovers among us, and I count myself one of them, rejoice!  That's the substance of a study published in Circulation this week that Rick and I feature on PodMed, and the upshot is simple: coffee drinkers live longer.  Rick is of course quick to point out that this is merely an association and therefore does not prove causality, but as for me and my habits, this is one addiction I plan to continue.

What exactly did they do in this study? Researchers crunched numbers from the Nurses Health Study, the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, and the second iteration of the Nurses Health Study, looking at consumption of coffee, including caffeinated and non-caffeinated varieties, as well as all cause and cause specific mortality.  They found that coffee consumption of from one to five cups per day was inversely related to mortality, whether that beverage contained caffeine or not.  Cause specific mortality also demonstrated an inverse relationship, including death from cardiovascular disease, neurological disease, or suicide. There was no association found between cancer risk and coffee consumption.

Other topics this week include measuring body temperature in Annals of Internal Medicine, and two from NEJM: an oral treatment for respiratory syncytial virus and germ  line mutations and cancer in kids.  Until next week, y'all live well.

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iStock_000017116914_MediumBelly fat is some pretty deadly stuff, Rick and I discuss on PodMed this week, based on a study in Annals of Internal Medicine.  Turns out that even if you have a normal body mass index or BMI, but you're carrying a doughnut around your waist, you're at significantly higher risk for death than either your normal weight counterparts without belly fat, or even those categorized as overweight or obese, but with a more distributed fat pattern.  And that's true for both men and women.

This analysis relied on data from the third NHANES study of more than 15,000 participants, and the findings are concerning.  As we speculate in the podcast, for someone with a normal weight it might be a bit of a tough sell to advocate for weight loss, especially given the well known fact that 'spot reduction' isn't a reality.  It's not really possible to simply lose fat from one's belly.  Rick says from a clinical standpoint, such a fat distribution pattern should be a clear signal to health care providers that interventions to make sure blood pressure and blood sugar are controlled and regular exercise undertaken are take-homes. We both agree that further research into the why of this body fat pattern as well as the mechanism by which it increases risk would be helpful.

Other topics this week include continuous versus intermittent CPR and intensive versus standard blood pressure control in NEJM, and the safety of silicone breast implants in Annals of Internal Medicine.  Until next week, y'all live well.

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iStock_000014270773_MediumCan you donate a kidney safely, with regard to your own long term kidney function?  As more people are encouraged to consider so-called 'live donation,' most often to provide a kidney to a loved one who needs one, it is incumbent upon physicians to inform this decision with as much accuracy as can be mustered.  Enter a study by Johns Hopkins investigator Morgan Grams and colleagues, published in NEJM this week, that Rick and I discuss on PodMed.

Researchers crunched data from a number of databases to look at overall risk of developing kidney disease during one's lifetime, then looked at the actual observed risk for kidney failure among living kidney donors.  They calculated that a constellation of risk factors, including age, race, presence of existing kidney function compromise, diabetes, obesity and others, can be employed to predict an individual's risk of developing kidney failure after donating a kidney.  The hope is that this calculator will enable clinicians to have frank discussions with their patients regarding risk.  The other possibility illustrated by this paper is that of older individuals being considered as donors.  As Rick so succinctly puts it in the podcast, chances are good if you haven't experienced kidney function compromise or failure by the time you're 65 you probably won't, and the calculator can help support that assertion. It's worth keeping in mind, of course, that no one's individual risk can be pinpointed with this or any method, since that outcome can only be known after donation has taken place.

Other topic this week include off label drug use in JAMA Internal Medicine, risk of malpractice claims relative to amount of testing a physician orders in BMJ, and in PNAS, an increased in mortality among middle aged Caucasians.  Until next week, y'all live well.

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HiResThe WHO has just declared processed meats a cause of cancer, with unprocessed red meat coming in as 'probable.' Rick and I agree on PodMed that while we are generally in support of this assertion, published in the Lancet Oncology, we are also in favor of moderation in almost all things and may snack on a processed meat item now and then.  And at least Rick maintains that his Texas roots preclude a complete ban on barbecue, so red meats will still provide an occasional repast.  On what does this august body base this recommendation, which I admit smacks somewhat PC to me?  Here's what happened:

"In October, 2015, 22 scientists from ten countries met at the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in Lyon, France, to evaluate the carcinogenicity of the consumption of red meat and processed meat. " In their examination of the body of evidence, which did not include any prospective, randomized studies, 800 epidemiological studies were included. The scientists discerned a dose-response relationship between consuming processed meats and development of cancer, specifically colorectal cancer.  While less robust, red meat consumption also conferred risk for colorectal, pancreas and prostate cancer.  Red,  by the way, includes mutton, lamb, goat and horse as well as the usual suspects beef and pork. What also seems clear from this analysis is that additional factors besides eating meat must also be operational.

Other topics this week include excess mortality associated with diabetes in NEJM, and two from JAMA: flavored tobacco product use among youth and almost 50 years of US mortality data. Until next week, y'all live well.

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iStock_000049397454_MediumCan we somehow identify people when they have their first episode of mental illness, surround them with a comprehensive array of therapies and support, and stave off development of frank schizophrenia?  Yes, a study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry and that Rick and I discuss this week on PodMed concludes.  Here's what they did: the study was called 'NAVIGATE,' and the approach utilized community-based care with four components: personalized medication management, family education about mental illness, individual therapy and employment or education.  Just over 400 people were randomized to either this intervention or to usual care.  They were followed for a minimum of two years.

Here's what they found: "The 223 recipients of NAVIGATE remained in treatment longer, experienced greater improvement in quality of life and psychopathology, and experienced greater involvement in work and school compared with 181 participants in community care."  Rick opines that while up front costs of this approach are undoubtedly higher than usual care, the long term benefits and likely reduction in costs relative to society would more than compensate for embracing this approach.  Here's a fact both of us found startling: "The median duration of untreated psychosis was 74 weeks. "  Wow. These folks were out there for over a year on average with untreated psychosis! Given the knowledge that early interventions work better, seems like the clear conclusion is to identify and enroll people as soon as possible.

Other topics this week include nicotinamide and skin cancers and outcomes of total knee replacement or not in NEJM, and use of medicines to manage cardiovascular risk worldwide in the Lancet.  Until next week, y'all live well.

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iStock_000049191016_MediumAs if Ebola virus infection wasn't nightmare enough in the acute phase, more information is coming out about long term presence of the virus in two studies from NEJM Rick and I discuss on PodMed this week. It's worth mentioning that in the New York Times is also a report regarding sequela of infection in a nurse. Add to that previous tales of sequelae in survivors and the picture is bleak indeed.  Okay, what does NEJM show?

The first article documented sexual transmission of Ebola virus infection from a presumed recovered man to a woman, who subsequently died.  He was infected in September of 2014 and had unprotected sex with the woman in March of 2015. Molecular analysis of the virus showed it was the same between the couple. The second study looks at persistence of Ebola virus in the semen of 100 convalescent men and here are the results: "Ebola virus RNA was detected in the semen of all 9 men who had a specimen obtained 2 to 3 months after the onset of EVD (Ebola virus disease), in the semen of 26 of 40 (65%) who had a specimen obtained 4 to 6 months after onset, and in the semen of 11 of 43 (26%) who had a specimen obtained 7 to 9 months after onset..." Frightening indeed, although the infection potential is unknown.  Clearly these studies coupled with other reports bring us to the inescapable conclusion that there's an awful lot we still don't know about this virus, with ongoing surveillance and research remaining a priority.

Other topics this week include cancer in elephants in JAMA, carbapenam resistant enterobacteriaceae in JAMA, and red wine, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular risk factors in Annals of Internal Medicine.  Until next week,y'all live well.

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iStock_000040985910_MediumIf you're an older person who's taking beta blockers, a popular medicine for managing high blood pressure, and you're about to have surgery, you now have one more thing to think about before the procedure: should you stop taking this medicine?  A study Rick and I discuss on PodMed this week, as featured in JAMA Internal Medicine, suggests the answer may be yes, as after correcting for a large number of potential confounders and rigorously case-matching, an increased risk was seen for those taking beta blockers and having non-cardiac surgery.

The study looked at almost 15,000 patients who were taking beta blockers at the time of noncardiac surgery compared to almost 41,000 taking other high blood pressure medicines at the time of surgery. Major adverse cardiovascular events, including cardiovascular death, nonfatal ischemic stroke, or nonfatal myocardial infarction, and all-cause mortality, occurred almost twice as often among those taking beta blockers compared to those on other medicines for the same indication. Risk was greater for males, those older than 70, and for those undergoing acute procedures rather than elective ones. Will cessation of this medication ameliorate risk?  Not known from this data, but definitely a topic for presurgery discussion with your provider.

Other topics this week include ischemic preconditioning and heart surgery in NEJM, bioprosthetic valve problems in the same journal, and risk of hospitalization for community acquired pneumonia in those vaccinated for flu in JAMA.  Until next week, y'all live well.

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iStock_000000382250_MediumGood news for anyone who's trying to stop smoking as well as all the rest of us who abhor the habit:  turns out smoking low nicotine, and I do mean low, cigarettes results in people cutting back or stopping without really trying, a study Rick and I discuss on PodMed this week as published in NEJM demonstrates.  And high time, we agree, for the FDA to begin regulating the nicotine content of cigarettes, as it is empowered to do and now has persuasive data to support such an action.

A total of 780 people who smoked at least five cigarettes per day and had no intention of quitting were enrolled in this six-week randomized trial. They were assigned to their usual brand or a cigarette containing 15.8 mg per gram of tobacco, the usual dose, or  to cigarettes containing 2.4, 1.3, or 0.4 mg of nicotine per gram of tobacco.  At the end of six weeks, those smokers in the low nicotine groups were smoking significantly fewer cigarettes than those in the control or usual brand groups, and some had made attempts to quit altogether.  Symptoms of withdrawal did not vary substantially among groups nor did any adverse events.  In short, the low nicotine cigarettes seem like good tools to enable smokers to move toward quitting without much downside.

Other topics this week, also in NEJM, include a look at cardiometabolic risk factors in obese children, and treatment of cancer during pregnancy with regard to outcomes for the child, and in the BMJ, an exhaustive meta-analysis once again concluding that for the majority, calcium supplementation should be abandoned.  Until next week, y'all live well.

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iStock_000050124278_MediumIf you have had a teenage child who's depressed, or even been around one who is, you know that such a state often creates panic on the part of parents, since impulsivity and adolescence also commonly sort together and the threat of self-harm seems present.  How egregious then, as Rick and I report on PodMed this week, that a mega pharmaceutical company should manipulate its data to purport a benefit to the common antidepressant paroxetine for the treatment of depression in this age group.  And kudos to the folks at RIAT, that's 'restoring invisible and abandoned trials,' for reanalyzing the data and publishing this paper in the BMJ.  Now we just need to get the word out to anyone who prescribes antidepressants to teenagers to abandon use of paroxetine.  Here's what happened:  in 2001 SmithKline Beecham published study 329, purporting positive results and an acceptable safety profile for this drug in adolescents. Now that the data has been crunched again, not only isn't there a benefit, significant harm with respect to suicidal ideation is seen.  The good news is the FDA has stepped in and fined the company a rather large amount, and we hope that acts as a deterrent to pharma to cease such practices in the future. We also support the RIAT initiative, which is calling for public access to primary data from all trials.

Other topics this week include a new drug for reducing death among those with type 2 diabetes in NEJM, taking blood pressure medicines at bedtime in Diabetologia, and the relationship between atrial fibrillation and dementia in JAMA Neurology.  Until next week, y'all live well.

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