October 23, 2014

Paralyzed Man Walks after Nose Cell Implantation: the "Miracle" and the Cautions

Darek Fidyka walks (photo courtesy of BBC)

The recent news -- a paralyzed Bulgarian man is walking again after cells from his nasal cavity were transplanted into his severed spine – has understandably made a big splash around the world.

Dr. Geoffrey Raisman, a professor at the Spinal Repair Unit at UCL Institute of Neurology in London, was a partner in the surgery. He said, “We believe that this procedure is the breakthrough which -- as it is further developed -- will result in a historic change in the currently hopeless outlook for people disabled by spinal cord injury.”

The surgery, done in Poland, has been touted with great hyperbole: as a major leap forward for humanity, more important for the future of our race than the moon landing.

The Usual Concerns
Other medical experts have been quick to sound the alarm: not so fast.

As reported in an article onWebMD.com on October 21,  Dr. Simone Di Giovanni, chair in Restorative Neuroscience for Imperial College London, said that this single case "cannot represent any solid scientific evidence to elaborate upon. In fact, there is no evidence that the transplant is responsible for the reported neurological improvement.”

She continued:
The use of these cells for spinal cord injury repair have been implemented for 30 years now with very controversial results in rodents, non-human primates, and patients. Extreme caution should be used when communicating these findings to the public in order not to elicit false expectations on people who already suffer because of their highly invalidating medical condition.

We’ve heard the caution about creating false hope before. I’ve repeatedly taken Dr. Mary Newport to task for giving false hope to the millions of Alzheimer’s sufferers – and their families and caregivers – by touting coconut oil as a miracle cure based on the unique, positive, temporary experience of her husband Steve. Many whose spirits were immeasurably lifted by Newport's report -- and who then tried coconut oil without any results -- must have found the hyped remedy an unconscionable cruelty. 

October 22, 2014

Hibiscus Tea for Blood Pressure Issues

Once again, blood pressure (BP) concerns have taken center stage. For most of my adult life, the issue was finding a medication that would treat my high BP without causing troublesome side effects. None of the many drugs I tried was completely satisfactory.

Freedom at Last
Six months ago, I thought I had finally won my freedom from those medications. I kept seeing medical authorities suggesting that people age 80+ could stop taking BP meds if they showed no other signs of coronary trouble. My BP specialist said he "wouldn't lose any sleep" if I stopped popping the pills. So I did.

Since then, my numbers have usually stayed within the new guidelines (150/90) for people 65+. But now I'm dealing with neurogenic orthostatic hypotension (NOH), which causes my systolic number to tumble, sometimes below 90. There's also a danger from aggressive treatment of NOH, which can lead to an opposite problem -- supine hypertension. Naturally, I'm likely to overdo it on aggressive treatment.

All of this means I'm again searching for something that might prove helpful in dealing with my BP issues.

I recalled using hibiscus teas in the past for their alleged BP benefits. I've just checked several references about that product, including a link to one of my favorite sites for nutrition information: NutritionFacts.org.

On that site, Dr. Greger provides an update on hibiscus tea:

October 21, 2014

How Old are YOU? A New Way to Measure Age.

“You’re only as old as you feel."

“Sixty is the new forty.”

Those are just two examples we use to indicate that measuring age is a blurry business.

I might say “I’m 85 years old,” which is true. OK, it means I was born in 1929. But what does that fact really say about my health and my prospects for the future? A lot more than actuarial tables might suggest, according to a new study.

I’ve learned that every person with Parkinson’s has his or her own individual disease… and experiences its symptoms and medications uniquely. In an interesting post last month in one of my favorite blogs, “The New Old Age” in The New York Times, writer Judith Graham shows how measuring age – like the Parkinson’s example -- depends very much on the individual. Like never before in our history – as healthcare improves and longevity increases -- measuring age involves a lot more than counting the passing years.

In her article -- "On New Measurements of Aging" -- Graham recaps a Q&A with a professor of social and behavioral sciences. In that conversation, the teacher describes an easy, and – to me – completely novel way to determine when “old age” begins.

Here’s that brief exchange:

October 20, 2014

A Personal Log to Track Blood Pressure and Medications

I've been struggling to manage the timing and dosages of the many pills I take. Last Friday, I described the challenge in this post.

A thoughtful reader offered a helpful suggestion in this email:

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Save the attached file to your iPad and use it to track your medication and blood pressure (BP) records. Just put X in each of the meds columns to mark when you took meds (or # of pills taken if levodopa doses vary), then type in your BP readings. In the next column, enter anything you attempted other than meds -- wearing abdominal binder, drinking cold water, eating salt, etc.

Those columns are the only part you need to send your doctors. I included a final column where you can record your personal comments – digestion, sleep, dizziness, etc. You can delete that column before sending to your docs, unless they indicate otherwise. They probably won’t want it.

Open the blank table and “Save as New” every day to create a new record. Or you can copy/paste a new blank table into last page of a Word document to keep a week’s record in one file. Using an Excel spreadsheet to document a full week -- with days shown side-by-side -- would be even better, but I suspect you’re more adept with Word than Excel.

I think this type of table will give you and your docs a much clear picture of any pattern that emerges.

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Thanks for this great idea!

Here's what that attached document looked like.

October 17, 2014

Managing My Meds: Practically a Full-time Job

The Overview
Every night before I go to bed, I make this arrangement on my bathroom sink:  

What are all those things? We'll start from the lower left corner and continue around the sink:

My Carbidopa/Levodopa

This is my main Parkinson's med. I take two pills eight times a day. That's 16 pills! The photo shows the supplies for only three of those eight cycles.

After I take the 9:30 pill, I'll cross out the 9:30 and write 12:30. I take these pills at three-hour intervals. My body knows the schedule better than my memory. It will wake me up during the night when another three-hour cycle is up.