Woman with pruritis

Identifying The Root Causes of Pruritis

Generalized itching, also known as pruritus, can be maddening, perplexing, and even downright depressing. If you are suffering from annoying itchiness, here is some information on pruritus and its causes.

What is Pruritis?
Pruritus can be defined as profuse itchiness of the skin and is a relatively common disorder affecting 20-25% of the population at one time in their lives. The condition can be, but is usually not, accompanied by a rash and the itching can range from a minor itch to a very severe itch, capable of disrupting quality of life. “Acute pruritis” is the term used for pruritus lasting six weeks or less; while “chronic pruritus” is used to refer to cases which exceed a six-week duration. For the majority of cases, there is no identifiable cause. If the condition is chronic and no cause is found, the condition is termed “Idiopathic Chronic Pruritis.”

What are the Causes?
Itching can be caused by many things including allergic manifestation, a side effect of medication, an infection, a skin disorder, or a psychological disorder. It can also be caused by a systemic disease such as, a kidney problem, thyroid disease, a neurologic disease, a blood disorder, liver disease, or connective tissue disorder and malignancy; it can also be caused by pregnancy.

How Is Pruritis Diagnosed?
A board certified allergist should be able to ask the correct questions to discover the cause of pruritis. A detailed family history should be taken from the patient and a thorough physical examination should follow. The next steps may include laboratory tests such as urinalysis, X-rays, skin biopsies , patch tests, and stool samples.

How Is Pruritis Treated?
If a systemic disease is determined to be the root cause, the itching usually subsides after the disease is treated. If there is no identifiable cause, there are a number of treatment alternatives. Medications can be given to lessen or relieve itching. Oral medications are primarily used, but topical creams can also be successful. Medications are usually administered for one to two weeks, but more severe cases may require years of treatment. UV light therapy has also been used, although degrees of success vary.

If you suffer from generalized itching, it is recommend that you seek professional help in finding the cause. Even if no cause is found, you may be given something to reduce or completely relieve your itching. If you have struggled with pruritis, feel free to contact us and share your experience.

Woman with insoles

White Noise Insoles

Typically we use insoles to increase comfort or support. They can alleviate stress and pain in our bodies and joints. But now, thanks to the wonders of modern science and medicine, developers are upping the game in insole support as studies are being conducted on an insole that will electrically stimulate feet with random vibrations that can affect a person’s stride and increase stability. Find out more about how these insoles work and what it can mean for you or a loved one who may need more stability while walking.

The insoles work using a process called stochastic resonance, a method for amplifying weak signals by adding ‘white noise. Although the vibrations produced by the sole are imperceptible, they provide a signal upgrade to the sensitivity of the user’s sole which enables the user to walk with more stability. This was tested in a study in which participants wore the insoles and they were proven to improve balance. The study was published online in the May 2016 issue of the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.

Daniel Miranda, the lead author of the new study and a Technology Development Fellow at the Wyss Institute at Harvard University in Boston explains how this could help elderly people. “Somebody who’s 65 or 70, who’s generally healthy, may have some sensory deficits due to the natural aging process.” Earlier studies explored how this technique might improve balance in elderly people and help them recover some of the sensitivity they had lost.

Miranda and his colleagues wondered how these insoles could help younger people as well. Another study was conducted in which updated technology made the actuators and sensors small enough so that they could be installed inside a thin, flexible insole which could fit comfortably inside a shoe. This allowed the effects of SR to be tested during more dynamic activities.

Subjects walked up an inclined treadmill as SR vibration was applied during different times of the task; as they warmed up, during the peak of exertion and after they were fatigued. The subjects had no way of knowing when the vibrations were being administered since the pulses were too gentle to feel. Therefore they could not consciously adjust the way they walked. Results found that there was  a 10% improvement in a gait mechanism called step width which directly effects balance therefore improving balance and stability over all while walking.

The improved balance these insoles offer will ultimately keep people from getting hurt.

woman having coffee

Daily Caffeine Doesn't Cause a Racing Heart

If you absolutely can’t start your morning without coffee or get through the afternoon without a cup of tea, you’re in for good news. For years, the healthcare community has advised against regular caffeine consumption because caffeine is thought to disturb the natural cardiac rhythm of your heart, but a recent study challenges this advice. Coffee, tea and dark chocolate are full of antioxidants that may actually benefit your heart’s health, and according to this study, they are safe to be consumed daily.

The Study
Close to 1,400 individuals were chosen to participate in a year-long study that looked at the effects of daily caffeine consumption on the heart. “Clinical recommendations advising against the regular consumption of caffeinated products to prevent disturbances of the heart’s cardiac rhythm should be reconsidered, as we may unnecessarily be discouraging consumption of items like chocolate, coffee and tea that might actually have cardiovascular benefits,” says the study’s senior author, Dr. Gregory Marcus, director of clinical research in the division of cardiology at the University of California, San Francisco. “Given our recent work demonstrating that extra heartbeats can be dangerous, this finding is especially relevant,” Marcus adds. Marcus is referring to research that points to extra heartbeats being a cause of heart problems and stroke, but this is in rare cases.

The Results
Researchers monitored the chocolate, coffee and tea consumption of each of the 1,400 participants, and participants wore portable devices that monitored their heart rhythm continuously for 24 hours. During the course of the survey, 61 percent of participants consumed more than one of the caffeinated products daily and the results were that those who consumed more than one caffeinated item each day had no extra heartbeats. These findings are important because “this was the first community-based sample to look at the impact of caffeine on extra heartbeats, as previous studies looked at people with known (heart rhythm disorders),” says study lead author, Shalini Dixit, fourth-year medical student at the University of California, San Francisco.

The results of this study are exciting and encouraging because it was previously thought that regular caffeine consumption was related to extra heartbeats or a racing heart. This University of California, San Francisco study challenges those beliefs and asserts that caffeine can be consumed daily. It is important to note that the study looked at caffeinated products that are known to have additional health benefits (coffee, green tea and chocolate) and not drinks health experts warn people to stay away from like soft drinks. Additionally, the study authors say that before determining whether or not there are additional health risks to heavy caffeine consumption, more studies are necessary.

This study seems to confirm that like most things, caffeine in moderation is safe for your heart, and that some of the products containing caffeine may have additional health benefits. The antioxidants in coffee, green tea and chocolate provide health benefits for your body by fighting inflammation, protecting against free radicals and can even help lower cholesterol and blood pressure. Enjoy these products in moderation, knowing that they won’t cause your heart to work overtime.

Woman making a heart shape with her fingers

Your Skin and Heart Health

What if you could predict your risk for cardiovascular diseases and conditions by the simple act of looking at your skin? While it might not be that easy, recent research suggests that there are links between the health of your skin and the health of your heart. Two major studies supporting this claim include one published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology and one published in the Journals of Gerontology. Keep reading to learn about the studies and what they mean for your health.

The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology Study
The skin/heart health study published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology involved more than 61,000 adults. Adults that had the inflammatory skin condition eczema were 48 percent more likely to have high blood pressure, 35 percent more likely to deal with adult-onset diabetes and 29 percent more likely to have high cholesterol than other adults. All of these ailments are risk factors that contribute to heart disease and the numbers remained the same, even after other factors that play into cardiovascular diseases such as alcohol consumption and activity levels, were controlled.

Why do those who have eczema find themselves at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease? While the exact answer is unknown, the most probable answer is that those with eczema have such intense chronic inflammation that it shows up throughout the body as opposed to just superficially on the skin. “It may be that chronic inflammation from eczema directly increases cardiovascular risk,” says Jonathan Silverberg, M.D., Ph. D, and assistant professor of dermatology and preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Silverberg notes that not all inflammation is a bad thing for your body, in face acute inflammation is the natural response your body has to harmful invaders, it is the constant deployment of natural killer cells and T cells that can interfere with vital functioning, including circulation. Additionally, Silverberg makes it clear that not everyone who suffers from eczema will have cardiovascular problems. You can help prevent both the health of your heart and skin by consuming antioxidant-rich produce, controlling stress levels and being sure to get seven to nine hours of sleep each night.

The Journals of Gerontology Study
Researchers from Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands in conjunction with scientists from Unilever observed 250 women who were separated into two groups by the researchers based on high and low cardiovascular disease risk. The scientist analyzed the skin of the faces and upper inner arms of the women and found that the women who appeared younger had lower blood pressure and heart disease risks. “We have found that the feature in the face that blood pressure was linked to was not skin wrinkles but likely what we term as ‘sag’ in the face. The exciting thing is further investigations will enable exact pinpointing of the feature in the face that signposts an individual’s blood pressure,” says Dr. David Gunn, senior scientist at Unilever.

You may not be able to determine your heart health and future cardiovascular disease risk by merely taking a peek in the mirror, but it seems that your skin may reflect more of your internal health than previously thought. You can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease by engaging in a healthy, active lifestyle that includes low stress, adequate sleep and a nutritious diet. Not only will your heart thank you, but so will your skin.

Pregnant woman in a park

Stop Aging by Having More Children

To slow down the aging process, you are told to eat well, exercise often, get enough sleep and eliminate as much stress as possible, so it may seem completely counterintuitive that if you want to stop the clock on aging, you should have more kids. Children, particularly in the first few months of life, deplete your energy, have you skimping on sleep and they seem to infinitely increase your stress level, so how can having a larger family possible keep you young? New research from Canadian researchers at Simon Fraser University suggests that the number of children a woman births has a positive impact on her body’s aging rate.

The Study
Researchers embarked on a 13-year long study that observed telomere lengths in 75 women. The 75 Kaqchikel Mayan women that the study tracked were all from two neighboring communities located in the southwest highlands of Guatemala who had their telomere length taken from their saliva at the beginning of the study in 2000. At the end of the study in 2013, the same 75 women had their telomere length measured through a buccal swab and the results showed that women who had more surviving children over the course of 13 years had longer telomeres than women who had fewer surviving children in the same period of time. Each additional child born was linked to 0.059 more telomere units.

The Science
Telomeres are important pieces of a cell that influence how the cells age and are the caps at the end of each strand of DNA. These caps are so important because they protect chromosomes – the threadlike structures containing all of your genetic information – from damage. Every time a cell replicates, your telomeres become shorter and eventually reach such a short length that they are no longer able to protect your chromosomes. When your chromosomes become vulnerable, cells age and stop functioning effectively. In the findings for this 13 year study, Prof. Pablo Nepomnaschy and Cindy Barha state that “our analyses show that increased offspring number across 13 years of observation attenuated telomere shortening, suggesting that, in our study population, having more children may slow the pace of cellular aging.”

When it comes to the “why” of the study, Prof. Nepomnaschy has some theories, one of which involves the increase of the hormone estrogen during pregnancy. “Estrogen functions as a potent antioxidant that protects cells against telomere shortening,” hypothesizes Nepomnaschy. Additionally, the social environment surrounding women with more children may positively impact their rate of aging because mothers with more children receive more support from both family and friends. “Greater support leads to an increase in the amount of metabolic energy that can be allocated to tissue maintenance, thereby slowing down the process of aging,” says Nepomnaschy.

In the never-ending quest for youth, researchers have discovered that having more children may indeed lead to delayed aging process. The surge of estrogen and the social support structure that results from being pregnant and having children are two factors that the researchers believe to be influential. Having more children may indeed keep you young, and children will always bring you incredible love and joy, which make your life, longer or not, more satisfying.

Human neuron

The Cell Transformation that Could Transform Medicine

The treatment and management of diseases and conditions is one of the most heavily studied areas of science. New discoveries are made every day, some of which have the power to transform medical practices. A recent study by molecular and cellular biologists indicates that the way in which personalized medicine is practiced may truly transform. Scientists have been able to use gene insertion to transform one type of cell into another type of cell. Adding genes into the original cells is a highly intricate process that involves a significant time investment. Additionally, when using gene insertion to transform cells, there is the possibility one of the genes meant for insertion could end up on a chromosome and activate a cancer-causing gene. New studies published online by Cell Stem Cell states that scientists have successfully transformed skin cells into neurons without the use of gene insertion.

The Study
The studies published online by Cell Stem Cell assert that scientists have been able to transform one type of cell into another type of cell with a less invasive and time consuming process. The new transforming technique involves the addition of a specific set of chemicals to the cells. Gang Pei, a co-author of one of the studies and a biochemist at the Shanghai Institutes for Biological Sciences in China explains that the crucial element in this new way of transforming cells is the use of small molecule chemicals. These small molecule chemicals go into the cell and enter the nucleus of the cell, the part that contains DNA. From here, the small molecule chemicals are able to alter the activity of a gene. Pei, and the team he led, spent enormous amounts of time researching the exact chemical concoction that can transform cells; in the study they transformed skin cells into neurons. The specific group of chemicals used by Pei and his team are labeled VCRFSGY and these chemicals work in stages. VCRF, the first four chemicals, begin the process by altering physical traits on a gene known as Tuj1 (a gene that is specifically active in neurons). Without the last three chemicals, the altered cell exists in an ambiguous state being neither a skin cell nor a neuron. The SGY chemicals amplify the neurological development that VCRF initiated which results in cells that looked, and acted like, neurons.In a second study, researchers in China were able to achieve the same results in mice using different chemicals.

Why it Matters
With two separate studies, and two sets of chemicals, producing the same results, molecular and cell biologists believe that this process could compete with gene insertion in order to reprogram and transform cells. They believe that the process of using small molecule chemicals will especially benefit the field of personalized medicine. These study is exciting because with these processes, a patient’s own cells can be used to treat illnesses and other conditions. Pei’s team was able to transform skin cells from an Alzheimer’s patient into neurons that exhibited markers of Alzheimer’s disease. With this process, researchers would be able to safely and accurately research the disease and perform drug tests on the transformed cells without endangering the patient.

These studies indicate that medical research and development continues to reach new and exciting heights constantly, which provides the scientific community with hope that disease study will advance to the point where cures are possible. These studies are just the beginning of the powers of cell-transforming technology and only time will tell what will be possible in the future.

Woman working out in a gym.

Change How You Think – Make Working Out a Habit

You think about heading to the gym and working out. You may even plan out your exercise routine or when you are going to hit the gym. But somehow, those plans seem to fall by the wayside when it comes time for you to actually get moving. It doesn’t help that you have friends or know gym-goers that show up without fail every single day. Even more frustrating is that these fitness junkies actually like the process of exercise and look forward to this part of their day. While you mentally curse them for their dedication, you probably also wish that you could be more disciplined and more excited about your own exercise and now you can. A recent study published in the Health Psychology journal suggests that there really is a difference between those who consistently exercise and those that struggle with merely making time to head outside or to your gym, but don’t lose hope yet. Just because there is a difference between you and faithful gym-goers doesn’t mean that you can’t become one of the latter. The study suggests that you can learn to make exercise an essential part of your day.

What Sets Regular Exercisers Apart
The answer to what makes regular exercises different is frustratingly simple and you have probably heard it before. Those that workout without fail do not dread exercise and they don’t think of exercise as a chore that has to be done. It’s that difficult and that simple. Rather than thinking about exercise as one more thing that you have to cram into the day, consistent exercisers get active almost automatically; it is just a part of their daily routine. Those that exercise regularly receive cues, either internal or external, that signal it is time to get up and move. Some may respond to external sources, like the alarm going off in the morning, while others respond to an internal cue “I’m stressed from work and home obligations, it’s time to relieve some stress at the gym.”

In the study, the researchers referred to this tendency as the “instigation habit.” The researchers set out to find out whether the instigation habit would be indicative of people being able to stick to an exercise regime, and they definitely proved their hypothesis. In fact, the instigation habit was the only predictor that people would stick with exercise and that the more time spent exercising (for example going from the first month to the third), the stronger the instigation habit became. Why? Because it seems that exercisers with a high instigation habit do not think only of the work that awaits them when it’s time to exercise. They associate exercise and gym time with specific parts of their day; they hear their alarm in the morning and know it’s time to lace up the gym shoes. It isn’t only the exercise that the consistent gym-goers think of, they think of the entire experience of exercise, including that awesome post-workout high, as a habit they have cultivated, not as a chore that they have to cross off their to-do list.

Why it Matters
It seems like a great excuse (“I don’t intrinsically have a strong instigation habit so I shouldn’t even bother”), but it’s actually the reverse. If you weren’t blessed with a high instigation habit, it takes a bit more work on your part, but you absolutely can strengthen it. Beginning an exercise routine after a long break in physical activity (or a lifetime or inactivity) is by no means an easy task, but stick with it. The longer that you make regular exercise a part of your routine, the more you condition your mind to think of exercise as an essential part of your day.

The temptation to hit the snooze button or drive past the gym after a super long day at work is definitely great, but sticking to your exercise routine in the beginning makes it easier to make working out a lifelong habit. Physical activity is incredibly important for a healthy life and right now, it may not be your favorite thing to do. But if you can shift your thinking from “I hate this chore” to “oh, my alarm is going off, time to hit the gym,” you will be able to make exercise an essential part of your day, and your body will thank you.

Red wine poured in a glass

Artificial Intelligence and Wine

The technology we use changes daily as major discoveries continue to be made. One area of technology that is rapidly making advancements is artificial intelligence. Artificial intelligence refers to two things:  the intelligence that is displayed by computers or machines and the academic field dedicated to creating computers and software that is capable of intelligent behavior. Some of the goals in artificial intelligence research are the ability to reason, plan, learn and manipulate objects. A few days ago, the renowned U.K. wine publication Harpers Wine and Spirit, published an article that brings the world of fine wine and artificial intelligence together.

A study at University College, London studied the ability of artificial intelligence to predict wine industry trends against human ability to make the same predictions. It seems that not only can artificial intelligence be used to predict trends, but it is far more accurate. In fact, the study found that artificial intelligence was 98% more accurate in determining fluctuations in the price of fine wines than humans were. In order to be able to predict fluctuations in prices of fine wine, those conducting the study used machine-learning technologies. These technologies allow the computer to identify what pieces of data are the most important when it comes to analyzing changes in the pricing of fine wines. The software tested 100 wines used in the study and these wines were selected using the Liv-ex 100 wine index.

Professor John Shawe-Taylor is the so-director for the University College, London Center for Computational Statistics and Machine Learning. Professor Shawe-Taylor is also the head of the university’s Computer Science department. As a study co-author, Professor Shawe-Taylor says, “Machine learning involves developing algorithms that automatically learn from new data without human intervention. We’ve created intelligent software that searches the data for useful information which is then extracted and used, in this case for predicting the values of wines. Since we first started working on machine learning at UCL, our methods have been used in a wide variety of industries, particularly medical and financial, but this is the first time we have entered the world of fine wine.”

The University College, London study partnered with Invinio, a company founded by UCL alumnus, Dr. Tristan Fletcher. Invinio is a quantitative wine asset management consulting firm. University College, London graduate, Michelle Yeo, lead the research along with Invinio. She was pleased with the results of the study saying, “We’re pleased we were able to develop models applicable to fine wines and we hope our findings give the industry confidence to start adopting machine learning methods as a tool for investment decisions.”

Ultimately, the study authors hope that this advancement in artificial intelligence will benefit wine investors. Using this technology, investors will be able to make more informed decisions regarding their wine portfolios. Additionally, the study authors are hopeful that those who do not invest in wine will be more interested in investing due to the information in this study. For now, Invinio and UCL will continue to work together to provide investors with information. Eventually, the study authors would like to expand this technology into other asset categories, such as classic cars.

Old couple drinking wine.

Undiagnosed Glucose Intolerance Common in Early Alzheimer’s Disease

New research being conducted at Georgetown University suggests that people suffering from early onset Alzheimer’s disease should be routinely tested for glucose intolerance. Alzheimer’s is “…a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior,” according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Most believe that Alzheimer’s is a disease that only the elderly population struggles with, but there are many individuals with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia that has no known cure and that progressively worsens over time. Research out of Georgetown University suggests that those with early onset Alzheimer’s may have something else to be concerned with.

The Study
Dr. R. Scott Turner, MD, Ph.D. is a neurologist at Georgetown University and while conducting a nationwide study on people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s, discovered that a large number of the participants were found to have undiagnosed glucose intolerance. According to an article published online at Diabetes News Journal, the study examines resveratrol, a natural phenol which can be commonly found in blueberries, red grapes, mulberries, red wine and raspberries, to determine whether or not it could bring about a change in the glucose levels in patients who suffer from mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Turner also noted that resveratrol is believed to act on proteins in the brain in a way that mimics the effects of a low-calorie diet.

The way in which resveratrol works on proteins in the brain is important because previous studies indicate that calorie restrictions can help in preventing issues such as Alzheimer’s and diabetes. Dr. Turner’s study began with an emphasis on resveratrol and Alzheimer’s and for patients to be admitted he ordered a fasting glucose tolerance test to provide a baseline level. Patients were retested two hours after they ate and a continued high sugar level after two hours shows that glucose intolerance is high. It was during the glucose intolerance screenings that Turner noticed an interesting pattern: “All told, overall prevalence of impaired glucose tolerance of diabetes at two hours was 43 percent or nearly half of the recruited study candidate cohort.”

The Indications
Further research is required to determine what link, if any, diabetes and Alzheimer’s have. Turner’s study was designed to study the effects of resveratrol in the prevention of Alzheimer’s, therefore, it was not set up to study the diabetes/ Alzheimer’s relationship.

All of this information is fascinating, but what impact does it have on your life? First, eating a healthy, low-calorie diet can help in the prevention of degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Secondly, another possible way to help prevent or slow serious diseases is resveratrol. A glass of red wine or a handful or blueberries may do far more than please your palette, it may keep degenerative diseases at bay. Of course, before making any additions or serious changes to your eating habits and diet, it is strongly advised to check with your doctor to make sure you really are making helpful and healthy choices.

Woman changing the time of the day.

Resveralife Live Well: Revel in the Most Pleasurable Time of Day

You have a lot to do during any given 24 hour period. Pressures like work, making it to the gym, cooking and taking care of kids all add a degree of stress to your day. Additionally, these activities all take up significant amounts of your day. Chances are that by the time you finally collapse at night you are too exhausted to do things for yourself that bring you happiness or stress relief. Fortunately, Resveralife came across a recent study published in the Journal of Personality suggests that simply being present and aware during a specific time of day can increase feelings of relaxation and enjoyment.

Digital clock showing 07.00

The Magic Hour
According to the study, the most fulfilling time of day is 7:00 P.M. What are people doing at this hour that makes them happier at any other time of day? Well, because the activities that bring people happiness differ, so do their activities at 7 P.M. One of the study’s authors, Erica Baranski, explains “It is possible that 7 P.M. is unique over other times of day in that the things that generally make us feel comfortable and happy are present. Maybe all the ingredients that make life pleasurable are present at this time more often than at any other time.”

The study used 5,447 members of college communities in 20 different countries and most of the respondents reported feeling the happiest at 7 P.M. When you think about it, the logic behind Baranski’s statement makes complete sense. By 7:00, most people are done with work which is immediately a bit of a relief. Some people have already prepared and eaten their evening meals while others still have a delicious experience ahead of them. Parents may be spending quality time with children or preparing them for bed. Maybe you’re looking forward to an evening full of possibilities. Whatever the night holds, at 7 P.M. the majority of people are free to choose what they do with their time, a feeling that is linked to increased levels of happiness.

Woman getting a manicure at a salon.

How to Make 7:00 Your Happy Time
The good news is that making the most of the 7:00 hour really doesn’t require much effort from you. Many of the positive effects of this time in the day are simply from being able to make your own plans and surround yourself with comfort. However, if you want to know how to make the most of your 7:00 ask yourself a few questions. What activities truly bring happiness and peace to you? How can you incorporate more quality and meaning into these activities?

This Resveralife Live Well Guide lists a few options for activities that can make 07.00 PM your happy time.

  • Pampering yourself – Give yourself a manicure/pedicure or head to a local salon if one is open a bit later in the evening. Take a relaxing bath with scented oils for extra luxury. Put on a face mask or a deep conditioning hair treatment.
  • Get social – Head to your favorite bar or restaurant with friends for happy hour. Gather your family for a family game like charades.
  • Take it easy – Prepare an easy, but tasty meal for yourself. Bring up your Netflix queue and indulge in your favorite entertainment.

No matter what activities you choose, take some time to enjoy them at this magical and pleasurable hour of the day.

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