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Heat and cold as health hazards

Both hot and cold environments trigger a stress response in the human body and can lead to cardiovascular problems.

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Newswise — Both hot and cold environments trigger a stress response in the human body and can lead to cardiovascular problems. Physiologist Justin Lawley from the Department of Sport Science at the University of Innsbruck and colleagues have recently investigated both factors in scientific studies. The results, which were published in the Journals Scientific Reports and Experimental Physiology, are especially interesting in light of the current multiple global crises.

The climate and energy crises are currently among the greatest challenges of our time and are having a direct physical effect on people’s health. For example, the climate crisis is causing more frequent, longer and more intense heat waves, which are responsible for more deaths than natural disasters. Moreover, the energy crisis is causing a rise in energy costs and forcing many households to heat their homes less often or not at all.

The physiological responses to a simulated heat wave and cold ambient temperatures have now been investigated by Justin Lawley, together with his research group, the Laboratory of Exercise and Environmental Physiology, and international scientists in two studies – the focus was on the cardiovascular system. “In both studies, we replicated real-world environmental temperatures the body might be exposed to and were able to show physiological responses that could help explain known seasonal variations in cardiovascular deaths,” explains Lawley.

Heat study

As part of the Horizon 2020 Heat Shield project, Lawley’s group collaborated with colleagues from Slovenia to examine how heat waves affect the health of industrial workers. Seven male participants spent nine consecutive regular workdays in a controlled laboratory setting.

On the first and last three days, normal summer temperatures for Central European conditions ranged from 25.1 to 25.7 degrees during work and 21.8 to 22.8 degrees during rest periods. Days four through six represented the heat wave; during this period, researchers created ambient temperatures between 35.2 and 35.8 degrees during work periods and 25.5 to 27.1 degrees during rest periods including while sleeping at night. During the entire study, participants completed daily tasks to simulate typical industrial work.

“We used a protocol in this study that simulates current heat wave conditions in combination with orthostatic stress, which means changing posture, to determine cardiovascular and thermoregulatory stress in industrial workers,” Lawley describes. The results show that even relatively mild heat waves cause an increase in core and skin temperatures and an increase in skin blood flow. While these physiological reactions help the body from overheating at rest, during standing the body must now defend both internal temperature and maintain blood pressure to prevent fainting, which puts an extra strain on the cardiovascular system.

Interestingly, many of these responses persisted after the heat wave was over, suggesting a residual effect of the heat wave. “These responses reflect the stress on the cardiovascular system that industrial workers face during heat waves, which can lead to heat illness, fainting and even potentially death due to accidents or serious medical complications in persons with underlying cardiovascular disease,” Lawley points out.

Cold study

In another study, Lawley, along with a team of eleven researchers, examined the impact of mild cold exposure on the cardiovascular system, with a specific focus on what mechanisms are responsible for the increase in blood pressure. In addition to researchers from Innsbruck, scientists from Great Britain and Canada were also involved.

Since preventing a rise in blood pressure in the cold is important, the study aimed to examine if the rise in vessel resistance (i.e. vasoconstriction) is due to a change in blood flow in the skeletal muscles or simply the skin. In a laboratory at the Department of Sport Science at the University of Innsbruck, the researchers cooled the skin temperature of 34 test subjects from a normal 32 to 34 degrees to about 27 degrees with ten degrees cold air – on one occasion the entire body was cooled, on another only the face was cooled.

“We observed that when the entire surface of the body is cooled, blood pressure increases mainly due to an increase in vascular resistance of the skin, although there was also a slight reflex increase in resistance of the blood vessels inside the skeletal muscle. However, importantly, when only the face was cooled, we saw a very similar increase in blood pressure that was due to a reflex increase in vascular resistance of the skin throughout the whole body,” Lawley describes.

Thus, the team was able to show that the mechanism(s) responsible for the rise in blood pressure during cold exposure depends on which parts of the body are cold. These data are important to educate the population about preventing the potential negative consequences of cold exposure because contrary to the perception of many, cold is even more dangerous to the body than heat.

“It doesn’t take sub-zero temperatures – as you might think – to cause serious reactions in the body, which will become common for many people unable to heat their homes during the energy crisis. While people typically know to wear warm clothing to protect the skin of their body, arms and legs, we were able to show that protecting the face is equally important even in a mild ambient temperature of ten degrees,” Lawley continues.

Extreme effects

Both studies show that climatic conditions can have extreme effects on our cardiovascular system. While negative health aspects triggered by heat waves will increase due to the climate crisis, it is particularly surprising that even cold temperatures around 10 degrees can have significant negative effects on our cardiovascular system even in young people who were part of these studies. Future studies extending these findings to our ageing population and those with pre-existing medical conditions will certainly help mitigate the risk of these new environmental challenges.

Link: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-022-24216-3

Source: University of Innsbruck

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health and wellness

Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy 101: What every student-athlete should know

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(Family Features) You may find it difficult to wrap your mind around the idea of an energetic student-athlete with a cardiac diagnosis. Heart conditions may be more often associated with older individuals, but you might be surprised to learn hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is the most common condition responsible for sudden cardiac death in young athletes. In fact, it’s the cause of 40% of sudden cardiac death cases.

It’s estimated 1 in every 500 adults living in the United States has hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, according to the American Heart Association, but a significant percentage are undiagnosed. More than 80% of individuals who experience this condition show no signs or symptoms before sudden cardiac death. While sudden cardiac death is rare, it can occur during exercise or in its aftermath. That’s why it’s important for student-athletes and their loved ones to learn more about this condition and talk to a doctor about their risk.

With proper knowledge and the support of a skilled care team, it’s possible to manage hypertrophic cardiomyopathy with heart-healthy actions to prevent complications or worsening cardiovascular conditions like atrial fibrillation (a quivering or irregular heartbeat), stroke or heart failure. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy awareness and education for athletes by the American Heart Association is made possible in part by a grant from the Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation.

What is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy?
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is the most common form of inherited heart disease and can affect people of any age. It’s defined by thickening and stiffening of the walls of the heart. The heart’s chambers cannot fill up or pump blood out adequately, so the heart is unable to function normally.

There are different types of this condition. Most people have a form of the disease in which the wall that separates the two bottom chambers of the heart (the septum) becomes enlarged and restricts blood flow out of the heart (obstructive hypertrophic cardiomyopathy).

However, sometimes hypertrophic cardiomyopathy occurs without significant blocking of blood flow (nonobstructive hypertrophic cardiomyopathy). The heart’s main pumping chamber is still thickened and may become increasingly stiff, reducing the amount of blood taken in then pumped out to the body with each heartbeat.

What are possible symptoms?
Symptoms can include:

  • shortness of breath
  • chest pain
  • heart palpitations
  • fatigue

The severity of symptoms can vary, but if you experience them or if you have a family history of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy or sudden cardiac death, it may be a good idea to speak to your doctor about whether you have this condition.

For some people, symptoms can get worse and new symptoms can appear over time, resulting in people dealing with harsher effects and a diminished ability to do the activities they love. This decrease in functions can be one of the most challenging aspects of the disease. Keeping your health care team aware of any new or changing symptoms allows them to work with you to develop a plan to manage these symptoms and reduce their impact.

How is hypertrophic cardiomyopathydiagnosed?
Medical history, family history, a physical exam and diagnostic test results all factor into a diagnosis. A common diagnostic test is an echocardiogram that assesses the thickness of the heart muscle and observes blood flow from the heart.

If anyone in your family has been diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, other heart diseases or has been told they had thick heart walls, you should share that information with your doctor and discuss the need for genetic testing. Because this condition is hereditary, first-degree relatives, which include siblings and parents, should be checked.

Learn more at heart.org/HCMStudentAthlete.

Photos courtesy of Shutterstock


SOURCE:
American Heart Association

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Health

Staying Safe During Summer Vacations: 5 tips for traveling with health conditions

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Watching your health during Summer Vacation

(Family Features) From staycations and road trips to Caribbean getaways and coastal cruises, summertime offers the chance to escape and unwind with a much needed (and deserved) vacation. However, for people living with health conditions like heart disease or stroke, leaving home can pose special challenges.

As travel season takes shape, the experts at the American Heart Association – celebrating 100 years of lifesaving service as the world’s leading nonprofit organization focused on heart and brain health for all – recommends a few important tips to ease on-the-go woes.

“As we look forward to summer, many people will be traveling to spend treasured time with family and friends, or maybe just to enjoy some relaxation on the beach,” said Gladys Velarde, M.D., FAHA, professor of medicine and national volunteer with the American Heart Association. “It’s not always that simple for people who have chronic health conditions that require multiple medications or special medical equipment. There are also considerations for how to maintain your health and not put yourself at increased risk.”

Velarde said that doesn’t mean travel is off limits if you have a chronic health condition. A little planning and preparation can reduce stress and prepare you for your next big adventure.

Check In with Your Health Care Provider
Speak with your primary care physician or specialist about your travel plans and any special considerations related to your health. He or she can offer guidance on any restrictions or precautions you should keep in mind. Carry a list of all medications, including dosages and pharmacy information. Also consider carrying a copy of key medical records and a list of phone numbers, including your doctors and emergency contacts.

Manage Your Medications
Ensure medications are clearly labeled and that you’ve packed enough to last the entire trip. If you’re traveling across time zones, enlist your health care provider to help adjust medication schedules. Some medications require refrigeration; research how to pack them appropriately for airport security and make sure you’ll have a refrigerator in your lodging.

Plan for Transportation
Whether you’re traveling by plane, bus, train, cruise ship or other means, it’s paramount to plan ahead for special medical equipment. For example, if you use a wheelchair, walker or other assistance for getting around, you may need to check in with the travel company to find out how to properly transport your devices.

Master the Airport
During this especially busy travel season, planning ahead can make the airport experience easier. If you have a pacemaker or implantable cardioverter-defibrillator, you may need to go through a special security screening. Walking through a crowded terminal can take its toll, so consider requesting a wheelchair or courtesy cart to get to your gate when booking your ticket.

Long flights may increase your risk for blood clots, including deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism. Consider wearing compression socks and walk around the cabin while it’s safe and allowed to help improve your circulation.

Know the Signs
While it’s always important to know the signs of heart attack, stroke or cardiac arrest, it’s particularly critical while away from home. If you or someone you’re with experience symptoms, call 911. Many airports even offer kiosks where you can learn Hands-Only CPR while waiting for your flight.

“Every individual’s condition is unique, and you’ll want to tailor your travel plans to your specific needs,” Velarde said. “By taking a little time now to plan and prepare, your vacation can be just what the doctor ordered to help you unwind and recharge.”

Learn more about healthy traveling at Heart.org.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock


SOURCE:
American Heart Association

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Child Health

Illuminating Global Landmarks: Make NF Research Visible

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Global landmarks are set to illuminate in a stunning display of support for World NF Awareness Day. The Children’s Tumor Foundation (CTF) has organized the “Shine a Light on NF” campaign, which will see nearly 400 famous buildings, bridges, waterfalls, castles, and architectural icons light up in blue and green, the official colors of the neurofibromatosis (NF) cause.

Global landmark illuminated in blue and green for neurofibromatosis and schwannomatosis awareness, highlighting the importance of NF research visibility.
Young man living with neurofibromatosis type 1 surrounded by NF researchers and clinicians

NF is a group of genetic conditions that affects approximately 4 million people worldwide. It is known as either neurofibromatosis or schwannomatosis, and it causes tumors to grow on nerves throughout the body. The impact of NF can be severe, leading to disabilities such as blindness, deafness, bone abnormalities, disfigurement, learning disabilities, disabling pain, and cancer. Despite the significant challenges it poses, there is currently no cure for NF. However, the “Shine a Light on NF” campaign aims to raise awareness and highlight the crucial need for scientific research funding.

The “Shine a Light on NF” campaign, launched by the Children’s Tumor Foundation, has grown substantially over the years. The foundation works in partnership with NF organizations, medical and research institutions, and corporate and media partners around the world to expand global awareness of this rare set of genetic conditions. The involvement of internationally recognized landmarks is a testament to the campaign’s reach.

Landmarks such as Niagara Falls, the National Theatre in London, The City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia, and The David in Florence are among the many iconic sites that will light up in blue and green this year. This show of unity and support not only raises awareness but also sends a powerful message of solidarity to those affected by NF.

In conjunction with World NF Awareness Day, the Children’s Tumor Foundation is also launching its “Make NF Research Visible” campaign. This initiative focuses on the transformative potential of scientific research in the fight against NF. By highlighting advancements in NF scientific research and clinical care, the campaign showcases the crucial role these efforts play in improving patient outcomes.

As part of the “Make NF Research Visible” campaign, a collection of portraits and stories featuring clinicians, researchers, and patients is being shared. These compelling narratives demonstrate how increased visibility can drive further progress in NF research and provide support to those affected by the condition.

Simon Vukelj, Chief Marketing Officer of the Children’s Tumor Foundation, emphasizes the importance of the “Make NF Research Visible” campaign, stating that it aims to inspire greater support and drive further advancements. By shining a light on the incredible work being done by researchers and clinicians, the foundation aims to brighten the path forward for everyone affected by NF.

Carson McNall, a 16-year-old living with neurofibromatosis type 1, shares his experiences and hopes for a future where NF can be cured. Carson describes the chaos of living with NF at such a young age and dreams of a life free from constant appointments and worries about the future. The “Make NF Research Visible” campaign aims to turn these dreams into reality by amplifying the voices of patients and showcasing how research can transform lives within the NF community.

Neurofibromatosis encompasses a group of genetic conditions that lead to the growth of tumors on nerves throughout the body. The Children’s Tumor Foundation has initiated campaigns like “Shine a Light on NF” and “Make NF Research Visible” to raise awareness and underscore the importance of advancements in scientific research. These efforts highlight the impact of NF on public awareness, diagnosis, clinical care, and ongoing research endeavors towards finding a cure.

As the world witnesses the illumination of global landmarks and engages with the “Make NF Research Visible” campaign, it is a reminder of the power of unity and the potential for scientific advancements to bring hope and transformation to those affected by neurofibromatosis.

For the full, global list of locations Shining a Light on NF, visit ctf.org/shinealight.

For more information about NF Awareness Month and Make NF Visible, visit makenfvisible.org.

For more information about the Children’s Tumor Foundation, visit ctf.org.

About the Children’s Tumor Foundation
The Children’s Tumor Foundation is the world’s leading organization dedicated to funding and driving innovative research that will result in effective treatments for the millions of people worldwide living with NF, a group of genetic conditions that causes tumors to grow on nerves throughout the body. Through collaboration with the scientific community, pharmaceutical and biotech industries, and other key partners, we work diligently to accelerate research and development efforts, ensuring that promising treatments reach those who need them. One in every 2,000 people is born with some type of neurofibromatosis or schwannomatosis, which may lead to blindness, deafness, bone abnormalities, disfigurement, learning disabilities, disabling pain, or cancer. NF affects all populations equally, and while there is no cure yet, the Children’s Tumor Foundation mission of driving research, expanding knowledge, and advancing care for the NF community fosters our vision of one day ending NF. For more information, please visit: ctf.org.

https://stmdailynews.com/category/lifestyle/health-and-wellness/health

SOURCE Children’s Tumor Foundation

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