Eat and Work Earlier in the Day for Better Glucose Tolerance

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital September 24, 2015

Eating late at night and working overnight both increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

A new research study by Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) suggests that it’s not only what we eat that impacts our health, but when we eat.

According to the research, eating later in the day lowers the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar levels, also known as low glucose tolerance.  The study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in March 2015, also found that night shift workers who sleep during the day and work overnight had lower glucose tolerance than those who are awake during the day and sleep at night. This, in turn, can impact health issues like weight gain, insulin resistance, and risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

The study compared circadian rhythms, sleep/wake cycles, and mealtime to blood glucose levels in 14 healthy participants. All subjects participated in two protocols. In one protocol, the individuals were awake during the day, had their first meal at 8 a.m., their last meal at 8 p.m., and slept at night. In the second, they slept during the day, had their first meal at 8 p.m., stayed up all night, and had their last meal at 8 a.m.

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Progress in Alzheimer’s Disease Treatment – Targeting Amyloid Beta Protein

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital September 21, 2015

Development of plaques and tangles in the brain lead to the characteristic Alzheimer's disease symptoms of memory loss and cognitive decline.

Alzheimer’s disease is a complex disorder of the most human aspect of biology: the thinking part of the brain. Alzheimer’s disease symptoms include a gradual loss of memory and other aspects of cognitive function over the course of 10 to 20 years. These symptoms appear to be due to the insidious buildup of a protein in the brain referred to as the amyloid protein, or amyloid beta protein.

Long before a person exhibits Alzheimer’s disease symptoms, he or she will build up plaques in the brain composed of the amyloid beta protein. Shortly after the initial development of plaques, tangles also will build up in the brain. The tangles are made up of the tau protein. The plaques and tangles together mount up over decades, leading to a short-circuiting of nerve cells in the brain and the characteristic Alzheimer’s disease symptoms of memory loss and cognitive decline.

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Eating Whole Grains May Reduce Risk for Hypertension and Weight Gain

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital September 17, 2015

Studies suggest whole grains are healthful and reduce risk for disease and weight gain.

September is Whole Grains Month. Whole grains are healthful carbohydrates that come from a wide variety of sources and deliver tremendous nutrients and health benefits. While some forms of carbohydrates, such as refined grains, may be unhealthy, research suggests that eating whole grain carbohydrates can prevent weight gain and reduce the risk for some diseases.

A research study by Brigham and Women’s Hospital discovered that men who consumed whole grains had a reduced risk for developing hypertension compared to those who didn’t eat them. The 18-year study observed the eating habits of more than 31,000  healthy men aged 40 to 75 years old. At the start of the study, all participants were  without known hypertension, cancer, stroke, or coronary heart disease. Every two years, the men filled out food frequency questionnaires to assess their average whole-grain food intake. Compared to men who consumed little-to-no whole grains, men who consumed whole grains, especially in high amounts, had a significantly reduced risk for developing hypertension.

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New Biodegradable Gel Helps Heal Wounds

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital September 15, 2015

A hydrogel developed by the BWH Biomedical Engineering Division team is strong, flexible, and biocompatible.

Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) bioengineers have a developed a unique hydrogel whose properties could provide significant benefits in wound healing. The BWH Biomedical Engineering Division team, led by biomedical engineer Ali Khademhosseini, PhD, MASc, and chemical engineer Nasim Annabi, PhD, reported their findings in the July 1, 2015, online edition of Advanced Functional Materials.

“Hydrogels are widely used in biomedicine, but currently available materials have limitations,” says Khademhosseini, study senior author and Director of the BWH Biomaterials Innovation Research Center. “Some synthetic gels degrade into toxic chemicals over time, and some natural gels are not strong enough to withstand the flow of arterial blood through them.”

Preclinical testing by the BWH Biomedical Engineering Division researchers, however, shows that their hydrogel is strong, flexible, and biocompatible (harmless to living tissue).

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When Timing is Critical – Understanding Treatment Options for Cancers of the Pancreas and Biliary Tract

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital September 10, 2015

Dr. Thomas Clancy, surgical oncologist

Cancers of the pancreas and biliary tract are often difficult to diagnose and treat, as there are no established screening tests and often no early warning signs. Because these cancers tend to present when they are more advanced, avoiding delays in initiating treatment is important.

The Pancreas and Biliary Tumor Center at Dana-Farber/ Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center was created to bring together providers from multiple specialties to provide coordinated and timely care for patients with cancers of the pancreas and biliary tract. The Center also provides care for patients with premalignant lesions of the pancreas and biliary tract. These are tumors or masses that are not yet cancers, but may require surgery or careful monitoring.

In this video, Thomas E. Clancy, MD, FACS, Surgical Oncology, and Brian M. Wolpin, MD, MPH, Medical Oncology, review current treatment approaches for patients with pancreatic and biliary cancers and discuss research on new methods to improve diagnosis and treatment of these cancers.

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A NICU Homecoming – Twins Return to Brigham and Women’s Hospital

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital September 8, 2015

Twin sisters Alex (left) and Justine Bryar haven't strayed far from their BWH birthplace.

In July 1987, twin sisters Justine and Alexandra Bryar were born at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) at 25 weeks gestation, each weighing only three pounds. For months, their parents visited the newborn intensive care unit (NICU) daily to be with their newborn girls. BWH became a home away from home for nearly the entire first year of their lives.

“There was a little family that formed around us,” said Justine, referring to the physicians and nurses who not only provided life-saving care, but also comforted the family throughout their journey.

Despite their struggles at birth, Justine and Alex grew into healthy young women. Now, years later, they have both rejoined the Brigham family in new ways – Justine as an assistant director for BWH Development and Alex as a primary care medical assistant at Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital. Alex dreams of becoming a nurse and working in the NICU someday.

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Tips for Grilling Food Safely

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital September 3, 2015

Grilling meat can produce cancer-causing chemicals.

Though Labor Day marks the unofficial end of summer, many of us will continue to enjoy grilled food throughout September and early October. Follow these tips to enjoy grilled foods safely on the Labor Day weekend and beyond.

Handle Food Properly

  • Store raw meat, fish, and poultry away from other foods. All foods should be wrapped tightly to prevent cross-contamination.
  • Keep meat refrigerated until about 30 minutes before cooking.
  • Germs such as E-coli and salmonella can be present in undercooked food and cause severe illnesses. Don’t rely on external appearance: use a grill thermometer or cut into the meat to gauge if food has been cooked to the desired doneness.
  • To kill bacteria reliably, hamburgers have to be cooked until “well done” (160 degrees Fahrenheit), ground poultry to 165 degrees, and poultry parts to 180 degrees.
  • Do not return cooked poultry to a plate that held raw poultry. Bring along extra disposable dishes and containers to keep raw meats separate from cooked foods.
  • Do not use an implement (e.g., a knife) for cooked meat or any other food after using it on raw meat.

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Living with Atrial Fibrillation – Diagnosis and Treatment

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital September 1, 2015

It is important to treat atrial fibrillation, because the condition can worsen over time.

Are you or a family member one of the two million Americans living with atrial fibrillation? Atrial fibrillation (AFib, AF) is an abnormal heart rhythm that causes the upper chambers of the heart to beat in a rapid, irregular pattern. Seeking AFib treatment is important, as the condition can progress over time. Untreated, AFib can lead to an increased risk of stroke or heart failure.

Symptoms of atrial fibrillation can include palpitations, lightheadedness, shortness of breath, and fatigue. Although the exact cause of AFib is not completely understood, it often is associated with increased age, sleep apnea, surgery, and a number of heart ailments, including hypertension, valvular heart disease, heart failure,  or congenital heart disease. AFib treatment typically  includes medication or ablation therapy.

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Are You Overlooking the Warning Signs of a Heart Attack?

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital August 27, 2015

Dr. Kevin Croce, interventional cardiologist

When Boston-area resident Dana Mower sat down to watch Save My Life: Boston Trauma, a medical documentary series about trauma patients treated at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) and two other hospitals, he had no idea he would become part of the story about a man having a heart attack.

The program featured a man who was taken to BWH after experiencing symptoms of severe heartburn and indigestion while visiting with his daughter at nearby Boston Children’s Hospital. Diagnostic tests indicated Manny Couto’s symptoms were due to a heart attack, not indigestion. Dr. Kevin Croce, an interventional cardiologist, immediately took Manny to the cardiac catheterization laboratory, where he and his team performed a heart catheterization procedure. During this procedure, Dr. Croce used a small catheter inserted into Manny’s arm to go up to the heart to remove a clot and place a stent to open the blocked artery and restore normal heart blood flow.

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Ovarian Cancer: Risk Factors, Prevention and Early Detection

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital August 25, 2015

Among women with symptomatic ovarian cancer, BWH researchers determined that the fallopian tube was a starting point in 50 percent of cases.

Angelina Jolie Pitt’s decision to have her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed highlighted concerns about an uncommon but lethal disease – ovarian cancer. About one in every 70 women will get ovarian cancer in their lifetime, versus one in nine women who will develop breast cancer. Although ovarian cancer is less common, the odds of survival for women with the disease are much lower than for those with breast cancer. Of the 22,000 women who develop ovarian cancer each year, nearly two-thirds die from the disease.

Lower survival rates are partly due to the fact that ovarian cancer often is diagnosed much later than other cancers. Currently, there are no screening tests for early detection of ovarian cancer, and symptoms are non-specific and vague. Symptoms may include bloating, abnormal bleeding, or other abdominal symptoms. However, ongoing research at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) is shedding light on who is at risk for developing ovarian cancer and what steps can be taken to reduce that risk.

Ovarian Cancer Risk Factors

Women who are born with BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 gene mutations have a much greater risk of developing both breast and ovarian cancer in their lifetime. In women with these mutations, the risk for developing breast cancer may be as high as 80 percent and as high as 40 percent for ovarian cancer. As a result, if a woman is known to have a BRCA mutation, it is recommended that she consult her physician and genetic counselor about the advantages and disadvantages of having her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed by age 40, when the risk begins to accelerate. Removal of the ovaries and fallopian tubes will reduce the risk of developing ovarian cancer by about 90 percent.

Beyond genes, other factors may reduce the risk of ovarian cancer. These include having multiple births, the use of oral contraceptives, and breastfeeding. Women who have undergone tubal ligation also have a lower risk of developing ovarian cancer.

Link between Ovarian Cancer and the Fallopian Tubes

The recommendation to remove the fallopian tubes as well as ovaries in BRCA-positive women is based on research done at BWH. In 2005, a team of pathologists led by Dr. Christopher Crum, Division Chief of Women’s and Perinatal Pathology, developed a method called the SEE-FIM protocol for evaluating the end of the fallopian tube to detect the origin of ovarian cancer. Using the SEE-FIM protocol, BWH researchers evaluated the fallopian tubes of women who had BRCA mutations. They found that five to 10 percent of these women had a very early cancer in the fallopian tubes. Among women with symptomatic ovarian cancer, BWH researchers determined that the fallopian tube was a starting point in 50 percent of cases.

In this video, Dr. Crum discusses additional steps that can be taken to reduce ovarian cancer risk and research to develop diagnostic tests that can further identify ovarian cancer risk or detect early signs of the disease.

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- Jamie R.