Benefits of Breastfeeding

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital July 29, 2015

Breastfeeding provides benefits to babies and their mothers.

August is National Breastfeeding Month, a good time to talk about the significant short- and long-term benefits that breastfeeding provides to babies and their mothers. This includes lower risk of ear infections, pneumonia, leukemia, and sudden infant death syndrome for babies and lower risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and ovarian and breast cancers for mothers.

In 1991, the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund launched the Baby-friendly Hospital Initiative to establish practices that protect, promote, and support breastfeeding. Brigham and Women’s Hospital is participating in this global effort. Below is an overview of the baby-friendly practices that we follow and promote at the Brigham and Women’s Center for Women and Newborns to help initiate and extend the duration of breastfeeding.

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Eat Blueberries Regularly to Delay Memory Decline

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital July 28, 2015

Research suggests that eating berries regularly can boost cognitive function and delay memory decline in older adults by as much as 2.5 years.

July is National Blueberry Month! There are many reasons to celebrate the wonders of blueberries, and even more reasons to add them to your diet. They are delicious, versatile, and deliver dozens of health benefits. A research study conducted by Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) determined that eating berries regularly can boost cognitive function and delay memory decline in older adults by as much as 2.5 years.

The study obtained data from BWH’s landmark Nurses’ Health Study. Starting in 1976, nurses aged 30-55 were asked to self-report their food consumption by filling out food frequency questionnaires every four years. In 1995, more than 16,000 nurses then took memory tests every two years to test for associations between cognitive decline and regular berry consumption. Women who consumed two or more servings of blueberries and strawberries per week had a slower rate of cognitive decline compared to women who did not regularly consume berries.

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Discover Brigham – Sleep and Your Health

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

Discover Brigham will highlight cutting-edge biomedical research at Brigham and Women's Hospital.

On October 7, 2015, the public is invited to Discover Brigham, an event that will highlight the cutting-edge biomedical investigations of more than 3,000 researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Topics include advances in sleep medicine, trauma care, surgery, and more. Today’s blog post previews the Sleep Medicine Session.

Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital have made several important discoveries about sleep and its impact on health. The session on sleep medicine will feature Charles Czeisler, MD,PhD, Chief, Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders, Susan Redline, MD, MPH, Associate Clinical Director of the Sleep Disorders Service, and Frank Scheer, PhD, MSc, Director of the Medical Chronobiology Program. These sleep experts will address a variety of topics, including circadian metabolic disorders, sleep apnea, public health concerns, patient-centered outcomes, and more. Below is a sampling of their research findings.

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Making Leaps and Bounds in Stem Cell Transplants

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital July 23, 2015

The average age of transplant recipients in the Stem Cell Transplantation Program today has increased to 55 to 60 years of age.

A stem cell transplant is a lifesaving treatment option that provides healthy stem cells for patients with blood cancers and other diseases. In the Stem Cell Transplantation Program at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center, one of the largest such programs in the world, specialists perform more than 550 transplants each year. The Program has grown substantially over the past few decades.

“A lot has changed since we started our program in 1972,” explains Dr. Joseph Antin, Chief and Program Director for the Stem Cell Transplantation Program. “Advances in technology and our increasing understanding of the underlying biology of the diseases that we treat are enabling us to provide this therapy in cases that we never dreamed possible when we began offering stem cell transplantation more than 40 years ago.”

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Your Genes Might Explain Your Coffee Addiction

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

BWH researchers discover six new gene variations that may influence levels of coffee consumption.

Can you function without coffee? If you’re like a majority of Americans, your answer is probably no. More than 90 percent of adults regularly consume caffeine on a regular basis, with coffee being the main source. Not all adults drink coffee, however. Research suggests that genetics may explain why many adults habitually drink caffeine while others can’t tolerate it.

A study by Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) and the Harvard School of Public Health discovered that coffee consumption habits can be partially attributed to our DNA. These findings come from a study observing DNA differences among 20,000 regular coffee drinkers of European and African American ancestry. Subjects self-reported how much coffee they drank on a regular basis. Results were compared to their DNA scans to test for any associations. The study discovered six new genetic variations that play a role in consumption behavior and metabolism of caffeine. Subjects in the study that had most of these genes present were found to consume more coffee as compared to those with fewer of these genes.

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Hydrocephalus – Recognition and Treatment

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital July 16, 2015

Dr. Mark Johnson

Hydrocephalus is a disorder resulting from abnormal accumulation of spinal fluid in the chambers of the brain. Symptoms include headaches, memory problems, walking difficulties, and urinary incontinence. For adults, the most common form of the disease is normal pressure hydrocephalus. This usually develops in patients over the age of 60. Because symptoms can mimic those of dementia and other diseases associated with aging, it has been estimated that 10 to 15 percent of all patients in nursing homes have normal pressure hydrocephalus, but the majority have not been diagnosed.

In addition to providing expert patient care, the Adult Hydrocephalus Program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital is involved in several different areas of research pertaining to normal pressure hydrocephalus, including factors associated with the development of the disease, impact of lifestyle, identification of disease biomarkers, and development of new diagnostic tests.

Mark D. Johnson, MD, PhD, Director of the Adult Hydrocephalus Program, describes diagnosis and treatment of this frequently overlooked disorder.

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VirScan Reveals Viral History from a Single Drop of Blood

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital July 14, 2015

A patient's viral history can be found in a single drop of blood.

Researchers have developed a test that uses a single drop of blood to simultaneously determine which of more than 1,000 different viruses currently infects or previously infected a person.

Using the new method, known as VirScan, researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) and Harvard Medical School detected an average of 10 viral species per person during their study. The findings, published in Science (June 5, 2015), shed light on the relationship between the vast array of viruses that can infect humans (the human virome) and a person’s immunity. This insight, in turn, has significant implications for our understanding of immunology and patient care.

The research team found the sensitivity and precision of VirScan to be very similar to that of today’s standard blood tests. However, today’s standard blood tests can detect only one pathogen at a time and have not been developed to detect all viruses.

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Vitamin D and Omega-3s – Impact on Chronic Disease Prevention

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital July 9, 2015

Dr. JoAnn Manson

Can vitamin D and fish oil omega-3 supplements reduce the risks of cancer, heart disease, and stroke? That’s one of the questions researchers are hoping to answer in the the VITamin D and OmegA-3 TriaL (VITAL). VITAL is a randomized clinical trial studying the effect of vitamin D at a dose of 2,000 international units (IUs) per day and omega-3 fatty acids at a dose of one gram per day in the prevention of cancer, heart disease, and stroke in people without a prior history of these illnesses.

The Institute of Medicine currently recommends 600 IUs per day of vitamin D for adults up to age 70 and 800 IUs a day after age 70 to protect the bones and reduce the risk of fractures, osteoporosis, osteomalacia, and other bone health problems. However, it’s not known whether giving higher amounts would be of benefit in preventing heart attack, stroke, and cancer. Also of interest will be the effects of the supplements on risks of diabetes, cognitive decline, autoimmune disorders, and other outcomes. Half of the 26,000 VITAL participants are receiving 2000 IUs of Vitamin D per day, and their health outcomes are being compared to participants receiving a placebo.

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3-D Technology – Building a Better Blood Vessel

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital July 7, 2015

Ali Khademhosseini, PhD, MASc

While tissue engineers have made strides in making complex artificial tissues, such as those of the heart, liver and lungs, creating artificial blood vessels has remained a critical challenge in tissue engineering.  The tangled highway of blood vessels that twists and turns inside our bodies performs the crucial task of delivering essential nutrients and disposing hazardous waste to keep our organs working properly. To successfully regenerate organs, tissue engineers will need to make artificial blood vessels as well as organ tissues.

In this video, Ali Khademhosseini, PhD, MASc, a biomedical engineer and the Director of the BWH Biomaterials Innovation Research Center, talks about progress in fabricating blood vessels by using this 3-D bioprinting technique. The first transplantable structures will likely be parts of organs, such as a replacement for heart muscle damaged by myocardial infarction. Dr. Khademhosseini envisions that the same technology will lead to the replacement of bone tissue. He also notes that in the future, 3-D printing technology may be used to develop transplantable tissues customized to each patient’s needs or be used outside the body to develop drugs that are safe and effective.

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When Should Blood Pressure Medication be Started?

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

Recent findings may influence how doctors think about high blood pressure management.

Hypertension (high blood pressure) is the most common risk factor for heart disease and death worldwide, but key questions about management of hypertension have remained unanswered. In a recent study funded by the Harvard Center for Primary Care and published in the British Medical Journal, researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) examined the outcomes of nearly 90,000 adults with hypertension to pinpoint the precise high-blood-pressure level and critical time points at which intervening was tied to a decrease in the risk of death and/or cardiovascular event, such as heart attack or stroke.

“We were the first to look at these metrics in a large group of patients with hypertension, and our findings may help guide doctors as they think about how to treat patients,” says Dr. Alexander Turchin, a physician and researcher in the BWH Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Hypertension and senior author of the paper.

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