Mindfulness Meditation Helps Fibromyalgia Patients

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital March 20, 2013


Research indicates that meditation may be helpful for people suffering from fibromyalgia (chronic pain syndrome).

Mindfulness meditation is a state of awareness in which one remains non-judgmental and non-reactive towards one’s own thoughts and emotions from moment to moment. Research indicates it may lead to changes in the brain that provide health benefits, particularly for people suffering from fibromyalgia (chronic pain syndrome).  These patients live with musculoskeletal pain and fatigue on a daily basis.  As a result, they often avoid pain-related threats and dwell on thoughts of pain, making it harder to cope with their illness.

In a study of female fibromyalgia patients who practiced mindfulness meditation, Dr. David Vago, a cognitive neuroscientist in the Department of Psychiatry at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), found that after eight weeks of mindfulness meditation training, patients were less likely to avoid pain-related words and were less distracted by such words when performing attention-demanding tasks.  In other words, they were more likely to engage with their pain and had fewer tendencies to dwell on such thoughts after completion of the study.  While fibromyalgia patients who meditated still sensed their pain, they were able to manage their emotional responses more effectively.

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Benefits of Hormone Therapy for Early Menopause Symptoms

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital December 28, 2012

Hormone therapy during early menopause can help reduce the most bothersome symptoms.

Many women experience bothersome symptoms during menopause, such as hot flashes, night sweats, and vaginal dryness.  Hormone therapy (HT) can provide relief from the symptoms of menopause, but studies have shown that these benefits of HT may come with added risks, especially if hormone therapy is started more than 10 years after the onset of menopause. For example, in the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI), in which women were an average age of 63, the risks of combination estrogen plus progestin (stroke, heart attacks, venous blood clots, and breast cancer) outweighed the benefits. As a result, there was a sharp decrease in the number of women using HT, leaving them with few options for symptomatic relief.

Now a new study called KEEPS (Kronos Early Estrogen Prevention Study), finds that women can experience the benefits of HT while minimizing the health risks, provided therapy is given early in menopause and at low doses for up to four years.  JoAnn Manson, Chief of Preventive Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, one of the KEEPS and WHI principal researchers, said “Many newly menopausal women will be using hormone therapy for only four to five years , so these findings will have great relevance to them.”

The study included 727 women ranging in age from 42 to 58. Some of the women were randomized to estrogen pills and others to estrogen patches, both combined with natural progesterone pills taken 12 days a month. They were compared with women using placebo patches and pills.

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Thank You, Dr. Murray

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital December 19, 2012

Pamela and Patrick, parents of Alanna (donor) and Ryan (recipient), with their transplant surgeon, Dr. Craig Lillehei, at Boston Children's Hospital last year.

Dr. Joseph Murray, who received the Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology in 1990 for his contributions to the field of human organ transplantation, passed away on November 26, 2012. He was 93 years old. A gifted surgeon, brilliant scientist, and devoted teacher, Dr. Murray and his team completed the first successful human organ transplant at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) in 1954, helping to forge the path for a new field in medicine that has since saved countless lives. Dr. Murray’s work has special meaning for a member of the BWH Marketing team, who shared her story.

When I first starting working at BWH, I was on my way to a meeting when I came across the display about Dr. Joseph E. Murray. I’d long been aware of his pioneering work in kidney transplants, but standing there reading about it and seeing his Nobel  medal in person was quite a moving experience for me.

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Four Food Myths – Exposed

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital October 30, 2012

No yolk? - Eggs, in moderation, can be good for you.

Are you avoiding certain foods because of health concerns?  There are some common myths about which foods are healthy for us, especially if we have high cholesterol and/or diabetes. Read on to find out which foods deserve to be back on your plate and what you should avoid.

  • Myth #1: Never eat shrimp if you have high cholesterol Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLC) guidelines from the National Cholesterol Education Program allow 200 milligrams of cholesterol daily. While three ounces of shrimp has 166 milligrams of cholesterol, the TLC guidelines do recommend having shrimp occasionally. Shrimp is very low in saturated fat, even lower than white chicken without the skin. Shrimp is also low in calories, rich in protein, and contains a significant amount of selenium, an antioxidant which protects cells from damage.
  • Myth #2: Carrots, rich in sugar, should be avoided, especially by people with diabetes The naturally occurring sugars in carrots are digested quickly compared with other carbohydrates, meaning they move into the blood stream quickly compared with other foods.  However, carrots contain minimal sugar so their impact on blood sugar levels is nil.  One pound of of carrots contains only one tablespoon of naturally occurring sugars.  And carrots have many important nutritional benefits.  They are rich in fiber and beta carotene and low in calories, which can help with weight loss.

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Grapefruit Juice – Medication Friend or Foe?

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital October 3, 2012

A substance in grapefruit juice improves the absorption of sirolimus, an experimental cancer drug.

Many patients have been warned not to drink grapefruit juice when taking certain medications.  That’s because enzymes in grapefruit juice can cause too much of some drugs to be released into your body, leading to serious health problems, including the potential for overdose.

But researchers at the University of Chicago have turned that negative into a positive. They found that a substance in grapefruit juice called furanocoumarin improved absorption of an experimental drug in cancer patients, allowing for lower dosages and reduced side effects.

“It’s a very interesting way of using a known food-drug interaction as a means of getting better drug levels into cancer patients,”  said Dr. Jerry Avorn, chief of the Division of Pharmacoepidemiology and Pharmacoeconomics at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, in an interview with ABCNews.com.

Researchers were challenged to find a solution to the problem of poor absorption for a drug called sirolimus. Only small amounts of sirolimus are absorbed into the bloodstream, too low to have a medical benefit for cancer patients.  However, higher dosages can increase patient side effects, such as nausea and diarrhea.  Then, Dr. Ezra Cohen, who led the study’s research team, recalled that grapefruit juice can increase the blood levels of some drugs.

The Florida Department of Citrus supplied the research team with grapefruit juice rich in furanocoumarin. (Supermarket grapefruit juice did not contain enough of this substance to have an effect.)  This potent juice increased sirolimus levels by 350 percent, allowing dosages to be reduced from 90 milligrams to 25-35 milligrams per week.

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