Honoring the Genius of Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin

By Ceci West, Chief Marketing & Philanthropy Officer of Watertree Health

In celebration of Women’s History Month, we would like to honor the genius of Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin. A Nobel Prize winning chemist, she was one of three women accorded this high honor. Her research work on insulin, a hormone that regulates the body’s sugar levels, penicillin and vitamin B12 has led to the development of life-saving drug treatments.

This remarkable and accomplished woman broke through the boundaries of science and scientific research, at a time when the field was still pretty much a man’s domain. Her skills, knowledge and enthusiasm for uncovering the mysteries held in the structure of proteins and molecules that are essential to life, profoundly revolutionized not only the science community, but played a factor in the way we develop drugs to treat a vast number of life-threatening diseases.

Source: Wikipedia

Born in Cairo, Egypt at the start of the 20 century, Dorothy exhibited an early passion for learning and for problem solving that would lead her on an exciting and rewarding journey of great discoveries.

Beginning her scientific quest right after graduation from Somerville College at Oxford University, she accepted a position as an assistant with John Desmond Bernal, a well-known pioneer in the field of crystallography, the science that examines the arrangement of atoms in solids. For a woman, this was a rare achievement, to be allowed into such a prestigious scientific sanctum. But from the start she proved herself worthy.

In 1934 at the age of 24, Dorothy experienced her first major accomplishment. Working with her mentor and colleague Bernal, the two were able to shed light on the structure of pepsin, an enzyme important in the body’s digestive process. Their breakthrough was published in a 1934 edition of Nature and “marked the beginning of the science of protein crystallography“, which she is credited with founding. It was the “first” of many “firsts” for this young scientist.

A year later she set up her own lab at her alma mater and made history again, grabbing the first “x-ray photograph of insulin.” It would be the first step in the long and tireless pursuit of answers about this important hormone, which would take her 34 years to solve.

When World War II broke out, a team of scientists had proven that penicillin had almost life-restoring powers in combating bacterial disease. It became imperative to have higher quantities of the drug produced, to help with the number of war wounded in danger of “septic bacterial infections incurred on the front line.” Dorothy’s work in identifying the formula of penicillin was critical and enabled mass production of the drug. It saved lives then, and continues to save millions of lives today.

Over a career that spanned more than 70 years, Hodgkin would provide important structural information on numerous essential compounds including: cholesterol, ferritin, a protein that controls the correct dosage of iron in the body and vitamin D.

For the elegance of her science on vitamin B12, essential in fighting pernicious anemia — once considered a killer disease, 50 years ago she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. It was one of many honors and awards that she would receive throughout her lifetime.

What makes her achievements all the more remarkable though, is that for most of her career, Dorothy had none of the marvelous technology that is at our disposal today. This was painstaking work that required absolute accuracy in computation done by hand and extensive knowledge not only of chemistry, but mathematics as well.

UNESCO has designated 2014 as the International Year of Crystallography and has stated the importance of this branch of science and of Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin’s contributions in this way, “crystallography has become the very core of structural science, revealing the structure of DNA, allowing us to understand and fabricate computer memories, showing us how proteins are created in cells and helping scientists to design powerful new materials and drugs…It permeates our daily lives and forms the backbone of industries.”

References: Women in Medicine Magazine, International Union of Crystallography, How Stuff Works, Nobelprize.org, sdsc.edu/Science Women, Nobel Prize Women in Science, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, answers.com, Unesco.org, theguardian.com.

Knowing the Signs of Depression

The recent death of celebrity fashion designer L’Wren Scott has cast a spotlight once again on depression, and sparked a flurry of conversation about the signs close friends might have missed.

The clinical definition for depression describes the illness as “a constant feeling of sadness and lack of interest.” It can influence a person’s physical and emotional behavior. Depression can impair sleep, concentration, appetite and affect a person’s ability to maintain inter-personal relationships.

According to the National Institute of Health, this illness affects more than 20 million Americans, often starting early in teen years and it can continue into late adulthood, with women being more at risk than men.

depression2There are many medical names for depression including clinical depression, postpartum depression, major depression, and at one time it was known as melancholia. The illness is also often linked to bipolar disorder. Depression can strike young, old, the famous and the not so famous. Our 16th president Lincoln was said to have “suffered from melancholy” most of his life.

Today, there are numerous medicinal treatments for depression that have helped in controlling the symptoms and have provided sufferers with a way to live more normal lives. Experts suggest there is no one-size-fits-all in the treatment of depression. It can vary and involve a combination of “antidepressants and psychological therapies.” But there are also other options now, which could include “attending a self-help group, making changes to your diet, improving your sleep habits and learning relaxation techniques. Research on acupuncture, herbal medicines (including St. John’s Wort), and aromatherapy suggests that these can help to reduce anxiety and to alleviate mild depression.”

For all of the progress we have made in identifying the illness and in providing treatment, the fact still remains that depression can often go unrecognized and, if not treated immediately, can lead to other chronic disease or destructive behavior such as smoking, alcoholism and even suicide. But how can you tell if you or someone you know is suffering from depression? Experts agree the warning signs include:

  • Sadness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
  • Change in weight
  • Difficulty sleeping or oversleeping
  • Energy loss
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

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The National Institute of Mental Health lists depression among the leading risk factors in more than 90% of people who die by suicide. The other factors include mental disorder, a substance-abuse or combinations of these risk factors.

How can you help someone with depression?

Health Magazine reminds us that we should first understand that depression is a medical condition and we should:

  • Support the individual in seeking “medical care and psychosocial support”
  • Let them know that you and others care, listen and make sure they make it to their treatment
  • Call or visit them, invite them to take part in activities
  • Offer positive reinforcement
  • Read about depression, understand what it is and how it impacts individuals – books shed light on the types of treatment available
  • Find local support services
  • Encourage the person to see a doctor or psychologist
  • Pay attention for signs that things may be taking a more dangerous turn
  • Words are important, choose them well when talking to someone who is depressed, make sure that what you say conveys care, love, warmth, sincerity, understanding and empathy

Click here to read a testimonial from a pharmacist who helped save a patient money on their antidepressant medication.

If you are on a prescribed medication for depression, or any other condition, and you need help affording your prescription, download a free Watertree Health Prescription discount card or request your card be mailed to you. It provides significant discounts on almost all recommended medications (brand and generic). Most experts agree, taking your medicines as prescribed improves overall health and wellbeing and lowers cost of health care for everyone.

References: National Institute of Health, Psych Central, WebMD, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Medline Plus, National Institute of Mental Health, Health Magazine

By WHBlogger
3/23/14

Instructions and Disclaimer: The content on this website is designed for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses. Always consult your health care provider with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your health.

Advanced Treatment for Kidney Disease

Until the early 1950s, there was very little known about kidney disease and much less about treating it. That is until Ada DeBold, the mother of a small child suffering from a condition called nephrosis, which is caused by kidney disease, turned things around. Though her child lost his battle, her advocacy would save millions. Through her efforts, she called attention to the plight of others suffering from what was once a death sentence, and was instrumental in raising significant funding needed for research.

Since then there have been a number of life-saving advances made in the treatment of kidney disease that include dialysis and kidney transplantation. But with the advent of new technology at researchers’ disposal, there are endless possibilities for groundbreaking new treatments that will revolutionize and perhaps, cure the disease.

At the University of Nottingham in the U.K., a group of researchers is using MRI techniques to get detailed pictures of how the kidneys are performing and how they work. The hope is that scanning might replace surgery, as a way of studying and testing for kidney disease. In this case a picture will very well be worth a thousand words.

Nano

In Japan, at the International Center for Materials Nanoarchitectonics, National Institute for Materials Science, scientists are busy at work developing a cheap way to remove toxins and waste from the blood of kidney disease patients using “easy-to-produce nanofiber mesh,” on a device that can be worn. This lessens the possibility of lives lost if hospital power is interrupted or facilities are damaged by natural or man made catastrophes that prevent access to dialysis machines. The scientists are certain that the “mesh could be incorporated into a blood purification product small enough to be worn on a patient’s arm, reducing the need for expensive, time-consuming dialysis.”

Other developing areas that show unique promise include stem-cell research. Scientists believe this could play a very big role in identifying innovative treatments that could far outweigh those currently in use, and make up for the lack of available donor transplant organs. Those involved in embryonic stem cell research are also looking at adult kidney stem cells as having important properties not yet fully identified but they feel strongly that it won’t be long before they uncover major findings in these studies.

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But perhaps one of the most exciting new developments is the creation of an implantable artificial kidney. The device filters waste and toxins from the body in the same way that a healthy kidney does. Last year the FDA put the artificial kidney project on fast track and targeted trials are scheduled for 2017. When the device is approved, it will revolutionize the treatment of kidney disease. It will cut back on expensive dialysis treatment and will most certainly reduce nationwide medical costs related to kidney disease, currently estimated at $40 billion a year. Other organizations are also involved in developing similar devices, including one that can be implanted or worn outside the body.

If you are on prescribed medications for kidney disease, or any other condition, and you need help affording your prescriptions, download a free Watertree Health Prescription Discount Card or request your card be mailed to you. It provides significant discounts on almost all recommended medications (brand and generic). Most experts agree, taking your medicines as prescribed improves overall health and wellbeing and lowers cost of health care for everyone.

By WHBlogger
3/23/14

Instructions and Disclaimer: The content on this website is designed for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses. Always consult your health care provider with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your health.

Fighting Fatigue

Have you ever felt tired even after a full night’s sleep; a loss of energy and focus, a sense of apathy that you cannot shake and that seems to cloud your mood? You may be suffering from fatigue. If this is a persistent condition, one that overtakes you for long periods of time (days, weeks, years), you may be suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) also known as chronic fatigue immune dysfunction syndrome (CFIDS).

Fatigue2

Fatigue is very different from feeling naturally tired after a full day’s work, exercise routine or any of the daily activities in your life that can physically and mentally wear you out. Fatigue or chronic fatigue is a condition that affects millions of Americans. It can take its toll on school, work and family life.

How do you know if you are suffering from fatigue or CFS?
Fatigue can manifest itself differently with each individual. But the “crushing tiredness is apparently universal”, according to the Center for Community Research at DePaul University in Chicago. Experts agree that you should look for at least four other symptoms to help determine if in fact you are suffering from fatigue, or if it has become chronic fatigue syndrome. A list of these symptoms are offered below:

  • Trouble concentrating
  • Muscle pain
  • Headaches
  • Stomach pain
  • Sore lymph nodes
  • Sleeplessness
  • Lethargy
  • General feeling of discomfort
  • Weariness
  • Depression and mood swing

In some cases, symptoms might also include: rapid heartbeat, fainting, dizziness, inflammation, and feverishness. The problem with this disease, according to experts, is that it is very hard to diagnose, because so many of the symptoms are shared with other diseases.

Fatibgue3

On-going research has concluded that this illness does not discriminate, striking people of all ages, racial and ethnic profiles, and diverse socioeconomic backgrounds. However, women are two to four times more likely to suffer from the condition than men. As well, African Americans and Latinos are more likely to suffer CFS, with Asian Americans, the group least affected. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CFS affects our economy as well through reduced productivity and increased medical costs that average out to about $9-$25 billion a year.

Though there are no cures, due to the mystery surrounding the cause(s) of this illness, if you suspect that you might be suffering from it, you should consult your health care professional immediately. Your doctor can recommend treatments designed to help improve your ability to function and control its debilitating affects.

This list compiled by the Everyday Health website might help prevent relapses once you control the chronic fatigue cycle:

Chin-up

  • Avoid overexertion
  • Get your Zzzz’s
  • Soothe stress
  • Zap illnesses in the bud
  • Pencil in extra rest around special events
  • Figure out your limits
  • Adopt a reasonable schedule
  • Boost your energy level with healthy foods
  • Exercise, but do it wisely
  • Keep your chin up

 

If you are on prescribed medications for any related illnesses affiliated with fatigue or chronic fatigue syndrome, and you need help affording your prescriptions, download a free Watertree Health Prescription Discount Card or request a card be mailed to you. It provides significant discounts on almost all recommended medications (brand and generic). Most experts agree, taking your medicines as prescribed improves overall health and wellbeing and lowers cost of health care for everyone.

References: The NY Times, Everyday Health, The Health Site, PreventDisease.com, CFIDS Association of America, howstuffworks.com

By WHblogger
3/18/14

Instructions and Disclaimer: The content on this website is designed for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses. Always consult your health care provider with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your health.

Caring for Your Kidneys

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March is National Kidney Month, an appropriate time to remember just how critical those two bean-shaped organs are to our very survival. The kidneys are the body’s “complex” filtration system, removing waste and toxins, and regulating the
body’s balance of fluids and electrolytes. According to the National Kidney Foundation, every day the kidneys filter 200 liters of blood and produce 1-2 quarts of urine.

When that system of cleansing breaks down due to Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD), also called end-stage renal disease (ESRD), that waste has no where to go but back into our body. This means one of two options depending on the extent of damage to the kidneys – dialysis or a kidney transplant.

Kidney disease affects more than 10% of the adults in this country, that’s more than 20 million people. If caught early, CKD can be treated with medicines and lifestyle changes. However, because there are usually no overt signs early on indicating something is wrong, it’s important that you ask your health care provider for an annual blood test and urinalysis. This is especially important if you are at high risk.

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Who is at risk

You are at risk if you have:

  • diabetes
  • hypertension
  • high blood pressure
  • high cholesterol levels
  • over weight issues
  • cardiovascular disease
  • a family history of CKD

If you are an older aged man, you are 50% more likely to develop CKD than a woman of the same age.

African Americans are about three times more likely to develop CKD than Caucasians. Latinos are about one and a half times more likely to develop CKD than non-Latinos.

Your urine has valuable information

Because the onset of CKD can quietly happen over time, it is hard to know exactly when things are going wrong. But urine, the body’s waste byproduct, might offer up some early warnings if you know what to look for.

Clear urine is a good indicator that you are well hydrated and that the kidneys are functioning correctly. If your urine appears more yellow or darker in color, it might be due to dehydration. This can lead to kidney stones, as more minerals remain behind rather than being flushed out as waste. The National Kidney Foundation says, “one of the best measures you can take to avoid kidney stones is to drink plenty of water, requiring you to urinate a lot.”

If you have a sweet smell to your urine, it could be due to the presence of sugar. When there is too much sugar in the bloodstream it causes the kidneys to work harder to remove it from the body. If you have diabetes, you need to work closely with your health care professional to monitor your condition, as diabetes is the principle cause of kidney disease. If you are not a diabetic, the presence of sugar could indicate a pre-diabetic condition.

If your urine is cloudy with a strong odor and you experience severe discomfort (burning), with “an urgent need to urinate (often with only a few drops of urine to pass)”, consult your doctor because it might be a urinary tract infection (UTI). Left un-treated it could result in kidney damage.

Some foods like asparagus and beets, as well as certain medications and supplements can change the smell and color of urine as well. Rule out any dietary or other changes that might correspond to the changes in your urine.

Experts agree, the best course of action to protect against CKD, is to have your doctor do an annual urinalysis to test for the presence of high levels of proteins, and red and white blood cells, which they say is a leading indicator of kidney problems.

Signs of kidney failure

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If your kidneys have stopped functioning as they should, more obvious signs will manifest:

  • swelling of your feet, hands and ankles, as well as your face due to your body’s retention of extra fluids it is not dispelling
  • anemia as a result of lower levels of a hormone called erythropoietin that causes fatigue, weakness, dizziness, a loss of concentration and possible chills

Because of the waste build up in your body, you might get:

  • skin rashes/itching
  • nausea and vomiting
  • shortness of breath due to fluid in the lungs
  • a build up of urea in the blood that leaves you with a metallic taste in your mouth and ammonia breath
  • severe cramping pain in the lower back that moves throughout the groin area

It is important to consult your medical professional and health care provider if you observe any changes in the way you feel or have any of the symptoms listed.

Click here to learn more about Kidney Disease.

If you are on prescribed medication for kidney disease, diabetes, cholesterol management, high blood pressure or any other condition, and you need help affording your prescriptions, download a free Watertree Health Prescription Discount Card or request a card be mailed to you. It provides significant discounts on almost all recommended medications (brand and generic). Most experts agree, taking your medicines as prescribed improves overall health and wellbeing and lowers cost of health care for everyone.

By WHblogger

3/06/14

Instructions and Disclaimer: The content on this website is designed for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses. Always consult your health care provider with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your health.

 

 

Understanding Your Cholesterol

We hear a lot about cholesterol these days: good, bad, high, low — it can get confusing. It might be best to begin with a basic understanding of what cholesterol is and what it is not.

cholesterol

Cholesterol is not some foreign substance; it is actually made by our body and can be found in practically all of our cells. It is a waxy, fat-like substance that is produced in the liver. The body needs it for the production of hormones, vitamin D and bile acids (important in breaking down fats into fatty acids). Cholesterol is also found in many of our foods (dairy products, eggs and meat), which can sometimes account for the imbalance in our cholesterol levels.

The different types of cholesterol

Generally when your doctor checks your cholesterol levels, s/he will check your LDL (low density lipoprotein) and HDL (high density lipoprotein) levels, as well as your triglycerides. You should know that in addition to LDL and HDL, the body also produces over 600 different types of lipids (fats) that are important to our health, but these two are the ones that are most often affiliated with cardiovascular disease and strokes. And since heart disease is still the #1 cause of death in the country, it is important to know what we can do to prevent it.

LDL is often referred to as the “bad” cholesterol, because high levels can increase the chances of heart disease and stroke. A good level LDL is less than 100mg/dL.

HDL is known as the “good” cholesterol because it cleanses the body of the harmful stuff. A good HDL level according to the most recent data by the Center for Disease Control, should be 40mg/dL or higher. High levels can reduce the potential of cardiovascular disease and stroke. However, recent reports from researchers at the Cleveland Clinic found that sometimes even the good cholesterol can become dysfunctional and turn against you, which might explain why,  “all clinical trials of drugs designed to raise ‘good’ cholesterol levels have failed to show they improve heart health.”  The culprit is a protein in HDL known as apoA1 that can oxidize and increase risk of heart disease. While it is not yet fully understood how this happens, there are tests in development to help identify levels of apoA1 in the bloodstream and assess health risks.

And while triglycerides are not cholesterol, they are a type of fat, so having good levels – less than 150mg/dL, improve the chances of good health.

What you can do to lower the risks of high cholesterol

Cholesterol only becomes a danger to the body when too much bad cholesterol in the blood stream begins to accumulate in arterial walls forming plaque and obstructing blood flow. HDL and LDL are like yin and yang, one is supposed to balance the other.

A number of factors can contribute to unhealthy levels of cholesterol:  diet, weight and lack of physical activity – these you can do something about. However, there are factors that are not so easily controlled, like genetic predisposition, age and gender. Getting tested is the first line of defense. It is recommended that you begin having your cholesterol levels tested once you hit 20 years of age.

Cholesterol-Food

If you are overweight, or have a genetic predisposition to high LDL, work with your health care professional/nutritionist on structuring a safe approach to diet and exercise that will help in reducing LDL levels. This could also mean taking some prescription medications.

Lowering your intake of foods high in saturated fats/trans fats, and increasing your intake of fruits, vegetables and fibers, including moderate use of alcohol, can go a long way toward keeping you on track to good health. This is especially important if you are a woman post menopause, as your LDL levels tend to increase around this time of your life, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

The most recent data indicates that more than 30 million Americans have high cholesterol levels and many are still too casual about the risks involved — often it goes unnoticed because there are generally no symptoms. Don’t wait to take action. Remember, the best offense in maintaining good health, is a good defense.

If you are on a prescribed medication for cholesterol management, or any other condition that makes you a high risk candidate for heart disease, and you need help affording your prescription, download a free Watertree Health Prescription Discount Card or request one be mailed to you. It provides significant discounts on almost all recommended medications (brand and generic). Most experts agree, taking your medicines as prescribed improves overall health and well-being and lowers cost of health care for everyone.

By WHblogger

3/04/14

References: Health.yahoo.comhttps://www.nhlbi.nih.gov; The Guardian-Tuesday Feb.11/2014 Sarah Boseley article; cleveland.com; clevelandclinic.org; heart.org/cholesterol

Instructions and Disclaimer: The content on this website is designed for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses. Always consult your health care provider with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your health.